Personal symbolism, finding freedom in a religious framework.

“Once you have searched inward you know what you’re dealing with”

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It is crazy how minds work and how we may have this ideal, this identity, taking ownership of a religion, for example “I am Christian or he/she is Muslim”. We all know what we believe in at this very second in time, and often we fumble around to try to find answers in that cultural and religious framework which was built around us before we could even talk, whereas some break free in their own way from this, usually in a matter of fact way, after all we don’t all need a faith or God to succeed in life. 

Religion is a massive umbrella term, a person’s religion is merely an identity, it doesn’t mean that all people with an identity behave or think in the same manner, nor does it dictate that they have the exact same beliefs about subjects which is why I struggle to comprehend people making assumptions when it comes down to any of the main world religions. In this day an age it is often fear which leads anyone to assume what impact religion has on the world, especially regarding terrorism, where the media plays a huge part in facilitating different negative ideas. The demonization of the Islamic religion has meant that the symbolism of how they dress is being disregarded with it being outlawed in many countries. The fear of terrorism has created this problem and stirred up the whole world into this crazy belief that Islam is a faith which allows such torture, it is wrong that the group responsible for some of the hatred have the word ‘islamic’ within its title. So this identity we take on with a belief system has such a huge impact on not only what we think of the world but how the world sees us.

This is not a blog where I wish to give anymore time discussing or getting on my soapbox about terrorism or indeed racism or any form of discrimination of others. However it is a blog about freedom using outward symbols of religion, from jewellery to clothing, there are so many types of symbol, sometimes cultural and others through individual preference. It is hopefully an eye opener to the reality we do live in, I’m still astounded at how little I know about life, writing these blogs help me to try to make sense of things I’m learning and observing.

When being part of a religion which you are born into, depending on how involved you are to the practices, it is easy to see things as a ‘norm’. For example I was brought up with Christian beliefs, not to the extent of attending church every Sunday although when I was a teen I made that choice, but from a young age I knew what a cross symbolised. But Christianity gave more symbols which are worn, such as a ring to symbolise marriage, within Catholicism ladies may wear head coverings, dress in a particular manner etc. Things that we don’t think twice about are actual symbols and we don’t think twice because certain things are normal to us depending on culture. I remember when I identified as a Christian it sometimes upset me when peers wore a cross necklace just because it was pretty, rather than because it was a symbol of their belief in Jesus, I never said anything which nowadays I am pleased about. One of the many lessons I have learned through having a different outlook is that although certain symbols are obviously based on a particular religion, it is not them alone which define our religion and I feel that I was wrong to be judgemental of who should and shouldn’t wear symbols. 

Earlier I wrote about religion being a term used within our identity and that everyone is different regarding the beliefs etc. This is not put to make out religion is a flimsy thing but to help open the mind to the truth that assuming things is so questionable that it makes out that anyone who follows a religious framework should be treated as their religion rather than as a person. My personal view is the importance of the faith and not only believing but understanding, it’s what makes sense to us on an individual level which is the true essence of our religion. Once you have searched inward you know what you’re dealing with and sometimes it matches to an organized religion and you wish to take on that identity or maybe not.

Symbols are very much linked to discovering yourself, especially when you do have a time where your key beliefs are challenged or you identify as a different religion. Outward appearance is how we are judged by society, by barely brushing past someone in the street, as they look up they form an opinion in an instant, we all do this. Appearance is often dictated by our influences and what we feel comfortable in as well as other things such as cost, but mainly it is influence, be it cultural or individual, religion or hobby, occasion etc. 

When I started identifying as a hindu I began to wear a bindi, this wasn’t because it looked nice but it is a symbol of marriage in hinduism and I wear it with pride because of this along with my knowledge and belief in the scientific advantages. If I didn’t wear a bindi I would still be hindu and still love my husband so this symbol is down to choice. I have a lovely friend who is Sikh and he asked advice from another Sikh because of the tradition of not cutting the hair, he didn’t want to cause offense or disregard teaching by having his hair cut, so his mind was put at rest. 

