What IS the Difference Between Religion and Spirituality?

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This is a question which comes up in conversations quite frequently.  Although the terms spirituality and religion are often used interchangeably; they do not mean the same thing.

 

 

What is Religion?

 

 

Religion is a social structure, created by humans, based on a system of beliefs, attitudes, and practices. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the Universe.  The ideologies of each particular religion determine the ethics, religious laws, and preferred lifestyle of its followers.  

 

 

There are many different religions in the world.  Most of them have chosen a particular path to follow in our eternal human quest for deeper truth and love.  We may choose to belong to a particular religion due to family tradition, life experiences, a desire to associate with a community of people of like mind, and many other personal reasons.  

 

 

What is Spirituality?

 

 

Spirit is the life force energy of unconditional love that connects all of creation.  The root word of spirit is the Latin word spiritus, which means breath. Remembering this helps us to release the illusion that spirituality is an esoteric concept separate from our physical reality or that it is exclusively attached to any specific religion.  It also helps us to realize that there is no such thing as a “non-spiritual person.” Because spirit is the breath of life, it is an innate part of who we are at the deepest level of our being. 

 

 

We do not need to “do” anything to be spiritual. 

 

 

Whether we belong to a religion or not, every human being has a soul connection to Spirit. We do not need to choose Spirit, nor do we need to do anything to be chosen.  Like breath, it simply is.  We each have a direct spiritual connection with the unconditional love of a Higher Reality.  We are each free to choose whether we want to acknowledge this Higher Reality or to deny it.  We are also free to decide how we want to perceive it.  There is nothing we need to do to qualify in order to be worthy of  this connection, and it is not necessary to have an intermediary to access it.

 

Spirit is the essence of Unconditional Love.

 

 

Because Spirit is the essence of unconditional love, discovering our spirituality is not something that happens to us or outside of us.  It is the life force of energy WITHIN our very being and is ingrained in every cell of our bodies.  We don’t have to search for love — we ARE, each one of us, the physical embodiment of divine love.  As humans, we are each a spiritual being in a physical body with a divine purpose for being on earth.  Remembering our spiritual connection is the underlying purpose of our journey here on earth. 

 

 

We are each on a different path to Oneness.

 

 

We are all on different paths moving toward the realization of the unconditional love and infinite potential of Spirit. Whether you have chosen a religion or not, the most important thing each one of us can do is to choose to base our beliefs on the qualities of kindness, respect, and cooperation within our personal lives and in our interaction with others. Respecting the differences within each other is essential for the well being of our entire planet.  It is the only way we can create a world of harmony and peace.

 

 

For thousands of years we have used our religions to call attention to our differences – even to the point of having “religious wars.” As humanity evolves,  these lines of separation are dissolving and religions are beginning to converge into the truth of our Oneness.  Indeed, there are encouraging signs everywhere indicating that many of the major religions are expanding the context of their beliefs and doctrines to welcome people of different cultures, race, creed, and socioeconomic status to unite through the common thread of unconditional love.

 

 

During times of crisis, we are increasingly seeing people of many different faiths, as well as people who have no particular religious affiliation, unite in prayer for the good of the whole. 

 

 

We are each a beautiful and unique piece in the whole puzzle – we are all a part of ONENESS!

 

 

I welcome any questions you may have, as well as your insights and experiences regarding the paths you have chosen to become more whole.

 

 

Love and Light,

 

Sandra

Is Anyone Listening to Me? How to Hold a Loving Space for Communication

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It seems that everywhere we turn, most people are

 

talking and very few are actually listening.

 

 

 

A few days ago a dear friend called me to say, “Hello.” Shortly into the conversation, I sensed a twinge of pain in the tone of her voice. When I asked her if everything was okay, she opened up and expressed that she was feeling a lot of frustration from speaking to her sister on the phone the previous day. My friend explained that she had called her sister to discuss an emotionally challenging situation. “My sister just talked over me and never heard a word I said,” lamented my friend. “What hurts most is that I just wanted to talk through my situation with someone who loves me and who could acknowledge my feelings.”

 

 

Does this sound familiar?

 

 

It is understandable that most people are not clear enough to listen because the majority of us are walking around with unexpressed feelings. Coping with the ordinary and extraordinary challenges of life can tap us out emotionally, mentally, and physically. Since it is not socially acceptable to cry at work, hit someone with whom we are angry, or to scream in public, many times we just bury our feelings. The problem with this is that repressing our feelings can create a reservoir of pain that can eventually fuel an emotional outburst at an inappropriate time and place that is not even relevant to the original situation. Or, even worse, we can continue to keep our feelings locked inside, which many times results in some form of dis-ease.

