What is Spirit? (According to Susanna)

Spirit is different from religion in the sense that religion tends to have a governing organization subdivided into smaller units such as churches, temples, or synagogues, a philosophical structure, and specific practices.   My knowledge about religion is pretty much zero though I’m a cultural Christian given I was born and raised in a country with Christian values.   Thus, my perspective is non-organizational and based almost completely on my personal experience, which I’ll explore in this phase of the Silver Lining blog.

Since what I’ve l learned about Spirit is almost completely experiential, and this blog reflects my perspective, as opposed to an academic paper based on research or observations on existing practices.   I may quote from some books or a small class I took, but I’ve done no systematic study of spirituality.   You may disagree with me, but there is no disagreement.  I have no certainty about my own understanding of spirituality, so I certainly won’t question yours. We simply have different perspectives and to me, that’s how spirituality works. It’s all mysterious and we who subscribe to this philosophy are simply trying to tap into the divine in a way that brings meaning and purpose to our lives.

As I understand it…..

Spirit and religion share the belief that there is a higher power.  What we call that higher power depends on our faith.  It seems that most faith systems subscribe to the notion that there are multiple spiritual entities in addition to God, such as angels, though we may disagree on the name or identity of who we pray to. We may also differ on whether we turn to ancient sources of wisdom like the Bible, Koran, or Torah, or a more modern book on spirituality for guidance.

My definition of spirituality is the belief in a higher power or consciousness without a religious organization’s framework.   Since there’s no specific book or prophet, we refer to the divine collectively as Spirit.   Spirit includes God/Allah and all the angels, Guides, and other types of spirits in the spirit world (I don’t know the half of them, I’m sure).  Many of us who consider ourselves spiritual meditate rather than pray, but both are ways we can connect to God/Spirit.

It appears to me that we all have a unique interface with Spirit, and so our experiences will also vary.  Perhaps through this blog we can share the nature of our interface with Spirit, how we experience Spirit in our lives, and what it means to be spiritual in terms of our practices and influence on our lives, for I have so much to learn from you!

We each are born with a team including a Guardian Angel, a Spirit Guide, and a soul, or Higher Self.  Our soul, Guides, and Angels are all in constant communication to help us navigate our lives, whether we know it or not.

Our Guardian Angels are assigned to us when we are born, and they are with us our entire life.  Their purpose, besides protection, is to eventually guide us to the spirit world when we pass away.  My Guardian Angel is named Lidia and she is a playful, humorous, clever, and spritely spirit who always makes me smile.  I think she has an additional purpose, which is to instill song worms into my head which play repeatedly until I get the message(s) she is trying to send me (Thunder Road played in my head for a month).

We each have a main Spirit Guide that is assigned to us when we are born.  We may have more than one, or even several, Guides at a given time since they come and go as our needs change.  Usually they’ll communicate collectively to us through our main Guide.  Our Guides provide advice and guidance, whenever it is requested.  My main Guide is named Troy, who is a bit of a clown but can also be very serious.  He has provided guidance and insight that has changed my life in big and small ways.

Our Higher Self is our soul, and that is the eternal spirit that resides within each of us.  My first serious communication was with my Higher Self, who provided a prayer for me, instructing me on the type of guidance and help I could use most.   Our Higher Self also conveys to us, sometimes on an unconscious level, our higher purpose for being on Earth.  We can always consult with our Higher Self to help us find our path to self actualization.

Our Higher Self is also the consciousness that lies beneath the chatter in our heads.  That chatter comes from our minds, and our minds – though brilliant – can also be very fear-driven and negative.  I like to think of our minds as ideally being a tool that is taken out occasionally by our Higher Self for the purpose of getting something done (I try to keep mine now in the proverbial gun closet), but that we should spend most of our time being guided by our heart and our soul so that we can live our authentic purpose with love.I have been coaching others to identify their higher purpose for a number of years.  I find that when I, and others, engage with our divine or authentic purpose (aka calling), we strive towards self-transcendence because we’re connecting with something greater than ourselves.

