MANCHESTER INSTITUTE FOR PSYCHOTHERAPY
4TH YEAR RESEARCH PROJECT
THE MEANING OF SPIRITUALITY: A LIVED EXPERIENCE
THE MEANING OF SPIRITUALITY: A LIVED EXPERIENCE
This research project focuses on the meaning of spirituality. I chose this topic as it is a pivotal part of my growing understanding of myself. It is an area that I wish to learn more about. The word spiritualty is used a lot within my culture and religion (Sikhism) and I am intrigued by it. My personal spiritual journey is in its early days and I am keen to learn from others, in terms of their subjective experiences with regards to spirituality.
In order to obtain further insight into this area, this research study is about what spirituality means for an individual, from a phenonmeoliogucal perspective which, will reveal subjective data of the actual experience of what is it to be a spiritual being. Therefore, my aim is to explore the meaning of spirituality and how this impacts on lived experience.
Estanek (2006) states, ‘Spirituality is not a new word. The concept has been long understood in areas of religious belief and experience, especially in Christianity and Buddhism’ (p2).
Estanek (2006) used qualitative research methods (interpretative, narrative methods) to examine the definition of spirituality in higher education literature. The study highlighted that spirituality can be understood as a new discourse as it separates it from its roots in religion which gives it a different meaning and there is not common definition of spirituality. Spirituality is a hermeneutic process. Every definition of spirituality will be an interpretation of experience. It is about a lived experience that is meaningful for a person. A statement from this study was, ‘I am not religious but I am spiritual’. A significant amount of research on spirituality has been from a phenomenological perspective that is the definition has come from studying the lived experience of individuals.
Kim Leanne (2007) carried out a phenomenological study of spirituality in the everyday lives of younger women in contemporary Australia. The aim was to explore the meaning of spirituality and the range of beliefs and practices that are associated with it. She uses the feminist notion that ‘every woman is in the centre of her own experience that any interpretations and understandings of women’s spirituality must start from that premise’. Kim Leanne (2007) stated that ‘spirituality is ambiguous and does not represent any one finite quality or thing, but spirituality, is a wide and somewhat identifiable set of characteristics. The participants in this study were not religious but were spiritual. The factors explored within this study was the intersection between emotional experiences, meanings and purpose and notions of spirituality. Leanne Kim (2007) therefore states, ‘ grief, crises, and trauma, and the more general emotional experiences arising from everyday life, can be a driving force to embark on an exploration of the spiritual; inform personal constructions of spirituality; and provide a basis for the articulation of that spirituality, the central purpose of alleviating pain.
Simon and Pnina (2012), noted that spirituality and religion received little attention, in the psychological literature for most of the 20th century, although there had been some movement in this area since the 1980’s. Simon and Pinna (2012) also noted that literature from a humanistic-existential perspective viewed spiritual beliefs and practices a ways of reaching higher potential and a deeper sense of meaning.
Simon and Pnina (2012) carried out a study of how participants experience spirituality, what it means to them and how it affects their lives and relationships. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with four participants and the interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was employed. This method was employed as ‘it aims to give voice to, and examine, the personal lived experience of participants and how they make sense of their experience’. Such an approach provided data that was enriched with the participant’s experiences and meanings of spirituality. This study revealed 2 main themes, such as ‘spirituality and self’ and ‘spirituality in relation to others and the world’. The first theme incorporated feelings and thoughts of spirituality as an ‘internal force’ a world inside that the individual discovers for him/herself. This is via information from ones’ past life, and connections from spiritual moments. Spirituality was also seen as a ‘as a life journey that unfold and grows with the person. Spirituality was not seen as something that now has or achieves, but more like a path that a person walks that leads and guides his/her life. The second theme of spirituality in relation to others and the world highlighted that the relationships with others were part of the participant’s experience of spirituality. This meant respecting others and maintaining a positive, healthy connection with them. This was a result of perceiving people in a different way, following spiritual principles and seeing the best in others.
