What does it mean? What does it mean to you?
I’ve been pondering this a bit recently. Through the inevitable ups and downs of life, the ebb and flow, I’ve questioned the strength of my faith, and even whether I have any at all.
The Oxford Dictionary defines faith as “complete trust or confidence in someone or something”, or “strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof”. For me personally, in this context, faith is my complete trust, confidence and conviction in my spirituality, my spiritual practices, and the spiritual teachings I follow, regardless of any proof or lack thereof.
So, the question I’ve asked myself lately is, do I possess unwavering trust and confidence in my spiritual journey?
The answer, I’m afraid, is no.
But it’s not a terrible thing, and it’s something I’m constantly strengthening with my daily devotion. Let me explain.
When things are great and I’m flying high, it’s so easy to have faith, to trust that I’m headed in the right direction, and that my spirituality is my guiding light. But on the down days, when life feels like a slog, it’s so easy to ditch that faith straight into the rubbish bin, convincing myself in my negative downward spiral of ego-identified suffering that “this sh*t doesn’t work”.
I’ve found myself there many a time. With infuriating frustration, I agonise over why it’s not working for me, why I’m failing despite my dedicated practice, that I must be defective because it’s working for everybody else. I get enmeshed and weighed down in expectations and comparison. I throw my faith out the window with the temperament of a 3 year old throwing a tantrum.
But I am determined. I claw my way back, eventually, into the upswing. And when I do, I laugh at how my descent into suffering is not only part of life for the unenlightened, but that when I’m down I rub dirt into the wound by failing to be vigilant and on guard with one key spiritual practice: mindfulness. I identify with the ego who tells me all these sickening lies, and I believe them. I might sometimes manage to observe my negative thoughts, but even when I do, I often find myself forgetting to disidentify with them, and believing them regardless.
The key here: this is a practice. I’m realising that faith isn’t something thta is necessarily unwavering, is something that I need to practice, just like my spiritual practices. It doesn’t matter, in the scheme of things, if my faith seems to waver from time to time as I descend into an ebb, because I’ve embedded my spiritual practices deeply enough into my everyday living, through devoted repetition, day after day after day, that I KNOW I will come out the other side, rising like the phoenix from the ashes. And I trust – I have faith – that with more practice, I’ll increasingly improve my ability to disidentify from my ego, and those ebbs will become less dramatic, and be fewer and further between.
But there is another aspect to this faith question that has arisen for me. The catalyst for my foray into my spiritual path was my recurrent struggle with mental health, which, amongst other drivers, was largely fuelled by a persistent yearning to find my way, to know and live my purpose for being here in this life. As such, whilst I’m coming to terms with the fact that this doesn’t necessarily look the way my ego wants it to – a concise job description that, if I follow it, will definitively bring me joy and complete fulfilment from now until my last breath – there is a part of me that has continued to seek a specific level of connection to God that will guide me on my correct path. To put it more specifically: I’ve been waiting for my intuition to kick in and ramp up, so that I can make confident choices and take actions that feel aligned with my soul. I’ve had faith that through working on my energy, through strengthening my chakras, I’ll learn to connect to that inner guidance, that indwelling divinity. I’ve had faith that I’ll become strong in my certainty that my third eye intuits with accuracy and precision, that my solar plexus communicates to me definitively. That my heart communicates with clear distinction from my head. That I can access my chakra eight and communicate with my soul with ease and clarity. Almost three years into my journey, I’ve questioned why I’m not there yet, as though the spiritual path has a final destination with a due date. I’ve had such faith that this path is THE path for me, but the test of time has strained that faith. I’ve been impatient. I’ve questioned why, after so much devotion, I’ve still felt so lost. It’s hard to keep the faith when you aren’t getting what you want in your anticipated timeframe, when you’re stuck in egoic thoughts about what should or shouldn’t be happening. But like I said before, I’m determined, and I’ve clung on to that faith.
