Monday, August 25, 2014

Following Ferguson: What Do We Say To Kids?

Where is the love?

I remember graduating from college and wondering how in the world I was going to get a teaching job mid year. I had to extend my higher education stay (much to my parent's delight, not) after deciding to earn a dual major and certification in early childhood and elementary education. This left me with a December graduation. Being that teachers work on yearly contracts, I was pretty much out of luck. I started subbing in any district that would take me and quickly found an opportunity to be a teacher's aid in the Ferguson -Florissant School District. Not being from Saint Louis I wasn't very knowledgeable about the area but applied anyways. Within a week I was hired and started working at a small public elementary school in Ferguson.

Prior to landing the teacher's aide position in Ferguson, I had just completed a 3rd grade student teaching placement in Ladue School District. I thought it was heaven! I worked with the Missouri Teacher of the Year and had access to incredible resources, ongoing support and met amazing families throughout that prior semester.
  
I can tell you that the differences between Ladue and Ferguson Florissant were night and day. But that's not what I want to talk about, because that's all people are talking about. Differences, how different people are in Ferguson from other areas of St. Louis and beyond. I want to talk about the similarities. The students in Ferguson were just as adorable as the children I taught in Ladue. The teachers were just as hard working as the teachers in Ladue and I met Ferguson parents who were incredibly passionate about education as I did in the Ladue School District.  I enjoyed working there just as much as I did student teaching in Ladue. Why? Kids are kids and they want to feel loved and respected. They made me feel loved and respected, both the white and the black kids.

Your own kids, or kids you know may be feeling a little confused right now, as they may have heard about the devastating situation in Ferguson. Obviously, this tragedy hits home to me. As adults, it can be difficult to explain the recent turn of events, and incredibly challenging as we seek ways to explain all that is happening. Here are some ways to help kids understand what is going on:


1. Acknowledge what they have seen and heard.  Well, thanks to social media and instant connection to the world, it's impossible to monitor everything kids are watching.  Ask them what they know, what have they heard and seen.  Pop that bubble you think they reside in. Kids are all different. Some may want to talk about it at the dinner table, some may want to talk in private, some may not want to talk about it all. Our kids listen and absorb more than we give them credit for. Ferguson is not a secret nor should it be swept under the rug just because it is not directly affecting your family. It's real life and families are being torn apart. Families just like ours. Communities are at risk. You can start by discussing your own family values, how does your family feel about violence, how does your family feel about racism? Yep, the R word.

2. Racism is real and it starts at home. No one is born racist. Racism is a product and consequence of one's home environment. If I were to guess, I would say that everyone knows someone who is racist. Our kids need to know what it means to be racist and why racism exists.  I don't know what it is like to be black. A black person doesn't know what it's like to be white. We can make assumptions and waste our time trying to envision that, or we can utilize our time in talking with people from other races and seek understanding from their own words. Asking them about their own culture, their own families. We can learn to understand the differences but also see similarities. Yes, there are images, stories, and allegations about the racism portrayed in Ferguson that appears scary and irrational. Keep in mind there are many angles to this tragic event.

3. We don't know the facts. Speculations and the news media are not 100% correct. We need to explain this to our kids.  The supporters of Michael Brown want justice. Some of these supporters are peacefully protesting, while others are violently rioting. The supporters of Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown believe he was doing his job and acted accordingly with the law. While the investigation carries on, the majority of American surveyed (65%) said they do not have enough information to decide which side they are on. Until the case unfolds further, and correct valid information is shared, one can only base their opinion about what is being interpreted through the media.


4. Moving forward. Hopefully kids can find peace and understanding by doing the following: praying for the families, asking questions, but more importantly, realizing that in life sometimes peoples' actions do not make sense. Adults don't always have the answers but we can encourage questions. Avoid judgment and let kids know that some peoples' opinions can come across disrespectful or opinionated. Remain hopeful, while this is certainly a challenging and devastating issue, we have to show hope for the future. Talking with our kids about how we can change our actions, and our thoughts to support those who experience such hurt and violence. Not everything is black and white, even though that is the big issue in this case.

The police officers involved and the Ferguson rioters...all human. That's one thing we have in common, no matter what color we are, we are human. We have a body, a heart and a soul. All which need to be loved and respected. We can't get there if we don't talk about it.