Mayhew (2004) carried out a phenomenological study on eight worldwide views (such as Agnosticism, Atheism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Muslim, Protestantism, and Roman Catholicism) on spirituality and its meaning. Mayhew noted that there have been many discourses around spirituality and religion. The participants in this study were students. The aim of this study was to establish how the students made sense of spirituality, the language used to describe spatiality, the underlying themes that capture the essence of spirituality as experienced by the students. Each student had explained the essence of their spirituality differently, and this was due to different life experiences they had and how this then attaches the meaning of spirituality for them. The Agnostic and Atheist world view tended to describe spirituality using images and cerebral responses to spirituality. They described spirituality by using terms such as ‘contemplative and mental exercise’ and ‘product of the mind’. The Jewish, Hindi, and Muslim students tended to speak about spirituality and their understanding from their family; they spoke of their family experiences of Spirituality and how this created their understanding of spirituality. The Buddhist student took many pictures of nature to illustrate their meaning of spirituality. The main themes that were found were, Continuity (meaning of spiritualty was made by describing familiar cyclical patterns of life, Local Movement (spirituality is meaningful during certain times in a person life that requires reflection), Pervasiveness (the meaning of spirituality is about making sense of people in environments that are pervasive, unbounded and infinite), Local environment (spirituality is understood in terms of nature. Nature reflects ‘an explicit human engagement with the recognizable and encountered environment’), Relationship with Humanity (the connection of human beings together, when there is common human experience such as pain, suffering, death. Humanity is understood as ‘an innate shared human experience), Relationship with the community (connection with an identified community group), Relationship with Other (spirituality was viewed as a concept that connects people with friends, family and loved ones. Internal Process of making meaning (making sense of oneself in relationship to the world around them, such as time, environment and other people.
Mayhew (2004) indicates that ‘Spirituality enables people to make sense of their nature and purpose. It is the human attempt to make sense of the self in connection to and with the external world’ (p666’).
My participant is a 38 year old female, who comes from a Muslim background and her origins are from Pakistan. She was born in England and is a full time mother. She is married and is a mother of three daughters, aged 21, 15 and 7. She is a psychotherapy trainee in the 4th year of Transactional Analysis Psychotherapy course. I am also in this training group. She had volunteered to take part in this research and had stated that she is very spiritual, which I thought would be a great opportunity to work with for this research project.
I used the phenomenological, relation-centred approach. The aim was to learn about the participants lived experience. This methodology emphasises the relationship between the researcher and co-researcher. It is about the intersubjective space between the researcher and the co-researcher, where the learning takes place. The research carried out is with the client as opposed to on the client. Any potential power dynamic can be addressed via the researcher’s reflective role (Finlay and Evans, 2009).
Data Collection and Analysis
The data was collected by carrying out an unstructured interview that lasted for 57 minutes. I was very conscious of the venue where the interview took place as I wanted wahada to be as relaxed and comfortable as possible. Wahada has a medical condition, which impacts her energy levels. We had some dialogue of the best place to do this and I had offered regular breaks in the interview should she have required it. It was Wahada’s wish that the interview takes place at the Manchester Institute for Psychotherapy. The interview began, with explaining again the purpose of the interview, which was her meaning of spiritualty and how this impacts her on a daily basis. She required some guidance, so by the use of open questions and an empathic approach, she began to speak about her experience. I had conveyed to her that I also have an interest in Spirituality and that I was keen to learn about her thoughts and feelings. My aim was to go with her flow and I had entered the interview with a ‘bracketed’ approach, which placed emphasis on her subjective world and my responses to it. This approach enabled me to gain full insight into Wahada’s lived experience. The essence for me was to experience what it is like for her, her world as mentioned, and the whole embodiment encounter.
The data was analysed by using the thematic approach, whereby I had identified and described the ‘important patterns within the data’ (Braun and Clarke, 2006, taken from Finlay and Evans, 2009). Due to time constraints the interview was not transcribed by me. I did however, Listen to the data over and over again and read the transcript several times, in order to gain a deeper insight into the essence of what Wahada was saying and to immerse myself into her subjective world. This approach enabled me to pick out the significant meanings, including hidden meanings and also to identify the themes that were emerging from the data. I generally approach most interactions with people by asking myself what it would be like, if I were in the other person’s shoes. This approach has assisted me in this research process and in my role as a therapist. I use some quotes from the transcript to illustrate my interpretation of the interview.
Informed consent was obtained from the participant at the start of the research. Issues of confidentiality were discussed between us. She was already aware of the research process as she is in Transactional Analysis Psychotherapy training with me. She was informed that she had every right to withdraw from the process, at any point during the research. It was agreed that as the author the, findings will be written up from my interpretations based upon the methodology outlined above. I have discussed and talked to Wahada about my thinking around the research findings and she has not disagreed with this. She has been involved in this research process. Wahada is happy for me to then share my findings with her.
Wahada has given me her permission to refer to her by her name in this research process. She was informed of the interview details and is aware that the research write-up will only be used for the purpose of conducting this study as a requirement for the course and the course tutors will be reading it. The storage of the audio-tape has been handled with care (on my laptop, which only I can access and is secured by a password) and will be deleted once the project has been completed.
