As I lay on the beach in Crete last month, I had a sort of awakening. I found myself completely in awe of the sea, of the planet, of the universe. I became emotional as I absorbed the sounds of the waves gently beating at the shore – how can something so beautiful exist, and give us so much, despite how little we give back?
I’m not a religious person, and modern life has a way of making mindfulness and inner peace difficult to achieve. But watching the water brush the sand, I found myself having an experience which led me to wonder, is it possible to be spiritual without being religious?
Off the bat, the answer to that question, in my opinion, is of course yes. Of course we can have feelings of intense awe, admiration, gratitude and inspiration without following a religion that tells us we have a supreme being to thank for it all. Being an atheist gives me the freedom to live by a moral compass unhindered by guilt, and to respect humanity in all its truths. It also occasionally throws up some challenges; how to accept and cope with mortality, and how to express gratefulness, for example, are two dilemmas I’ve personally faced.
Some might say that my experience on the beach in Crete was an act of god, or that I owe my thanks for such beauty in the world to god. Organised religion, and belief in a god or gods, just doesn’t fit into the values and principles I live my life by, or the way that I see life and the world. So I’ve been thinking about how I can practice spiritual awareness in other ways. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
1 | Build respect for the planet and nature
City life can make it difficult to stop and appreciate the wonders of the world, but I’m committed to focusing on beauty everywhere I go. Whether it’s being indoors while a much-needed storm provides respite from the summer heat, embracing the tranquility of the city’s green spaces, or floating in the still sea, being present in the moment and feeling thankful for the planet’s provisions brings with it a distinct sense of joy and satisfaction.
2 | Learn to worship, and be calm within, myself
Feeling negative within yourself is a sure-fire way to interrupt the flow of good vibes that being non-religiously spiritual can bring. Instead, I am striving to be fully accepting of myself; to admire my strengths and accept my weaknesses, to acknowledge when I need support or a break, and to celebrate the joys in my life. I also aim to instil calmness within myself, by building self-care into my routine and ensuring that I spend enough time relaxing.
3 | Practice positive affirmations daily
I’ve only just started getting into positive affirmations, as a means of boosting my attitude and setting the tone for the week. It can feel a little silly talking to yourself in the mirror, but ultimately I find it helpful to work on my mantra and repeat it to myself every evening, no matter how crappy my day’s been. If you have any recommendations for further reading on positive affirmations, I’d love to hear them.
So those are my thoughts on atheistic spirituality. Do you have any of your own you’d like to share? Do let me know in the comments.
- Some thoughts on intentional living and identity by Erin | Coma Diary
- An article exploring the privilege and perils of the positive attitude movement by Chloe | Millennial Posse