Ever look back at the beginning of a journey and wonder why you thought embarking on a goal would be an easy undertaking? 

Often if we feel strongly enough about the aim, we don't think about ease. We are just facilitated towards the goal with a drive that doesn't quit.

That was me before the undertaking of a graduate prep year in the studying the Phenomenon of Religion. I knew I had some things I was unclear about, but I was in no way prepared for the deluge of theories I was expected to be familiar with.

In hindsight, I couldn't have done anything to change my situation for the better. Without school as an incentive, it can be a chore to decide to pick up a book and read. Particularly if it is not for pleasure.  Nonetheless I still found myself regretting the free time I had had before going to grad school. Why didn't I think to read about religion from a secular perspective?


I ask this question now, because I know that living within the confines of a traditional life, understanding religion can limit the way we allow ourselves to integrate with the secular world. This often comes in the form of limiting how we allow ourselves to indulge in adult forms of entertainment and recreation.


This is often a point of discussion among those who question the validity of conservative ways of living in a postmodern world. To what degree are we "allowing" ourselves to earn updated and contemporary renditions of prophetic ways of living?


Thank goodness for new informational outlets that help us integrate some of the questions we may have. Wondering about how to learn is something I hadn't considered before. The question of how to understand the study of a phenomenon, without being an active participant in it is unquestionably new. When do we want to jump in? What are we sacrificing in doing so? Do we have to sacrifice or can we augment? For example. In studying the phenomenon of LGBQT as various sexual identities, do we explore them all with a partner, or several?


During my studies, I didn't know that I would be confronted with many questions I wouldn't know how to ask, but I was reassured that God wouldn't abandon me. I was however quite certain of my learning style, and that it was a very slow one. I didn't know how to draw analogies about contemporary questions. How could the question of homosexuality for example be paralleled with flamboyant companions during the prophet's time? How can I look at this with an air of myth and leniency with the Seera or Life of the Prophet?


Initially, when the association with religion and myth were linked, my immediate inside reaction was to protest. Isn't myth a non-truth? But wait, what is truth? To my mind, what I practice day to day, is a type of devotion to God and is broadly referred to as religion? Where does the myth come into play? Also, what is philosophy? What is the difference between religion and philosophy? It can be argued that we use myth to allow for different understandings of real events in the past that we can only approximate meanings to. From there we choose to decide how to make meaning of these events by creating rites and rituals that we, as a collective, may want to celebrate or practice together.


From a traditional perspective, I didn't yet know how to think in this way. We are often taught to be very cautious around new ways of seeing from within a tradition. I agree that this is a tricky point of discussion and understanding in and of itself, as much as it is also a moot point. Think of mystics. To what degree do they focus on spiritual experiences of the divine and almost negate a particular practice as being necessary towards a path of enlightenment? The prophets in the past are talked about in the Quran as being reformers of a traditional norm. They are often challenged by the prevailing norm to conform and often resist. The final prophet, from an Islamic perspective, spent 23 years trying to help us understand that this will continue to be a lifelong struggle to expect: There will be no more scripture and no more prophets to help us stay contemporary; Monotheism is and will always be the way; Polytheism has many subtle forms and will always be something we should be vigilant around; We need to be careful of falling into setting partners with God; We shouldn't despair because God never dies; He has an archangel that descends with inspiration. Gabriel is that messenger angel, and is known as the soul spirit. He as well as many others join with those who contemplate nature. They join with mercy and forgiveness and offer feelings of security to reassure those seeking solace in a world that can sometimes leave us feeling desolate, to have faith and persevere.


When people self-identify as agnostic or secular, their lifestyle, arguably, is wholly their religion. It just isn't as blatantly based on an organized rendition of one, it would seem. They may demurely decline to answer when asked about the supernatural or God; a choice they are entitled to make. A person who is affiliated with a major religion may see this as a sign of weakness. It may be however, that they believe in a common way, just with different words. This took a long time for me to be able to digest. I always thought religion necessarily had to include inherent rituals and prayers and a minimum of other certain criteria to be called religion, namely the belief in a supreme and divine being. Perhaps also something regarding a philosophy and creed about life and how to think of that divine being. Regardless, learning the diverse ways different populations integrate and understand how to make sense of the universe can only lead us to enrich one another, hopefully while withholding judgment. 


It took a long time, and not before I left did I almost regret not being better informed about this view of religion. Particularly as it is understood in a secular and public university and/or setting. Thank goodness for the gap in understanding on my part. Now that I look back, it does seem natural that I couldn't bridge between understanding religion as a practitioner of a tradition and religion as taught by secular professionals in a public setting as a sociological phenomenon. Belief in a supreme being may seem like the missing element, however in a public university, unlike a seminary, perhaps it is not acknowledged? Studied as a sociological and anthropological phenomenon that persists and permeates the world; religion is therefore arguably a culmination of cultural understandings about the universe in many different languages.


So what is a life coach? It could be a friend that is there to help you through rough times. It could also be a mentor that helps you along a career path, but supports your personal pathway in life. A counsellor could be someone who enables you to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They often suggest tools or different referrals to support your overall health.  What about a momentary crisis of identity? A friend who shared a bit of my faith tradition is someone who I could safely say was my life coach. During those moments of self doubt, and wondering about reality and whether sleep and wakefulness were even worth it, she helped me dispel a sense of worry. I seemed to have lost my autonomy and reference to god, and was afraid of the metaphysical ramifications this would have on me. She was able to ground me by sharing stories that reflect the essence of Buddhism. Our attachments to ideas are what cause us pain. Letting go of them to make room for new ones shakes us to the core. Knowing that now, I feel compelled to encourage people to be wary of attempting this undertaking alone.  So when choosing a life coach, try and ensure that your values align. Next, personally assess the degree to which you are willing to delve into the depths of new practices.

Learning this skill takes time. Knowing that you can be forgiving with yourself as you journey is essential. Having someone with you who understands the pitfalls, is of critical importance. For example, from an orthodox perspective, such an undertaking could look like something akin to quitting on the church altogether; or the reverse, trying to understand the philosophy that brought it into existence. 

As an aspiring Life Specialist, I encourage you to first ponder how you would see yourself relating to the above as a life coach; someone who can be that friend to someone else beginning this journey. Then perhaps wonder at the ramifications this may have on their friends and families. Now, what if you are looking for the services of a Life Coach. will they be welcomed in your life? To what degree will your circles of trust hold fast. Before you try and learn what you will have to unlearn, which theoretically, you can't really do yet, try and understand the foundation that creates your identity. What is something that IS you. How do your beliefs reinforce that about you? From there, as you journey, you will learn what it is you want to learn, and subsequently, what you are willing to reintegrate as a new understanding of how you view life.


Add comment


There are no comments yet.