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

This is 40? Oh Boy, Was I Wrong!


I've worn many hats over the years, but this is one I will always cherish.


I remember when my mom turned 40, I was 14. I seriously thought, "My poor mom, she is getting so old." And, you know what? I probably told her that too. Not in a sweet, compassionate way, but more of a snotty, junior high tone of voice way (can't wait until my girls hit that age...karma, karma, karma).

Boy was I wrong about 40.


Over the last few weeks as I have headed into my fourth decade of survival, I have realized it's not so bad. In fact, I'm actually enjoying this older version of myself.  Here are some things I have come to embrace over the years and will continue to work on in the coming years.



  • I have a bigger appreciation for parenting. Life can be unpredictable, challenging and completely overwhelming at times.It takes a village to raise our families. I don't believe you have to physically bear a child to be a parent. From teaching in my early 20s to raising kids of my own, then watching my close friends and families support me by taking my kids after school, giving them hugs and kisses when they see them and letting me know that parenting can be hard are all ways we parent together. I also have grown to appreciate my own parents more, now that I am older. Cliche' but it is true. I love our close relationship and even partnership when talking through difficult issues and enjoying each other's company as we laugh and joke around. Everyone has their own way of parenting, and I love that. I love that my kids will be raised by a variety of special people.





The most positive spirit in my life. I also need to thank her for not dyeing my bangs blond.

I love these times with my dad. I always learn something new and it's usually not about fishing.



  • It's the little things that really count. I have always struggled with the fact that people pop in and out of our lives. I have experienced deep heartache at times when someone leaves my life for whatever reason. As I have gotten older, I have grown to feel blessed by the fact that they were even present in my life at all. I now try to let go of the reason why they had to leave and focus on what I learned from them. Some lessons have been positive, others eye-opening and left with a sting, but overall it's the little experiences along the way that have the lasting effect. Another thing I have learned, is how much a small gesture can impact your whole day: a simple smile, a warm hug, and short thank you or even quick note.  Never underestimate how some things, which seem insignificant, have great power.
He quickly reminded me of how holding someone's hand, even briefly, can make all the difference.
  • You get one body. The wrinkles are coming, the scars have set in and I can't eat a Quarter Pounder anymore without feeling sick (that latter one probably has more to do with the awful food choice).  My body needs to be respected and I have started to embrace it's imperfections more and more.  My wrinkles have become reminders of the many laughs I have had over the years. My scars are symbols of a life lived and reminders to slow down.  I have to workout more frequently to remain healthy and watch closely what I consume. While it's not always exciting to workout and eat healthy food, it's been rewarding to know that if try my best,  I can avoid this body from breaking down!

Definitely my daughter, I use to choose suckers over blueberries, too.
  • Find an aspect about your job that you love. Everyone has a job to do, whether you take home a paycheck or stay at home with your family. There are areas of our jobs, careers, professional responsibilities which make us wonder, from time to time, if we are in the right place. I have learned that it is impossible to love every single thing about what you do. That's what makes work...well, work. Working hard does pay off, but not every time. There's this important piece about it all: follow through. Start something and finish it. Be reliable and always be gracious. Standing up for yourself can be difficult at times given the situation but it crucial to gain respect. There are times when I do not enjoy completing certain tasks. It's life, it's work! I do love the fact that I work at a Jesuit University which promotes growth: professionally and personally. This is such a work in progress...striking that balance of finishing up and knowing when to end my day.

I get to see and feel growth at work, for which I am thankful
  • Soothe your soul. Nurturing your soul to find that inner peace has become very important to me. Feeding my soul by laughing with others, listening to music or even just being alone are gifts. Prayer and meditation; more importantly, reflection are ways my soul feels refreshed. We all have different needs, wants and wishes. Don't neglect your soul.  Everyone has a soul, is a soul, be sure to find time to soothe your soul. 



I have much more to learn and experience! Here's to being wrong about 40 and looking forward to the next 40+ years of feeling right!


