Thought I’d share a letter from a reader…
Dear Dr. K,
I was raised in a Catholic family and my family still maintains their devout practice. I am in my mid-thirties and, for the past few years, have begun to have doubts about my religion and, as a result, my faith in general. It seems to me that there must be a less strict and less judgmental religious or spiritual practice which would allow me to be who I am without all of the rules and expectations. I would like to be able to incorporate some of the Catholic beliefs which resonate with me and yet also be able to let go of those practices which do not support me, while embracing new ones. When I think about leaving the Catholic Church all together, or even speaking about my doubts, I feel terribly guilty - as if I am disrespecting or dishonoring God and my church.
Can you help me reconcile these doubts and find new spiritual paths while still honoring my current beliefs and those aspects of the church which I would like to continue to embrace?
With misgivings, Carol
Your sentiments are shared by many individuals who are finding that the teachings their church offers are either too restrictive or simply not enough to fill the inner void – a void which seems to be expanding during these challenging times as we bear witness to the devastating effects of war, economic depression, political upheaval, global weather events and the generalized fear that grips our nation and our world. The short answer is “Yes”, you absolutely can seek out and practice new spiritual viewpoints while simultaneously embracing those practices and beliefs you choose to carry forward with you.
Traditionally, spirituality was identified strictly as an aspect of religious doctrine; one was considered spiritual only in relation to one’s dedication to or devoted worship of a god. Today, spirituality is an aspect of both our inner and outer existence - with or without a religious connection. Spirituality is an experience separate from, and in addition to, religious beliefs and practices. Spirituality is not limited to religion – it is an aspect of our very existence, our essence as human beings. It has been said that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience – we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
It is essential we begin to explore the nature of spirituality – internal and external – that expands beyond both current and historical religious doctrine and moves toward the embracement of spirit as an aspect of our beingness and ultimately the universe.
By expanding your own consciousness to embrace this spiritual source you are neither “disrespecting” nor “dishonoring” your church or your god. Indeed, you are honoring your religious teachings by seeking greater understanding of your true nature. Your quest for spiritual expansion springs forth from your current faith and belief in a higher power, propelling you toward limitless understanding and knowledge of existence.
So, use this opportunity, this yearning for something more, to thank your god and your church for providing you with the foundation, desire, and knowledge to seek out and embrace the vast infiniteness which makes up the core of your being, your purpose and your soul – Spirit.