Imagine a life full of hope, peace, freedom, acceptance, patience, courage and optimism, versus a life of doubt, agitation, restriction, blame, urgency, fear and worry. Though we’ll all experience the latter to some degree, only faith brings the former into my life.
What is faith?
The dictionary definition of faith is ‘complete trust or confidence in someone or something’.
So, it could be about having faith in yourself, in those closest to you or even in strangers. More commonly, it’s associated with faith in God (whether in the religious sense or not), in Grace, Divinity, in the universe, the soul, the spirit and in life itself.
Funnily enough, the more abstract, non-physical and non-provable constructs are actually the ones I find it easiest to have faith in! I struggle most to have faith in myself. I’m pretty good at having faith in other people – sometimes I have too much of this and can be left disappointed! But somehow, I find myself having a very strong faith in something that I don’t even know for sure exists. I have faith in what I call a non-religious God, or Grace, or ‘the divine architecture of life’. It’s the thing that created everything, including me. It’s within me, too.
“Faith is the being able to cleave to a power of goodness appealing to our higher and real self, not to our lower and apparent self.” (Matthew Arnold, Literature and Dogma, 1873).
It is this type of faith that brings most peace, hope and gratitude into my life.
How do we cultivate faith?
I can’t think of a specific time, place or experience that led to me having faith. It seems to have been within me all along. Maybe my Hindu upbringing had something to do with it as it planted the idea that there is something greater than me governing all our lives to some degree. Faith isn’t something I see with my two eyes or understand in my mind. It’s something I feel with my soul. It’s a way of life. It doesn’t mean I sit back and do nothing and expect everything to turn out alright, I do have to take action. And, faith doesn’t always flow freely to me, especially when times are tough. When things are going wrong, that’s when faith is most needed and most powerful. And that’s when I have to actively cultivate it. Here’s four ways I do this:
1. Look back and connect the dots
I often find myself referring to Steve Jobs on this. He said that we can’t see how things are going to turn out in the future but, looking back on our lives, we can connect the dots. This in turn gives us faith that the dots will also connect in the future.
Look back and see what you can find. That hell you went through during a breakup, in turn led you to meet a much more suitable partner a few years later. The trauma you had as a child, in turn led you to a wonderful job that enables you to heal yourself and others. The grave illness of someone you love, in turn gave you a renewed appreciation for life. The financial struggle you had, in turn led you to better managing your money and eventually creating greater financial abundance.
Every wound contained wisdom, every struggle and suffering led to strength, every low point had a lesson and every twist turned into a purposeful turn. Deeply recognising these truths allows me to have faith in the process of my life and trust that it’s unfolding just as it’s meant to and just as I need it to, in order to grow.
“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness” Eckhart Tolle
2. Look for the magic
Remember how you met the love of your life walking down the street, minding your own business and looking a mess? That’s magic. Remember how you got talking to a stranger and they ended up giving you a job that was so perfect for you? That’s magic. Remember how when you were down, the right piece of information, the right supportive person or the right experience just landed in front of you and lifted you up? Or maybe you were that supportive person for someone else. That’s magic.
Through these magical experiences I am reminded that things can happen that I can’t even dream of in my mind or create through my actions. Something else seems to be at work in all of our lives that brings together the right people, places and things in a beautiful and purposeful way. So, when things are tough and I’ve run out of moves, I choose to have faith in life’s magic.
“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it” Roald Dahl
3. Look at your gifts and talents
There’s something wonderfully unique about you. Look for those things, look for what you’ve been gifted with and how these gifts enable you to make a meaningful impact in your life – on your family, your colleagues, your clients, strangers and maybe on a larger scale. The way you speak, the way you love, the way you teach, listen and learn, the way you make people laugh, the way you provide and nurture, the way you support, the way you work. Only you can do these things in the way you do them. Be grateful for that and realise that maybe it’s not by accident. You are a purposeful creation. You are a required piece of the jigsaw puzzle. You are meant to be and so is your journey.
When I truly appreciate this, I have faith that I’m right where I’m meant to be and who I’m meant to be, in any given moment. Nothing more is needed right now.
4. Acknowledge the profundity of existence
Have you ever looked up at the stars and contemplated what’s out there? Or looked down at the flowers and contemplated how incredible they are? What put all this here and how does it work so perfectly? Life really is supremely intelligent. Something out there knows what it’s doing and it’s doing a very good job. Oh, and it put me here too.
When I deeply acknowledge this, I can have faith and surrender to whatever is driving this amazing existence because, it must be driving my life too.
Maybe you already have faith
Whilst I experience faith as quite a profound experience that I do sometimes have to work to create, I wonder if it’s actually not that complicated or hard to reach at all. Maybe faith is already within each of us, on a deep level. Just like there is iron in our blood, maybe there is faith in our soul. Otherwise, why would you get out of bed every morning? Why would you send your kids to school where you can’t see them? Why would you drive your car on the roads where anything can happen? Why would you start a new relationship when you could get hurt? Why would you eat that restaurant food when you don’t know what’s in it? Why would you even leave the house? Or stay in the house?! Why would you do anything if you didn’t on some level have inherent faith that it was going to be OK?
It seems that faith is critical to being alive and to living. And, maybe we already have it.
“None of us knows what might happen even in the next minute. Yet still we go forward. Because, we trust. Because, we have faith.” Paulo Coelho