My spiritual team is in collaboration with your spiritual team, and everyone else’s too.  The spirit world combined with the energy of all things is what we know as God, Spirit, or the collective unconscious.  Some people use the phrase The Universe, though according to my Guides, this is not the same thing.  But I could be wrong.

Why does this matter?

The details of these roles and distinctions may not be of practical importance.  Actually, I believe I’ve been following guidance for the better part of my life without realizing it and without ever knowing about Guides or Angels.

But to me, it’s like trying to do a job without any instruction or guidance from the boss.  You can intuit what you’re supposed to do and how,  and maybe even do reasonably well in that manner (many of us are probably doing just that at work).  Now imagine how much more effective you can be if you could get the guidance and support you need when you need it, where the boss is omniscient, omnipotent, kind, and available 24/7.

I believe that when I go it on my own, I tend to limit my aspirations with fear and self-doubt.  Pursuing purpose guided by Spirit allows me to tap into aspirations, strength, wisdom, and resources I never dreamed possible.

If you’re doubtful, I understand your skepticism.  I spent 50+ years feeling that way.  Those of you who are just getting to know me may not know that I was trained in a laboratory-based experimental science, an academic for decades, and an atheist until recently.

You don’t have to form a relationship with Spirit/God, if you do not wish to.  As always, I’m not here to tell you what to do.

But what do you have to lose by considering there may be more out there than you can sense now?

You can try it, and decide for yourself.  It’s possible you might change your mind.

 

Next blog:  Connecting to Spirit

Connectedness Strength Reconsidered

Five years ago, shortly after I became certified as a Gallup StrengthsFinders coach, I wrote a blog about the strength called connectedness, i.e., the ability to sense and notice how all things and events are related.  I reflected on how I was surprised that this was a “thing” that people felt was a strength that they used for success personally and professionally.

At the time a former hard-core atheist, I was pretty curious about this idea.  I was also recently married to my now-late husband, Christopher, who had told me shortly after we met that being spiritual meant believing that there are things we cannot understand.  His frame on spirituality is really the reason that I went from atheist, very concrete about life being knowable and measurable, to Spirit-curious.

Years later, I could be characterized, at best, as Spirit Lite when we received his diagnosis of cancer.  Spirit Lite meant going to yoga, trying to be present, and being more open to the woo woo ideas and practices.  I listened with interest and openness to the conversations about crystals, healing practices, and guidance but rarely partook.

All that changed when I learned about Christopher’s stage IV cancer diagnosis.  I decided that I must dive into Spirit and post-traumatic growth to get through this.  I wrote about PTG at the start of the Silver Linings blog; it was a big motivation for me to start the blog to share the notion that all challenges are actually a chance to learn and grow.  The bigger the challenge, the bigger the growth.  After all, if it was easy, we would’ve mastered that topic already.

Christopher’s cancer diagnosis, occurring on the heels of the death of my sister Sabina, made me also realize that my current toolkit was just not enough.  I would have to take my learning to a new level.  Beyond positive psychology.  Beyond PTG.  To Spirit.

So this is my disclaimer and warning to those who don’t want woo woo in their lives, that the Silver Linings blog is about moving to the next (temporally) most important thing for my wellbeing, and that has to do with our connection to all things: Our purpose, ourselves, each other, Earth, and Spirit.  This interconnectedness, and fostering vibrant connections between them, is really at the heart of the mission of the nonprofit I started in honor of my late sister and husband (www.familyandcommunityhealing.org).  FFCH’s social media campaign focuses on our connection to Earth, and includes my personal blog discussing how Earth and the natural world provided support and healing for me throughout the tragic year of 2018 and beyond.

The Silver Linings blog focuses instead on a more personal discussion of the development of my connection with Spirit, and the strength, wisdom, inspiration, and support that became available to me when I did.  This recovering atheist has turned all woo woo, and I’m going to talk about it here, openly and honestly, just as I did when I started this blog in 2013 about my lessons as a recovering control freak and self-hater.

