Friday, March 1, 2019

Spiritual Growth in the Modern Age

One of the biggest challenges in these modern times is to keep our spirituality in check despite a society which is focused on financial prosperity, power, and the influence of others.  In this age of so many modern conveniences, forming our own feelings an opinions without allowing ourselves to be influenced by everything we see and hear on TV, the internet, magazines, and other people struggling to "keep up with the Joneses" can be a tall order as well.  The most discouraging part is that so many aspects of this media are centered around our physical desires and interests.  This can lead to a vast inner emptiness, a lack of awareness of our true selves, and limited (if any) attention to our spiritual or philosophical aspects.  Such a state can make it challenging, to say the least, for the modern person to balance the physical and the spiritual.

One of the first keys to the care and feeding of your spirituality is to try some introspection.  Looking inside yourself is partly about recalling things that you've done, or that have been done to you.  However, this is also a drop in the bucket in comparison to what else there is.  When you assess your feelings, what motivates you, why you make the decisions that you do, and your priorities, you are gaining insight into your true self.  Introspection is a learnable skill which can help you to know yourself on a deeper and more intimate level.  It can be difficult, or even shocking, to come to certain truths about yourself, but remember -- don't judge yourself, be objective.  And, above all, look for places where you can improve upon the self you know.

After you have thoroughly examined your inner life, it is time to determine the direction that you'd like to take things.

To grow spiritually is to develop your potentials.

Religion and science have differing views on matters of the human spirit. Religion views people as spiritual beings temporarily living on Earth, while science views the spirit as just one dimension of an individual. Mastery of the self is a recurring theme in both Christian (Western) and Islamic (Eastern) teachings. The needs of the body are recognized but placed under the needs of the spirit. Beliefs, values, morality, rules, experiences, and good works provide the blueprint to ensure the growth of the spiritual being. In Psychology, realizing oneís full potential is to self-actualize. Maslow identified several human needs: physiological, security, belongingness, esteem, cognitive, aesthetic, self-actualization, and self-transcendence. James earlier categorized these needs into three: material, emotional, and spiritual. When you have satisfied the basic physiological and emotional needs, spiritual or existential needs come next. Achieving each need leads to the total development of the individual. Perhaps the difference between these two religions and psychology is the end of self-development: Christianity and Islam see that self-development is a means toward serving God, while psychology view that self-development is an end by itself.

To grow spiritually is to search for meaning.

Religions that believe in the existence of God such as Christianism, Judaism, and Islam suppose that the purpose of the human life is to serve the Creator of all things. Several theories in psychology propose that we ultimately give meaning to our lives. Whether we believe that lifeís meaning is pre-determined or self-directed, to grow in spirit is to realize that we do not merely exist. We do not know the meaning of our lives at birth; but we gain knowledge and wisdom from our interactions with people and from our actions and reactions to the situations we are in. As we discover this meaning, there are certain beliefs and values that we reject and affirm.  Our lives have purpose. This purpose puts all our physical, emotional, and intellectual potentials into use; sustains us during trying times; and gives us something to look forward to---a goal to achieve, a destination to reach. A person without purpose or meaning is like a drifting ship at sea.

To grow spiritually is to recognize interconnections.

Religions stress the concept of our relatedness to all creation, live and inanimate. Thus we call other people ìbrothers and sistersî even if there are no direct blood relations. Moreover, deity-centered religions such as Christianity and Islam speak of the relationship between humans and a higher being. On the other hand, science expounds on our link to other living things through the evolution theory. This relatedness is clearly seen in the concept of ecology, the interaction between living and non-living things. In psychology, connectedness is a characteristic of self-transcendence, the highest human need according to Maslow. Recognizing your connection to all things makes you more humble and respectful of people, animals, plants, and things in nature. It makes you appreciate everything around you. It moves you to go beyond your comfort zone and reach out to other people, and become stewards of all other things around you.

Growth is a process thus to grow in spirit is a day-to-day encounter. We win some, we lose some, but the important thing is that we learn, and from this knowledge, further spiritual growth is made possible.

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