The main themes that emerged were spirituality and cultural expectations, connecting with Spirituality and coping, Spirituality and the development of the self, Spirituality and the external world and The Distinction between spirituality and religion.
Spirituality and Cultural expectations.
Born in a Muslim family meant that Wahada was expected to follow the Islamic faith. From early as her childhood from the age of 9, she was taught how to be in the world, which was to follow the ways of Islam and to think about god. This meant praying five times a day, fasting and remembering god at all times. Wahada had learnt the ‘5 acts of worship’ by her mother explaining to her this how a Muslim should be and she has also learnt by watching her mother. I use the following quotation to illustrate this point:
‘So it’s just what’s going on what, my parents my parents did and also you, I saw her doing it as well, so I thought this is the way to be, you know. It’s like a normal way of living. This is my life. Yeah, and God was just something that was out there and er, we just worshiped and we had to do fasting so I used to do that, you know, every year, once a month, and… so basically just following the religion, knowing that there’s a God there, but it’s doing it how my parents said it should be done’.
As a child Wahada knew there was a god but was not able to define what god meant to her and was not able to make a ‘link’ with god. The acts of worship, felt like a chore, something she didn’t want to and she would want to do something else, like watch a television programme and would ‘quickly do the prayers and get them out of the way’.
It was through this process of socialisation, that Wahada had developed concepts of god, had learnt to worship, but the way her parents wanted her to do it and think about it. At this point she had felt ‘no contact’ or relationship with god, but knew that there was something out there.
This early life experience, paved the way for Wahada make sense of what these acts of worship mean and her relationship with god, which I think is important to understand as it gives details of how it began for her and how she began to have some meaningful awareness of the essence of spirituality.
She clearly associated god/religion with spirituality. This was more of an external experience for her during her childhood, carrying out the prayers 5 times a day. This was from the age of 9 to her teens. She says that,
‘it was just acts of worship that I sort of grew up practising’.
Adhering and conforming to her cultural expectations, was a useful way of being, as she now realises that it guided her and it was later on in her life whereby she found her own sense of self when praying. Therefore, she had the foundation already there to build upon. Wahada’s view is that culture, however, is different to spirituality. Spirituality is much more of a personal and individual experience, which people find in different ways.
The next theme illustrates how the experience of carrying out acts of worship turned into meaningful meditation and how she now perceives her spirituality.
Connecting with spirituality and coping
It is these acts of worship that gave some meaning to wahada of what spirituality means to her. She speaks about god and makes reference to god (for her) as being a ‘he’ (as the Islamic writings reference to god as a he) and an ‘entity’ a ‘deity’.
Wahada began to learn about what spirituality meant to her, during times of worry, feeling low, and needing ways of coping with life’s challenges as she experienced them.
Her first experience of this was when she 21 years of age and pregnant with her first child. She had been feeling worried about the pregnancy as the pregnancy was over-due she was afraid of the unknown. It was trough this worry and fears of the unknown, Wahada felt a difference in her prayer, that was not rushed and did not feel like a chore. She says,
‘it was like a light bulb moment. There was a spark. Just something hit me in my heart and it was like a…I think…I think I was worried about pregnancy and what’s going to happen. I was a little bit overdue aswell. Er…I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was pregnancy was scaring me, so it’s like…I would sit and it would be a form of meditating. You know my prayer became a lot more, it wasn’t a quick sort of a rush’.
Wahada’s prayers became something very special to her as opposed to when she was in her teens, whereby she felt it was a chore and a cultural expectation. It appears then that it was at a time of worry and scare, that Wahada’s prayer had significance for her and it was in her time of need when feeling scared and worried that she began to believe that ‘ there was something out there’. She had reached out to god for reassurance and to obtain feelings of safety and security. This gave her a sense of stability and from this moment onwards she felt that connected to and began to trust in god. Trusting and believing that there is a god through prayer gives Wahada a piece of mind.
Wahada’s prayers were described by her as carrying out movements that are similar to yoga. She prays in words that were Arabic. It was when she had learnt the meaning of these words she had realised, what she was saying to god and this is when the ‘link’ emerged. She talked about her belief that if you go to god he will follow you.
It is at her times of sorrow and despair, where she says,
‘you know it is like footprints in the sand, it’s about carrying, you know, always promising to carry you. God is carrying you in your moment of, you know, sorrow and despair, and I’ve had that a lot in my life’.