The original Silver Linings blog was too personal for some people to appreciate and/or grasp, since we talked about emotion and vulnerability.  This phase is likely this is going to be even more challenging or unapproachable for some given the nature of the topic.  I understand.  There are parts of this journey that, honestly, felt – and still feel – pretty crazy and unbelievable.

I’ve learned that faith is part of the process.  I do not fully understand that aspect of it.  After all, I’m a rookie given I’ve been doing this for only 18 months.  Admittedly I have been taking a deep dive during that period, where perhaps I’ve achieved a sliver of brilliance in my spiritual work, which is offset by so much ignorance on so many other levels.  I still have much to learn and so I hope that this can be a platform for shared learning where everyone can participate.

The Silver Linings blog is about creating a place to share our collective wisdom about thriving and becoming our best self despite our life’s challenges; this phase is about the spiritual aspect of our life which underlies our wellbeing practices taught to us by positive psychology.  The richness of this mysterious and often invisible part of us is the most important part of our lives whether we know it or not.  Uncovering and appreciating it means that we can add a transcendence and depth to our lives that was unimaginable to my former atheistic self.

I hadn’t realized it but I was already following my Higher Self (soul) most of my life.  My purpose required I excavate through the solid and intractable atheist beliefs, bit by bit, to what lies underneath:  our connection to each other, Earth and Spirit.  It’s actually not all woo woo because positive psychology’s exploration of the value and importance of religion and spirituality motivated me to select the topic of authentic purpose, or callings, for my capstone project  (shameless plug: see our book, Being Called).

Our calling or authentic purpose is what connects us and our lives to the divine, since it is a purpose that we are born into.  So shortly after Chris died, when I sensed that my purpose was going in a new direction and to a much higher level, I had to decide whether I was going to be a hypocrite and stay in my comfy, beautiful dream job at UGA, or to take a leap of faith and pursue a purpose that is definitely life-changing and possibly even world-changing.  Both are inexplicably linked because I can’t change the world if I don’t change myself.

This is the new theme of this blog, my spiritual journey that changed me and that I hope will bring about the change that is needed to create the world that we all have hoped and dreamed about.

I’ve taken a leap of faith to take action to make this change, investing most of my personal and financial resources which reflects a commitment that screams that I can change the world.  It is also to inform you, possibly to your surprise, that you can too.

The time is right for this change.  We cannot wait any longer.  It is a leap of faith, but Spirit is here to guide every step and inspire me to be bigger than I can imagine.

You are bigger than you imagine too.

In fact, the world needs your passion, talents, and gifts.  The world needs your hope and optimism and vision for a better world.

If you want guidance, you will have it.  You only have to ask, and you will receive it.

If you aren’t ready to ask, notice the invitations that are all around you each day, beckoning you to begin your Hero’s Journey, which is after all, the summons for you to bring back the lost wisdom of your generation, for it is urgently needed by all.

It’s a beautiful journey.  It’s unsettling, and inspiring, and awesome, and it makes me feel so incredibly alive and hopeful.

Join me.  Share with me.  Teach me.  Learn with me.  Start now by posting a response about your own journey and hopes for the future, and then share with others who might want to join too.  We can create this change together.

 

Next blog:  What is Spirit?

Silver Linings Blog Relaunch

IMG_0258It has been almost 3 years since my last Silver Linings post, which ended a 4 year run that included approximately 400 blogs.  It’s time to relaunch the blog since we need it now more than ever.

The blog was created in November 2012 as I was beginning my exploration of creating a good life through intentional practices and the science of wellbeing, ie, positive psychology after my 20 year marriage ended. I was so surprised back then to discover this field after spending a lifetime experiencing challenges and struggling to create a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

The blog was really a way to translate my reflection into learning and sharing.  Those lessons were hard-earned, often involving sleepless nights, many tears, and sometimes at the expense of relationships, my personal self-esteem, or even the self-esteem of others.  I don’t regret having to learn any of those lessons.  We all have to learn them sometime, somewhere.  What I regret are the lessons I failed to learn at the time and the people I hurt despite my good intentions.

