August 5, 2012

Retirement and Spirituality: What's the Link?

Spirituality is one of those words and concepts that is interpreted differently by many of us. In fact, even defining the word can be daunting. Someone did a search on Google not too long ago and found over 11 million entries for the term spiritual meaning. To some it says organized religion. To others spirituality is a belief that everything in the word is somehow tied together. Still others see a spiritual person as one engaged on a very private quest for answers of purpose and energy. Some think of meditation or contemplation as the path to increased spirituality. There is a whole community, based in Sedona, Arizona, that looks to energy vortexes and crystals as the way to heighten one's awareness.


For our purposes let's use this definition I found on a blog post from a few years ago: "it is a term which encompasses everything that we cannot see directly with our eyes, directly perceive by the other senses and know by our mere reason. That is spirituality in its basic meaning.


I did some research to find out what others were saying about the link between spirituality and a satisfying retirement. Is there a connection? Though I couldn't find specific statistics, there does seem to be a belief that as we age we do tend to become more spiritual. That may mean more religious in the commonly accepted sense, or a feeling of connectivity to nature and the universe in a more individual sense. 


The reasons are varied, but mostly revolve around the awareness of one's own mortality. We see our body decline, understand there is a loss of mental sharpness as we age, watch friends and relatives die, or lose frequent contact with our grown children who may live far away. These factors naturally lead us to consider what our life has meant. We also may be looking for something to help us cope with the unimaginable: the end of our time on earth.: "Me, gone? No!"


There is a body of study I found that says religious retirees are happier, not only because of their beliefs, but for the social aspects of being with like-minded people. Research conducted over the years has found those who are Mormons or Amish  have much lower mortality rates than others. Could some of that be lifestyle-driven? Sure, but the shared experiences and tight-knit communities are likely factors, too.

Last fall I wrote a post, The Hidden Piece of The Puzzle which provided a glimpse into the growth of my spirituality during my retirement. I made the statement that my life had caught on fire when I explored that side of myself and became more serious about its development. I found my comfort from organized religion but am very much aware that my way may not be your way.


Like finding one's passion or intense interest, developing and deepening relationships with others, or learning to live and thrive in situations that you didn't plan for or anticipate, it seems logical to me that we begin to take the time to ask the bigger questions of life. The routine of a commute, a day spent at a desk or retail establishment, on a factory floor, or in front of a computer gives way to more free time to listen to your mind and emotions. I think it is entirely reasonable to begin to wonder about how everything fits together.


So, what should be your take away on this be? I don't know what is going on with you, though I'd love for you to leave some thoughts. I can only speak for me. As I age, whatever it is that is inside me that you may call a soul or a part of an urge for a universal connection, has been getting stronger and a more important of my satisfying retirement


I may be deceiving myself, attempting to make sense in a world where nothing makes sense. I may be looking to give meaning to a life that, ultimately, has no meaning beyond the here and now. But, I guess I would argue that if I my beliefs and faith are right I have an eternity of joy ahead of me. If I'm wrong, I will be dead and won't know the difference.


I'm going with the faith approach. It makes my life so much richer today.

26 comments:

  1. Organized religion is not my thing at all. It never has been even though I grew up in a Conservative Jewish household. None of it stuck at all.

    However, I do consider myself a spiritual person. And now that I am older that part of me gets stronger. It has nothing to do with a god or anything though. I am not sure what it is. Perhaps it is because of my art. I feel the spirituality come on strongest when I am painting or drawing.

    Sometimes I think, yes, the world makes no sense. But has it ever really? Thinking of the holocaust, or the time of the plague or town square beheadings (yes, I watch too much of the Tudors).

    Sometimes it is all too much. That is when it is important for me to sit and draw for hours at a time. That is my church.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have found your quiet place in your art. It allows you to still your mind for awhile and concentrate on creating something beautiful and meaningful to you. Sounds spiritual to me.