With this belief, Wahada has been able to cope with life’s challenges. She feels that she established a relationship with god since the age of 21 and that without this she, ‘wouldn’t be here’. She feels that there have been times whereby she has been ‘crying her eyes out when praying’ and then the next day she feels much better. It is during these experiences, Wahada’s relationship/connection with god has strengthened. I sensed a great deal of sadness from Wahada as she was speaking and felt impacted by what she was saying. I continued to tell her that I was interested in what she was saying and wanted to hear more.
The formulation of belief in god has enabled Wahada to persevere in her life, and it has given her hope. This gives her a purpose and focus in life, with the inspiration that she will see god one day and that she has a love for god. She feels closer to god than anything or anyone else and appears to be have a formed of attachment to god. An attachment, whereby she reaches out to god, Now that she has built trust in god she thinks and feels that god will always be there for her in her times of need. This enables her to feel safe and secure.
Through her prayer, Wahada feels what she described a ‘wave of peace’, giving her strength and courage to deal with and manage life’s challenges.
Wahada used the word connection a lot and she talked about when times in need, she felt this connection with god had strengthened and that she began to see the world in a different way. She feels that she gets this connection when she is in a deep meditative state that she describes as,
‘An out of body experience. For me, personally, my surroundings, er sort of blur, and I don’t know where I am. That’s how it feels. I’m just so into myself. It’s as if I’m really deep inside.’
Wahada is at the most calm and at peace with herself when she is in this internal state. She describes this feeling of peace as,
‘sort of goes from my feet and all the way in, and almost like a state of sort of…it’s as if you’re reaching, like there are higher levels of consciousness’… This is when I am reaching out to god. It’s almost like a floating sensation…but it’s like…your’e firmly grounded but your floating in your mind’. It’s like a silence…all I can feel is my heart, I can hear my heart breathing, and it’s almost as if I’ve gone inside of me and this is why I say god is inside’.
When in the deep meditative state, Wahada’s connection with god strengthens further. This is what she believes to be her sense of spirituality. She is able to feel ‘free’ and that what happen to her or around her does not matter. The sense I get from this is that, without the spiritual experience Wahada is most likely to feel trapped, afraid and isolated. This connection with god that she describes as spirituality plays a very significant part in Wahada’s life. Without this she would be lost with no direction and she would not be in a happy and in a fulfilling place. She says,
‘if I didn’t have this connection, it would be as if I’m surrounded by the vast blackness and floating, not knowing where I’m going’. The world would also be a scary place’.
With the connection Wahada feels ‘alive’ and says, ‘you are living’.
The sense I also got from Wahada was that without this connection the world for would be a lonely place and that she would be living he life worrying and being fearful of the challenges she has had to face, confront and manage. Without the connection or her spirituality, she would not see any purpose in life, and I think she could fall into the realms of depression. It provides her with the structures (psychologically) she needs to live a happy and fulfilling life. She at one point said,
‘if I didn’t have this connection it’d be so easy to be down and depressed and anxious and worried’.
In her times of need Wahada asks god for help and guidance and to support her. She talked about an illness she has that affects all her body parts. She felt worried as the medical profession do not know where it will lead. This significantly impacted Wahada. Through her prayer, she was able to reach out to god. She had been feeling very devastated. She felt that she was in a very dark and lonely space, where she couldn’t breathe and felt suffocated. She cried as she carried out her prayer, connecting with her spirituality and asked for support and help. She says that god appeared in her dream and the sense she got was that god was there for her and had ‘lifted her’. She said,
‘it was almost like god holding my hand, you know, and saying ‘I’m alongside you and I will walk with you. Take you with me, ‘you know, I’m going to be with you one hundred percent, don’t worry everything will be ok,’ And it was after this moment that i…feel that my connection was…by far the best that it will ever be. And my whole life has changed after that moment. This was actually a year ago’
This experience enabled her to feel calmer and at peace with herself. It enables her to feel that she had the strength to manage this condition. She felt that this dream had impacted her significantly as she felt that god had spoken to her and had said, ‘look, I’m here for you’. This experience gave her strength and the courage that she has always been able to gain, when in her deep meditative state and when she is connected with her spirituality.
She stated that she felt very emotional. I was also impacted by this and shared this feeling with her.
Wahada’s spirituality (connection with god) strengthened each time she is in a moment of loneliness, feeling trapped and needing help to cope with life’s challenges. This has enabled her to carry on with her life and to feel that she is loved (by god) and that she will always be supported. Her attachment with god is extremely meaningful for Wahada, as she trusts in god and knows that she will be cared for and looked after, enabling her to feel safe, protected and free. Spirituality as Wahada perceives it has being a coping mechanism, which has been a useful internal resource for her to understand, deal with and manage life’s challenges. It is through the meditative state when praying, that Wahada connects with her spirituality. Wahada describes that her connection with god is…
‘like is like the warmth, you know like when your by a window and if you’ve got a sofa by your window side and the sun is shining. That sort of warm feeling against your cheek.’