 

 

What most of us are really craving is simply to be heard! 

 

 

I have come to the conclusion that listening is an art, and like most artistic expression, it needs to be developed and practiced in order to become good at it. Creating a non-judgmental, open space of communication that allows one person to talk while the other just listens is spiritually referred to as “holding the space.” In the world of psychological counseling, it is referred to as “reflective listening.”

 

Listening without judgment is an act of self-love.

 

Holding a non-judgmental space to listen to another person’s expression of feelings is not an act of selflessness.  In fact, it is an act of self-love that helps to free you from being attached to other people’s issues.  It is an exercise in letting go of our own ego, rising above the drama, and extending the utmost respect for others by acknowledging that we each have the inner wisdom to provide the answers to our own questions.  Since what we project is what we attract, chances are that when you practice being a good listener, someone will be there to hear you in your time of need.

 

 

The following are guidelines to assist you in holding the

 

space for another by being a good listener. 

 

 

1. Make an agreement between yourself and the speaker. Only one person talks at a time while the other simply listens. Give your complete, undivided attention to the person who is talking. If this is an in-person discussion, it is ideal to maintain eye contact.

 

 

2. Be fair to yourself. Agree that there will be no personal attacks – you are there to listen to feelings, not to be verbally abused.

 

 

3. Tap into an inner sense of stillness that enables you to be an observer of the conversation, rather than a participant in the drama.

 

 

4. Neutralize the space by choosing not to interpret anything that is being said as a personal attack. This is easy to do when you remember the truth that what people project onto others is a reflection of how they feel about themselves – not you.

 

 

5. Let go of all judgement. There is no need for you to “fix” anything. The person who is expressing their feelings is usually not seeking any answers from you. In fact, many times the person who is talking becomes aware of their own resolutions after they have had an opportunity to clear their emotions through expression.

 

 

6. When you have allowed a period of listening time that is fair for both you and the other person, bring the conversation to a gentle close by summarizing aloud your perceptions of the feelings that have been expressed to you. For example, you could say something like, “So I am hearing you say that you feel sad, frustrated, angry, etc.” This reinforces that we have, indeed, been listening.

 

 

7. Remain unattached to how things unfold. We all have our own lessons to learn in our own unique ways.

 

 

 

Holding space for another is a profound way to bring more love to the world because we are listening with our hearts. If we each had someone to listen to our feelings in an open space of no judgement, we would more easily experience personal peace. And if more of us were feeling peaceful, what a bright world this would be!

 

 

Do you have any suggestions or experiences you would like to share regarding holding space? We would love to hear from you!

 

 

Love and Light,

 

 

Sandra

How to Base Your Life on Self-Love

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In my last blog we discussed how essential it is to build your life on the foundation of self-love. This may have sparked an awareness within you that has caused you to realize that, for the most part, you have not been treating yourself very well and that you have primarily placed everyone else’s needs ahead of your own.

 

This may have been a pattern of behavior for your entire life, so what if you want to change and adopt a whole new way of thinking that focuses on the ideal of self-love? Where do you begin?

 

As always, awareness is the first step in healing any area of our lives, so congratulations on becoming conscious of an area of your life which you are ready to heal!

 

The following are some simple steps that can help you shift your focus from being self-less to self-loving:

 

 

1. Forgive yourself – There is no point in beating yourself up for all the times you can recall acting out a martyr role or sacificing your own basic needs in order to accommodate someone else. If you are like most people, you have simply been acting out what you have seen modeled or taught to you by your parents, caregivers, teachers, and other important people in your childhood. Beating yourself up is exactly what you need to stop doing!

 

 

2. Be in Present Time – It does not matter where or from whom you developed your belief systems. Blaming others for what we believe in life is counter-productive and continues to perpetuate the same patterns of behavior. If you want to change, let go of the past. You only have the power to choose your own perceptions when you are in present time.

 

 

3. Create the Time and Space to Regenerate Yourself – Make it a priority to schedule a period of at least 20 minutes every day to nurture yourself. The key word here is “create.” Build this time into your schedule and commit to it as you would any other appointment. It could be first thing in the morning as you read an inspiring piece of literature while you have a cup of coffee, or you could choose to do a meditation that is as simple as closing your eyes and taking deep breaths. If you prefer the evening, take a soothing, warm bath or take a walk by yourself. Choose whatever activity nourishes your soul. The important thing is that you are being kind to yourself by acknowledging your own need to regenerate.

