What Spirituality Means to Me

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Hey there! Thanks for being here to check out part three of my series- How to Create a Wellness Lifestyle. This week’s topic is about spiritual wellness, but I’m not going to talk about what you should do to be healthy in this area of life. Spirituality is many things to many people, and I know that the journey to find its place in our lives is a personal one. After all, some get in touch with their spirituality with a more traditional, church-going experience. Others feel connected to a higher power while meditating, volunteering to help people in need, or even surfing!

What I do urge you to do is discover what spirituality means to you. You don’t have to believe in any particular god or in any god at all. Perhaps love is your deity, and you find your higher purpose being kind to others and lifting their spirits. The point is that spirituality, in any form, allows you to find deeper meaning in your existence. Having it in your life gives hope and support during hard times and confidence when you’re feeling fearful. Spirituality strengthens your personal value system. Plus, as I read in Blue Zones, people with spirituality in their lives tend to live longer! The purpose that it gives you, combined with providing a deeper sense of calm and greater community belonging, extends the lifespan greatly.

Since we all have our own take on spirituality, I challenge you to find where it can fit in your life. Check out some books- I loved Like the Flowing River by Paulo Coelho, The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Try out new religious services that have interested you, or just figure out what makes you feel connected to something bigger than yourself. This is an area of my wellness that I’m not as connected to, so I’ll need to explore deeper as well!

 


What I’ve found is that spirituality can be found just as easily in the magic of small moments as in the wonder of large moments. So it’s about to get personal- here are the activities and experiences I’ve found that get me in touch with my spiritual side:

To me, spirituality is… feeling beautiful moments of connection and transcendence during travel. I went to Paris when I was in high school and walked up the steep, cobblestone streets of Montmatre during the first night there. Once I got to the top, the highest point in the city, millions of buildings and the Eiffel Tower glittered down below. It was gorgeous. But towering right next to me was the stunning, white Basilica ‎Sacré-Cœur, and I was drawn in. The warm interior of the cathedral engulfed my emotions with the nuns singing softly by candlelight and the giant gold mural soaring overhead. I was immediately filled with a sense of bursting joy in my chest- all at once, I felt peacefully connected to everything and that life was so unimaginably amazing. It was a beautiful experience. Now, I’m actually not Catholic, but if that wasn’t the most spiritually moving moment in my life, then I don’t know what was!

To me, spirituality is… a magical “coincidence” that pops into my life just when I need it most. In my junior year of college, I’d been single for about a year and hadn’t met any guys who I really *clicked* with. I was feeling really down about not being able to find a good guy, so I wrote out a super elaborate list of every trait that I wished for in my ideal boyfriend. Sounds silly, but I put my heart into this list- a guy who makes me laugh, who has the same values as me, who is kind and helpful to everyone, and who surprises me with loving, thoughtful gestures. I went into WAY more detail, but I’m not going to embarrass myself here! Flash forward two weeks later where I’m at a Christmas party with some sorority sisters. Wine in hand, I say in frustration, “I’m over men… I refuse to date anyone for the whole next year!” Then in walks this cute guy who I met in passing at a bar with my girl friend the week before. Tonight though, his eyes land on mine, remembering me. We proceed to talk excitedly about all of our shared passions, and I just feel something special. I feel sure… like I know he’s going to become my boyfriend. By the end of the night, our first date is scheduled, and my sorority sisters make fun of my now defunct, anti-men declaration. Flash forward: He turns out to be the exact guy that I described in my list, and we end up dating for years. His appearance in my life was the biggest “coincidence” I’ve ever experienced- now I’m a true believer in the power of asking the universe for exactly what you want!

To me, spirituality is… my bond with nature. Whenever I’m alone and surrounded by the forest or in front of a gorgeous vista, I feel something sweep through me and fill me with energy. In those moments outdoors, I feel so alive and connected with all of the universe. Nature is just perfect- ecosystems that sustain themselves, the symmetry of flowers, the hydrologic cycle, butterfly metamorphosis, and all that’s in between. And have you ever read about Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Ratio? The same mathematical ratio appears in everything from eggs to sunflowers to hurricanes to seashells to galaxies to waves- it’s amazing. The perfection of nature is mindbogglingly beautiful, and I can’t help but feel an intense higher connection to it all.

To me, spirituality is… feeling centered and like my true self during yoga class. During yoga, I’m not worrying about any of my problems outside the class. My mind is focused on breath-work and moving into the various poses. I’m completely in my body- present in each moment. This rare moment of freedom away from my often anxious brain allows me to center myself. It’s then that I realize that life isn’t about all of the issues my mind worries about. In these moments of mental freedom, I can connect back with a higher purpose and let go of my malicious ego, being the realest version of myself.

