#8: Stigma In Spirituality, and Why It Matters?

Spirituality can mean different things to people. In this episode, we have an honest conversation about the stigma that we often see attached to spirituality. We explore it sharing what it means to us and how we see spirituality as a way of Being. 

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Transcript of episode #8

Rani
We talk about stigma against mental illness and the fear of just disclosing that someone has got mental health issues. That’s understandable and I also feel the same about spirituality especially in the line of work. There’s a stigma attached to talking about being spiritual.

Suraj
Hello, welcome to another edition of the Listening Into Wellbeing podcast. I’m your host Suraj…

Rani
I am Rani

Suraj
Today, I’m really excited to explore this topic together, the one of spirituality, slightly contentious as well. Is there a stigma in spirituality is the key question we’d want to discuss and explore with our audience today.

Rani
Yeah, and again, people might think, no, there is none. But, sometimes it does seem to me that when it comes to spirituality, people don’t want to go there. When I was training to be a psychiatrist, I still remember so there was this patient who had very strong religious beliefs and he had some mental health issues. I was a trainee at that time, and I accompanied my consultant supervisor for this assessment, the patient advocate who was with the patient asked the consultant: “So, can I ask you about your spiritual beliefs”, and they immediately said that he didn’t want to disclose it and I didn’t think about it that much. But I’ve also noticed, since then, even I get a bit cautious when people try to talk about their religious beliefs or try to elicit what sort of beliefs I have got. And what we are pointing today is definitely not beliefs, is not about spiritual beliefs. It’s not about religious beliefs or having a religion or a spiritual practice we follow.

Suraj
So, shall we talk about definitions then. So what is spirituality for you, Rani?

Rani
Okay, so the traditional viewpoint of spirituality, is that always something to do with religion? And most people then say, Oh, thank you very much. I used to go to the church or you know, the temple with my parents when I was young, but I don’t do it anymore. It’s equated with doing a religious practice, or people who aren’t necessarily religious, or they don’t consider themselves to belong to any particular type of religion, but they might say, I’m spiritual, and I do certain spiritual practice. And, I remember for a long time, I used to say, I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual, AS IF I had a choice in whether or not I was spiritual. I thought there was a choice that some people choose to be spiritual. Some people choose to be atheist or not spiritual.

Suraj
Yeah, it was as if spirituality was another belief system or an ideology that you can opt in and out of, wasn’t it? So, that’s really interesting because for me, the way I look at Spirituality is that sort of knowing that there is more to life and my experiences than what I can experience simply with my five senses, that is spirituality for me. The beauty of that is it doesn’t require me to adopt any certain kind of practices or way of life or a ritual or a routine. It’s more like gravity – it’s there, and I don’t have to follow any regular ritual.

Rani
So, going back to what I said before Suraj, about being spiritual or being religious. That ‘Being’ is used as a verb as an action to take and how I see the ‘Being’ dimension is as if it’s a noun…there is a spiritual dimension to life, a formless dimension. So when I say spiritual, basically, it can’t it’s not in the ‘form’. It’s not a shape like you said, it cannot be perceived by the five senses. But, there is a knowing people will say I just know or an intuitive knowing, but it’s beyond practice, beyond any form, and you can’t do BEING.

Suraj
Absolutely, the spiritual came way before religion, in terms of it was here before any religion and it will be here long after any religion and for forever, possibly. We talk about the ego-mind and the body-mind, and religions are nothing but projections of that sense of personhood…one individual doesn’t create a religion of course, this is a sort of collective ego-mind and the collective personal mind that has created all these separate religions. If it was not that, if it was something like spirituality which was which had always been here, there wouldn’t be different religions in the world, I mean, there would be only one religion, which probably means there would be no religion at all! So, it’s something to think about. A nd whatever the ego self creates, tendency of that is to always encourage a sense of separation, from that one BEING we talk about…

Rani
When we look beyond that there is a deeper place that all the religions are pointing to, a deeper truth all religions are looking to. So, it seems like there is a common ground. Like if you think of a tree of life, for example, and that the roots are common. If you are just looking at the individual branches and the leaves we will get lost, because people might say, “I’m going to start a new religion because I don’t like that particular religion”. And, what if we keep looking at what’s fundamental, even though all the religions seem to be different, and they seem to say, “my God is better than your God” or that sort of comparison? That’s ego you’re talking about, right? But if you look at the purity of every religion, or any spiritual practice is pointing to the ‘form-lessness’.

Suraj
Yeah, and you’re absolutely right. Every single religion comes from that same spiritual base. And I think they’ve got the same spiritual roots. We’ve got all those branches of religions, branches of beliefs, branches of creating the sense of separateness, but going deeper down, and looking at where everything came from, the True source, it’s all from the same roots.

Rani
Yes, and although we might not talk about spirituality in say, for example, the NHS or in the business corporate world, people do say openly about love, about connection, about gratitude and those feelings that people would call soft and not science based. But, more and more people are becoming aware that we can look at science and we can try to measure things, but some things are immeasurable – like how do you measure connection, how do you measure unconditional love? That’s again, that’s not quantifiable. And when we talk about Spirituality, that’s it, we are talking about the ordinary, looking beyond the form that you think is giving you that sort of deeper sense of just being alive, to go ‘beyond the form’ to the intelligence behind life…

Suraj
To go beyond the shapes. Really, again, this is how our ego-mind gets us into this sort of understanding of separate selves – we’re separate religions and even spirituality becomes a practice or a belief system. But in truth, it isn’t spirituality as you pointed out earlier. It’s just being, it IS, rather than to be achieved by doing something, or by being a certain way. So, I think one of the fundamental things is spirituality doesn’t care whether you think you are spiritual or not. Yeah, I guess.

Rani
Yes, I wanted to say that I think there’s something missing in organisations, mainstream, NHS and we don’t talk about spirituality. And again, like I said, I think there’s a stigma attached to it. We’re talking about love, we’re talking about ‘beyond the mind and body’, we’re talking about the sense of connection, the sense of love, which just IS, and some people call it just Being. And again, I would like to point out that this is the Being dimension, ‘being’ as a noun not being as a verb or a practice.

Suraj
Yeah. So on that note, to sum up, I guess spirituality is that curious looking, that sense of openness of what is shared by all of us, every single being on this planet, what’s common to all of us – a common source of all that, that arises and dissolves in us, that the only true sense of all that we experience, the true source of all that we experience.

Rani
Some might just call it – Life!

Suraj
Absolutely. And to us, if you can accept that, that there is something deeper, more profound truth that is shared by all, including our so-called personal identities or egos even. Then, yeah, welcome my friend, you are spiritual!

Rani
That’s great!!