December is the merriest month of the year. Churches in my town are preparing for some very busy days ahead. I am awed by the effort they are putting in to make Christmas safe and fulfilling for their community.
Simultaneously, I’m saddened. Amid this hullabaloo, there are few opportunities to grow spirituality. It is to be expected.
For most of us, religion in its organized form is a social activity. We go to church, listen to the mass, attend services, and celebrate the main festivals of our community. After a while, it becomes a habit so deeply ingrained we don’t even ponder over this entire state of affairs.
So it often happens that concerns of appearance (What shall I put on this Sunday?), socialization (How shall I greet the Joneses?), and rites (Am I doing it the right way?) take precedence over spiritual growth. That’s sad and we are letting it continue.
You can acquire your parents’ religion. It’s easy. My father and mother were Baptists so I’m a Baptist. You can also adopt a religion. I can go to a mosque or a synagogue and within days I’ll be officially a Muslim or a Jew. Religion has become social but spirituality remains steadfastly individualistic.
My children cannot be spiritual just because I consider myself spiritual. Reading the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, and Laozi can help us get on the right path. But we will have to walk down the road ourselves to be spiritual.
Memorizing religious men and women’s teachings by heart and developing the ability to quote them at opportune moments to impress our listeners can make us religious, but we will not be any more spiritual than we currently are.
To nurture spirituality we need constant practice. What kind of practice? No one but you know! That’s the whole idea: we will have to find out what works for us.
What worked for Buddha could not have worked for Jesus and what worked for Jesus may not work for you. They were individuals who found their own way. To grow spiritually, you will have follow in their footsteps—find your own way.
Reading their works can help but it will not be sufficient. Through imitation we can be convincing actors whose outward appearance is like that of a minister or an Eastern guru but inside us there will be a spiritual vacuum. Let’s avoid that.
If you are really interested in spiritual growth, start out with the reading of the Bible and then the sacred books from all the major traditions in the world.
Through careful reading you will encounter a multitude of paths spiritually elevated people have adopted throughout history. When you have so many options, you can adopt the one that suits you the most.
It can be overwhelming at first. Don’t let that deter you. There will be mistakes. You may have to abandon some paths midway. You can’t allow that to discourage you. It’s through difficulties that we grow.
Wish you a spiritually-fulfilling December!
Merry Christmas and happy holidays.