by Susan Kapatoes, MHA,CPC
Awakening to Our Spiritual Nature
There are two grocery stores within a short driving distance of where I live. The closest supermarket is less than one mile from my house, and the other is a few miles away. I consistently shop at the closest store as it is more convenient, venturing only to the other for specialty items when necessary. But on this particular day, I was sensing an inner pull to shop at the farther market. I didn’t understand the reasoning behind it, but I followed my gut and drove across town.
As I was perusing the food aisles, I suddenly remembered that this store had an activity billboard where local businesses are allowed to advertise their services. I decided to take a quick look at the board to see if there was anything of interest. My eyes scanned the brochures and business cards that were tacked upon the cork but nothing caught my attention.
It was then, as I was about to walk away, that I saw an advertisement for a meditation center that was located in an adjacent town. I was elated. I had been searching for a local venue that offered meditation classes but did not have success in finding one online. I made a mental note that I would visit this center within the next week.
As I was thinking about this coincidence, I knew why I was drawn to visiting this specific grocery store. My instinct was guiding me towards what I had been asking for all along: a community meditation center. I was lead to this information by my own inner compass which is innately intuitive and intelligent.
Each and every person has access to this type of internal wisdom, but what is the source of this unseen navigational system that has our best interests in mind and knows the most appropriate course of action?
What is Spirituality?
The topic of spirituality has steadily gained momentum over the years, but what does authentic spirituality represent and how does it impact our everyday lives? From my personal experiences and listening to other peoples’ perspectives on this matter, I believe that the core essence of spirituality involves the process of awakening to our spiritual nature and acknowledging that a higher power exists that is greater than ourselves.
This higher power has different names and labels according to one’s cultural background and beliefs. For myself, I call this force God, Creator, All That Is, or Divine Source. These are my go-to titles for an all-encompassing energy that is moving through our infinite universe and permeating our everyday lives.
Awakening to our inherent essence can be considered a universal human experience. Some people may have spiritual experiences that are transcendent in nature, but I believe that we all encompass a spirit that communicates to us through intuitive insights, synchronicities, and feelings. Our spirit is the energetic principle which gives life to our physical bodies, but also provides a direct connection to God or Infinite Source.
Within this dimension of physicality, any event that we experience by feeling becomes a reality for us. This is in contrast to simply observing an event as an outsider looking inward. When we get in touch with the essence of an event on a physical, emotional, and mental level, we enter that experience and understand it’s meaning on a deeper level. We are no longer on the perimeter, we are fully immersed into its presence.
A Transcendent Event
I became seriously interested in the topic of spirituality when I experienced an ‘awakening of consciousness’ during my senior year in college at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I explain this event in my book, A Spiritual Journey, but I will provide a recap here.
During my adolescent years, I had always been a seeker of knowledge, yearning to understand the mysteries of the universe. I was constantly asking questions, wondering about the nature of God and wanting to comprehend how I fit into this vast world that we call planet Earth. At the time, I believed in a higher power but did not tie myself to any one particular religion or faith.
In order to understand the context of the story, I will need to provide some additional background information. In 1987, when I was packing to leave for my freshman year of college, I was handed a book as an unexpected gift from a visiting friend of the family. As I gazed at this book that I was holding in my hands, my heart sank with disappointment, for it was a Bible. At the time, I thought that I would never open it. Truthfully, I had planned to leave it at home or give it away to someone who would appreciate its contents. But as I stood there looking at the cover, I suddenly felt compelled to keep it. I packed and repacked this Bible every year of college but did not read a single word. I did not know why I was doing this. It just felt right to have the Bible near me, even though I would not open it until four years later.
During my senior year at the university, I was living off campus in an apartment complex with three other roommates. On one particular night, I was writing an English paper but was having a hard time focusing, as I had a problem on my mind. I was trying to decipher the best way to handle a relationship issue I was having with my boyfriend at the time. As I pondered the situation, an image of the Bible suddenly appeared in my mind, and I had a strong inclination to retrieve the book. I intended to open to a random page and take a chance that the answer to my predicament would be located on that chosen page. I had heard of other people doing this experiment with some degree of success, but I did not have faith that it would work for me.
With some reluctance, I retrieved the Bible from my desk drawer. I looked at it for a moment and then propped it up on a wooden crate, before which I kneeled. I held the question in my mind and hesitantly opened to an arbitrary page. Astonishingly, my eyes fell upon words that described the solution to my dilemma exactly. I was amazed by this moment of fate, which seemed like a miracle.
But little did I know that there was more to experience, for while I was contemplating this occurrence, a brilliant flash of white light suddenly illuminated the room. I looked over my left shoulder since the light appeared to be originating from the upper-left-hand corner of the room, but I did not see anything unusual there. However, as soon as I turned back and faced the Bible, I was engulfed with waves upon waves of what I can only call unconditional love. I had no idea what was happening to me, but I felt completely embraced by a heavenly presence that was coming from all directions and infusing every fiber of my being.
At the same moment, in my mind’s eye, I saw numerous beams of light being directed toward my physical body. These beams looked like sun rays as their color was golden yellow. I instinctively knew that this cosmic light was the source of the divine love that I was experiencing. As the rays showered their magic, my very essence was imbued with sheer joy. I was stunned by this sudden display of affection, which left me speechless. Outwardly, my physical body remained unmoved, but inwardly I felt an expansion that was limitless and free.