Everyone has a belief, being a non believer is a belief, we all have a mind with our own individual logic which is how we make choices. The awareness of thought does impact what we wear and if we do believe in something we may want to express that by how we dress, including jewellery, however it’s such a fragmented world that fear has caused this choice to be taken away. We are so fearful of looking different because people can be very cruel, as though society is pushing many people into solitude, it’s no wonder there are so many mental health problems because loving who we are as a person is key in good mental health. To be constrained in a manner where we can’t be proud that we identify as Christian, Jew, Muslim etc is awful, to think when you go out the house you can’t wear a certain thing, even if you are so passionate about it. 

Hand on heart I can say that I really do believe that finding yourself and then if you wish, identify as a particular religion is a good way to find the freedom within any framework. It doesn’t make sense that often we find ourselves having a religion before we know what we believe, to know what’s right for us it’s surely less important to be of a religion. I don’t by any means think that it’s wrong to bring up a child with a religious identity or with morals taught through religious doctrine. I speak as an adult to another adult, after living a little and learning a lot, that awareness, choice and freedom to decide our identity. Being able to symbolise what’s important to us is great for the mind and soul, easier said than done sometimes but that understanding you gain of a specific symbol which means you agree and support it, in theory you want to be proud and show it off. Having that insight of anything positive is a true blessing.

What if….

What if we are missing the point?

I think many people spend hours of their lives thinking about what if’s in life, be it about romance, adventure, actions and delays. It really is a human nature thing and this question often relates to fears and regret but that’s not what this blog is about, this is a rhetorical what if, a blog that keeps our mind open and realisation that it’s ok, no matter who you are, to wonder and accept ourselves as intelligent beings. 

So here goes 🙂

What if…science proves there is most definitely no God, would it stop people believing? No, I don’t think it would, faith is so much to the majority of believers and it’s that faith which isn’t hopeless. 

What if…..science proves that there is a higher being, a God, would that make everyone believe? Again I don’t think so, people who don’t believe there is a God will probably not change their thoughts just because something has been discovered. 

Now I’ve spoken about the very basics of my thoughts I am going to delve deeper into what ifs where beliefs are concerned. Some may agree but I totally accept that others won’t, this blog is me stating my views and in no way reflects what I expect others to think. Maybe my thoughts are very much out there but that’s the joy of individuality.

What if…..when we pass away we become part of whatever we individually believe happens when we die. The Christians are judged on their deeds and go to heaven, the Hindus are reincarnated, what you think is what you are in death. Everyone, every belief or even those who don’t identify as having a religion are just as acceptable as each other so is this idea really so far out there?

You see things all around, and so often there are stories of the amazing work which particular religions do to help people, not only in this country but around the world. Then on the other side of this thought, when focussing on the awful things in this world, religion is linked together with this. Is it any wonder why religion causes so much joy yet so much disagreement. 

I truly believe that who we are and how we should be treated in life is not about what we label ourselves as faith wise, but the heart which we have for others. Not believing in a particular thing doesn’t make your love and compassion any less valid, same as having a religion does not make you more important to society. 

Picture this, there are 2 groups of volunteers, each group helps vulnerable people and save lives in the community due to their work. Group (a) is run by a religious organisation and has 100 volunteers and group (b) is a new group has 20 volunteers from all walks of life and covers a particular forgotten need of these people. Now the reality is that if someone from the religious organisation wants to start volunteering, rather than assessing which group needs them most, there is much more chance of them joining group (a). So what if due to religion or whatever label we give ourselves, we do the right thing for the right reason but we are missing the true need? What if we are missing the point?

