six weeks off spirituality

About a week after I returned from my travels in Europe, a friend asked me whether I did any yoga in Italy. I shook my head and gave him a little smile. My response: “I didn’t want to be spiritual on this trip.”

It’s kind of humorous really: what does that even mean? Is spirituality a quality we can just turn on and off? Clearly, in this interaction with my friend, I was defining it in terms of my actions (or lack thereof). No, I didn’t do any yoga. I didn’t even think about it. I didn’t meditate or listen to Abraham-Hicks or do any of those other things I consider ‘spiritual activities’ at home. I drank wine and coffee and ate all the unhealthy things I avoid in my day-to-day life, and I partied until the wee hours with my favourite Italians of the trip, G and V, whom I met on the full harvest moon in Naples. (I just had to mention them here.)

In short, I didn’t restrict myself the way I usually do.

an awesome photo taken by Vaughan Lewis, a fellow traveller i met in Bologna.

an awesome photo taken by Vaughan Lewis, a fellow traveller i met in Bologna.

I’m reminded of one of the most challenging moments of my journey. I was in my tiny hotel room in Florence. Being so far away from my life back home, feeling so free to do whatever I wanted, feeling so overwhelmed by the adventure so far, and feeling so much wonder and gratitude and yes, frustration at times…everything seemed to come to a head. After a particularly unsetting experience that served as a personal wake-up call of sorts, that night I felt incredibly alone, powerless, and in fear.

I realized that for years – my whole life – I’ve been playing various roles, and most of them aren’t ‘me’. I hear the voices of religion, culture, family, friends, books, spiritual teachers…but where is mine in this cacophony? Would I even recognize it if I heard it? I’ve flown around much of the time, literally and figuratively, without a real grounding or knowing of who ‘I’ am…let alone being strong and confident in that knowing.

Not hearing my own voice has prevented me from having a really open and authentic relationship with God (Source, Universe, Love…I call it by many names). God has been ‘someone’ I’ve had to convince, impress, seek favour and approval and permission from. And that night, I felt the intense anger – and pain – surrounding that. I felt the heavy toll that pretending and judging (myself) has taken on me. I have not been living freely and authentically.

I see now that what subsequently took place was probably the most honest and real conversation with God that I’ve ever had. I thought I disliked Florence, but maybe the city’s deep beauty and religiosity and emotion and history stirred something completely unexpected within me that was just waiting for release.

another great shot by Vaughan.

another great shot by Vaughan.

I’m getting that my notions of spirituality have been limited, and limiting, for me. I’ve been applying the rules, doctrines, and opinions of others to how I perceive myself, and judging myself for falling short of those standards.

And now I ask: Why have I kept ‘spirituality’ and ‘pleasure’ in such distinct, mutually exclusive categories? Even though in theory I’ve believed they can be intertwined, I’ve never fully allowed it in my own life. There’s always been some sense of guilt or wrongness there. That is, until this trip, when I allowed myself to just be ‘Aleya’ the person and not the spirit. Enjoying doing everything she wanted to do, not obsessing about her higher self or past lives or karma or what-if’s or ‘what would they think’, etc.

To take a break from those intentionally spiritual acts I’ve been so accustomed to (either through practice or in telling myself I ‘should’ do more of them) was, somewhat ironically, what my spirit had been calling for. To bring me back to balance, to help me examine what truly works for me. It was a reset.

Will I get back into yoga and resume all those other activities that took a hiatus in Italy? Yes. But I think everything will feel lighter and more fun. Spirituality won’t be so serious. I’m intrigued that my life may take a direction where spirituality and pleasure are more meshed, in a way that is most meaningful and perfect for me.

***

I am giving myself permission to create my own relationship with God. One where we’re more equal partners. Perhaps even friends. Maybe that night in Florence was the game changer.

I hope to hang on to this feeling as long as possible. I like to think that on a deep, unshakeable level, it can never escape me.