Spirituality and the development of the self.
Wahada’s sense of self has developed since she has been following her spiritual side. This has been reinforced since she has been training to be a Transactional Analysis psychotherapist. Wahada feels that when one ‘hits rock bottom’, is when self-learning begin. Her sense of self has been influenced by god and she calls this’ divine inspiration’. She sees herself as ‘deeply spiritual person.’ She thinks and feels that her spirituality is very much an ‘internal thing’, which is a link between her heart and her mind’. For Wahada this link is what she would describe as her ‘soul’. She says that…
‘the body is like a vessel, carrying the soul and it’s connected to the higher level of the mind, so it’s a highest level of consciousness with god.’
Wahada questions whether the soul is the self and relates this to herself. She had a moment in the interview whereby she wondered whether the soul is the self that people have not found in their lives. For her, the soul is the self and that through her spirituality she says…
‘I am feeding my soul, which is my heart. That’s where I would, I would see the red colour…it’s the thing that keeps the soul going and then the soul is connected with the mind’. The red colour is like a wave of peace.’
Thorough her prayers and the deep meditative state she is in, she is able to connect with herself, this increases her self- awareness.
As mentioned above, Wahada’s training in Transactional Analysis has strengthened her sense of self and spirituality. She talks of negative and harsh emotions and how in her view these can impact on the body. She felt that anger is a significant emotion, She feels that getting rid of negative emotions for her is important in order for to feel at peace with herself. Her spirituality enables her do this as the ‘connection (with god) helps. She says…
‘It’s only…if you look at yourself, and TA’s helped me to do that.’
Wahada uses the theory of ego states Eric Berne, to enable her to understand what is goimg on for her in situations. She questions which ego state she is in when she is responding to herself and the external world. This has strengthened her knowledge of herself and the role that spirituality plays. She feels that she has been able to explore parts of herself (mainly the soul) and as a result she has better self-awareness. She sees it as strengthening her connection with god and ‘knowing god better’. As mentioned above, when Wahada is in her deep meditative state, she is connecting to god. She began to question, which ego state she is in when she is a meditative state, and intends to explore this further. I think this process will only further her expand on her experience of her internal world and her spirituality.
Though the process of self-exploration, Wahada’s self-awareness has increased. Wahada’s sense of self has developed further and she perceives spirituality as gaining access to higher levels of consciousness. She relates her concept of higher level on consciousness to the existential life position, I’m ok, and you’re ok. There exists a connection between the mind and the heart, which she perceives to be the soul. Training in psychotherapy further increases her self-awareness and her spiritual self. Wahada’s sense of self developed through Transactional Analysis, and personal therapy, which further strengthened her relationship with her spirituality.
Furthermore, Wahada feels that god in inside her and she thinks that if she doesn’t know herself then she will not know god. I get the sense that, this inspires her further to connect with god, which she defines as her spirituality. This is an area in her life that is very special and significant for her. Wahada’s journey of self-discovery through spirituality and her psychotherapy training has been an invaluable experience.
Spiritualty and the external world.
When Wahada found her connection with god, which is what she calls her spirituality, her awareness of her external world also became clearer. She feels that she was able to connect with her external world. She says,
‘I started to see and notice (at her first connection at the age of 21), you know, how, how, how beautiful the son looked. You know, when the wind was blowing. You know, how it would feel against my cheek.’
Wahada sees these as signs from god giving her reassurance of his existence. This is when she saw the ‘beauty in the world’. She recalls the first experience she felt the connection with god, when her first child was born. Wahada’s spirituality has enabled her to see the external world in a much more revitalizing and energising way. As she connects with her spiritual self, she see’s good in all people and does not allow external factors to bother her. Wahada’s spirituality then enables her to connect with the external world in a positive and healthy way. She has a different outlook on life and her perspective on her external world altered. She says,
‘When you’re in this connection, you become alive. You are living. You are you are connecting with outside world around you, you know. You’re breathing, you’re living and you see things differently with this connection’.
Spirituality and religion
Wahada makes very clear distinctions and is clearly of the view that religion is a separate to spirituality. For her religion is about, carrying out ritualistic practices, no matter what religion a person follows. Spirituality is very different for Wahada. This is more than carrying out religious acts, it about the internal connection she has with god. This is achieved when she is in deep meditation, in her prayer. Therefore, it would appear that religion was a starting point for Wahada, which as mentioned above was a cultural expectation. It is not something that can be imposed by other people, but something that a person learns through deep meditation and connecting with god to their higher levels of consciousness. She says,
‘there is a difference between religion and spirituality and I think if you put two people in a difficult situation, the one without spirituality will definelty go downhill. That’s my belief. They’ll become depressed. They may even become suicidal’.