Maybe this blog makes total sense, to some it will whereas others it may not. I hope it will help others feel ok about wondering about these what ifs. It’s not questioning faith which many may feel it is, in fact it’s just being an individual and embracing the mind and thoughts.
Take care all 

xx

‘‘Tis the season…

It’s almost Christmas again, although I identify as Hindu my household celebrates Christmas as my children are of Christian belief which to me is important to respect. My faith is not something that I expect them to adopt as everyone should have that right to find their way in which they feel closer to God, if they are interested in my beliefs they know I am here to give them guidance. The thing is my lifestyle has barely changed from Christian to Hindu, the key beliefs are different but the morals we live by are very much the same. On reflection before looking into Hinduism I really felt quite alone in what I truly believed, I knew things were different to what Christianity taught which is very challenging and I almost gave up on that part of my identity, my beliefs have always had that part which didn’t fit with anything which is a lonely place to be because I couldn’t talk to my church family about it because these beliefs don’t fit in with biblical teaching. Then I began reading about Hinduism and the main thing is I realised my beliefs were valid, I started accepting myself and I’m so much happier than I’ve ever been.

So, Christmas, of course this is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, which is an extremely important festival, and the teachings of Jesus I wholly believe make Christians better Christians. Thinking of this made me think about the saying common in Christianity, what would Jesus do (wwjd)?

From knowledge, Jesus taught the most important commandment was love God with all our heart, mind and soul and love one another as I have loved you. So unravelling this the first part is, from my perspective, valid to me and every other faith, no matter what you call God, that focus on God is where our knowledge, wisdom, guidance and morals originate. Now there’s the second part, love one another, which when you look at other religions there is repetition of this teaching so to put this into perspective, no one of faith should miss out this in how they live, it’s the truth.

So now let me explain what I believe Jesus would do in certain circumstances, please Christians do not be offended if I put anything you don’t agree with, these things are my perspective, I may not identify as Christian but I use to and through my enlightenment I see things differently to how you may see them.

WWJD – Other religions?

For other religious people who spend life trying to do right by others, being loving and compassionate and not holding grudges I do believe he would be happy to sit with these people, maybe enquire why they don’t see him as their God but be compassionate to them and treat them respectfully. He would also express he is always there for them and would welcome each person with open arms.

WWJD – LGBT?

I think Jesus would be compassionate as a friend, I think he would be bombarded with questions but remember that Jesus said we should love one another. I’m pretty sure that if anyone was there demonstrating against these people he would break their signs and send them elsewhere so he could spend time making sure that people know they are loved how they are.

WWJD – Politicians?

Where do I start here? He would show them exactly what matters, he’d probably totally wipe out all debt and teach them about love and equality, overseeing them to make sure they are honest and true to his people.

So, if you get my drift, each example is valid for whatever faith, whatever you may call God because love is taught everywhere. Where love is taught, whatever scripture etc there is no list of exclusions which follow so why is there so much judgement? We all need to have time for others, love and compassion are what helps to get us close to God, inclusion not exclusion.

There’s also a need for openness regarding religion, no one should fear identifying as a different faith, in fact true guidance should be easier to find without the feeling that you’re alone. A person should be able to speak to a leader of whichever faith and if their beliefs match a different faith better then they should be guided rather than made to conform, that’s love and it also means that person can be close to God in a way which suits them best.

Thanks for reading

Happy Holidays x

Venting but accepting

Since the very beginning of learning about Hinduism I knew the one thing i would struggle with is the upset and anger I face as any human does. I have bipolar disorder so when a negative thing happens it manifests inside making me more and more angry either at myself or whoever has caused the issue. I thought that nothing could change this and recognising any changes could be an issue but the initial upset is hard but the more and more I go over it I find that I eventually feel more at peace and compassionate towards myself, another person or whatever.

This is very much a venting blog but also a realisation one which I hope others will find helpful.