One of my favorite prayers:

Mighty God, Father of all, Compassionate God, Mother of all, 
Bless every person I have met, every face I have seen, every voice I have heard especially those most dear. 
Bless every city, town, and street I have known, bless every sight I have seen, every object I have touched. In some mysterious way these have all fashioned my life; all that I am, I have received. 
Great God, bless this world.
--Jack Morris, SJ


Funny scene from "This is 40"...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Back To School: Stop Complaining!

You can't play hooky on the first day of school.


Why do we make kids go to school? How awful, right? I mean, it's the law, so kids have to go. But, the more parents keep telling their child how sad they are that school is starting again, the more likely the child will....well...hate going to school. 

Is that what you want?

No?

So, stop it.

I keep seeing posts and hearing some parents talk about what a big bummer it is that their child has to go back to school so soon. While it is perfectly understandable to experience negative feelings about our summer's end, we need to stay positive about the fact that our kids get to go back to learning and growing as individuals.

I think sometimes our society takes for granted that we live in a country which provides education for our children. Here are some quick facts which I hope will have a positive light on why we should be happy our children get to go back to school

1. There are approximately 121 million children worldwide without access to education.
2. Data shows children in India and China go to school 25-30% longer than children in the US.
3. All brains do not develop at the same rate which is why it is important to expose children to a variety of activities, which schools offer.
4. Three main reasons children attend school are to: gain social skills, qualify for jobs and learn other viewpoints
5. Schools that encourage risk-taking help children make mistakes and learn from them, which gives their self-esteem gets a boost!

Remember, it's all in the way you phrase it.  A school is the facility where our children learn and grow. Promoting the love of learning is going to be more successful than the promotion of the institution.

Here are some ways you can encourage your kids to love learning:
  • Good mornin': The school day starts as soon as they get up and at 'em. Mornings can be so hectic. Make that car ride to school or quick pep talk before they head out the door count!
  • Team up: It's really a team effort. Building relationships with their teachers is beyond crucial. You may not see eye to eye with all their teachers, but the more positive you can keep that partnership the better off your child's school experience will be.
  • Open up: Sometimes it's difficult to get our kids to talk about their school day. Plus, every child communicates in different ways. The dinner table may work for some, but others may prefer to talk about their day over shooting baskets or reading a book together. You know your child better than anyone. Try to find a special moment frequently.
  • Extend it out: As we all know, the school day doesn't end at the last bell, so extend their day into something they enjoy doing or an activity they look forward to now and then. Between clubs, practices, appointments and other commitments, our kiddos get over-scheduled...quick! Let them choose, as often as they can, what they want to do to take a break from the structured school day they have had.
  • Good night!  EVERYONE needs a good night's sleep. Technology/electronics should be closed out an hour or two before bedtime.Encourage your kids to veg out, read or just relax at least an hour before lights out.


A new year of learning, a new year of growth...a new year of fun! 
It starts at home, as it should. 
So cheer your kids on, encourage them to love to learn and enjoy watching them do it!




Having a hard time motivating a child to go to school...just twist and shout!


Other Sources: http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=65
http://www.edplus.org/Legislative%20Advocacy/Resources/Unaccredited_Schools_Position_Paper.pdf
http://www.kmbc.com/news/mo-supreme-court-unaccredited-districts-must-pay-for-student-transfers/20515568#!bAYDsJ



Monday, August 4, 2014

Looking For A Good Time? Why Adult Play Is Important

Why don't we have recess as an adult? Let's change that!


When was the last time you played your favorite sport, hit the tetherball, enjoyed a long bike ride or danced to some of your favorite tunes during the work week? When was the last time you took an hour or two to do something you enjoy during the work week? Have you thought about picking up a new hobby and engaging in it during the work week? Play is not just for the weekends nor is it just for kids. Maybe you are sitting there thinking, "I don't have time, " or perhaps guilt instantly sinks in. What about work, paying bills, spending enough time with your family, or friends, and sleep? Don't over think it, it should come natural and your body needs it.

Why?

Having a good time is not just child's play. Typically play is considered a treat, a desired pastime for adults, but it is much more. Adult play is a necessity. Our bodies and minds require it. Research shows that active adults live longer, have happier lives and are more healthy. There are both physical and psychological benefits to playing around as an adult. Here is a list of benefits adults receive when they take the time to play around: "heal resentment and emotional wounds, an antidote to loneliness and depression, foster perseverance and learning, improve the quality of our relationships, and makes us joyous and happy."