From this perspective spirituality, can again be viewed as a coping menchanism and without this, people can become ill. This sense of being at peace with oneself not only benefits the person’s internal world, but also their perceptions of their external world. It increases self-awareness and the person is able to flourish and gain a positive direction and focus in life.
The themes I have identified are inter-linked and are very much correlated. Wahada prayers help her to get into the meditative state, that enables her to connect with god, higher level of consciousness as she describes it. This then enables to feel free from life’s challenges. It also brings about a significant amount of self-awareness and connection with the self and the external world. She see’s clear distinctions between religion and spirituality, but religion is something that was a starting point for her to find her spirituality, which she sees a connection with god. This enables her to cope with the challenges she faces in life and as her life goes on, she is more and more connected with god, which reinforces her spirituality and takes he to higher levels of consciousness
The lived experience of Wahada’s spirituality is consistent with the studies in the literature review. Estanek (2006), view of spirituality being different to religion is consistent with my findings. There are inevitably individual experiences and each experience of spirituality is unique. A person does need to be religious to be spiritual and (Estanek, and Mayhew, 2004) . For Wahada though, her cultural expectations as a Muslim woman to carryout prayers and follow the Islamic faith was the starting point. It was during times of worry, sadness and sorrow, where she found the connection to god, which she defines as spirituality. This finding was consistent to Kim Leanne (2007). The other themes that emerged from my data also resonated with findings of the studies I outline in the literature review.
The phenomenological methodology employed provided great insight into Wahada’s lived experience. It enabled me to learn what it is like for her and to gain an insight into her internal world. The communication and the words used between the researcher and co researcher here is vital. (Denzin and Lincoln, 2000). Schwandt (2002) indicated that phenomenology analysis is to ‘understand how the everyday, inter-subjective world in constituted from the participant’s point of view (in Denzin and Lincoln,2000). The relational approach in phenomenological research that I used, enabled, me to learn about Wahada’s experience in a more relational way. As Finlay and Evan’s (2009) state that ‘much of what we can learn and know about one another arises within the intersubjective space between the researcher and co-researcher. Each touches and impacts in the other and that affects how the research unwraps itself’ (p30).
During the interview with Wahada, she had been talking about the dream she had had, when god’s hand held her and carried her. She had been talking of an illness that she has and the level of emotional pain she was in when she had heard about this. She stated that when she had woken up, she was reassured by god that god was there for her. She stated that she felt emotional after that. I also felt emotional listening to her as she spoke. I was impacted. This was shared with Wahada, I am of the view that this approach reinforced the two way dialogue that was going on between us and she began to elaborate on how her reality had changed at this point. She saw her life in a much more positive way.
The embodied enquiry, involved within the relational centred approach, led to asking Wahada how she felt, what she thought and then linking the two, which enabled us to see how Wahada is when she is in deep meditation and when she connects with god. Wahada had said that when she is her deep meditative state (experiencing her spirituality), she has an outer body experience, like a floating sensation, she describes a silence and all she can feel is her heart beating. She then connects this to a higher level of consciousness. Her thoughts are that, this is when she is connected to god. It is as Todres (2007) states that the embodied enquiry is about linking thought and feeling, ‘head’ and ‘heart’, and it is a practice that relates language and the experiencing body. (taken from Finlay and Evans, 2009). I think that this approach provided a clear essence of Wahada’s internal world and her perceptions of her spirituality. She had interestingly made a connection between her mind and her heart and says that this is what she calls the soul.
I note Finlay and Evan (2009) when they indicate that the relational- approach in phenomenology is similar to that of a therapist. I found that my empathic responses, enabled Wahada to feel at ease and she was able to speak to me about her internal world. This approach also strengthened the relationship between myself and Wahada. I am of the view that this was my strength during this research process.
My aim was to obtain deep meaningful insights from Wahada. This is where I set aside my own views and bracketed my own experiences. I wanted this to be Wahada’s reality and not mine. Much of what Wahada was saying did resonate with me. Especially when she talked about cultural expectations for follow her faith, she had conformed to the norms and values of her Muslim culture, which was actually a starting point for her. She said that this had ‘paved the way’ to her spirituality. I had similar experiences of being brought up in a Sikh family. I didn’t however, follow the ritualistic acts of a Sikh, but have been finding my spiritual self through times of difficulty, which was also consistent with Wahada. I didn’t share these parts of me in the interview and my thoughts were that I wanted to maintain the focus on Wahada’s lived experience.
