Spiritual sustenance
November 8, 2013 1:28 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for suggestions for spiritual sustenance: things you do to feel connected to love, purpose, and meaning.

I'm going through a stressful time and would love to hear what you read, see, watch, think about, or do to feel connected to deeper meaning and purpose.

Some things I do now:

- 15 minute yoga apps on my phone
- TV shows and movies that make you think about your life and choices, like Being Erica
- Read books like Kitchen Table Wisdom. I find the Chicken Soup books and most of the genre cliche and tacky, but I liked Rachel Bremen's book. She's smart and a good storyteller and I don't feel talked down to.
- Read Boggle the Owl
- Eat soup and drink tea

In particular, I'd like some readings or television shows or apps that will soothe my soul and help me better understand my purpose.

Things to know:
- I'm an atheist with an aversion to organized religion, "everything is for the best" rationalizations, and cutesy-ness
- I'm in therapy
posted by 3491again to Society & Culture (22 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
I find volunteering, especially for those less fortunate, really puts my problems into perspective.
posted by smoke at 1:35 AM on November 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

Sera Beak: The Red Book and Red Hot and Holy
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:28 AM on November 8, 2013

Walking in the woods. Or really, getting out into nature in any form.

Increasing communal experiences. For me, this can be anything from a yoga class to volunteering to having dinner with a good friend. Feeling grounded in community is an important part of feeling spiritually grounded for me.

Connecting to the changing seasons. In the same vein as getting out into nature, I like to spend time at farmers markets, picking out different local seasonal foods-- smelling fall smells, talking to vendors and neighbors, taking food home to cook.

Experiencing flow states-- whether it's from moving meditation/exercise, reading, or working.
posted by instamatic at 2:51 AM on November 8, 2013 [13 favorites]

Spend time in nature. It doesn't need to be long, just somewhere a little bit wild. Sit for 15 minutes, listen to the birds, look at that tiny flower amongst the grass..
posted by AnnaRat at 2:53 AM on November 8, 2013 [10 favorites]

I just saw this on the blue: Sylvia Plath's drawings, and this quote of hers:

“It gives me such a sense of peace to draw; more than prayer, walks, anything. I can close myself completely in the line, lose myself in it.”

Drawing can be a very meditative experience, particularly in the sense of really seeing your subject as you attempt to recreate it on paper. I once drew the tree that lives right outside my back door for an art class; I'd seen that tree every single day for years, but I never really saw it before I drew it. I spent hours studying its shapes, lines, textures, proportions, the way the light and shadow fell on it. By the time I was done I felt an actual bond with that tree, and I'm still quite fond of it. Even though it lives in a common area of our apartment complex, it feels like it belongs to me in a sense.

You don't even have to be good at drawing in order to get the benefit; it's the process that is important. I quite like my quirky, imperfect tree drawing but objectively it is far from "good" in the sense of showing any sort of artistic promise. Although I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at how well it did turn out considering I have no natural talent for that sort of thing at all.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:09 AM on November 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

When I feel most connected spiritually I have usually unplugged from most media. I don't know if that would appeal to you but I tend to like to be in a really quiet place by myself. I may write or read or listen to music or just sit in silence and then just experience a stillness or peace inside. Sort of like Taize.
posted by wildflower at 3:49 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Instead of navel gazing, be of service to other people.
posted by Mister Bijou at 4:12 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Volunteer. Give and you shall receive.
Become active in some volunteer organization, and your effort there serving others will bring you peace.

The longer you stay with the volunteering gig, the deep the connections will become, and the more centered you feel.
posted by Flood at 4:15 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I do nice things for the people I love
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:28 AM on November 8, 2013

Connecting with nature, connecting with other people. Writing, painting.

Something as silly as going to a cooking class, or going out with a friend, can sometimes shift my perspective.

Grounding exercises, like counting 5 things you can see, 4 you can feel, 3 you can hear, etc.
posted by bunderful at 4:31 AM on November 8, 2013

Brene Brown's Ted Talks about vulnerability are dry doret in how to achieve connection.

The answer is messy and unpleasant, bc the answer is dig through the things you wish you could hide forever, and begin I fee like you really deserve connection.

This means really showing yourself to people, and really seeing them.

Each of her talks is about 20 minutes long and she has books that you can dive into.

I also really recommend the lecture called "sliding vs deciding' which you ca find on youtube. It's less direct about how to feel connect, but it talks about making purposeful vs just doing the easy/convenient/expected thing.
posted by bilabial at 5:02 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ribbon Farm recently had an excellent post on staying grounded, what it means to be grounded, how to identify rituals/practices on grounding for you, and what grounding means to people who aren't spiritual. I think it might help as you think about this.

Trying many different things and paying attention to how you feel before, during, and after is probably the discovery process here. I know some of the things I dread in advance are the things I find most rewarding afterwards.