What types of play are there for adults? Many! Here are some examples...

Game Face- working out a good sweat at the gym, hitting some golf balls on the course or playing hoops on the court; these are great ways to play around. Whether you by yourself or with some friends, you are taking much needed time to break away from the norm. Playing just 30 minutes of a sport can improve your quality of sleep. Sweet dreams!


You don't have to look good or score, just enjoy yourself.

Work It- Playing foosball, shooting pool and mastering Zynga are all ways companies are getting on board with playtime at work. I have the luxury of working on a university campus where I can walk outside anytime and find a group of students, and often faculty throwing the frisbee, playing cards, joking around or engaged in some type of play. It's completely refreshing and something I try not to take for granted.  Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute of Play explains, "There is good evidence that if you allow employees to engage in something that they want to do which is playful, there are better outcomes in terms of productivity and motivation." 


Google has it going on. This is their work and play environment,

You've Got Talent- Working on your car, camping outdoors, and playing video games; all these activities stimulate your mind and keep you active. Play doesn't have to revolve around sports. Involving yourself in a hobby of interest increases your self confidence, positive thinking and creativityCarol Kauffman, an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School explains, “when you’re really engaged in a hobby you love, you lose your sense of time and enter what’s called a flow state, and that restores your mind and energy.” EVERYONE has a talent, an interest in a hobby. Can't think of one, here you go!  An alphabetical  list of hobbies out there, some of which I did not even know existed!  Let it flow: from collecting action figures to wingsuit flying, you will find one that fits your own playful personality.

Even Andy had a hobby!

The Art of Play: Visiting a museum, painting on canvas, dancing to your favorite music, these are all considered playing as well! There are different branches of arts, but commonly they are defined as painting, sculpture, literature and dance. The arts offer us a way to express ourselves and experience how others express themselves.   They are incredibly important to our world, especially for adults because "they are languages that all people speak that cut across racial, cultural, social, educational and economic barriers and enhance appreciation and awareness." Interested in learning more about our talented local artists? Check out Kansas City Artists Coalition.  Would you rather listen and dance to some incredible music rather than make your own? Get on your dancing shoes and click on NightlifeKC's website for listings of all types of bands.


You may want to practice your dance moves first before playing them out in front of others.
Get it On- playing house, doctor, and dress-up, making out and feeling love's first kiss; all ways many of us played as a child and into teenage years. Playing around with your lover is, well, play! Spending quality time exploring and enjoying your mate will reap you many health benefits as an adult. According to Andrea Demirjian, author of the "kissing book" (Kissing: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About One of Life's Sweetest Pleasures), explains smooching can reduce blood pressure, zap headaches, boost self-esteem and amp up happy hormones. There are many more benefits to being intimate, I'm sure you can figure them out. 


Gustav Klimt, "The Kiss" (1907), this piece of art is still getting action today for obvious reasons.


There you have it. No more guilt, just make a point to schedule it in or be spontaneous about playing around. No rules, except to have good time.



 "You an discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."  (Plato)
Next time you engage in adult play, discover something interesting about whomever you are playing with, more importantly, discover something about yourself.


Poison has had this figured out for awhile...



Other Sources:
http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/11/15/the-importance-of-play-for-adults/
http://www.helpguide.org/life/creative_play_fun_games.htm
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zahra-ebrahim/benefits-of-play_b_1973705.html
http://www.buzzle.com/articles/benefits-of-playing-sports.html
https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/play


Monday, July 28, 2014

Whatcha Wearing? Fashion Forward With Wearables

Just wearing clothes? So last century.

We all have our sense of style. Some pay close attention to what they wear, others go for practicality and comfort, and a few could care less. Whatever you wear and however you wear it, it's an extension of who you are and how you operate as a human, day in and out. Wearing a piece of clothing is one thing, but our new age society offers creative advancements which give us opportunities to extend out of the realm of fabric and jewelry into the digital world of constant technology access. 

