Glendon Geikie, MSW, End of Life Doula
We often hear someone refer to their spirituality, or on an occasion, we might be asked about our spirituality. How do you respond or what do you think about when the question of spirituality comes up? Is the answer easy for you, or do you find yourself unsure of how to explain your belief?
It may be challenging because there is no consensus on the meaning of life. Spirituality is personal and deeply rooted in each individual’s belief system. But no matter the source of your belief, the roots of most spiritual belief systems are that there is a higher power, and there is eternal existence.
This does not mean that you have to believe in these two ideas to be a spiritual person. You may believe that when you die there is nothing. You live, you die, and that is it. Your spirituality may be more centered on how you live your life. Did you care for and help others? Were you honest and true? Were you forgiving? Did you show gratitude? Did you give love? If you think of yourself as a spiritual person, you have a spirit.
These notions (higher power, eternal existence) can be experienced in many ways. It may be passed to you by your parents through a cultural tradition or organized religion. It may come to you through your connection to nature, or simply derive from your own quiet, inner reflections. Often meditation is a route to these experiences.
Regardless of how we come to our spiritual beliefs, brain studies have shown that no matter race, gender, or ethnicity, our spirituality brings us calmness, peace, comfort, and readiness for whatever follows. Through our spirituality we also find meaning to our life.
Often, we are born into a spiritual belief system endorsed by our parents or caregivers. Sometimes we follow that trajectory throughout our lives. Other times life events lead that belief in a different direction. Life-threatening events often prompt a reflection on our spirituality. The pandemic brought many to think about this. Am I ready for what comes next? Am I ready to let go of existence as I now know it? Does my belief system give me comfort and peace.
Here are two examples of how a person’s spirituality came to life.
I worked with a man, a life-long Catholic. His body was being ravaged and tortured by cancer with great pain. He chose to take control and use Medical Aid In Dying (MAID) to end his life. His announcement to me that he had his priest to the house to give him last rites confused me. The Catholic Church does not condone MAID. When I asked him about that he said he didn’t tell the priest about his plan. He wanted to be alert enough to experience the sacrament. He said he was at peace with his God, and he would be OK.
On another occasion I had a last-minute call to be with a woman who appeared to be fighting her transition to another realm. She was unresponsive and appeared to be suffering emotionally. What I offered was not helpful. At some point, her partner told me she was a Wiccan. The next day I brought a shaman with me to see her. A beautiful shamanistic ceremony was conducted, her agitation disappeared, and she smiled. Within two hours, she peacefully passed to another realm. Her spirituality had been honored.
We need to embrace our personal spirituality or belief system. Our spirit is our own, our embodiment. Take time to look into your spirit. Does it give you comfort and peace? Does it help you get through hard times? When you are in pain, does it relieve your suffering?
So, when someone asks you about your spirituality, are you ready with an answer?
Glendon Geikie, MSW, INELDA has been in the Wellness Village – ParkinsonsResource.org/GlendonGeikie – since June of 2020. He exudes kindness, spirituality, gentleness, and gives great comfort in life’s journey.