What is Spiritual Courage?

Spiritual Courage, by Dr. Lisa Dungate & Jennifer Armstrong,
an excerpt from their blog Lion’s Whiskers

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”— His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“Here is a test to find whether your purpose in life is finished: if you are alive, it isn’t.”— Richard Bach

Spiritual courage fortifies us as we ask questions about purpose and meaning. Of course many people find the foundations of this courage in an organized religion, but there are also other ways to develop spiritual courage. Spiritual courage means being available to the deepest questions about why we are here, what is my life for, do I have a purpose?  These are profound existential questions and can be quite frightening, which suggests why fundamentalism of all kinds can gain mastery over us; thus we yearn for definite answers to these questions and are attracted to ideologies that offer resolution to our uncertainty.  Spiritual courage means accepting that you are unlikely to find the answers, but asking them anyway. We all must call upon our spiritual courage when we consider our own mortality. Spiritual courage means opening ourselves up to our own vulnerability and the mysteries of life.Spiritual courage allows us to encounter people of different religious faiths and spiritual traditions without judgment. Remember the photos from the Egyptian revolution earlier this year, when Christians made a protective cordon around Muslims during prayer? That looks like spiritual courage to us.
This video from TED.com is Matthieu Ricard, sometimes called “The Happiest Man in the World.”  It is about 20 minutes long and we encourage you to take the time to view it!

Spiritual courage looks like:
  • attending religious festivals and listening to stories from faith traditions other than your own
  • talking with children openly and honestly about death
  • having friendships with people from faith traditions other than your own
  • for parents, making sure you have written a will, arranged legal guardianship for your children in the event of your death, as well as writing advance directives for medical emergencies
  • giving your children the option to pursue a religious practice or attend a youth group, even if you don’t attend or practice regularly
  • making time to pray, meditate, or do charitable work
  • holding a funeral for a pet
  • letting go of the need to control everything in life
  • reaching out in times of need and asking for help—discovering that there are, in fact, lots of resources in your community
  • building meaningful rituals into your daily life, such as quiet contemplation with a cup of tea, or a walk in the woods with your kids

LACK of spiritual courage looks like:

  • making judgments based on the religious identification of others
  • refusing to try attending a religious service even when your child invites you or expresses interest in religion
  • refusing to attend someone’s wedding, funeral or other rite of passage because of religious intolerance
  • unwilling to question your strongly-held beliefs
  • unwilling to plan for your own death
  • not respecting the wishes of a loved one who is faced with a life-threatening diagnosis
  • unwilling to accept that spirituality can exist outside the walls of a religious institution
  • unwilling to make a values inventory
  • not walking the talk
  • lack of respect for others, their beliefs, their culture, and the environment

Spiritual courage sounds like:

  • “May I go to your church/temple/mosque with you some time?”
  • “What do you believe?”
  • “That’s not a belief I’m familiar with.  Can you tell me more about that?”
  • “I have questions.”
  • “I want to make a difference with my life.”
  • “What happens to us after we die, Mommy?”
  • “Can I say grace tonight, Dad?”
  • “I’m grateful for ___________.”
  • “Before I die, I want to __________.”
  • “Let’s talk about who we’d like to raise our kids if we die whilst they are still young.”

LACK of spiritual courage sounds like:

  • “What difference does it make anyway?”
  • “They are evil.”
  • “Don’t think about such morbid things!”
  • “All religions breed fanatics!!”
  • “Religion in the opiate of the masses.”
  • “You really believe that stuff?”
  • “Sounds like some kind of a cult!”
  • “I can’t talk to you about that because you’re not a member of my church/mosque/synagogue.”
  • “I did it in the name of ___________”
  • “I give up.”

Grab Some Lion’s Whiskers!
Here are some tips for developing spiritual courage for you and your kids:

  • read stories from all world religions and encourage your children to ask questions and find similarities from one culture to another
  • read at least a bit of the Koran, the Bible, Talmudic teachings, Buddhist teachings, etc.
  • if you’ve never been to a Passover seder, ask a Jewish friend to include you next time; if you’ve never been to a baptism, ask a Christian friend to include you; by connecting respectfully with friends from faiths other than your own, you encourage them and yourself
  • ask the important questions before it’s too late!
  • surround yourself and your children with beauty
  • take a walk in nature; wake up early enough to catch a sunrise; on a night walk, stop and simply stare at the stars; take a deep breath in the open air
  • hang famous and not so famous artwork—especially your children’s, and not just on the fridge
  • play Classical as well as Top 40 music
  • stop and smell the flowers
  • try a yoga class—even see if there is one for kids in your community
  • investigate “alternative” spiritual practices such as meditation or sweat lodge with an open mind
  • work in the garden together, it’s a wonderful way to experience the circle of life

Creativity, Wellness & Spirituality

Shine on! By Mary Kathryn Jablonski

If you follow our FB page, you will have already heard about the event called “The Creative Process-In Conversation” held at The Arts Center in Troy on June 11th, which did not disappoint. A panel of six creatives engaged in stimulating conversation with President Chris Marblo about the creative process and how it is manifested in everything from the arts to running an innovative business. I’ve captured a few of their top quotes on our Twitter page.

Panelists included: Bob Bownes, Vice President-Tech Valley Center of Gravity, entrepreneur, inventor; Michael Eck, musician, artist, and writer; David Alan Miller, Music Director, Albany Symphony Orchestra; Chet Opalka, scientist, inventor; Mary Simoni, Dean, School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, RPI; and Marion Roach Smith, writer, teacher.

These fascinating creatives got the room charged with their energy, and for the sake of space, I’ll touch on only one person in the room, writer Marion Roach Smith, who spoke about the importance of surrounding yourself with a supportive circle of friends/colleagues who are invested in your success. She was clearly devoted to her creative life, telling of the discipline involved in writing, which for her included reading, observing, researching, listening, and being “out in the world.” She also mentioned “earning the Right to Write,” which prompted me to check out Julia Cameron’s book on the subject. In it, Julia says:

Julia Cameron The Right to Write“We should write because it is human nature to write. Writing claims our world. It makes it directly and specifically our own. We should write because humans are spiritual beings and writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance.”

And, “I believe that what we want to write wants to be written.”

I continued the evening with a conversation over dinner in which another writer and I discussed the “aggression” of the word choices failure and rejection and even the word success, the weight of these words, and we wondered aloud how we personally and as a society assign these words to our creative work. What makes a project a failure? If a poem or a manuscript isn’t published, is it automatically a failure or is it a work-in-progress? Similarly, if a painting is hung in your living room and not at the MOMA, is it a failure? I know a writer who lists rejected, or unpublished manuscripts as works under consideration. Not that we need to coddle ourselves, but what a gentler approach! From rejection to success, it also helps to read the rejection letters that famous works of literature have received. Some laughable, some astonishing.

Hope all this talk about creativity gets your own creative juices flowing and more conversations underway. Here’s to the creative spirit in each of us. Shine on!    — MKJ