We all wonder from time to time what someone has on or why they are walking around wearing it; i.e., cousin Vinny in his leather suit.  Technology wearables are no different. Wearables are one of the fastest growing merchandise out there. Sales have quadrupled in the last two years. Reports estimate this market will grow to over $5 billion by 2018 . So you know about Google Glass? That just scratches the surface. If you are unsure of what they are or what variety there is for you to choose from, wonder no more!

(Here are some famous quotes from My Cousin Vinny to get you interested.)


"Hey, relax, I'm gonna help you."

What is wearable technology?  It's all the rage this year, I'll tell you that. Moving beyond the famous definition of tracking devices, wearable technologies span across a spectrum of uses. Humans started way back with armor for battles and glasses for sight to hearing aids, watches, spacesuits, and so on. Now, we actually have more stylish and multiple use wearable technologies. These dynamic devices can be worn outside the body, or potentially inside the body. Let's take a look at five examples from a range of industries.


"It's either the leather jacket, which I know you hate, or this. 
So I wore this ridiculous thing..."

Fitness: This is probably the most commonly known wearable. Fitbit is the largest and most popular health tracking device out there right now. They track things from food, weight, activities and sleep.  These product syncs your stats to your phone and computer. It provides real time access to your progress and reminders to keep you motivated on your health and fitness goals.  I recently talked with Melanie Knopke, a local KC wardrobe stylist, regarding what she knew about  Fitbit and other wearbles. She mentioned that Tory Burch also just designed for Fitbit. Check these trendy pieces out by Tory.


What they look like.

Health: Speaking of staying fit to be healthy, what about the health industry? As I mentioned, some wearables can be consumed in the body. There is a new chip out there, "smaller than an ant" which allows biomonitoring.  The Freescale KL02 chip allows the doctor to monitor and/or diagnose diseases for their patients either through wifi or the patient's app.  Learn more about it and other impacts on the health industry by clicking here.


Don't think this is chewable, but maybe it comes in grape flavor?

Business: When it comes to increasing productivity, wearable technology is the hot topic. CNBC wrote a recent story including some situations where companies could potentially save $1 million. Technicians and other employees could utilize wearable camera glasses to be "hands free" while working on different issues and take pictures or communicate in real time for assistance with problems. While this sounds like a successful solution, I should share with you that one wants to avoid being called a "Glasshole". A new term which defines those, who while wearing their Google Glass, ignore the real world and constantly talk to their wearable glasses, "Glass, do this...". Think of talking to Siri on a whole new level. So, training on technical skills and manners is a necessity when introducing this new business strategy. Here are some tips from CNN on how to avoid being a glasshole.

Not everyone is impressed by Google Glass.

Fashion: I absolutely love to wear jewelry and I know I am not alone. Also, as a working mom who tries hard to use manners around others, I struggle with the whole question, "to leave or not to leave my phone out?" Well, Ringly takes care of this for you! You can be discreet and put your phone away. It will notify you if you have a message, call, reminder or email from people that matter most. Smart and stylish. You can download the associating app and customize which notifications you want and when, more importantly, from whom. Melanie Knopke also gave her nod of approval for Ringly by adding, "I think it's a sign of good, fashionable and functional things to come."
"Put your phone away and enjoy the moment."


Sports: Who doesn't love Grant Hill? As a retired NBA player, he now is testing out the biostrip currently being developed. He said wearing this device can give professional athletes a more competitive edge. This two inch strip,known as MC10,  will alert Grant if he is physically overexerting himself so he can avoid injury, it can determine a good night's sleep to maximize his performance, and give him the daily data he needs about his body. It can be placed anywhere on the body to give feedback on hydration levels, heart rate and more. Next up? Smart T-shirts with embedded sensors! Read more here
THIS is what second skin looks like.


"You were serious about that?"

Yep. And, these are only a few examples of what is out there. Know what is coming, how you can wear what you want to, and learn more about yourself. Whether you are "into" fashion or not, there is no denying wearable technologies are taking us into a world of evolving expression. Melanie Knopke predicts "this is just the beginning of wearables...as a stylist, I think products like these are genius". She explains that is it important to maintain a look which can appeal to a lot of different people. Functionality is key as well.  


Coco Chanel once said, "Everyday is a fashion show and the world is your runway." Where will your runway take you? Find out in endless ways with wearables.