38 thoughts on “six weeks off spirituality

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  4. Yes ๐Ÿ™‚ I can relate so much x I have been asking myself these kind of questions recently x maybe I need to go back to the beginning: stop trying so hard to ‘change’ and just really explore the juiceiness of allll that I am with alll of my messy emotions x thank you as always x

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    • i think we’re all here to experience our unique essence, our own emotions, fully and authentically. once we let go of the ‘shoulds’ then freedom comes through. i’m finding that letting go of all i’m ‘supposed’ to do has naturally led to more intrinsic motivation to do some of those things anyway…and really let go of other practices that are not resonating at this time. i’ve had a pretty crazy couple weeks with all this, and hope i can write about it soon! thank you sophie. xo.

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  5. This is a great revelation! I am right there as well! Recently came to the same realization. To be one’s self and to enjoy everything IS spiritual. I had somehow thought that I must deny myself some things, and I no longer believe this. From self love come many truths, and one begins to know it is ok to be as one is. In fact, any other way would be living a lie. I’ve struggled with this myself many times, many ways…and perhaps there will still be times I question. But! It is becoming a way of being. Being me. Period. It’s so much more natural. Why should spirituality be forced? This is not what was ever intended by the Creator…I’m certain. Thanks for a great post! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • well put and i totally agree! it’s so freeing to be authentic and not try to live up to anyone else’s version of…anything. i’ve also believed that i had to deny certain (essential) things in order to be spiritual but i don’t relate to this anymore. it’s a belief many of us have held collectively, but i think it’s grip is beginning to loosen as we see there is another way that is far more expansive and loving. it’s new and it is exciting. and it seems that there are many of us out there feeling it. thank you aphrodite! ๐Ÿ™‚ aleya

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  7. “I am giving myself permission to create my own relationship with God. One where weโ€™re more equal partners. Perhaps even friends.”

    Maybe you and God aren’t separate at all? Maybe you’re much closer than you think?

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  8. We’re so trained into making life such serious business and twisting the intricate simplicity that is the way of the universe into complicated masses of confusion and distortion. Every time I have a big breakthrough it seems like my mind is just blown by the simplicity of my issues and the simplicity of the solution. I always hear Marianne Williamson’s voice saying, “Complexity is of the ego.” And it’s really true. And then there’s Abe always reminding us that joy is our purpose and we came here for the fun of creating. Brilliant. It seems like you’re finding yourself ๐Ÿ™‚ You never actually abandoned spirituality because, well, you are a spirit. And you took a very profound journey inward. There’s nothing more spiritual than connecting with YOUR spirit lol. And you know how that happened right ? You “took time off of spirituality” so you were in a state of allowing rather than banging things into place. And so you had an awakening, which is often uncomfortable at best (in the beginning) because you’re leaving old patterns and venturing into expansion. The physical Aleya is trying to catch up with spirit Aleya’s growth and expansion. And just imagine all the awesome wonders heading your way as you come into alignment! You’re definitely raising up ๐Ÿ™‚ Beautiful post! *blowing kisses* Have a blessed day!

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    • yup, yup, yup, yup, and yup. :)) i always thought my mind and analyzing were useful tools and now i see they often get me into so much unnecessary trouble! hah. i was just having a conversation with my co-worker about this, who just returned from a mini vacation herself. how we often need to let go and allow ourselves to do what we feel like, no questions asked, no explaining, no apologizing, no guilt…then eventually we can bring ourselves back to our own balance, whatever that may look like for us. we can hear our own true signals more clearly. which expands us, and takes us into the next wave.

      well i like that the physical aleya is catching up with the spirit aleya. but sometimes she runs really fast and i have to stop and catch my breath lol. i love that you get me and give me perspective i can’t always see myself. muah. xo.

