In her story, Adrienne shares numerous, valuable resources and tips of what worked for her to find her own peace, happiness, meaning, joy and freedom. She invites each of us to embark on our own journey and make the most of it, in ways that resonate with our personal needs.
My journey of awakening and personal expansion
Wow, this is an area I could (and have) spend hours discussing, preferably in a café over a nice cup of French-pressed coffee! Ironically, spirituality isn’t a topic I typically like to discuss. It’s not all because I’m opposed to sharing. In fact, I’m pretty “open kimono” when it comes to even the most intimate details of my life, but I find this to be a very personal and sensitive issue. Not necessarily for me, but for many others.
I have my beliefs and I’m happy with them, but there are people out there who just aren’t happy if you don’t believe what they believe. I’m not here to challenge anyone’s beliefs. I’m not here to judge anyone. All I ask is that others do the same for me. With that said, please keep an open heart and mind and realize that this is about my spiritual journey, no one else’s. Your spiritual journey is unique, special, and personal to you, as mine is to me. My hope is that we can learn from one another.
So, once upon a time…
During a recent feedback session for the 16PF, a personality assessment, I was told I’m able to access both the right and left sides of my brain equally well. Whether or not that’s true, I can’t say for sure; but it made a lot of sense to me. As a little girl, I was very artistic – always drawing, writing, or creating something. However, as I got older, I became fascinated by the sciences, especially the study of evolution. In high school and then in college, Calculus and Differential Equations were two of my favorite classes. In between all of that nerdiness, I continued to enjoy writing, especially poetry, and other creative activities.
Somehow, I think this duality spurred my life-long struggle between science and religion. When I first began to understand evolution, there just wasn’t any room left for religion. When I tossed out religion, I basically tossed spirituality with it. It wasn’t until several years later when I regained religion, I regained my spirituality. With it came something I had been longing for – a deeper connection to myself, to other people, and to something “other” entirely. However, I came to realize it was these connections that I truly believed in, not the religious dogma.
I spent several years happily practicing Catholicism, mostly because I had pushed science to the back of my mind. I couldn’t find a way for the two to coexist. I somehow wove this elegant tapestry of beliefs that served as a warm blanket of comfort. I didn’t allow myself to think about what made sense. I was only thinking about what felt good. I loved the sense of belonging, the community, the structure and traditions, and perhaps most importantly, the “uplifting” experiences. Slowly but surely, something about all of this just started to feel… not right.
Over the next few years, I began to pull at a few of frayed edges sticking out of the tapestry. Eventually, I pulled the one that made the whole thing come unraveled. I reached a turning point in my life. I knew I could no longer hide behind the comforts religion provided. I wasn’t being true to myself. With that one string, a giant weight was finally lifted from my shoulders.
I was free.
For the first time in my life, I shed the skin of religion and yet, a spiritual being remained. I was left with many questions, including:
What is spirituality outside of religion?
Who am I and what do I believe outside of religion?
I think I’ve finally come to understand the first one. Over the past year and a half, I’ve found many of the answers I’ve been longing for in the ancient practices of yoga and meditation.
As for the second question, I continue to make progress, but I may spend the rest of my life trying to fully grasp it. Even so, I’ve realized I can still have all of those deep connections, incredibly spiritual experiences, and so much more.
My Inspirations and Influences
I stumbled onto this crazy path nearly six years ago. It was during a time in my life where I was still filled with many doubts and questions. An incredible mentor and friend of mine, Father Patrick, suggested that I join him and several other students from our college parish on a trip to the largest annual Catholic convention in the United States, the R.E. Congress. As is turns out, this became a major milestone, if not a turning point, in my life.
Since I signed up late, my weekend schedule was filled with random speakers and seminars I didn’t get to choose. Fortunately, the very first speaker just so happened to be Matthew Kelly, a young and energetic Australian guy (see photo) with a powerful message: our purpose in life is to become the best version of ourselves. I left that seminar feeling more invigorated and inspired than I had in years! Afterwards, I went right out to the shopping arena and bought his book, The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose , a book that forever changed my life.
Now, I’m not saying it’s the greatest book in the world. In fact, if I picked it up for the first time now, I really don’t know how I would feel about it. But that’s part of the wonder of books, people, and events in our lives. They tend to find us when we need them the most. At that time in my life, I needed inspiration, I needed direction, and I needed rhythm. Before that book I don’t think I’d ever read that sort of book for fun. And by that sort, I mean a personal-development book. It was the start of a thirst that has yet to be quenched!
Naturally, this path led me to the book that started it all for so many others, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. From there, I went on to devour personal development, psychology, and other related books like they were going out of style. Along the way, I also started working on my master’s degree in psychology, and became certified in related areas, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Dream Manager Program.
Some resources that I found incredibly beneficial on my journey include:
Books by Matthew Kelly:
- The Rhythm of Life
- The Dream Manager
- The Seven Levels of Intimacy
- Perfectly Yourself: 9 Lessons for Enduring Happiness
Other wonderful books:
- Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die by John Izzo
- The Creating Brain by Nancy Andreasen
- How We Believe by Michael Shermer
- The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
- The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt
- Change Your Questions Change Your Life by Marilee Adams
- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
- Keirsey Temperaments
My Positive Life Changes
All of this soul-searching may sound a bit selfish or even pointless to many people, but I assure you, it’s been incredibly important in other areas of my life too. Most importantly, it’s influenced how I approach and engage in my relationships.
The better I started to understand myself, the better I started to understand others as well. I began to ditch the “my way is the right way” attitude, to truly begin to understand differences between people, and even to value those differences.
I became a better listener, employee, friend, daughter, sister, and wife… I became a better person.
My Next Steps as an Evolving Being
In 2010, I decided to start my blog Experience Life Fully in order to document my journey of growing and gaining wisdom. It became a way to focus my efforts and to share what I’ve learned with others. As part of the process, I’ve laid out nine guiding principles to experience life fully. These are sort of like goals or focus areas. I believe continuing to grow and make progress in each of these areas will lead me a richer and fuller experience of life each and every day.
This journey involves striving to:
Get to know myself on a deeper level so that I can truly be me.
Practice mindfulness and to be present in each moment.
Give myself by dedicating my talents, time, and resources to my relationships, my passions, and to causes greater than myself.
Be healthy, not just physically, but emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually as well.
Be prepared for opportunities when they present themselves, and to seek out opportunities.
Share good stories and lessons learned with others.
Be open to possibilities by keeping an open heart and mind.
Have all sorts of adventures – travel the world, pick up new hobbies, and meet interesting people.
Let go of judgments, insecurities, and expectations so that I can make more room for joy, peace, and love.
The key is to set smaller goals and challenges in each of these areas. People often lose their way and stumble around in circles when they try to make too many changes all at once. The path of progress comes from changing our thoughts and behaviors one at a time. If you repeat a thought or behavior enough times, it will become a habit. As you develop positive habits, you shape your character. Ultimately, who you choose to become each and every day will determine your experience of life.
My Advice to Others
I would encourage you to dream big, but start small. Don’t expect to have the answers all at once.
Experiencing life fully is a balance between continuously growing in small ways and allowing life to naturally unfold. Living in the age of immediacy, where so much information is right at our fingertips, it can be so difficult to slow down, take a break, and just let life happen. However, there are some things in life that simply cannot be rushed. Evolving takes time.
So take that time to really get to know yourself. Find out what really matters to you. Maybe even come up with your own set of guiding principles. Enjoy your journey as an Evolving Being :)