Might need to get cousin Vinny a wearable translator and maybe a stylist...Melanie?




Special thanks for Melanie Knopke for her expert fashion insight! Check out her blog: http://melanieknopke.com/


Sources: all sources are linked through my blog post.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Our Millennials: Don't Be Hatin', Be Hirin'

This generation has something new to offer.


Why the hype about the Millennials? Because our Millennials are important. The Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are defined to be born roughly between 1980-2000. As a Gen X girl, I've been a big fan of these kids for years. I taught them in elementary school and I have the opportunity to currently teach their generation in higher education.  They serve, they volunteer, they ask controversial questions, they challenge content and get inspired by new technology.  They have big hearts, big dreams, and even bigger personalities at times. All of which many of us enjoy. 

But recently, I have read blogs and articles connecting millennials to negativity. They are told to "lighten up", "work harder", and "get out of their parents basement!"  They have even been called the "ME" generation which includes labels such as "entitled", "selfish" and "lazy".  In my opinion, this is far from the truth.  On campus, I have listened to the Millennials talk more serving those in need, worrying less about spending money.  They do discuss how anxious are about choosing the perfect college or career, and finding a job after college to match their skills. They just want to do their own thing.   Why is that?  They have been told they should love their job, and to be somebody.  Many of them received much praise and pressure. Many of them grew up with helicopter parentsMore importantly, many of them have been told since they were little that they can be ANYTHING they want, do ANYTHING they want.  

I'm here to apologize for that. I'm sorry, but that's not entirely true.  You see, we all have dreams and most of us are working towards a greater goal.  The goal varies and changes between people and certainly generations. But, the bottom line is, it's hard work and sometimes you don't get to pick the road that leads you to that greater goal.

We have all worked in jobs we have not enjoyed.  We did it and/or are in them now because we need to have a job. Providing for ourselves, our families, it's our civil duty and blessing as a US citizen. Perhaps, we've led these Millennials astray by encouraging them to wait, wait for that perfect job. Well, it's not there.  What is out there are jobs. Period. Jobs you take because you need them and they have the potential to provide experiences and open doors to a career you may dream of. Past generations have learned that often times an interest, maybe even a hobby takes place of searching for that job you love.  If you are lucky, your hobby or passion forms into a job. But for right now, right here. take a job. There are no jobs? I beg to disagree. The Millennials need jobs and they need our help. 

Here a few recent quick facts about Millennials regarding the workforce and their finances:
  • 75% of them will make up the workforce by 2025.
  • 89% agreed they would rather buy from a company which supports social justice issues.
  • 87% disagreed with the statement  "money is the best measure of success", compared to 78% of other generations.
  • 64%  said they would rather work at job they enjoy which pays about $40K a year then making $100,000 at a job they think it boring. 
  • 43% shared they consider themselves conservative investors and 88% of them do their banking online.



There is a discrepancy between how they are perceived 
and who they are really are.
Click here for full view of infographic.


It is interesting to read about their overall views on working and what they intend to do with their money. It's even more refreshing to see a generation passionate about social justice issues. Those of us from the older generations need to support our upcoming youth and avoid making general judgments about who we think they are. For example, many of them are not as technology addicted as you may think and they are more loyal and hardworking then some people give them credit for. Get to know them. 


We all have had someone from the generation above us who reached out their hand instead of hatin'. These Millennials are going to make some significant changes. Changes which will have a direct affect on us all.  
Let's make sure these changes are positive ones.


Watch this 2 minute video to help understand the myths and learn tips about working with Millennials.








Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Losing My Religion? Spirituality vs Religion

Is spirituality a frame of mind?
This blog post is one I have wanted to write for some time. I have been reading, researching, discussing and reflecting about this question of: what is spirituality and how is it different from religion? We've heard the lines before, "Oh she's so spiritual" and "he's really religious." But what do people mean when they say that? What does it mean to be so spiritual or really religious? I've always thought of myself more spiritual than religious. For me, converting from a Baptist to a Catholic was not a choice I made because I felt Catholicism was a better religion, it was more about how the Catholic religion made me feel, the connection between the teachings and how they moved me. We all are on our own journey to improving ourselves as we look into our souls searching for that inner inspiration. I often think, it is spirituality which inspires me or my religion?