If you like Being Erica, you might also like Drop Dead Diva; I found it hit a lot of the same buttons for me, although DDD is more upbeat in tone (mostly).
posted by pie ninja at 5:14 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a fellow atheist, here is what I like: Drawing (especially mandalas), watching water (ocean waves, river currents, fountains), and just sits (sitting in a comfortable position and just watching my thoughts - I usually remove any way to be aware of an ongoing sense of time and set a timer for when I want to be done). I do also get a lot of pleasure and satisfaction from helping others, but I would not put those activities in the same category as these activities.
posted by hworth at 5:47 AM on November 8, 2013

If you're a fan of music, look up some of your favorite artists/bands and see if/when they're coming to town. Whenever I go to a show, I always leave resolving to go to more -- the love between the musician(s) and the audience, and the feeling of connection among people in the crowd, who love what you do, is a pretty nourishing communal feeling. This is especially true for smaller artists and smaller venues.
posted by aintthattheway at 6:09 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get yourself a mantra. I just quit my (shitty) job to work on home renovations full time, and it's mostly hard labor and way too messy for my comfort level. When I'm procrastinating about painting cabinets or digging ditches in the backyard I remind myself over and over: The end result is a nice home for my family to enjoy. Does your stress have an end result/eventuality that you can focus on?

Nthing the nature suggestion - I've never breathed so deeply or felt so small as I did when I worked on the beach.

Most of what you're doing already sounds pretty good, I would add that TRAVEL (if you are able to get away / can afford it) is also great for getting some perspective. Even just a day trip!

Be gentle with yourself.
posted by polly_dactyl at 7:07 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Loving-kindness meditation. (It's a spiritual practice, but not religious. Just wishing peace and love to yourself and to others.)
posted by jaguar at 7:11 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Try listening to Marc Maron's WTF Podcast, if you don't listen to it already. It's a great source of humor, stories, wisdom, and humbling life lessons that make me feel connected to and interested in the rest of humanity. Marc Maron's openness about the occasional ugliness that stems from his own struggles with anxiety, stress and learning to accept one's place in life has always left me feeling more grounded and able to handle my own flaws.
posted by rhythm and booze at 8:19 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Making things makes me feel grounded and productive and useful--cooking, knitting (even though I'm not very good at either), photography. While I do any of those activities, my mind is focused and quieter, and that helps me center myself.

I fall asleep to a 15-minute mediation from the Pzizz app. It's not reassuring blah blah blah, it's just gentle talk about falling asleep.
posted by gladly at 8:39 AM on November 8, 2013

I would up your yoga practice to practicing within a good local studio. I practice at home by myself at times, and that is definitely beneficial to my well being, but a good studio will foster a sense of community. It can feel very powerful to be connected to a community of fellow yogis on their travels, as I sort of imagine being connected to a church community feels. I am also an atheist, so that's just an assumption.
posted by corn_bread at 11:07 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

You know, I agree that volunteering is awesome for many reasons, but sometimes - particularly during a very busy and stressful period - one just doesn't have the energy, and that's OK. I wouldn't want you to feel as though you were inadequate because you didn't volunteer during this time if it's not right for you.

I think that the reason volunteering feels good is because caring for people is what ultimately offers life deep meaning. However, often we leave ourselves out, and caring for yourself is just as valuable, essential and meaningful. I encourage yourself to view yourself as valuable, precious and worthy of your most careful attention. Acknowledge your deepest wishes - that this time would be easier, that you be recognized for who you truly are, that you be taken care of, that you be peaceful... Take care of your body the best you can. Reassure yourself. Don't be harsh. Treat yourself like your best friend.

Personally, being outside is HUGE for me when it comes to taking care of my inner needs. Maybe you will find the same.

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” -Buddha
posted by Cygnet at 12:16 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

While I definitely identify with wanting to use certain tv shows, movies, books, music, etc to feel more "spiritual", I think easily the best thing you can do to feel more engaged to your life and yourself is to turn off your tv, computer, and media.

Definitely spending time in nature has to be high on this list.

Doing yoga with no music. Try to develop a practice that is very much your own, rather than following some app or video. It takes time to develop the fluidity of your own practice but if you do it's an entirely different place than other ways of doing yoga, for example with the music kranked.

Avoid the overwhelming need to stimulate yourself all the time, whether through work, caffeine, the internet, spending the weekend in a crowded bar, etc. Learn how to be okay with being bored.

Watch animals, they're pretty amazing, even some random bird in the park. If you have a pet, spend quiet time just petting and cuddling her. Or just watching her.

Read poetry from a book.

I think there's nothing that feels more spiritual than just noticing where you are, and how you are in any given moment.
posted by Blitz at 5:37 PM on November 8, 2013

Sing. I especially love singing with my community choir because something about it really resonates with me and makes me feel a part of something bigger. Hell, this atheist has thought about heading back to church on a Sunday just to get some more singing in. But just singing along to something on the radio or the Rdio can make a difference, too.
posted by LynnDee at 6:57 PM on November 8, 2013

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