Spirituality and alternative methods of wellness have become hot topics in the last couple years. Especially since COVID-19 changed our worlds entirely, so many people have had struggles with mental health, addiction, depression, and anxiety, and many have begun dipping their toes in various spiritual practices which they never thought they’d be interested in.
How can those who cringe at the thought of prayer or spirituality reap the benefits of spiritual practice? First off—I don’t blame you. Spirituality has been used historically from a religious standpoint to justify horrible actions. But getting in touch with a higher power isn’t something that has to be connected to any religion. It doesn’t have to be a set of rules, and it shouldn’t, in my opinion, be shame-based. In fact, it should be liberating. Any person, at any time, has full autonomy to reap the benefits of a spiritual connection. What’s required? Literally nothing at all—that’s what’s so great about it! It costs nothing, there are no rules, and it is accessible to you at any given moment.
On a beautiful, warm and sunny September day in 2017, I was locked inside of a nearly pitch black paddy wagon that was too small for me to even stand up in, detoxing from heroin, handcuffed at my hands and feet. For six hours, we drove between different jails and courthouses throughout Massachusetts, dropping off and picking up other unfortunate souls like mine. In those torturous moments, my higher power that I had begun to access in the treatment center I attended a year prior was what I turned to for refuge. Why? Because I had literally nothing else. I couldn’t escape physically because I was locked up. I couldn’t escape mentally—the heroin I usually used for that was gone. I was locked in a dark metal box with nothing but my mind, body, and soul.
I turned inside myself, and I prayed. Not necessarily words—I just sought out a connection with a higher power. It gave me a small reprieve. It wasn’t much, but it was all I had.
My connection with my higher power eventually changed my life. It started out small—and it grew to give me a life that was enormously better than the one I had had before. If anyone reading this insists that “god” or anything “out there” doesn’t exist: I would never argue with you that it does. If that is your truth, then I honor that. I don’t claim to have any knowledge of a higher power beyond my own personal experience, and witnessing many others experience this same gift. But if you are suffering, and are open to trying something different to find some relief, this might be something worth testing out. If you hate it, you can stop at any time, and there is zero commitment.
Start by envisioning any thing or person that you feel comfortable praying to: the universe, a relative (dead or alive), the ocean, nature, a superhero, a celebrity, a person from history, a pet (again, dead or alive), your left shoe, a speck of dust. It also could be very loosely imagined with no defining physical characteristics. Of course the word prayer can be triggering for people, but just remember that this is only anything that you want it to be. No one is forcing you to do this and it can be the complete opposite of any connotation or experience prayer has been for you in the past. Begin small communication with this entity. It doesn’t have to be actual words; just envision connecting with whatever you’re seeking. If it’s hard to reach, try not to get frustrated. Start small, and eventually this connection will grow.
If it’s impossible to envision any person or thing “greater than you” then envision your highest self. Think about the best version of you that you’ve ever been, or ever could be. Communicate with this person. What would they say or do in order to support you? Do they have an opinion on your path? Again, nothing is compulsory- but just start to get curious. What does it feel like to connect with this person?
The best definition of a Higher Power for me comes from Alice Walker’s book, The Color Purple. In the book, Shug, the scandalous, sexually liberated woman who loves to sing and dance describes her conception of a higher power to the main character, Celie. (She uses the word God but that’s just her.) Shug explains that her Higher Power is happy when she is happy, because it means she is celebrating the gifts that the universe has created, saying, “You can just relax, go with everything that’s going, and praise God by liking what you like.”
My higher power is an entity that loves me and wants me to be happy. Like Shug’s God, it has no gender. Actually, my conception of a higher power is even less human-like that Shug’s- its more of a loosely defined structure than a being with human-like emotions. This entity is always there for me when I need refuge or guidance. It doesn’t shame me or judge me. It doesn’t demand undying loyalty. It doesn’t give me a strict set of rules I have to follow, although it does want me to be a good person. When I own my truth, and when I honor my principles of what I believe are right and wrong, or at least the best course of action to take, I strengthen my connection with a higher power. I don’t follow these as “rules” because I fear I’ll be “punished” if I don’t follow them. I honor my principles because it feels better when I do.
Again, that’s just the definition of a higher power for me. Yours could be entirely different, and equally as perfect for you. That’s the beauty of having a spiritual connection that isn’t bound by religious rules. It can be anything you want it to be. It is available for you at any time.
Get more like this—Sign up for our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photo: Nicole Araujo