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  10. Thank you for naming this! I often feel the same way – constant pursuit of better, more transformed self and it can be exhausting. It is exacerbated by the fact that I can easily fall into perfectionism – so trying to improve myself becomes one of my perfectionistic tendencies. But I, like you, also find travel to be utterly freeing. This was confirmation for me that I need to figure out my own Italian trip. Blessings to you!

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    • yes i am the same way…the perfectionism doesn’t help. so it becomes an all-or-nothing thing. i think italy softened some of those edges though.;)

      i think you’ve mentioned italy (for you) before. sounds like you know what your heart truly desires so i am excited for you to create it in the way that’s best for you. i love your new blog btw. thanks as always for reading, aleya

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  11. My church is the forest; source and universal life force are found in nature. All the creativity is mind boggling and amazing. Plant a seed, get dirt under your fingernails, watch a plant grow, and indulge in the harvest. Peace and contentment..and hard work.

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  12. This is huge. I couldn’t agree more…why is there a perceived separation between the self and spirituality? Now you have me thinking there shouldn’t be. Maybe when you were in Italy you were being your higher self. What if….roll with me..what if that freedom you were experiencing from is the soul that’s trying to express. That’s why you want to hold onto it…yes let them merge!

    The soul is free, just wants to have fun and play in life…I need to remember that. This is the playground! Thank you for this!! Great post.

    With love, Arifah

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    • oh i’m rollin’ with you girl…i like where this is going! ๐Ÿ™‚ i’m reading a book called ‘reveal’ by meggan watterson and she writes a lot about spirituality/divinity as expressed through the body. how the body is the divine vehicle. of course we must take care of it properly, but sometimes we get so restrictive that all it does is create more tension. fun and play and laughter are such good medicine, aren’t they?

      i love reading about your own insights and discoveries on your blog; good things are happening! thank you as always. love aleya.

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      • I really think you’ve touched on something big. My body dialogue has become a guide for me recently. It truly has the answers. This is very freeing actually…to know that we don’t need to struggle toward spirituality, we need to BE from the experience. Girl this trip has taught me a lot and I didn’t go! Glad you took me there in Spirit. Love Arifah

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  13. LOVE this! especially: “Iโ€™ve been applying the rules, doctrines, and opinions of others to how I perceive myself, and judging myself for falling short of those standards.” you’ve articulated what I’ve been trying to put into words for myself for the last few days. What a journey, dropping the shoulds, the judgment, the expectations. Sounds like you did practice spirituality while in Italy ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • i’m glad you connected with the words. it was quite the interior journey! i sometimes blank when people ask me to describe my trip. so much was on an unseen level that it’s hard to find the words.

      i do find that kundalini is the style of yoga that helps me tap into my expanded self most quickly and powerfully. so i know that will return at some point. thank you for your comment. ๐Ÿ™‚ aleya

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  14. I should take time for a really long and thoughtful comment but I have so much to do. lol
    This is what I have to say, “YES!” You got it. Drop the dogma that may be hiding in the subconscious mind.:;) Be you, you are Source! You know what Abe would say, be happy, enjoy, eat, drink and be merry. When Abe was asked what would he like most if in body, he replied, “Sex!” So I attempt to not allow guilt or things like guilt in my consciousness at all. I recently participated in Dungeon Prompts and wrote a poem on guilt. Here.
    http://writingworksinprogress.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/dungeon-promptsguilt/

    Although I am not really saying you were feeling guilt,perhaps more like a reevaluation of self, which is always good girl! ๐Ÿ˜€ Love ya, now back to trying to wrangle all this creativity, with responsibility too. lol

    Namaste
    Sindy

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  15. I love this post because it is so easy to get wrapped up in the shoulds of spirituality. I find myself wondering at times to find my truth and have found lots if comfort I. Doing the practices that feel good to me be it meditation, prayer, yoga, or writing. I read a lot, try things out, but ultimately I think our spiritual paths should be whatever feels good, right, and authentic to us. Thank you for this post!

