Chasing happiness and spiritualityBy Sarah Meier-Alabano, Vicky Herrera
Philippine Daily Inquirer
And then, I opened my eyes… That was the end of another meditation session—which followed the ritual of closing my eyes, quieting my mind, and reconnecting with my inner self. I used to roll my eyes over meditation and all that so-called fancy talk, but lately it has started to work better for me.
This isn’t an article on religion, since it can be a touchy subject. Let’s just say I’m throwing ideas around on how I am able to connect to the spiritual side of my life.
Wikipedia gives me a better definition: “Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the deepest values and meanings by which people live.”
If there are things I’ve learned lately, it’s how much I wanted myself to change. In the years I started modeling and my media career, I’ve chased after things I thought would make me happy. I was convinced having accomplished certain things would guarantee me a good life, whether it was by wearing a certain brand or by being seen in a certain place, or even being associated with a certain group of “it” people. I thought to myself, once you checked off every item in the “How to be liked” list, happiness would follow.
But it never really did. In fact, the more I decorated myself with labels of what I thought I wanted, the things that made me look good on the outside, the further I seemed to be from attaining any kind of happiness.
I was slowly finding myself miserable, trying to keep up with all the nonsense. It was so tiring to keep pretending.
Lately, I’ve found deeper happiness in the things that are found within myself. A few years ago, I started to spend more quiet moments in reflection and contemplation. I made prayer a greater part of my lifestyle, and I found ways to listen to my inner voice more.
The most amazing things started to happen soon after. Happiness came to me quickly and simply. I didn’t chase it at all. I just found myself in the state a lot. I found it in every small little thing, like the sound of my dog’s footsteps walking into my room, or the smell of fresh laundry. I found it during conversations with my mom, and laughter with my friends.
It wasn’t cloaked in a new, must-have item, or a status symbol. Instead it was cloaked in qualities I was starting to discover in myself. Like forgiveness, and compassion and love—for self and others.
I found happiness through the confidence I acquired doing the things I truly love… like writing, and learning, and sharing these things. I think de-cluttering my mind really helped me make better decisions. But you know what? It’s not the end of my journey yet…
I still have a long way to go. Despite my progress, I am still conscious of the way I write, even though I am into my second year in this column. I still have hiccups where I worry what people will think (doesn’t everyone?). I still try to be brave to speak my mind honestly. The point is: I’m taking baby steps to find inner happiness, not perfection.
This month’s column won’t be a column with any “how to be spiritual or how to find happiness” steps. Because with spirituality and happiness, I think it’s a personal discovery for each person. Whether it be out on the mountain or in the corner of your room, do what works for you. But I do recommend that you start.
And because I told Vicky to write about her struggle, I want to practice what I preach, and pick up right where Vicky left off in confessing vulnerability, and tell you what’s weighing on my mind.
My feelings toward religion confuse me more than almost anything on this planet. They always have.
I keep telling the story about asking my mother in the time leading up to my First Communion if I could wait until I was older—to make that decision for myself after “seeing what else there was out there.” She obliged.
And though a civil wedding preempted and prepared me for a Church wedding, and the Church wedding was the day of my First Communion, I don’t know that I was any more capable of understanding my feelings about Catholicism then, than I might have been at the age of seven.
But where religion is something I feel I need to continue learning about (which may be the driving force in my going to Mass every Sunday without fail), my spirituality has been a source of absolute clarity. And like most things in life, the path to spiritual maturity has been riddled with all sorts of rattling land mines and floods, beautiful sunrises and starlit skies.
Ill-made decisions can, to a certain degree, be blamed on youth, lack of guidance, or circumstance–all bearing age-old wisdom. Yet all of the knowing has somehow felt familiar, like something that was inside you from the beginning.
I experience spirituality most when I’m in the ocean, or when I’m listening to music. I experience it most in moments of unspoken understanding between human beings, in times of pure joy, and times of despair. I felt it standing in the trenches during Tropical Storm “Ondoy,” in the same way I did when I was staring at the crowd singing along to Kanye West at the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival.
My mother lent me the gift of meditation at a very early age. My father lent me opportunities to watch the sun set over dozens of countries across the globe—on beaches, mountain tops, plains, in cities. My husband showed me God existed. My daughter reminds me that He does. My in-laws are proof positive that the family that prays together, stays together. Maybe that’s what I’m after, because that’s what my childhood was missing.
But the truth is, as dependent as I am on the consistency of religious practice in curtailing my freewheeling and impulsive nature, the solace I find elsewhere is often just as, if not more, healing and sealing. I have a group of girlfriends that I adore, consisting of a Muslim, a Jew, a Methodist, a Catholic raised theist, and another friend, who never specified what she does and does not believe in.
We have incredibly uplifting and soul soaring conversations about spirituality, and love discovering that we all essentially believe in the same thing. And, going back to my reason for needing spiritual tradition in my life, their families are all complete and happy. So really, it’s not the technicalities of how you channel, express, and discipline your faith and relationship with a higher being, but simply that you know it exists and do right by it.
The thing is, as difficult as it all is to grasp—spirituality is something you know. It’s the God in you that tells you when you’re doing something right, or when you’re doing something wrong. It’s that gut feeling. The beauty of laughter and nature and uplifting conversation. Love. It’s more than what can be tracked in a science lab study, or by even the most able of psychologists. It’s what covers us when we need a moment to rest, or when we need a reason to keep going.
It’s what I wish for all of you, religious or otherwise. Especially the ones that don’t know what they’re missing.
“I’m not giving any song recommendations for this column. I recommend to just spend a few minutes a day in quiet time, and to just…listen.” ~V