While I was experiencing this otherworldly bliss, I felt the abrupt sensation of being pulled up and out of my physical body. The sensation was subtle but something I definitely felt. In an instant, I seemed to be dissolving into the universe and becoming one with it. I swiftly found myself in the middle of an endless sea of deep space, but I felt very calm as I gazed upon the outstretched vista. Enveloped by a profound stillness, this nighttime panorama was quiet and peaceful. I saw distant stars decorate the great expanse, and most astonishingly, I could feel the infinite force of Life itself: perpetual energy, extending and continuing in all directions.
Eventually, I could not contain the power that was moving through my body, and I began to sob. I was crying tears of elation, for I was awed by this entire experience which lasted no more than a few minutes, but changed my life forever. Surprisingly, throughout this event, I maintained consciousness of my material body and its surroundings. I was simultaneously aware of my college room with its minute characteristics, but I was also cognizant of this other dimensional realm with its celestial nature. It felt like I was in two places at once with my perception intact in both places.
There are many lessons that I took away from that blessed night in college, but the one element that has stayed with me throughout these years is the knowingness that we all originated from a Divine Source. Our spirit would like us to become comfortable with this idea, and accept that, at our core, we are energetic beings having a physical experience in this third-dimensional reality of existence.
- We are divine. Each one of us has a direct connection to God, or Source, regardless of our religious beliefs and backgrounds. If we wish to experience a more harmonious and happy existence, it is our job to remember this connection so that we may choose our actions based on love, kindness, and cooperation with one another.
- We have a spirit whose wisdom is accessible when we listen to its guidance. Our spirit speaks to us through feelings, inner cues, and synchronicities. Being aware of this divine language can help us to activate the higher dimensionality of ourselves.
- Our spirit is self-luminous, compassionate, and blissful. We ALL have an expanded aspect of ourselves that is supporting the wholeness of our being, whether we realize it or not. Attuning ourselves to this divine knowledge is what I call Spiritual Intelligence. Implementing its wisdom into our life is what I call everyday spirituality.
- Each and every person has been born onto this planet for a reason. Your life matters and you are meant to be here during this time and place within Earth’s history. The key to finding your purpose is to finding your passion, i.e. those activities that make you feel alive, imbuing your life with inspiration and enthusiasm.
Why is Spirituality Important?
Most people can agree that there are high levels of stress and anxiety in today’s world. Our lives seem to be moving at a warp speed and there are multiple factors that have contributed to the unfolding of this energetic phenomena. With the advent of TV, social media, and the constant broadcasting of news via the internet and radio, how do we stay in touch with our inner harmony when there is so much noise and chaos around us? This is where spirituality shines its light, offering tools of wisdom for those who wish to experience inner peace, love, and happiness on a more consistent basis.
In my memoir, A Spiritual Journey, I describe methods that you can use to stay aligned to your higher self and innermost core being. I relay these helpful techniques by sharing personal stories about my own spiritual experiences. The ultimate goal is to inspire the reader with hope so that you may navigate your life with greater ease and efficiency.
There are many tools which can soothe the stress and anxiety of everyday living, but the one tool I would like to mention today involves the concept of mindfulness. In my next blog, I will go into more detail about this subject, but here is a high-level overview for now.
The Mindfulness Revolution
In 2014 and 2017, the cover of Time Magazine highlighted the topic of mindfulness, showing just how prevalent this topic of discussion has become throughout mainstream America. But mindfulness has been around for much longer than our current timeframe. In fact, it is one element of the Noble Eightfold Path, a set of Buddhist practices leading to personal enlightenment and liberation from samsara, the cycle of rebirth. Buddhism was founded in approximately 6th century B.C., and here we are, still talking about mindfulness.
So what exactly is all this discussion about?
In the Buddhist tradition, right mindfulness is seen as the practice of becoming aware of the present moment in a non-judgmental manner. It is bringing one’s complete attention on the here and now by observing the experience without forming any opinions about it. From my perspective, this is mindfulness in its purest form: simply being in the present, alert and aware, yet releasing all preconceptions and expectations.
From a spiritual perspective, we are practicing right mindfulness when we are focusing on the qualities of our higher-self versus that of our lower-self. Our higher-self encompasses the values of love, compassion, and kindness while our lower-self embodies the more base emotions of hate, jealousy, and discouragement.
Being mindful is being aware that we are responsible for our actions. We can choose to act with good-heartedness to uplift others, or we can act with indifference in order to benefit our own gain. This responsibility begins with our state of mind.
Just as spirituality is a universal human experience, mindfulness can be practiced by anyone regardless of their faith, religious beliefs, or background.
Spirituality and mindfulness are global experiences that allow us to reconnect to our true essence which is essentially our divinity. By linking to our spirit’s intelligence, we will naturally experience more harmony in our lives because we are opening doorways to our higher selves. The key to unlocking these higher doors of wisdom is to listen to the guidance of our spirit who speaks to us through feelings, hunches, and intuitive insights.
Once we acknowledge the inner cues, the next step is to act upon them. As we saw in the grocery store experience, I paid attention to my gut feeling and this awareness produced a positive outcome. I could have easily ignored the nudge, but instead, I respected the information and followed its advice.
When we are centered, we can hear the wisdom of our spirit through the noise and commotion of our daily lives. This is what it means to be fully aware in the present moment, and mindfulness is a tool that can help us remember our spiritual heritage and stay attuned to our divine nature.