This post is unconventional for a therapy website. However, just because it's unconventional doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. Many good therapists struggle with how to bridge their spiritual beliefs with their practice. Not wanting to isolate persons of other faiths or those who identify as atheist, we can take an approach of compartmentalizing our faith. The more I grow as a therapist and a person, I realize I can't remove myself from the equation. It is hoped that this transparency can allow better understanding of each other and allows more room for others to be open about their beliefs, whatever it may be.
My "Aja" (Hindi for paternal grandfather) and I shared our birthday. A special bond. On the eve of our birthday, I find myself reflecting on 2 great lessons I learnt from him. I’m also mindful of how much he knew, how right he was. Still I wonder, did he know how much he knew? Did he know how right he was? What resonates with me is the fact that he didn't have to know, he just had faith.
He may not have always had that faith. Like most of us, we find our path as we walk it. He did find his and did his best to share his knowledge with his children/grandchildren. I was raised in Hinduism. A religion I've encountered as very misunderstood within Western Society. One I haven't understood fully myself, even being born into and raised in its faith. In trying to understand myself/my faith, I went through learning of other religions & reading other texts. I became a person who understands their spirituality separate from religion. Yet found my way back to Hinduism, concluding it is how I know to connect to that higher power.
One of my best thing about my Aja was he believed in his religion but he was also a thinker, a questioner. There is a fable that was told to me about a pundit (priest) who started every puja (religious ceremony) with a cat under a basket. After he passed, the village people continued this tradition. Scrambling before prayers to find a cat to confine under the basket. What they didn't know was that was the pundits' cat, he wanted close by, not interrupting the service. This is the critical lens, I was raised with. I didn't always understand the elements used in puja, the significance & benefits of all practices. I did learn my Aja valued intellect, science and questioning beliefs no matter how long held or practiced. I still have more to know, but what I do practice of religion and embrace of spirituality, I have strong faith in.
As my life progresses, I also see beautiful unveilings of truth, with studies substantiating the teachings of my Aja. As well as, wider western acceptance of the practices I was raised in. I have come to see the science of the universe mirrored in some of our long held practices and beliefs. I don't know much of other religions & cultural practices. What I have seen are many points of intersection. Which leads me to suspect it would be the same, if we looked with an open mind & critical lens. Like the different religions of the world, the 2 lessons I'm left with, contradict in some ways, yet are both valid.
- Sometimes it's okay to have faith without understanding how things work.
- Question why you're practicing what you practice.
**originally published May 7, 2018