What is spirituality? Is it religion? A belief in God or gods?
Spirituality means many different things to different people. To me, spirituality has always been liked to my life, my health, and my wellbeing. I could not tell you what ignited this thought, all I can say is that I remember a moment during law school when it dawned on me that I always understood the right to life, as the right to a healthy life. But how did I make these loops?
I remember asking myself, is it not the point of living to feel good, to feel at ease, to be alive, even to thrive? Is it not the aim of society for us to work together and collectively strive towards a better life for all?
These questions have always been loaded questions, and at least for me, it was only until recently that I understood them as existential. How we live our lives is not only determined by our own personal motivation and intentions. Our lives are also determined by the structures that organise our living. Starting with our families and communities, all the way up to global perspectives on life and living.
Within these structures, what and whom we value is dictated by norms, cultures, traditions, and expectations. Everything from who is valuable and worthy of living, to the rites of passage that define our status in society, determines how we should live life.
Most of us have discovered that living life freely is more of a theoretical concept than it is a reality. Our lives are plagued by systems of oppression such as racism, classism, ableism, sexism, heterocentrism, etc. which affect us on a daily basis. From which there seems to be no escape.
At face value, the concept of structures of oppression might seem abstract and far from your day-to-day existence, but structures of oppression are so persistent and interwoven into our day to day that we are unable to see them for what they are.
The effects of structural oppression range anywhere from you feeling inadequate because you are not married by the age of 30, or me desperately seeking to have a functioning relationship with a man so I can appear straight, or even our parents telling us to be 10 times better than the other kids in our class because our skin colour is different.
That is not all, some of us are unable to transition to whom we have always known ourselves to be on the inside. For others, we assume that just because they wear a headscarf they must be oppressed.
The structures of oppression are intertwined in our day to day, such that our lives seem to consist of seeking coping mechanisms to the point that thriving seems utopian. This other-worldly aspect of thriving is what made me seek spirituality. I grew tired of coping.
I started to ask myself: where could I find the hope that things would change some day? Where could I rest my head and trust that I am held instead of perpetually feeling hopeless? Where could I find trust in others, instead of feeling let down or that I am alone in this world? Where could I find love after constantly being told I am unworthy?
Spirituality to me is the art of living. It is the ability to be well in a world that aims to destroy you. It is the belief that you were put on this earth not to suffer, but to find your purpose and thrive.
Rooting my spirituality in the yogic principle of sovereignty and self-study, I began to draw from various spiritual traditions, particularly yoga, Ubuntu and Buddhism to find what would help me make sense of life around me and affirm my existence on this earth.
Spiritual practices of Black, African and queer women of colour have emboldened me to articulate my experiences and find meaning in traditions that ordinarily reject aspects of myself.