On Spirituality (and Getting My Hands Dirty)

Foreign Service LifeInspirationMalawi
May 11, 2017

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I’ve been noticing some very cool shifts happening in me lately which have, quite honestly, taken me by surprise. No huge revelations or changes in my path, just a growing awareness of things I’ve ignored for a long time.

It began with the realization that I was very disconnected from my spirituality. After some exploration, I pieced together that much of my spiritual fulfillment over the last decade came through coaching – witnessing break-throughs in clients, holding space for clients when they were struggling, getting these amazing divine downloads that enabled me to know exactly how to guide the session – I was constantly awed by what I witnessed and had no question that God was part of it. I also was frequently motivated by my coaching colleagues and Leadership Tribe to do my own self-work, which led me to practice more gratitude and self-compassion, both things that deepened my connection to God. Not surprisingly, as I pulled away from coaching clients and being active in the coaching community, my direct link to God seemed to get severed.

It took me awhile to realize (and name) it. There was just something missing that I couldn’t put my finger on. Once it did dawn on me, I wasn’t sure what to do about it. Being a life-long rule follower, the obvious thing to do seemed to find a church and get back in the rituals of Catholicism with the hope that the connection to God would follow. Strangely enough, that idea felt very unappealing. I am tired of going through the motions to do what I think is expected of me (both in life and a religious context). It’s my classic being vs doing issue, now manifesting in spiritual form. When it all comes down to it, I’m exhausted from doing. I’m strived out, so to speak. BEING is what resonates with me in this later half of my 30’s. What I want is to FEEL God, just through my everyday activities and interactions. I’m willing to work at it, but I want my work to be on increasing my awareness of God’s presence, not going through rituals that don’t offer much meaning for me at this stage in my life.

And so I sat with that for awhile, trusting that the right resources would show up to guide me. Lo and behold, they did. But not in the way I expected (of course!) Granted, there were plenty of the traditional kinds of resources that I’m used to leaning into:

But there were also atypical resources that showed up. I began actively pursuing finding a Spiritual Director, something I’ve long been interested in, but never taken action on.

And coming full circle….the shift I eluded to at the beginning of the post is that I’ve suddenly become fascinated with and appreciative of nature, something I’ve long ignored. I’m quite certain that Malawi is a large part of this. Because of the incredible amount of poverty here, Malawians count on the earth to help provide for many of their needs (food, firewood, healing medicine like aloe, to name a few). There is great respect for the land here, since they harvest things directly from the earth each day. In Western culture, we’re more disconnected from this because we aren’t going directly to the land to meet our needs. We have middlemen – the farmers, harvesters, food production facilities, stores – by the time it gets to us, it’s already touched so, so many hands (and often traveled quite far too). Not so here in Malawi.

There’s also just the awe-inspiring beauty of this place. Vivid, colorful blooms bursting year round. Iridescent, sapphire starlings meandering about our yard. It’s impossible to rush past so much beauty and, for the first time, I find myself stopping to literally ‘smell the roses’. Heck, I’ve become so dorky that I’ll even go run and get the binoculars when I see a cool bird and spend half an hour staring at it. And I didn’t even mention the strange urges I’ve been having to go pull weeds in the yard and check on how much the seedlings grew overnight. It’s a strange new world folks – one where I want to feel the earth between my fingers and notice the day to day changes in a flower. And you know what? I kind of like it. ‘Tis a far cry from the 25-year-old Sarah who scheduled her life in 30 minute increments and measured the success of the day by the number of things she produced. I mean, I guess I could count weeds… oh, never mind.

I know some of you relate to this and have had spiritual journeys of your own. I’d love to hear from you (in the comments or privately). What were the resources that spoke to you most? When do you feel most connected to the divine? Any other insights to share?

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