19. If religion and/or spirituality is a part of your mental health regime: what, how and why?
Both religion and spirituality have played important roles in not only my mental health regime, but actually saving me from crises on several occasions. I’ve observed a lot of different religions and rituals. So, I’m going to list them out in chronological order of observance, because yes, each one is essential to my life.
I grew up and was raised Roman Catholic. When I first started showing symptoms and signs of depression when I was young, I remember church helping me a lot. Not just church, but worship. I like going to mass an singing, I liked praying at night and having my own private dialogue with God- whomever that may be. I enjoyed learning about the bible. Although, to be honest, I never “believed” in the bible. I enjoyed the stories ands I thought Jesus was a real rad dude. I went to Catechism, took my first communion, and completed Confirmation.
I did still go to Catholic church while beginning to stretch my limbs in the CoS. It is promoted in the CoS that you can worship and believe in any other spirituality you so choose and still be a Scientologist (However, once you reach higher levels, you will lose interest in those “phony” religions, anyways. I know because that also happened to me). My years in the CoS are long and full of stories which perhaps I’ll disclose in a Part II of this. However, I’ll focus on the good aspects that I encountered since this is about my mental health.
Scientology offered me a new outlook on the universe, my own strength and willpower as an eternal spiritual being, and my role within the dynamics across the universe. Interconnectedness, if you will. I went through years of spiritual counseling, which they call Auditing. I cannot deny that auditing recovered and healed some pretty gnarly memories I had. So, for that I thank them.
For everything else, fuck you.
Perhaps Islam is the most dearest religion to my heart. I officially converted in 2009 after I took my Shahada, the first Pillar of Islam. I began researching Islam through my then boyfriend and best friends. We learned about it in World Religions and I couldn’t stop. Something about the religion was so beautiful. By winter of 2009, I had educated myself so well in the religion, that I found myself winning contests and trivia held at our Sunday School- I was the only convert in the classroom. I learned all of my prayers in Arabic, read the Qur’an, ate halal foods, observed Ramadan, and finally, I wore the hijab.
Making the decision to wear hijab was an important time in my life. Many of my friends and family, even teachers, advised me against it, saying I was mocking the religion. Yet, in my heart, even now, I don’t think I’ve ever been more at peace. The connection to God was lost over the years spent in Scientology. So, to recover that helped my soul. Not only that, but there is a sense of pride whilst walking down the street and greeting a fellow hijabi Muslimah.
I never missed a prayer time. I was very, very devout. Although, I wasn’t a Qur’an thumper. I still found beauty in other religions and respected everyone’s beliefs. But in my own world, Islam was making me a better person.
Later that year is when the storm came. I had been raped by 4 men when I first began college. I stopped observing out of anger and depression.
However, as the years have passed by, I still pray in Arabic, I still observe Ramadan, and I still try to make my prayers throughout the day. Not as a Muslim, but as an admirer of God, as an admirer of Islam.
There was a very long gap between religious worship for me from that time. I’m unsure how I became so interested in Hinduism, but it happened. I suppose I started with practicing yoga. It wasn’t just exercise to me, but it was an applied spiritual practice, complete with mantras, meditation, gratitude towards God, and humility. Hinduism is the religion I most relate to. They believe that there are no converts to Hinduism. We are all following our own streams. What matters is that we all meet at the big ocean.
Beauty at it’s finest.
It didn’t take me very long to find myself immersed in Wiccan ways and rituals. I’m not necessarily talking about practicing magick. However, I observed the holidays such as Samhain and Yuletide, and found a great connection to the Earth, Mother Gaia. It helped me through my depression immensely. Whenever I felt that I was slipping from the world, call me a hippie, but I would hug a tree. It helped me. Every time.
Even now, I still observe the holidays.
If someone were to ask me now what religion I adhere to, I suppose I would call myself a Pantheist. I firmly believe that we are all God. We are all the Universe. We are just living at different moments, different times. We all have a lesson to learn and need to be patient with one another.
So, if we’re all God, my own personal experience has been that I’d like to worship myself in as many ways as I can. Whether it be by singing hymns at church, going to community prayer at the mosque, chanting mantras to Ganesh, or going on a hike, it’s all relevant to me.
“You are God, so get good at it.”