At a recent tutorial session, a classmate was presenting on the application of music therapy in palliative care. Towards the end of her presentation, she stated that one of the goals achieved was helping the client find spirituality and spiritual meaning in her life, as the therapist was able to use songwriting techniques to help the client re-accept God’s Love for her, despite her sense of low self-esteem, and discover a sense of peace within her before she passed away.
I was intrigued and inspired, especially at the use of songwriting to facilitate catharsis, self-acceptance, and yes, spiritual meaning.
However, something at the back of my mind nagged at me – I felt that the implied definition of Spirituality used was a little narrow. The presentation and wording of the case study seemed to imply that spiritual meaning can only be found in a particular religion, concept, culture, and image of God, leaving no room for other avenues or paths to spiritual meaning.
So I was really glad that A, our sensitive lecturer, picked up on that as well.
“When you said ‘spiritual meaning’ and ‘spirituality’, what did you mean by that? Is spirituality only defined by belief in God?” She asked at the end.
“Yes”, came the almost immediate reply.
Unfazed, A continued: “Well, spirituality need not mean religiosity. It is whatever gives people meaning in their lives. Some people find meaning in the bible (or other scriptures), others from being close to nature.. Some people find meaning in self-effort and discipline, others people find meaning in helping others, and the list goes on. So to live spiritually need not mean being religious. It means being able to live in accordance to what gives our lives meaning. As MTs, we need to be aware of that when we work with different clients.”
That short exchange stuck with me. I’ve always been inclined towards spirituality more than religiosity, but could never explain the difference properly when people asked me to. Now, with her words, I feel more empowered and better positioned to explain my worldview.
I find meaning in life from being able to do work that helps others, maintaining equanimity of mind so that I can have inner peace, happiness, not hurt others through any words, thoughts and actions. To have any hope of achieving that, I try to practice mindfulness in the moments, and try to dedicate my actions to something bigger than myself, because I agree that human effort is limited, and a distorted focus on self-efforts might only lead to an increase in the ego (nevertheless, a balanced amount of self-effort remains necessary). I take pictures to remind myself of the beautiful world we live in. I reflect, write, and have conversations with myself, hoping to water and nurture the positive and wholesome seeds within and around me. For now, this is the spiritual meaning in my life, the life which I try to live according to spiritual principles. It’s a work in progress, and the imperfections many, but I trust that everything will happen in its time, and I just need to live every moment of this journey as a destination.
Gratitude is one of the spiritual principles I hope to live by, and today I am thankful I had the chance to reflect and think about this.