The ideas of faith and spirituality have been topics that I have devoted numerous hours of careful thought to throughout my life. After years of studying, meditating, and soul searching, I have developed my beliefs on these complex ideas. I want to reiterate that these are merely my opinions, and I usually refrain from broadcasting my spiritual beliefs because I think everyone should make up their own mind. They are such a big part of who I am and why I started Roll Models though, that I feel like it is only fair to share this part of my life with you. I hope that you will take what I write and give it careful thought before adopting or opposing my beliefs.
I was brought up in the United Methodist Church as a child. My family attended for several years, but I never felt moved or got much out of it. It was not until I went off to college that my spiritual journey really began. Attending Notre Dame, a university where 4 out of 5 students are practicing, devout Catholics, I like to say in jest that I am Catholic by education. I did learn a lot about the Catholic Church and its dogma, but I also got to study Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. I have read most of the Bible, parts of the Quran, and several Buddhist texts. I also took multiple philosophy courses where I read about the ideas of God and faith from the more logical, secular perspective of thinkers like Descartes and Hume. Only after taking in all of this information, and slowly digesting it over several years of heated, late night conversations, careful thought, and reflection, was I able to form my own beliefs on faith and spirituality.
I am not religious by any means, as I do not think that I need to attach myself to a certain group, read a certain book, or sing a certain song to practice my beliefs, but I do consider myself very spiritual. I also do not believe in an all knowing, all powerful divine being called God. I do however believe in a higher power beyond our understanding that is present in all things. This power is what connects all of the matter and energy in the universe. I believe that you can connect to and use this transcendent power, and that is what comprises your inner strength, or spirit. I have felt this connection so many times throughout my life. There have been numerous occasions where my body should not have had the ability to keep going, or where I felt I was just too exhausted and hurt to keep fighting, but somehow I found the inner strength, the will, to make it through these difficult times. I am not arrogant enough to think that I was strong enough to overcome all of these obstacles on my own, which can only mean that I drew more strength from somewhere. By connecting to the world and people around me, I was able to strengthen my spirit and gain the energy and resolve I needed to get back up and keep fighting.
It is not as simple as merely tapping into this higher power at will however, in order to be able to connect to this spiritual powerhouse, you must live your life in a good way and practice your faith. After studying multiple religious doctrines, I came to the conclusion that while the stories and details may vary, the general guidelines on how to live your life are the same regardless of what religion you follow. Basic ideals like being generous, telling the truth, and showing people kindness are a few of the guiding principles that you should follow to live your life the right way. All of us know how to live this sort of life in theory, but to actually live your life this way takes considerable effort. This effort is well spent however, as the spiritual strength you get in return is so powerful.
In addition to living a good life, in order to connect with this higher power you must also practice your faith. Now, I do not mean practice your faith in the typical sense that you have to go to church twice a week, read the Bible every night, and pray on your knees. What I am talking about is believing in something that you cannot prove to be true. I also want to point out that I said practice your faith and not have faith. Faith is not something that you have, it is something you do. Faith is an action, and you must practice it regularly, or like anything else, it atrophies and weakens. It doesn’t matter so much what you choose to believe in, it is merely important that you believe. You can practice your faith in a divine being, or God, like most people do, or you can choose to believe in something else entirely. I choose to practice my faith by believing in man. I believe that people are good and kind, and if they are given the opportunity they will choose what is right. Even as the news bombards me with stories of theft, abuse, and a slew of other depraved acts by my fellow man, I still completely believe that at their core people are good. I have had far too many wonderful, selfless people help me throughout my life to believe any differently.
Every morning I wake up to pain that on a good day is only unbearable and on a bad day is so excruciating that even thinking requires all of my focus. Despite the fact that I weigh 55 pounds, have no muscle tone, and get minimal sleep most nights, there has never been a day in my 27 plus years that I didn’t have the strength to get out of bed in the morning. That is 10,000 days of fighting, and not once did I not have the will, the spirit, to fight this disease and win. Now, there have been hundreds of days where it wasn’t easy, and I almost threw in the towel on several occasions. By drawing upon this higher power that is present in everything and everyone in my world though, I have always been able to find the strength to press on. By living my life the right way, pursuing my mission to help others through Roll Models, practicing my faith in man, and taking the time to connect with my world through meditation, I know that when I wake up in the morning I will have all of the strength I need not only to get out of bed, but to live the happy, successful life filled with new and exciting experiences that I love.
My spirituality and faith are extremely important parts of my life. Whether you agree with my thoughts on these incredibly complex and difficult topics or not, I hope that my words at least made you stop and think about your own beliefs and their role in your life. Are you practicing your faith, or is it withering away? When was the last time you connected to your higher power and felt that surge of energy flowing through you? Perhaps you need to make more time for cultivating and developing this part of you. Not only will it bring you more happiness and success, but you never know when life is going to knock you down, and you need to make sure you can access this spiritual energy to get back up. I assure you, any effort you put in to growing these skills will be well worth it in your hour of need.