      Delete
  2. In Acts chapter 26 ( http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%2026&version=NLT ) Paul explains to King Agrippa who Jesus is. In verse 29 Paul says that he wishes all men(mankind) to be like him except for the chains he is forced to wear. That is where my "spirituality", relationship with God is going, to that kind of closeness. I feel more connected, closer to, and hear God (the Holy Spirit) speak to me more now than in my younger years. I feel more than ever, and my hope is, that all who see me will see God/Jesus' love Psalm 119:74 ( http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%20119:74&version=NLT )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is what I find so fascinating about the role of spirituality or the belief in some higher power. There have been studies that tend to support the idea that all human beings are hard-wired to seek something outside of themselves to help make sense of it all.

      In Roberta's case it is using her creativity (a gift from somewhere?) while you feel the Holy Spirit working powerfully within you (as do I). I hope as this comment section fills up we will read about all sorts of different perspectives and viewpoints.

      Faith is believing in something that cannot be proven. I think we all benefit from hearing what others have to say, if for no other reason than to convince ourselves to hold more strongly to our own beliefs.

      Of course, there is always the chance that someone will make a point that resonates with us or causes us to think more deeply.

      Delete
  3. I feel most closely aligned with my spirituality when I'm out in nature. My soul feels soothed, and the world makes sense in a way it doesn't anywhere else. I always come away wanting to be a better person.

    Back here in the world of humans, I thoroughly enjoy learning about and being exposed to different religious traditions. There is so much wisdom, much of it overlapping, at the core of the great world religions.

    I can only hope that at some point we will understand and accept that there are many shades and variations of spirituality, and not assume someone is lost simply because they are on a road different from the one we are on. (To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great comments, Tamara. It is impossible to look at the beauty and complexity in nature or the stars in the night sky and not believe that there is something more powerful than us at work.

      Religions are responsible for much of the bloodshed and distress in the world. It is important to understand that a religious person is different from an organized religion. Even Jesus cautioned against the dangers of replacing a belief in God with a religion that created barriers and rules.

      Delete
  4. My spirituality is grounded in the 12-step programs, where a community sharing common values supports each member. I spent many years in organized religion and was never able to accommodate some of the doctrine. The 12-step programs talk about "God as we understand God", and that's a relief to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My comment above for Tamara may apply here too, Linda. Organized religion can become its own worst enemy when it allows itself to become more important than what it worships.

      I feel very blessed that the church Betty and I have found does not allow itself to fall into the trap of being judgmental and restrictive. It is independent so there is no overall church body that it must please.

      Delete
  5. Although I belong to an "organized religion" church, I like Linda's "God as we understand God" concept. When I said something to my minister about not believing certain Christian doctrines, he said that he thought a church was a group committed to spiritual community with each other rather than to a particular set of beliefs. I liked that a lot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like that, too. There are basic beliefs that relate to the concept of salvation. Others are based on interpretations or practices that are not salvivic but become real flash points for some people. Too often they separate us instead of bringing us together.

      Delete
  6. In my humble opinion, your satisfying retirement IS connected to spirituality. I don't think you are deceiving yourself -- ALL of one's life is connected to spirituality ... unless we are so egotistical to think we could do this without help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are on to something, Alan. As we get older we become increasingly aware of how little we actually control and what little effect we can have on the big picture. That is when a belief in something bigger than us is likely to appear.

      Delete
  7. I think connecting or reconnecting with our spiritual selves has to do with having more time. We have time to relax, ponder, read and research whatever is on our minds. We can slow down and appreciate a flower, or a walk in a park and not be distracted by work or children, finances or anyone or anything.

    This post reminded me of my favorite Twilight Zone episode. The one where all the guy wants to do is read. For him reading was spiritual...that is so me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Gail. When I was traveling constantly and building a business, the last thing I had was time to think about anything bigger than next week's trips or all my obligations. Many of those responsibilities continue even into retirement, but I do have time to "smell the roses." It does make a difference because it helps me keep things in perspective.