To me, spirituality is… my inner voice guiding me out of my deepest depression when I was younger. Prepare yourself- this next story might make me sound like a woo woo hippy. So I was really depressed during middle school and parts of high school and felt desperate to try anything that might get me out of this pit of nothingness. At a book store, I found a workbook about discovering your inner goddess and knew I had to give it a try. I had my moment of awakening during a 20-minute meditation exercise that the book led me through. During the experience, I felt energy surge through my body and mind that I’d never felt before. A beautiful woman radiating with light proceeded to have a loving conversation with me, answering all of my fear-filled questions about life and the future. This goddess in my meditation believed in me, and showed me the kindness and support that I truly needed at that time in my life. Once I came out of my meditation, I no longer felt depressed- I felt light and hopeful about my life. Though minor depression has reoccurred in years since, I’ve never felt as deep in despair since the goddess in my mind spoke to me. Call it my inner voice, intuition, or a guardian angel- all I know is that it made me see the beauty in life again.

 


So now that you’ve learned all of the diverse ways that spirituality shows up in my life, what does spirituality mean to you? Have you had any big spiritual moments in your life that give you a deeper since of wellness? Please let me know in the comments below- I’d love to hear your story! 🙂

Have a wonderful day,

xo Caylee

Any Type of Person Can Have Depression, Even “Happy” Girls Like Me

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As the shocking and heartbreaking news about the death of Robin Williams was heard around the world this week, my brain was spinning with how many celebrities have either committed suicide or accidentally overdosed after self-medicating their depression. The common thread that I notice in online comments goes something like this: “How could a person who seems so happy be so depressed?”

Everyone wants to believe the stereotype that those with depression are always outwardly gloomy and withdrawn. Then they can feel comforted and think, “Nope! I don’t know anybody who fits that description! All my friends and family act happily, so we’re safe.”

Well, that’s just the thing – happiness can be an act. Some of us are damn good at pretending like everything is peachy perfect and that we’re not crumbling on the inside. Take me, for example. I’ve struggled with depression, on-and-off, since middle school. I’ve learned how to hide it well, because there’s such a huge stigma attached to depression and related mental illnesses. I never wanted new friends or potential employers to think that I wasn’t worth getting to know because I sometimes struggle with depression. And that’s part of the problem. The fact that I feel embarrassed about my feelings and have to hide this big part of my life makes me feel even more ashamed and depressed. It’s a vicious cycle.

I know a surprisingly large number of people who have struggled with depression, and almost all of them feel like they have to hide this about themselves out of fear of not being accepted anymore. One time, when I’d been in a major low for a while, a former boyfriend of mine yelled at me to snap out of it and stop being pathetic. What did this experience with him teach me? It taught me that I need to constantly fake being happy so that people will like me and respect me. I need to crack jokes, smile, and be amazingly conversational all the time in order to be loved. That’s what we’ve all learned. Are these useful talents in life? Definitely. But did I feel more alone than ever because most people have no clue that I struggle emotionally? Yes, yes, yes.

We need to allow people with depression to come forward and talk about their experiences without the stigma. We need to love them instead of shunning them and making them feel even more alone. If you had good conversations with me and laughed with me before you knew I had depression, why does anything have to change now? If I was lovable before you knew I had depression, why can’t I be just as lovable after? Yes, I deal with depression, but that doesn’t define me. It doesn’t define any of us. I can still be a great girlfriend, employee, friend, daughter, and adventurer. I don’t need any sympathy – I just want to be able to talk about my own life experience without feeling ashamed. I believe that is something we all deserve.

As a final note to give you some more background about my situation, I don’t take any medications for depression and never have. Instead, I worked with a famous psychiatrist to develop a holistic lifestyle plan that helps alleviate my depression. It was through that work with her that I’ve seen how important holistic wellness is to living a life of happiness and health. My goal in life is to continue down this path and help others lead a life of wellness too. I now feel more happy and stable than I’ve ever felt before, and I’m so excited to share my passions with you!

It was honestly very difficult to write this post, because the thought of repercussions can be scary. I feel very vulnerable, but I also know I’m speaking my truth. Hopefully my voice will add to shedding light on the fact that depression is a very common issue for diverse types of people. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I know this blog post is more serious than my usual ones, but I felt it was pertinent and necessary. Lighter ones to come! 🙂

Love to all of you,

xo Caylee