Hiding Behind A Mask of Spirituality
November 11, 2015 ~ Demetra Szatkowski
The past few weeks have seen the complete breaking down and pulling apart of everything I thought to be true.
What I have mostly been asking myself is this: Are my belief systems serving me?
I have noticed that humans really, really like to create meaning in the world. We create the things we believe in. It doesn’t matter what that system looks like. It could be a religion, it could be atheism, it could be our own made up system of beliefs pulled from all different ideas around the world. But we are creating all of these.
I used to feel above everybody else who practiced a religion because I, instead, was “spiritual” and didn’t have to adhere to anybody else’s rules. I could see the negative thought patterns that came from organized religion. I didn’t realize that what I had created in my own mind was doing the same thing to me, just in a different way.
In a world that is fluid, constantly changing, and totally unpredictable, holding onto beliefs makes us feel safer. I believe that this can be a very healthy thing to do – as long as what we believe is helping and not hurting us.
This is the thing: all of our beliefs are just that – beliefs. They are stories. They are things that cannot be proven and things we will never figure out. We will never know for sure. Because we will never know for sure, it doesn’t actually matter whether the beliefs are true or not. I would rather find a belief system that makes me feel at peace rather than cling to one that makes me feel not good enough.
Since we are all so different, and come from a myriad of different experiences, the system that works for one person will not necessarily work for another.
For example, I used to believe that everything happened for a reason. I’m a naturally optimistic person, and this is what made me feel good about being in the world. Looking at past events and seeing how they brought me to the present moment made me feel comfortable, safe, and like there was somebody secretly taking care of me. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.
That stopped working when I lost my brother, when I lost a friend, when my parents divorced, and when my grandfather died. But it took me a really, really long time (almost 4 years) to realize that the beliefs I was still clinging to were tearing me down instead of holding me up.
After Damon’s accident, I tried deepening my beliefs. I found yoga and connected to deeper energies. I trusted that there was a divine plan and that everything would work out. I believed that eventually I would find a reason for why Damon’s accident happened, the way I had always been able to eventually find a reason for smaller negative events happening in my life.
While this helped me cope, it also, for me as my own unique person, created a whole other set of problems. I became extremely anxious about other bad things happening to me, because I thought they would need to happen in order for me to grow and learn lessons. In looking at Damon’s accident and seeing the wonderful ways I had changed since then and in believing that the accident had to happen so that I could grow like that, I held onto a harmful belief system. I even justified breaking up with my boyfriend inside my own head because I felt like if we weren’t supposed to be together and I stayed with him, something horrible would happen to him to remove him from my life so that I would be forced to grow.
Ridiculous? Yes. Does this happen to everybody? No. But it happened to me. And it happened because on top of the trauma I went through, I was forcing myself to hold on to a set of beliefs that were simply not working for me anymore.
I surrounded myself with people who believed things that were similar to me. And when I was suffering, people said things to me like, “you are creating this experience for yourself,” “your soul planned all of this ahead of time for you,” “everything is perfect,” “god has a plan,” “everything that is happening is just a reflection of the things you refuse to see about yourself,” and “you attracted this into your life.”
In arguments about cultural appropriation and racism, I have heard white people say things like, “we are all one, everything is exactly how it’s supposed to be, we shouldn’t even see color, we all need to forgive everybody and love everything and all be together in infinite divinity.”
And I am standing up and saying, no.
These things are hurtful. They are harmful. They are not conducive to grieving or to healing or to taking action to create true change in the world. I will not participate in it anymore.
You can believe whatever you want. Believe what works for you. Believe the stories you create for yourself. But do not press your stories and your beliefs on people who are suffering. Do not use the idea of “awareness” and “consciousness” to excuse away selfishness or laziness or refusal to see the actual horrible things that are going on in the world. We need to not push our belief systems onto others as if they are facts. We need to recognize that what we believe is not true for everybody else in the world, nor should it be, and that what we believe is not better.
Everything may very well be perfect. But I don’t care. Believing that everything is totally wonderful isn’t helpful to me, and I don’t like the way I see people hiding behind their spirituality so that others look up to it when they are really just masking deep insecurities and pain.
Right now? I feel energy and I feel connection and I feel something bigger than my own human existence. But I also believe that random things just happen and that sometimes those things are really shitty and that they happened for no reason whatsoever. I believe that I can choose to respond and grow from these things, but I do not believe that they happened so that I can grow. This works for me. Maybe it doesn’t work for you.
Life is alive and mysterious and beautiful and painful and crazy and unbelievable. The human mind is an incredible thing. I hope we can use it for things that are helpful both to ourselves and to others.
**Credit goes to Bethany for the title of this post. And extra thanks to the friends whose questions and thoughts over the past week or so have helped me come to the conclusions in this post. You know who you are, and I am so grateful for you.**