 

 

4. Base Your Decisions On Your Own Values – Rather than making choices motivated by the need to please others, get in touch with your own feelings regarding what is important in your life. For example, you may make a conscious decision to spend more quality time with your spouse or partner rather than spend more time at work. The objective is to make choices that support your priorities in life – not to make everyone happy.

 

 

5. Trust Your Intuition – Allow your intuition to guide you in making choices. Your intuition is the universal wisdom that comes to you through spontaneous thoughts and feelings. You may sense it in many ways;  gut level feelings, a feeling of warmth, or a sense of expansion or energy. Since intuitive messages are coming from your Higher Self, the insights you are receiving are rooted in love. Trusting your intuition will guide you to make choices that inspire you.

 

 

6. Affirm Self-Love – “I deeply and completely love and accept myself” is one of the most powerful statements you can ever affirm. Say it out loud or repeat it quietly to yourself. Affirm it in any situation, and all the time, especially when you are feeling unloved. It does not matter whether you believe it when you say it – you will come to believe it. We change our belief systems by first choosing to think differently.

 

 

7. Forgive Yourself – Here we are again – full cycle. Even though you are committing yourself to a healthy new way of thinking and acting, there will be many times when you think, say, or do things that are not kind to yourself. This is the perfect time to forgive yourself and get right back on track with the guidelines above.

 

 

Loving, respecting, and honoring yourself means you are projecting your energy to others from a radiant heart.

 

As within, so without. The way you feel about yourself will be the way you feel about everyone else.

 

Love and Light,

 

Sandra

Self Love – The Basis for All Healing

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You can only unconditionally love and accept others by first unconditionally loving and accepting yourself.

 

 

“You can only unconditionally love and accept others by first unconditionally loving and accepting yourself.” When I first heard this statement many years ago, I was sitting in my first holistic health class in which we were discussing the fundamental principles underlying spiritual healing. At that time, the words sounded strange to my logical mind, yet somehow resonated at a heart level. I was in my early twenties when I took this course and recall perceiving that I found it easy to love a lot of people, no matter how I felt about myself. I prided myself in thinking that I had spent a good part of my life helping others.

 

 

I had not thought that much about loving MYSELF.

 

 

Yet, this statement really opened my mind to the awareness that, up until that point, I had not thought that much about loving MYSELF. I was raised in a strong Germanic culture, and my parents had taught me to always put other people’s needs ahead of my own. Helping others was the first priority. Secondary to that was having a strong work ethic. “Fun” was something you had if there was any time after all your work was finished! I don’t recall any key figures in my childhood, or for that matter anyone up until that moment in class, ever mentioning the importance of loving and enjoying myself. In fact, in those days I was taught that it was downright selfish to put my personal needs and desires ahead of the physical and emotional needs of other people.

 

 

 I was a “good” person when I put other people first.

 

 

My parents meant well – they were simply passing the emotional hand-me-down given to them from their parents. While their intentions were kind and honest, what I did not realize until that point, was that I had subconsciously incorporated these messages into a belief system that was based on the foundation that I was a “good” person when I put other people’s needs ahead of my own. I was a “selfish” person when I focused on addressing my own mental, emotional, and physical needs.

 

 

 I thought I could fix other people.

 

 

As I committed myself to understanding the necessity of self love at a deeper level, the memories began to surface. I started to recognize that as I grew into a young adult, this belief system had mushroomed into my creating many painful memories and melodramas with the common theme of me playing the savior role. I was living under the illusion that I could fix situations for other people. Not surprisingly, I constantly attracted people who wanted me to “save” them or complete them. What I did not realize was that I was seeing a reflection of what I most needed to recognize within myself: I also wanted to be completed through others by wanting them to validate me for my savior role. This awareness opened the door to a crucial turn around in my life.

 

 

Self love is at the root of all spiritual healing.

 

 

Most people whom I have met in life have not been taught self love; they have learned it through the life experiences they have created.  Self love, after all, is at the root of all issues of spiritual healing. Through my own life experiences, I came to fully understand that what I heard in class that day really was true. We have to first love ourselves in order to unconditionally love another.

 

Love and Light,

 

Sandy

 

The Precious Downtime of Winter

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Winter is a Gift

 

 

This is the time of year when many of us go into the doldrums – it’s cold, the days are shorter and there is too much darkness.  We are longing to see our friend, the sun!  We are so accustomed to being over stimulated, that it may be difficult to identify this as being the perfect time to change our perspective and to see the winter as a gift. Awareness is the first step! Below are seven insights that may change your perspective to see the wintertime as a blessing:

 

1. Go Within

 

Just as we have a tendency to stay indoors in the winter, it is a perfect time to go within ourselves to clear our minds and nurture our souls. This can be done through meditation, by reading a good book, or watching a favorite movie. The important point is that we get quiet time to relax. Really what you are doing is planting seeds for the longer and brighter days of tomorrow.