Since June I hold my hands up and admit that I have made the choice to just distance myself from others who were not really supportive of my lifestyle choice. This I did because I didn’t want to argue and to be honest I felt vulnerable at being at the start of the journey so not able to answer awkward questions. I’ve made this huge choice which had an external change where I wear what I feel most comfortable and have a bindi but the most important thing was this was a very internal process, I had a lot of work to do on myself. I couldn’t focus on negativity because I had finally found a belief framework which made total sense to me and I am still learning. I’m so much happier in myself, I know myself more than ever and know that my aim in life is to display compassion and love in each thing I do, it’s not wrong to have compassion in fact it’s so important for everyone’s wellbeing.

My main heartbreak has been losing friends and a job I loved very much but that’s the price I have had to pay. I just wish that by avoiding putting myself through destruction people could see that this new identity is the first thing that’s ever made total sense and also it’s made me a much more relaxed and happier person. I’ve really had to avoid anything which can cause arguments because I love and respect people no matter what beliefs they have, religion should not be cause of arguing. I’d rather not put anyone in the position of them feeling they have to oppose my beliefs because it’s not nice for either side.

Surely avoidance is better than hostility however by avoiding I’ve shown hostility which I certainly didn’t mean to but I hope one day I find other ways to show others love and compassion yet also preserve my inner peace and keep the whole situation peaceful.

All I do have left to say is that we all strive for inner peace and hope that each person who reads this finds that peace in whatever way as long as it’s through love not hate and through good not harm.

Namaste

My Reality, faith’s impact

Way back in June I was inspired, I see it as enlightened, hearing of a spirituality that clicked and made total sense to me. This spirituality that no matter what you call your God or the name for your religion, if it betters your well-being and aids you to love the world and those in it then what an amazing and beautiful faith that is. I found out the origins of such a beautiful spirituality and found this was known as Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma. 

My first personal step was to read, I needed to be sure that I understood the key beliefs and to my surprise these important beliefs have been my reality forever, I was born a Hindu but never knew it. I put a message on social media for other Hindus to contact me which was not successful but I continued reading and learning, recognising myself as a Hindu and allowing myself to dress as I choose because Indian clothing has always been the most beautiful and comfortable so why deny myself this clothing just because I’m not of Indian origin.

I got use to the funny looks, it bothered me to start with but I know it was mainly because such clothing is not really seen as the norm, and my bindi probably made people inquisitive but afraid to ask. This initial difference is ok, it’s just one of them things in life.

I continued to work at the charity shop which is linked to the church I was attending up to a year ago, I had worked there 7 years and I loved it. I knew that my faith was very different to some of the other workers but I’ve never been one to impose my beliefs on others but if asked I would reply in a respectful way making sure they knew that their faith and beliefs are valued by me.

When I identified as Hindu and working in Christian surroundings I knew that people would not approve of my personal faith journey, I was ready for that. I didn’t expect to lose people I thought I had a friendship with due to my faith and I am fighting being critical about how religion can devalue a friendship. Anyhow I did soldier on, my belief is personal and I continued to be there and work hard.

The customer base for the shop is very multicultural and the staff also have a range of beliefs, I was aware that I may be asked about why I’m hindu etc which never phased me. I have every respect for whatever belief because I see people as human beings on their own path and I have no right to tell someone what is right or wrong.

The one thing I was not ready for was to be asked about why I’m a Hindu and be told that my beliefs are false and wrong, I replied explaining that  I’m as passionate about what I believe as they are about what they believe because that is what I see as true. Unfortunately I didn’t stop there and being told continuously how wrong I am and Jesus being the only way made me feel uncomfortable and very upset. For this to take place from another worker in front of customers was very devastating for me and has sadly made me decide not to return to work.