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    • i stopped using the word ‘should’ in conversation long ago, and now every time i hear it i cringe. so now i’m going to try to apply it to that little inner voice. somehow it’s much harder! ๐Ÿ™‚ i also find comfort in all those things you mention and what’s great is that these practices can show up differently for everyone. for example my meditation and prayer come through walking, esp along the water. and writing gets me into that timeless ‘zone’ more than anything. and yes it is all about authenticity – that has been a huge theme for me this year! thank you for you comment and all your inspiring posts! aleya

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  16. Hey Aleya, this is a perfect post! It sometimes takes a whole lifetime (or more ๐Ÿ™‚ ) to realize that spirit(uality) is not a practice… Doing shamanic work, I’m always amused when people ask me how I practice spirituality. I say I don’t hehe
    I live spirituality. Because I am a spirit. Just like everybody else is.
    Now, we are all aware of spirit in various degrees, at various points in time. This is where spiritual practice do come into play. The more spiritual discipline you have, the more you learn to be in touch with spirit. Which allows you to live life from a different, broader perspective, and see choices and opportunities where others may only see misfortune, obstacles or constraints. I discern spiritual people by their acts in life, not by their practice…
    But, most of all, living spirituality in a conscious way allows you to take life lot less seriously ๐Ÿ™‚
    So, if you ask me, life is spirit indulging and having fun, and life is always a spiritual experience anyways. The trick is to always remember that, let yourself be and let life unfold trusting that it always works out ๐Ÿ™‚ xox

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    • oooh i love this…”I live spirituality. Because I am a spirit. Just like everybody else is.” that’s exactly how i felt overseas. i was just living. and if my belief is that i chose to be this person this (life)time around, perhaps the most spiritual thing of all is to live that being/personality fully, trusting that the spirit part is covered! ๐Ÿ˜‰ for me i needed that extended time away, living a completely different experience for a while. and i am happy to be back into my ‘normal’ life where i can live what i learned. you know, recalibrate and all that. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      i know i will always be into the spiritual ‘acts’ – i gravitate towards them like bees to honey lol – but as you say it’s more about fun now. and when you write “let yourself be and let life unfold trusting that it always works out”, i see that the spiritual acts can often be about control, maybe a lack of trust that things are working out and that it’s ok to let go. part of the journey is relaxing that need for control. thank you as always, and lots of love to you. xo.

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  17. It took me forever to get here. And โ€˜hereโ€™ meaning to this comment field. After reading your blog, I was fumbling with words, had to step back, and reflect on your words. So when I start babbling here as long as the papyrus of the Egyptians, forgive me, sweets. They are not excuses; but my reasons for fumbling.

    In a gist, I donโ€™t have one – that BiG belief onto the Source. I believe God exists. I believe there is that Higher Good far, far bigger than we all are combined. I believe in the Universe as the Guide to our lives. I guess what Iโ€™m trying to say is, I donโ€™t practice one. I wonโ€™t even call it religion because it seems superficial to me to categorize what we see spiritual. These are entirely two different words. And while I may be practicing spirituality in my yoga practice, reading the Sutras and all the mumbo-jumbo tying them all together… I am lost to what, who, where to hold on to.

    I am baptized Catholic and went to Catholic schools. All the frigginโ€™ way. But it isnโ€™t my path. It is not where I need to be. I followed this route because of how I was raised. I walked my familyโ€™s path and even wore their shoes. Especially Grandmaโ€™s. And because it wasnโ€™t me, I am deemed more as the black sheep due to my questionings and childish tactics to be me. To be free. As I got older and had a family, that extended to in-laws, it was like a movie being replayed again. Walk their path and wear their shoes. This time, MIL. All for the purpose to please them. Fear of disappointing anyone… as perhaps were the same reasons since I was young .