What has transpired since my last blog has been an incredible, wonderful, yet tragic span of my life.  About that time, I had just started a job at the University of Georgia supporting faculty success and wellbeing using all the precious life lessons and training I had cultivated over the many previous years.  I felt I was doing the work I was meant to do, and sharing my lessons so that individuals and the organization as a whole could benefit from every tear I shed and heartbreak I endured.  But it was not meant to last because I lost my beloved sister, Sabina, and husband, Christopher, to cancer in 2018, just 7 months apart.

What followed was another crash course in survival, perspective-finding, transformation, and inspiration that led me to eventually quit my job and start a new nonprofit called the Foundation for Family and Community Healing.  Because relationships have been so important to Sabina, Chris, and me, combined with what feels like a crisis in our ability to hold our families and communities together in a healthy way, the focus of FFCH is on helping others to learn to create healthy and rewarding relationships with themselves and others.

Also, as I sat with the forest in my backyard, day after day, holding vigil for my sick husband or my own grief, I realized that it is not just our relationships with ourselves and each other that are in crisis, but also our relationship with Earth.  Thus, FFCH is also helping all of us to restore our healthy and balanced relationship with Earth, not just on the physical level, but also emotionally and spiritually.

We are leading a social media campaign to discuss this more emotional and spiritual side of our relationship with Earth and asking people to become more aware and intentional about their relationship practices and habits with Earth and our natural world.  Please join us as we explore humanity’s opportunity to heal this relationship and provide support for Earth as she heals, as a novel (and also ancient) climate change solution.

I am relaunching the Silver Linings blog here as well because I am in a place of acute transformation and generativity that is above and beyond where I left you in October 2016.  Just as I shared my journey, reflections, and lessons with you after my divorce during the first phase of the Silver Lining’s blog, I wish to again include you in this new phase which is so full of inspiration and hope, despite my personally tragic year 2018, since to do otherwise would feel irresponsible and selfish on my part.

I invite you to join me, anew if you were a previous reader, as I continue to learn and reflect upon the many lessons of hope, transformation, mortality, connection, spirit, our natural world, our relationships, and our purpose.

Despite much effort and attention in the self-help world, I continue to hear that people do not have time to consider such subjects.  They are busy with their goals and responsibilities, many of which are absolutely real and often important, if not critical.  However, I also encourage you to take a step back and look at your life from the 30,000 foot view, and ask yourself what really matters right now given the challenges we are facing as communities, families, and individually? When will you prioritize your own, your family’s, or your community’s wellbeing and peace of mind?  Are all the things on your list really more important than that?

At some point we have to put our proverbial feet down and refuse to continue to buy into the notion that all of our ‘shoulds’, ‘have tos’, and ‘musts’ are real, and to instead, consider and commit to those things that really matter.  Peace.  Hope. Compassion.  Kindness. Connection.  Care. Love.  Is your entire list of priorities really more important than cultivating these things in your life, family, community, and world?

If the answer is No, be bold, get a big, fat Sharpie, and cross things off your To Do list, remove yourself from obligations that no longer hold meaning and purpose for yourself, and commit to taking the time you need to reflect on your values and priorities given what’s going on in your life and world.  Then reallocate your time to pursue the things that are most important and urgent. Perhaps your new To Do list will include sharing your journey with us through this or our other communities.  If so, I appreciate your willingness to learn and share with me and others in this space.

As a seasoned coach, I know that we have the individual and collective wisdom to accomplish anything and solve any problem, if only we will stop running around and take a reflective and experimental approach to identifying problems and solutions.  So stop.  Now.  Tune in.  Engage.  Take action.  With us, and/or elsewhere.

I look forward to seeing you in this space going forward.  May you have peace and hope as you take action to create the world in which you wish to live in.