 

2. Give Yourself Permission to Slow Down

 

This time of year offers us the space and time to slow down. We often find ourselves craving a comfortable couch and a roaring fire. It makes us feel warm, happy, and sleepy. Also, there is nothing like staying in bed a little longer, snuggled up under the covers, enjoying the warmth.

 

3. Appreciate the Silence 

 

The winter offers clarity in silence. It is truly amazing to step outside after it snows and notice how crisp the air is and how quiet your surroundings are. It is a blanket that softens everything around you and creates a pause that allows you to appreciate the true beauty of silence.

 

4. Spark Your Creativity 

 

The void of darkness sometimes gives us the room we need to allow our creative mind to come alive. It is like having a blank canvas with infinite possibilities. Have fun! This is the time to start an arts and crafts project, enroll in a woodworking class, or simply cook a meal that is out of the ordinary.

 

5. Savor the Simple Things

 

This quiet time offers you the opportunity to notice the small wonders of life such as hot soup, the texture of sheets, the warmth of a good fire, or how much fun it is to make a snow angel – even if you are an adult!

 

6. Catch up with Friends 

 

This is a wonderful time to get together for coffee, tea, or lunch. Precious time with those who truly know us brings joy to life.

 

7.  Embrace the Cold

 

Enjoy a brisk walk in the cold. It will heighten your awareness and make you feel alive. You will be amazed at how invigorated you feel.

 

Enjoy what is around you right now! You don’t need to “get away” literally. Most of us need to “get away” from our daily lives and our frenetic pace. You can do this anywhere, including right where you are.

 

Love and Light,

 

Sandy

 

 

The Aftereffects of Valentine’s Day

Why does everyone make such a big deal out of Valentine’s Day?

“Whew!” You tell yourself. I made it through another Valentine’s Day. What is this holiday all about anyway, and why does everyone have to make such a big deal out of it? With so many singles out there it is not like we need reminders of all those happy couples out there doing all that romantic stuff with each other! Or, you may be thinking that all this sappy stuff is silly now that you have been married for so long.

 

Why did I react the way I did this year?

It is kind of funny though, how you can catch yourself automatically criticizing something just to make yourself feel better. If you hate Valentine’s Day and what it stands for, does that mean you are either dissatisfied with your current relationship – feeling alone even though you are with someone? Or, have you had so much difficulty connecting with another person that you deride others for being able to make such connections? If you are having difficulty in your current relationship or if you have difficulty being in a relationship, you may want to ask yourself why you have such difficulty loving another.  Have you really taken the time to explore your relationship with YOU? My guess is that you have not.

 

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How weird, right? You may be saying at this moment, “Yeah…let me stop everything and take time to  have a relationship with myself!” Well, actually, yes – please do!!! So many people have asked me, “Why am I alone?” or “Why do I feel so alone?” The answer can be found within – I promise you.

 

Have you really made yourself available to another person?

 

If you are single and would like to be with a significant other, ask what steps have you taken to get out there and meet people? Or, more importantly, ask yourself if you are in a good place to bring another into your life. Perhaps you have filled up your life so much with other stuff that there is no room for anything or anyone else.  It is amazing how energy works. Stuffing your life with so many things puts out there that you are too busy and that loving another isn’t a priority in your life. Providing the space to clear your head, your heart, and your life to be open to receive the love from another is an important first step.

 

Would you want to date you?

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Another important component is being healthy within before you look outside yourself for another to be in your life. In many cases we look for another to “complete” us when in all actuality you are already a beautiful, unique, complete being! Often we look to another to “fix” us.  The familiar words, “If only I had a man or woman in my life that…I would be happy,” somehow don’t end up working out quite like that. We might find a person who makes us happy initially, but that tends to fizzle out once we got our quick “fix.”

 

 Lonely but not alone?

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For those couples out there who may have had a less than romantic Valentine’s Day, ask what is it about your relationship where you no longer are honoring each other? It is so easy to take another for granted, especially after being together for a long time. But, ask yourself how would you feel if that person were no longer there? PAY ATTENTION to your body’s physical response to this question! Do you feel anxious, scared, sad, relieved?

 

 Have you lost yourself and your own personal power to your partner?

