What’s Your Choice of Spirituality?

Karen Madej

Are you spiritual without knowing it?

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For a long time, I thought quite honestly who has the time? Between three jobs and writing an article a day, finding time for a good cardio workout is more important to me than looking for something intangible. I sleep like a log having mastered the art of switching my thoughts off. If you are interested, this involves not taking on too much work and doing what you feel comfortable doing. I never really got on with meditation.

How people with children and full-time jobs would find their spirituality also seems an unreachable task. Going to church on a Sunday for an hour or so must make religion, whatever the denomination, a far easier choice for many people. To have a preacher/priest/vicar spouting the Bible and instilling guilt in the congregation or, perhaps, just those that have something to feel guilty about, doesn’t sound spiritual to me.

Of course, I could be biased by my limited knowledge of the Church of England vicar who belittled the eleven-year-old me for being late to church. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t name and shame me personally. But I was the only person who arrived while he was delivering his sermon. Was he already speaking about the virtues of being on time or did he ad-lib on my arrival? Maybe it wasn’t about me at all. Nevertheless, being made to feel guilt is something that I decided I wasn’t going to accept.

Guilt is an insidious emotion

My parents did a good job of raising me without making me feel guilty. But I made the mistake of marrying a man who possessed a talent for provoking me into feeling guilty about anything he didn’t agree with. Money being one of the main issues for us. He controlled the purse strings. We had to have the latest hi-fi and TV they were perfectly reasonable purchases. Betting on the horses was a regular pastime to him.

Meanwhile, I had a weekly budget for food and household items plus an allowance. From my allowance, I bought his beer every week because the food budget wasn’t enough. I also saved up part of my allowance to buy his birthday present. We were both working full-time. He refused to discuss the control of the purse strings or our joint bank account with me. The house, food and cooking were my domain and when our son was born I looked after him until I went back to work full-time.

By the time my son was three years old, I knew I had to leave my husband. When I said I was taking my son with me he told me our child was the only thing worth living for and if I took him he would have nothing. I believed him. I left my marriage and my son to a man who had made me feel guilty about everything I did or said. I didn’t foresee the damage he would do to my son.

The reason for the above is to demonstrate that I didn’t know myself until I was in my early forties and had left the third disappointing, inconsiderate narcissist. I didn’t know any better than to do everything for them. I was brought up by a loving Polish stepmother who didn’t have a clue about how to raise my sister and me. She worked nights at the weekend and did everything for my father. He paid the bills. I’ve often wondered why she took up drinking. From the age of fifteen, I have relied on alcohol for many reasons. I understand she may have felt trapped in her marriage and the only way out was to seek oblivion through whisky.

Turn a new corner

Since I left any thought of having another relationship behind me nine years ago, I drink once a week. For pleasure, not because I feel trapped in a relationship that has no upside for me. That’s why we can divorce or simply leave the people who don’t make us happy.

Once the cake and bread eating depression left me and I focussed on my new career, my new friends, and my new life as a singleton, I determined what I liked, what I enjoyed, and what I wanted to do. I didn’t have to discuss it with a man. I could try it to see if I liked it. If I did, I could keep doing it. If I didn’t, I could drop it. Whatever the ‘it’ was, it was my choice.

I was free of doing the right thing, being responsible, pleasing everyone. I can relate one hundred per cent to people living in their own space. I’m not alone, I’m free to find myself.

Guilt is an emotion I refuse to feel. Especially if someone else has decided I should feel it. In fact, my ex-husband and I have not spoken since his final attempt to make me feel guilty.

I might experience a slight twinge when I know I shouldn’t have had that second helping of carrot cake. What does it matter? I can do extra exercise to burn off the calories.

Repentance is not something I have considered. I know for a fact I would make a terrible Catholic (too many men in charge), and they probably wouldn’t have me anyway. It’s the same for Jehova’s Witnesses, the men have all the power. I have tried to listen and learn. But no religion has held any appeal to me.

I’ve paid my dues

My life is no longer devoted to a man. The only thing I truly wish I had done differently was taking my son away from his father. That one act would have made him and I very different people. Able to stand up for ourselves sooner rather than later.

As for spirituality, my own personal version is to be kind as often as possible. Try to understand why someone is lashing out angrily and respond, not in kind, but instead with calm words and empathy. Give more than I receive. Help where needed. Care for Mother Nature. Campaign for what’s right and good for the planet and its inhabitants.

I’ve found silence is my meditation. Joy is found walking along the beach, dancing to music from the 80s, and sharing time with loved ones.

Your version of spirituality, I believe, could be anything harmonious and joyful to you.

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Passionate about climate change and living a debt-free, sustainable life. Determined to learn how to and build an adobe house or Earthship. The goal is to live off-grid and off the land. Energy for heat and to power electrical devices and appliances will use solar, wind, and hydro-powered electricity. No trees will die to make my home.

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