I, by no means am an expert on this subject. Rather, I am a humble friend sharing some insightful information to perhaps help you on your spiritual journey.  Last week, I sat down with my priest to discuss spirituality. Father Pat Rush, who is the pastor at Visitation Parish.  Visitation Parish is known for it's faith formation programs, open door reputation in the community and commitment to support those who want to grow and be of service to others. He shared that people of different faiths can feel a different spiritual experience. Is that based on faith or just interests and experiences? What creates this feeling? It’s different for everyone. In a society where people are questioning their feelings more, it is very timely topic.



Georgetown University discusses the big debate regarding spirituality vs religion.

Spirituality defined:
a quality that goes beyond religious affiliation, that strives for inspiration, reverence, awe, meaning and purpose, even in those who do not believe in God. The spiritual dimension tries to be in harmony with the universe, strives for answers about the infinite, and comes essentially into focus in times of emotional stress, physical (and mental) illness, loss, bereavement and death” (Murray and Zentner 1989:259)

“…the search for transcendent meaning” – can be expressed in religious practice or …expressed ”exclusively in their relationship to nature, music, the arts, a set of philosophical beliefs, or relationships with friends and family” (Astrow et al. 2001).

Religion defined:
“an organized system of practices and beliefs in which people engage … a platform for the expression of spirituality…” (Mohr 2006).


religious beliefs – “formed within the context of practices and rituals shared by a group to provide a framework for connectedness to God” (Davies, Brenner, Orloff, Sumner, and Worden 2002).

Here's what I've got for ya:

The Big Debate: 
Much debate surrounds the definition of both terms. As Anandarajah and Hight (2001) explain, “spirituality encompasses such realms as the cognitive or philosophic, the experiential and emotional, and the behavioral”. The wide spectrum of spirituality and religion along with a lack of clarity and agreement on definitions further complicates efforts to clearly define both terms. They further discuss that “sometimes both terms are used interchangeably;  some see religion as the manifestation of ones spirituality, yet a person can be spiritual without being religious.” Basically, a  person can also be outwardly “religious” in performing certain actions, and yet not focus on the underlying principles of spirituality.





Wake Up: 
Spirituality vs religion... how are they different? Father Rush shared there are spiritual awakenings that happen to us whether we are in church or not. However, we need community experiences, socializing an individual to be a spiritual person into society, which we receive from being part of a church.  Our vision that our community provides is God given. Religion can give us a sense of direction and an opportunity to feel spiritual. People who decide not to be a part of a religious organization still tend to be a disciples of someone’s vision. But there are other experiences which can be spiritual for us for a variety of reasons. Perhaps yoga, nature, meditating, drugs, extreme sports, or just being alone is spiritual for you.
 We can feel something during church, maybe it’s the socializing with other members, maybe the music, maybe the message being taught. It’s different for everyone. 





It's About You:

One point Father Rush made was we all go through phases. There are times in our lives, our relationships, our careers and work where we are completely connected to our feelings and positive beliefs about what we are doing. There are times in our lives when we may be disconnected, and that is just life. What brings us back to our faith? He explained there are memories we hold which bring us back to being connected with our faith, our religious beliefs. The Bible discusses in many passages about the "desert experience." This refers to a time where one feels disconnected, walking through a empty wide space. These desert experiences make the connected times feel more real.  They give us a high when we get back to where we need to be, perhaps a more spiritual meaning to how feel towards our faith or relationship.




Should you follow your spirituality, or your religious beliefs? There is an expectation of faithfulness to the church teachings. However, it’s not a bad thing when you go through periods of feeling disconnected.  Mother Teresa shocked the world in her autobiography when she discussed how she went through a period where she did not feel God. The goal is to get through those days and it will come back based on the positive experiences you have had prior. The memories will bring you back and can actually make you stronger in your faith.


Whatever you feel or seek to feel, take time to reflect on your life, your beliefs and what makes you happy. You can have a spiritual awakening without losing your religion.




R.E.M. sings about it...






Sources:

Anandarajah, G. and Hight, E. (2001). Spirituality and Medical Practice: Using the HOPE Questions as a Practical Tool for Spiritual AssessmentAmerican Family Physician. 63:81-89.