Photos by Arin Degroff
Whenever I get caught up in the vicious cycle of repeating the same mistakes or bad habits, I realize that my spiritual nature may be unbalanced.
Like many students at Pepperdine, I came here for a great education in a Christian community, but at times I find myself lost in a hectic and unjust world. Whether externally or internally, I sometimes become depressed or unhappy with my current situation and find myself just going through the motions. I wake up, eat, go to class, do homework, go to sleep and wake up the next morning to do it all over again.
It’s not until I’m finally still that I realize that I haven’t left campus in three days, my laundry bag is overflowing, I’m behind on my reading and, to make matters worse, I feel like God is absent. I become zombie-like, lacking the joy in my spirit that motivates me.
As days pass and the cycle repeats, I realize how easy it is to get comfortable with a mundane lifestyle. It is much easier to go through the motions than to focus on myself and cultivating a relationship with God, which calls for constant, vulnerable and honest communication, which is the very essence of spirituality.
When I feel this way, I find it helpful to be mentally still and focus on my spirit. This gives God an opportunity to work in my life, and at the same time I am still enough to hear God’s will. This requires me to breathe, meditate and clear my mind of outside distractions to make a connection with God, who already exists within me.
Not taking the time to tend to my relationship with God and myself prevents me from breaking free of a mundane lifestyle. This puts me in a box and inhibits me from developing to my fullest potential as an offspring of the Creator.
Romans 8:6 says, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the spirit is life and peace.” I am a firm believer in two things: one, that as an offspring of God, his omniscient spirit exist within me, and two, that my temporary bodily flesh is only a host for my spirit.
The basis of my faith is how God communicates with me — through reading, writing, nature and some of my closest friends. I would not be aware of his communication if I were not connected to the spirit within me. Simply put, spirituality is the willingness to connect to the spirit within us.
The Bible teaches us that through Jesus the Spirit is in and among us. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” This connection I commonly refer to as spirituality cannot be solely found in church or by believing in any certain thing; it all starts from within.
Spirituality incorporates the more personal and private aspect of knowing yourself and God, while religion incorporates public rituals and organized doctrines. Religion is a temporary fix to long-term issues, while spirituality encourages you to maintain constant reflection on and communication with yourself and God.
Religion has been an important aspect of my spiritual growth toward God, but looking within and connecting to my spirit is how I tend to my unhappiness with a mundane life. New Thought movement leader Ernest Holmes said the great spiritual geniuses, such as Moses, Buddha, Plato, Socrates and Jesus, have taught humans to look within themselves to find God. God speaks to us in our stillness, and through prayer we communicate our intentions and give thanks to our Creator. By doing these things, we can begin to discern God’s will in our lives.
So in moments when I feel like my life is mundane and I can’t break free of going through the motions, I’ve learned and practiced a few methods to keep me connected to my spirit and to God throughout the day. The first and most significant is establishing my intentions each morning. I thank God in prayer for the new day, and then I say aloud I AM statements, such as I AM love, I AM Joy, I AM Freedom, and I AM Peace. I honor my body as a temple of my soul. I AM at all times safe, loved, guided and protected. Each of these statements and many more like these remind me and give me hope that I am always connected to God through my spirit.
Another method I find powerful and energizing is a meditation practice called sun gazing. I wake up before the sun hits the horizon and make myself comfortable as I prepare my mind to thank God for the day. I close my eyes, focusing on each inhale and exhale. Any time thoughts, doubts or fears enter into my mind, I redirect my focus to my breath. As I feel the sun rise above the horizon, I thank God as the sun’s energy fills me up. This allows me to begin each day with the intentions of being productive and thankful for another chance to be and do better than I did the day before. It reminds me to choose to see the beauty in each day.
My encouragement is to never let yesterday take up too much of today, to never stop looking within to find God and to appreciate his grace and beauty around us. Whether you’re spiritual, religious or both, there is much freedom, love and joy to be found when looking within to connect to your spirit — God’s spirit.
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