The literal meaning of inspire is to draw in spirit, from the Latin spiritus, signifying both breath and a bigger connection. I know the word spiritual is hard for some people, so replace it with inspirational if you prefer. I’m using it because I believe that spiritual aspects of life and resilience will become more vital for most of us in the years ahead as turbulence grows. I’ve chosen three qualities which inspire me and lift my spirits:
- Meaning: our sense of meaning in our own life, and the world in general, is badly eroded by the power of fake news and social media. To find meaning, we have to use our intention and seek it at a higher, non-material level: and this includes the meaning of difficulties, worries, setbacks.
- Purpose: in a market economy, it’s sadly understandable that we’re constantly exposed to messages persuading us that we and our lives are pointless unless we buy Brand X. The best antidote is to find a higher purpose, one which inspires you and serves more than material and personal needs.
- Connection: consider how your ways of connecting have changed in recent years and even more since covid: more online shopping and messaging, and less face-to-face contacts. Probably your life is more full of technical connections, information, stuff, but fewer connections with people, Nature, purpose and meaning. A main part of my spiritual life is feeling the connections between life of all kinds, a sense of fellowship which I find very nourishing and meaningful.
William Bloom is one of the best UK teachers in this field. His books include The Power of Modern Spirituality. In 2015 he started an educational charity, Spiritual Companions Trust, which now has the first fully accredited UK course in this area: a Diploma in practical spirituality and wellness. The website lists a number of resources, with some useful videos and a booklist. See more at www.spiritualcompanions.org.
William believes, as I do, that one’s spiritual beliefs need not connect with organised religion or with belief in a deity. He describes three behaviours at the heart of all spiritual paths, whether or not these fit within a named tradition:
- Connection – with the wonder and energy of life.
- Reflection – on one’s life and actions, and how to change and improve.
- Service – a clear sense of what is right and what is wrong, and acting so as to do good for others.
If you’d like to explore inspiration and the spiritual dimension of resilience, here are sources which have helped me:
- Nature connection: this is much more than feeling good in greenery. Try feeling at one with the vitality and wisdom in all life, including all of Nature. Imagine there’s a creative desire we share, which can guide us through the climate crisis.
- Woodland wisdom and stewardship: there’s a special depth to the connection humans can find with threes and forests. I’ve found this most at Hazel Hill Wood, the conservation and retreat centre I founded. Stewardship is the idea that humans are here to care for and co-create with Nature, not exploit it, and this is a big inspiration for me.
- Sufi wisdom: this has helped my sense of purpose and resilience for many years. Its core is seeing divinity in all forms of life, and keeping an open-hearted approach. You can learn more at another of my websites, living-organically.com.
- Dreams and myth: American eco-philosopher Thomas Berry highlights the importance of dreams (visions of hope), and of changing our myths or prevailing beliefs. He highlights the amazing creative wisdom of Gaia, Planet Earth, in evolving through repeated crises, and the need for humans to connect with this. See more at thomasberry.org.
- Deep ecology: a process created by Joanna Macy, drawing from Native American and Buddhist sources. She believes that most people are pushed into denial and inertia because they can’t process their pain and despair about the state of the Earth. Deep ecology is a powerful way to do this, and involves the support of a group as a key element.
Clearing our negative feelings enables us to find inspiration and a positive vision to engage with the troubles of our times. See more at www.workthatreconnects.org.
Meaning, purpose and connection are more a direction of travel than a destination we reach. They can help our journey through life to be one of discovery and service, even in these turbulent years.