Wahada had volunteered to participate in this research. My initial thoughts were to carry out the research with someone who is spiritual and not religious or someone who carried out religious rituals.) I wondered where the research would go. A limitation, I think may have been that at one point in the interview, whereby I emphasised this point, and stated it a few times that is was this part that I wanted to hear about. I wondered whether this may have steered Wahada away from what she might have wanted to say. In hindsight, I could have shared this part of my thinking with Wahada. It turned out (in the findings) that Wahada also thought the same, that one does not need to be religious to be spiritual.
There had in fact been a moment in the interview, whereby I had shared my thinking with Wahada by telling her that I didn’t want to put words in her mouth, and had given her my interpretation of what she was saying. For example, when Wahada spoke about the development of her sense of self through Transactional Analysis Psychotherapy training, I had said,
‘ Yeah, I mean I don’t want to put words in your mouth but would you say that your sense of self has developed through TA and that helped you strengthen your relationship with your spirituality.’
Wahada’s response to this was.
‘No, no, no, That’s exactly like. Yeah.
I can see how this mutual dialogue, conveyed her true feeling and I guess it is a learning point for me that it is not about putting words in to one’s mouth, but checking out what their thinking and feeling, which I think is the essence of this relational approach.
I found this project to be a very useful process as I further reflect on my performance. Having heard the recording and read the transcript numerous times , I note that I had in fact interrupted Wahada as she spoke during the first part of the interview. I think this may have been linked to my slight anxiety about the research process and wanting to get it right. Nevertheless, I do think that I used some very good inquiry, which led to Wahada to share with me her life experiences and her internal world.
Application of Transactional Analysis Concepts
Wahada has found Structural Analysis a very useful tool to understand herself. For her, this has enhanced her perceptions of her spirituality. Structural Analysis describes psychological makeup and personality structure. Eric Berne defined an Ego state as ‘a consistent pattern of feeling and experience related to a corresponding consistent pattern of behaviour’ (taken from Stewart and Joines, 2009, p15). This is a theory of personality which included the identification and use of three ego states: the Parent, the Child and the Adult ego state. These states are psychological realities. ‘The state is created by replaying the recorded data of events in the past, involving real people, real time, real places and real feelings’ (Harris, 1995 p18).
Wahada’ is aware of the parental introjects contained in her parent ego state and is also aware of the content of her child ego state material. She is able to understand her here and now reality and her Adult ego-state. Wahada stated that this enables her to make sense of herself which has increased her self awareness and the role that spirituality plays within it. She says that she is aware of which ego state she is in when in situations. This enables her to gain mental clarity of herself. She stated in the interview that she wishes to reflect on the ego state she is in when she is in her deep meditative state. After the interview, Wahada and I discussed this and it was my thinking that one may be this state when they are in their Adult ego state, as they are not likely to be influenced by any parental introjects and they are not replaying childhood material. In this state, the Adult will be fully cathected, at this stage or I go on to think, is there another ego state that can be associated with such a phenomenon. I think further research could provide some interesting findings.
Wahada perceives herself to be in an ‘I’m ok, you’re ok’ existential position as identified by Berne. In this position the perception of self and other’s is viewed in a positive manner and it is a healthy position to be in (Stewart and Joines, 2009). Franklin Ernst’s Ok Corral, also states that when in this state the person’s belief about oneself and other’s is ok and this is reinforced (Stewart and Joines, 2009). For Wahada, this has enhanced her perceptions of her spirituality and her self –awareness.’ I note here, that when Wahada found the connection with god, her internal and external world was a ‘beautiful place. She was able to see the goodness in herself (which she described as a wave of peace and my perception of her was that she had gained a sense of self- acceptance and love) and others. I believe from my own life experiences and perspective that this life position also involves in one treating everyone as equal. Being a trainee psychotherapist and her connection with god, has contributed to Wahada’s on-going spiritual and self- discovery journey
The phenomenological methodology used in this study enabled me to gain a deep insight into a lived experience of spirituality and what this means. The relational centred approach enabled me to connect with what Wahada’s was saying in the interview and I was able to make embodied inquiry that led me further into her internal world, and her subjective meaning of spirituality. Spirituality is a very unique experience for each individual, which is based upon life experiences. It is enables one to make sense of and make connection with themselves and the world around them. Religion is a separate entity to religion and this is a common these across the literature in this field. Religion is viewed as carrying out ritualistic acts of a certain faith, whereas Spirituality is a much deeper, meaningful and internal connection with god and one can obtain this state without following a faith. It can be a coping mechanism when faced with life’s demands and challenges.