      Delete
  8. My spiritual journey began in my mid 40's. I always believed in God but was leery of organized religion since childhood. My grandfather was a Baptist minister and scared me off religion very early.

    That said, I didn't lose faith in a higher power. I chose not to have it shoved down my throat. I tend to believe in a benevolent God and a master plan for everyone. Gary Zukov's book, Seat of the Soul, had a great analogy. Think of the Universe's plan as a mother ship. If you follow the mother ship you'll have smooth sailing. You can choose to go in a different direction but the seas will be rougher. When you return to the original chart you'll find life becomes easier.

    I think that makes sense. I also think the longer we live and witness things like miracles the easier it is to accept there is a higher power.
    b

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent explanation, Barbara. Organized religion gets into trouble because of the first word in that phrase: organized. That leads to rules, regulations, power struggles, and political battles that have little to do with the second word: religion.

      I find being in a community of other believers is important to me. It helps me feel support and love, while forcing me to think more deeply about what I believe. But, I have left a church or two in my past when it became more concerned about how it was run and controlled than the message it was preaching.

      Delete
  9. Yes, I too am going with the faith in Father God and Lord Jesus approach. This is based on moments of clarity and other experiences throughout an admittedly blessed life.

    To me, you have again handled a good topic well

    ..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. Faith is believing in something you can't verify directly but depend on other input. Our life experiences are certainly an important part of that acceptance.

      Delete
  10. I grew up deeply steeped in religion. My twenty years of encountering other cultures widened my stance to a belief that there is a path for anyone who seeks it. Now I find comfort in my religion, but do not believe it is the only way to a peaceful/joyfilled eternity. My religion/ Christ following teaches me moral boundaries and holds me accountable when stepping on other's toes. It also fills me with hope, when all else has failed.
    "There are many mansions in My Father's house. "
    I hope to be in one with my sister in law, father, children's families and husband (ok and the Hamza family from Saudi and a few of my Asian neighbors)- even though their paths are very different than my own.
    A blue two story on the corner near the school would be nice:>)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Christ says we won't be married in heavan like we are on earth, but we will be in total love with all others and see our family members again. I couldn't wish for more.

      I'm holding out for a cottage on the beach.

      Delete
  11. Nice thoughtful post, and some interesting comments ... although I could never understand about the mortality rates. Last I checked, it was 100% for everyone. Like I said, I just don't get it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can always count on you to catch me! I should have said higher average age of death or later than average mortality. But, I bet most got the picture: lifestyle and a strong faith may keep you going longer.

      Delete
  12. I am a Christian. I believe this faith with all my heart but respect others choice of religion or none thereof. I will happily share my beliefs with others if I feel the door is open. My faith has given me such joy, peace and hope as well as a guide to lead my life by. If I am wrong, at least I have had a peaceful, joyfilled life. I call that a win-win!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your sentence "my faith has given me such joy, peace and hope as well as a guide to lead my life by" summarizes my feelings too. If I am completely self-deceived where is the harm if the net effect is the type of life you describe.

      Delete
  13. Personally, I don't think there is a link between retirement and spirituality in my case. I was brought up in a church which provided a firm foundation for faith, service and worship and I fully recognize God as "Maker of all things."

    After a disheartening experience in a church some years ago I decided to forgo the "organized religion" part and continue my spiritual journey down other paths. I find joy and fulfillment in reading, prayer and expressions of gratitude. My heart has not changed during retirement, but maybe my head has.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder if the title of the post would have been more accurate if I had asked "A Satisfying Retirement and Spirituality-Is There a Link?

      One of the key advantages I personally get from my church is being with a group of believers. We support, challenge, and love each other. While my faith wouldn't disappear if I did it all on my own, I don't believe it would be as strong.

      The disheartening experience you note is much too common and does such harm.

      Delete

Inappropriate comments will be deleted