If you feel anxious or scared, is it because this person “takes care of you” and you wouldn’t know how to live on your own? If so, perhaps you may want to evaluate whether you or your partner has come to resent this dynamic. Have you lost yourself and your own personal power to your partner? Often these underlying issues can cause the chemistry that brought you together to come to a screeching halt!  Talk with your partner; find out where their head is. It could be that a 5 minute conversation could turn into an hour of pure pleasure that you thought wasn’t possible before!

 

 When was the last time you said, “I love you?”

 

If you feel sad, could it be that you deeply love and care for your partner and the thought of them not being in your life almost makes you feel ill? If so, and you feel disconnected from this person, what have you done lately to let them know how deeply you care for them? Perhaps this separation you feel comes from them thinking you don’t feel the same about them. Again, a 5 minute conversation could turn an old relationship into something new again. Don’t wait for him or her to say, “I love you.” Taking initiative in a relationship is important – and you might just shock your partner – in a good way!

 

 Do you need to get out?

 

If you feel relieved, it could be time for you to move on from an unhealthy or unfulfilling relationship. This also goes back to making space in your life to receive love. Staying in a relationship that no longer fulfills you isn’t good for the partner you are with either. If you can no longer give love to this person, it is in their best interest for you to move on as well. Once you are on your own and have healed from this relationship, really get to know yourself and get on stable footing before seeking another partner. Otherwise, you may tend to repeat the same dynamic you had before. Make sure to reflect on the lesson(s) you needed to learn from the relationship you had been in – this is crucial for your emotional growth so that you bring a healthy, stable, and empowered YOU into a new relationship!

 

 It’s all an illusion! 

 

Remember that, loneliness, after all, is just a perception. You are never truly alone. You are always surrounded by the unconditional love of the universe. Remembering this will fill your heart and allow you the space to reflect on the love you have for YOU and that special person in your life…or that special person who may be about to enter your life!

 

Love and Light,

 

Sandra

No Time for Yourself? You May Be Living From The Outside-In

We live in a busy world filled with enormous demands for our time and energy.  Whether it be keeping up with a job, juggling the responsibilities of parenting, learning new technology, or simply plugging through our own to-do lists, most people are feeling there are just not enough hours in the day for the necessities. Time for pleasure? Fat chance. Simply stated: Most of us are on overload.

 

There is a simple explanation, yet understanding what it means takes a bit more reflection.  It means we mold our lives to fit within the context of expectations of our outer physical world.  We are reactive to circumstances instead of creating our own realities. In other words, we live from the Outside-In.

 

This is an image of a woman trapped inside a box.

© Gemenacom

 

Some of the signs that you may be playing this out in your own life:

 

  • You spend most of your energy reacting to the demands of others
  • You define yourself by what other people think of you and your possessions
  • You neglect your own needs in order to take care of everyone else’s
  • You make decisions that are not in accord with your own inner values because you worry how others will react
  • You ignore your need to create the time and space to regenerate yourself

Changing the basis of your life from the model of Living From the Outside-In to the healthier foundation of Living From the Inside-Out may be easier than you think.  First and foremost, it requires a major change of perception. When you change how you perceive life, everything around you changes because your external reality is a projection of your own thoughts.

 

How can you transition to living from the Inside-Out?  Begin to prioritize self-respect and spiritual values, rather than recognition, power, and approval from the physical world.  When you begin to live from the Inside-Out, you’ll start to notice:

 

  • You spend your energy to create what you want
  • You recognize yourself as a spiritual being living in a physical world
  • You honor your own needs, which then empowers you to help others
  • You make decisions that are based on your inner values, with less emphasis on how they are received
  • You make self-nurturing and regeneration a priority

Why wait? Follow these four suggestions to begin living from the Inside-Out:

 

1)  Get up about 15 minutes earlier than usual and start your day quietly in ways that make you feel internally motivated, such as meditation, inspirational readings, or just breathing deeply and staring into space.  This is your “me” time. If you’re not a morning person, this can be done before bed.

 

2)  Start listening to your Intuition – When you get those flashes of imagination and gut level feelings, don’t analyze them – just allow them.  These are message from your soul to your mind.

 

3)  Spend time in nature, engaging as many of your senses as possible. This can often help you to achieve inner silence by showing appreciation for the beauty around you.

 

4)  Write down a vision of the things you would love to see in your life.  Do not judge whether it is feasible or possible.  Just allow yourself to dream and imagine.

 

While doing these exercises will not change your life overnight, practicing any one or all of of them will begin to shift your focus. In moving from reaction to action, you may rise above a world filled with stress to finally create the inner space of peace that you truly deserve.

 

Love and Light,

 

Sandra