    Now I am in a community where religion is a high regard. More of a status than anything else. I donโ€™t want to be rude but seeing and feeling their convictions… their practice is skin-deep. Not practicing what they preach. It is so disheartening, and at times, even sickening. Definitely NoT where I want to go.

    And yoga came into my life where it teaches us to trace where it all began. With all the different beliefs involving yoga, I am more lost than before. Here I find a path I feel freely to trek, to be me, not fearing of wearing my own shoes… but I need the Guide. I need the Source to sustain me in this path. Perhaps I am looking for something I can have a visual contact with, whether an image or a statue or pendant or whatever. I feel like Thomas in a way. Not that I doubt… but more of wanting coherence, have all that I know, have all the experiences come together…

    I can not find it. Sometimes I feel the Source graze my heart… only to get too excited and poof… went like a blur… I believe this โ€œbeing lostโ€ is the root why I find meditating very challenging. Iโ€™ve tried all sorts, whatever is out there. And while I tremendously felt the depth of each meditative practices, I am unable to keep it going, to hold onto, to come back to.

    I am so happy for you that you had a ding-ding-ding call when you were in Florence. Perhaps I need to travel, too and allow my eyes to widen and realize what it is I am spiritually seeking… perhaps one day.

    Nearing the end… (and now you can breathe a sigh of relief), realizing that my comment is longer than your blog, again, dear friend… I am sorry for yapping like a mad person. I trust you’d understand.
    Love always,
    Maia xo

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    • well you know i love egyptian papyrus and i love your comment even more. thank you for sharing your experience so honestly and authentically. i relate to so much of it. being born into a certain religion and going through all those motions, but knowing that you (i) never felt deeply or authentically connected to it. but we feel wrong about this somehow – why can’t we adapt, why don’t we feel what others are feeling, why is it so hard for us? (i’m speaking about my experience now). and then we doubt or own knowing, feeling conflict with it because of all the other stuff it’s wrapped up in – being the black sheep, feeling guilty, feeling like we’re disappointing not only our family or culture, but the creator of the universe!

      we find others that relate to us – thank god – but that lingering uneasiness takes a while to extinguish. religion can be heavy stuff!! because there are some beautiful aspects to it too. it’s like separating all these strands that have become all knotted up.

      it’s funny that yogic philosophy has brought me so much comfort and expanded me in so many ways, and yet at times it also feels like another philsophy(ies) to live by, when all i want is freedom. but then, freedom can easily turn into being lost, directionless, bobbing around. which doesn’t feel good either. this is all part of it though, of finding our path and authenticity. in that sense it does feel like intense hard work but then there are those moments of relief and expansion and joy. and on it goes…until (hopefully) lightness of being becomes more the norm.

      i was listening to a LOT of abraham-hicks in the summer, and blogged about it quite a bit (i think). and then – poof – it just stopped. i remember i got so much comfort and relief from listening to them, and then they were gone. and that’s happened before. so i know they’ll probably be back. and this isn’t about abraham, it’s about acknowledging the waves of it all. we learn, we read, and then we live, we feel joy, we feel slammed…and then when we’re ready for the next teaching, it finds us or we find it, and we come to a new place.

      thank you again. much love, aleya

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    • Great post and don’t ever apologize for the ramble. I’m going to chime is as I had a similar path. I was Catholic but then realized a huge disconnect and feeling so guilty/unworthy I stopped praying to God, to Jesus …. even Mary seemed too perfect to approach. Then I had a spiritual break that was a liberation for me. It was worth leaving Catholicism and going down the path right for me – not the path everyone thought was the right one for me to be on.

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      • thank you for sharing your experience. breaking away from the religion we were raised in is not an easy thing. so many emotions…guilt, freedom, anger, liberation, and the joy of finding what does work for us – to name a few. i enjoyed reading your posts on isis. i too feel very connected to her, and from a young age was obsessed with all things egypt. funny how our young selves seem to know so much, which we later come back to. ๐Ÿ˜‰ aleya

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