Are these spiritual needs nagging at your soul?
By Dana Kester-McCabe
What does it mean to be spiritual? Spirituality is an awareness of things in our lives that are profoundly mysterious. Those experiences which cannot be explained through rational or scientific methods, yet they have a significant effect on our thinking, can be called spiritual. It used to be that people looked to organized religion for guidance on such matters. Today the old faith traditions no longer satisfy everyone’s needs. That, however, does not mean we don’t still have a need for spiritual experience or questions about life’s mysteries. There are four spiritual experiences that people commonly hunger for.
A hunger for knowledge is where all spirituality starts. A mystery presents itself and we want to understand what is going on. Life is full of weird seemingly unexplainable situations. Through books, ritual practices, or simply talking to other seekers, we find some answers. We also have new mysteries revealed to us.
Human beings are naturally curious. We are fascinated by puzzles. There is a reason that one of the most popular kind of television show is the murder mystery. Viewers love trying to solve the riddle before the end of the show. In real life there seem to be many questions that do not have answers. This bugs us. We want to know why our life has turned out the way it has. We wonder if there isn’t some secret to having a happy life.
What is the mystery you are hoping to solve?
Life’s small dramas and great tragedies alike lead many people to seek forgiveness or a release from their pain. They look for guidance or signs that a higher power has redeemed their standing in this life or the next. Religious rituals are one way to satisfy this particular spiritual need. Acts of penance are another.
Some people seek redemption for things they have actually done. Others presume that because life is not going well that they are at fault even if they do not know why. And then there are those folks, whose religious beliefs are that we all start out as broken sinners and that we must spend our lives seeking God’s favor. Sometimes people just want to feel whole and safe even though they don’t know exactly why. Taking a brutally honest self-inventory of past behavior usually reveals why we are unsettled and in need of being more in unity with all that is good in the world.
Why do you seek redemption?
A Need for Community
The earliest and perhaps most spiritual reason for humans’ need for an organized religion was the need for community. As people gathered together into tribes for common defense, a communal set of beliefs gave them comfort. This helped them approach their challenges in a unified way. Today being accepted in a group of like-minded friends provides comfort in a chaotic world.
Finding such a network is not always easy. If we are lucky we find it first in our family. Unfortunately, families are complicated. Our tribe doesn’t necessarily agree with us on every topic. They are the people who accept and support us in spite of our differences. Finding them could be as simple as recognizing coworkers we like. It could be a book club or friends who meet regularly at a pub. Believe it or not, we find our tribe where we spend our time.
Who is your tribe and what do they look like?
Encountering the Divine
Many people want to know if God exists, or if there are supernatural forces at play in our lives. Some people feel that connecting directly with God will give them the strength to endure life’s challenges. Some seekers are looking for a Divine power that will enable them to perform supernatural acts such as seeing the future or reading the minds of others.
Mystical experiences can be both exciting and frightening. They can be life changing. The desire for something miraculous can also be a cop out if we wait for that instead of actually trying to fix our problems. The desire to experience the Divine or supernatural, is perhaps the most elusive spiritual hunger. Though there are many religions and spiritual teachers who claim their way can give you this, there is no guaranteed path.
One good piece of advice is to keep studying, and living a life you can be proud of, and this will happen when you least expect it. Another is this: Learning to be more open to life’s inherent magic will reveal the Divine that is ever present.
What do hope to find if you encounter the Divine?
You may describe your spiritual hunger differently than those suggested here. Self-awareness is the key to identifying and ultimately satisfying your spiritual hunger. Take a good look at what you are seeking. Write it down. If full sentences don’t come into your mind, write down words or phrases. Once you have identified what you are looking for, it will be easier to find the books, rituals, or tribe which will lead you in the right direction.
In the meantime, take a walk at sunrise or sunset. Read about the wonders of scientific discovery. Talk to people who you respect about their lives. Take time to just be quiet and think. And remember that spiritual hunger is only quenched temporarily. Just as our body needs regular feeding, so does our soul. Learn to appreciate every meal.Dana Kester-McCabe is an artist, writer, new media producer, and Quaker minister living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.