Something about this quandary has shifted significantly for me very recently. I could attempt to attribute it to one of a number of specific things, but ultimately I think it’s a culmination of everything leading up to now – my continued devotion to my spiritual practice, some energy healing work I’ve done with a few practitioners, my readiness to begin working with intention setting, all the self help and spirituality books and podcasts I love to gorge on, the affirmations I’ve been repeating, the EFT tapping I’ve been experimenting with, divine timing, external conditions, perhaps even the full moon lunar eclipse and this lions gate thing everyone’s been banging on about! I’ve recognised that some of my negative subconscious programming has been rewritten. Areas in which I’ve previously felt so blocked have suddenly become free-flowing, unhindered, non-issues. It feels miraculous and magical. I’ve found myself doing certain things, without having given them much (if any) thought or effort. I’ve found myself unconcerned with potential challenges and stumbling blocks, inherently knowing that I’ll find any necessary solutions, but not consciously thinking through this as a strategy. I’ve then found myself, at random times (like when I’m on the toilet!!!) instantly coming up with solutions to challenges that I didn’t even realise I was attempting to solve. I’ve found myself taking constructive actions almost impulsively, which previously would have taken much self-coercion and motivation mustering. Things that previously I allowed fear to hold me back from, now I’m boldly marching towards with conviction and FAITH that it’s the right direction to move in, and that even if I fail, it’s all part of the journey.
What I’m coming to realise is that surrender is a big part of faith, that letting go and allowing the natural intelligence of the universe to flow unhindered through me is key. When I have faith, I know that there’s no need to strive, no need to worry, no need to push. I trust that I’m guided, and that even if I take a wrong turn, I can get back on track and appreciate the detour for the lessons that it gave me. But previously, surrender has felt infuriatingly elusive. How does one simply “let go” of trying to do everything we can to obtain something we want so desperately?
Six weeks ago I began working with the “Lunar Abundance” practice created by Dr Ezzie Spencer in her book, “An Abundant Life: Flourishing with the cycles of the Moon”. Ezzie’s practice provides a framework whereby you set a feelings based intention at the new moon, and then use the lunar cycle as a natural time keeper and self reflection tool to manifest your intention. At the last new moon, I found myself setting my second ever lunar abundance intention:
I feel safe, held and supported, trusting and knowing that the divine within me is constantly guiding me towards living my souls purpose.
Little did I realise what I was conjuring with this intention. The setting of it arose organically and intuitively through the process, and I assumed it was about my ongoing desire to discover my souls purpose. But I was also actually asking to find my faith. Following the practice, in which I intentionally felt and embodied those feelings of safety, of being held and supported, of trusting and knowing that I’m being guided by God towards my purpose, I was manifesting. I was making magic. It felt so sublimely good to feel the way I wanted to feel, and by intentionally doing so, I believe I flicked a metaphysical switch that had me realise that I’m now feeling the feelings because I already am being guided. I realised at the full moon that I didn’t have to imagine the intention manifesting in order to feel the feelings, because the intention already was manifest, and the guidance had been there all along – I just hadn’t recognised it before. I just need to feel the feelings and then remember that the divine is always working through me. It was around this time that the shift took place, and things began to flow. Like I said before, I believe it was a culmination of multiple contributing factors that brought me to this shift point, but this specific aspect felt particularly relevant and enlightening, highlighting for me what had changed. It was so easy. I’m in awe.
So am I insured from ever again losing my faith in this respect? Well I’m not sure, probably not. As in my more general spiritual journey, it’s possible that there may be times that my faith will waver, but I believe that I have the tools and practices that will always bring me back into alignment and back to my sense of faith. Faith therefore isn’t something I have to feel obliged to perpetually uphold in an attempt to maintain a spiritual identity, but something that I can trust will always be available to me when I’m ready to come home to myself after the inevitable missteps into suffering.
Main image credit: Rainbows 526 by Rocky Raybel via Flickr. Used under licence.