I think that all this is based on people’s concept of who I am as a person, when I started work there I was a Christian and attended church, so converting to Hinduism is too much for others to take in. I have not changed as a person other than being happier and more aware of the importance of loving others and if that is too much to take in then it’s right I find a new workplace. People may see me as a Christian turned bad but I am very far from that. I was born a Hindu but I didn’t know it until I researched Hinduism, a lot of things as a Christian didn’t click with me which doesn’t make me a bad person, it makes me someone who knows them self and has the ability to find out about other faiths and find my fit in life.
Thank you all for reading

Namaste

Dreaming of coexistence 

The last few weeks have been very challenging and it is a massive struggle for me. I’m admittedly an emotional person and wear my heart on my sleeve and maybe if I wasn’t I’d have been able to cope better but I do love myself for who I am and the choices in faith which I have made. I blogged previously about people advising on religion out of love which I do truly believe but it is an emotional rollercoaster and I’d never underestimate how anyone feels about others questioning or disputing their new found faith. This is why any faith/religion/lifestyle is something you need to be ultimately passionate about before identifying as someone following such.

In my life I’ve had to learn to live with a severe form of depression which impacts my emotions so when I made this huge choice to identify as a Hindu because my beliefs and lifestyle has always married in with this faith and lifestyle. I never imagined just how much my emotions would be effected or what I would experience, I really thought the world, especially England had moved forward where as long as an individual is happy and loving, beliefs or religion of that person is accepted and supported, I guess the expectations were mine rather than that of society. 

There are so many people, me included, who think the style of Indian clothing absolutely beautiful and what I wear now has changed not because of my religion but because every person on this wonderful earth should feel beautiful. Nothing I now wear degrades who I am as a person nor do I wear anything just because I feel that I have to. However because this clothing is not fitting in with the expectations of British culture, I have experienced not so flattering looks and comments which I always address with a smile because I understand for others it is unusual, it is ok to find something unusual but it’s so important to embrace differences, when someone can feel beautiful in themselves it is a wonderful thing.

My new identity has opened my eyes up to injustice and disrespect between many things and as a person it hurts me to see it even when it doesn’t involve me because it’s unkind and I feel everyone has the right to happiness. If a person is kind, treats people with respect and has morals where they wouldn’t hurt others, no matter what faith, dress code, sexuality etc they identify to, its a good thing.

Everyday I read something in the news which is detrimental to certain religions and I really wish my one voice would make a difference, but it won’t. 

Coexistence is my dream.

Freedom through speech 

Throughout our lives we go through things which make us happy or sad, free or confined, accepted or rejected, in fact so many opposites that I’d bore you if I listed them all. The thing is we see things on an individual level, no two stories of the same thing are the same and this reflects very obviously when we speak about faith.

A great deal of emphasis is put on gossiping, it is really spoken badly about within some religious surroundings but what is it really about? 

I have a friend who sometimes finds their faith journey very confining and likes to just have a bit of a vent to me which I take how it is but I’m reluctant to say this is gossip, how can the feeling and emotions of a person be seen as gossip? Why are people given a dressing down and made to feel so wrong in their religion for having such emotions and being able to share this with someone?

Quite often the sad thing is there is still this fear within people, that their narration of feelings makes them an outsider or a failure within their faith, so much so they hide what is really going on in their life, head etc from the people they should be turning to for guidance. We are still human and I really do believe that it’s not just about loving yourself but to be close to God you must accept and get to know everything about yourself, God doesn’t look at you and see your failures. It’s hard to see and hear that someone feels confined and afraid in their religion and the expectations they feel they are failing at, however sometimes anybody can release them from these feelings just by allowing them to talk, without judgment, the right and wrong speech doesn’t help to free them of such feelings, it doesn’t help them accept themselves for who they are and how they perceive things. 

Putting a label on a persons story/narrative by saying it’s gossiping actually makes that person feel that their experience is wrong and invalid.

Listen with love for each individual, the truth is each person is fascinating because we are all so different and even if our key beliefs are the same every single person has a different take on things meaning you can really learn a lot, my favourite is listening to people with other beliefs because it’s inspiring. 

Be loving, Be inspired and Be inspirational 
Love to all