- RESEARCH PROPOSAL
Name: Harminder Sagoo
Research topic/focus: The lived experience of my participant’s daily experiences of her spirituality.
How will you prepare your participant and minimise any risk of potential harm to your participant.
Duty of care – The participant has been approached with regards to where she would like for the interview to take place, this is to ensure that she feels comfortable during the process. She will be fully informed of the research topic, that is will be recorded and that confidentiality will be maintained. She will be asked whether she wishes to remain anonymous (in the write up) or whether she would like to be referred to by a different name. The participant will be advised that if at any point in the interview she feels overwhelmed or unable to continue, then her wishes and feelings will be fully accepted and that she can withdraw at any stage. The interview will be undertaken at her pace and she will be given the psychological space she requires and breaks should she require them. I will offer her my assistance and support should she require this after the interview. The participant is also a trainee psychotherapist in my training group and having heard that I wish to learn about a ‘lived experience of spirituality’, she volunteered to be my participant as she regards her self as a very spiritual. She is in therapy and will make contact with her therapist, should she feel distressed or should any disturbing issues arise for her.
Informed Consent – My participant is aware of the purpose of the research and will be given a consent form, which will provides her with information regarding her rights and the research process. The client is aware that the interview will be recorded (as she is in my training group) for the purpose of transcription and analysis. Despite her awareness of the purpose of the recording her consent will be obtained. Once the proposal has been approved, I will approach the participant, with a view to obtaining written consent for the interview. As mentioned above, the participant can withdraw from the process and to let me know in one month.
Confidentiality- The participant’s identity will be kept anonymised unless she gives permission to use her name. She will also be informed that the interview details and the research write up will be used for research purposes only and that course tutors will be reading it. She will be given a confidentiality statement to sign.
Debriefing procedures and issues of appropriate boundaries – The participant will be given full information on the process of the interview and the research. She will be given the opportunity to ask any questions regarding the research. I will need to ensure that during the research process that I maintain the boundaries of my role as a researcher and her role as a participant. My understanding and the participants understanding of the purpose of the research will assist in this. My approach will be open, non-directive. I will employ the concept of ‘bracketing’, as my aim will be to gain an understanding of her subjective world and her lived experience. Hence, I will not make any assumptions, look forward to hearing about her reality and will be very mindful and compassionate to the participants needs. I will respect her privacy and dignity at all times.
I intend to incorporate some de-briefing time at the end if the interview in order to ascertain how the participant is on an emotional basis and for both of us to reflect on the interview. The participant may wish to clarify on some points of may wish to say anything that may have been missed.
I will have authorial control, but will share the findings with the participant.
Approval given by: Date:
- The transcript of the audio recording .
|Text in bold is the researcher and the other is that of the co-researcher.|
Right, well thanks for agreeing to, well volunteering to participate in this study and as you’re aware I’m looking at your sort of meaning of spirituality and how that means for you. Er, and I’m really, really interested. I really genuinely want to learn about how it is for you. So can I just, are you okay to just start from there? Would you want me to give you some pointers?
Em, if you could point me in the direction.
Generally about what spirituality means for you.
And how it impacts you on a daily basis.
Right, okay. I remember, um, you know, in my childhood sort of er, being told that this is a way to sort of, you know, think about God, right so in my religion which is Islam…
… er, we had like five times a day, we had to do the prayers.
As I was growing up, from the age of nine onwards, it was my mum telling me that that’s something you have to do, and I yeah, and I didn’t really know God. It was about just doing these acts of worship.
Er, because it’s something that every Muslim has to do.
Yeah, so it’s just going on what, what my parents did, and also you, I saw her doing it as well, so I thought this is the way to be, you know. It’s like a normal way of living. This is my life. Yeah, and God was just something that was out there and er, we just worshiped and we had to do fasting so I used to do that, you know, every year, once a month, and… so basically just following the religion, knowing that there’s a God there, but it’s doing it how my parents said it should be done.
And I think it was at the time of… I think I went into my teens…
… doing the same thing, practising.
Believing it as well.
So a belief that there was a God there. Um…
So what does God mean to you, just before you go in… what does God mean to you? What, how would you… what is God for you? How would you define God?
For me God is… [pause], if I could sort of say how… at the time in my childhood…
… God was just something that was there but I didn’t know what.
That’s interesting isn’t it?
Yeah. So it’s just something that’s there and I’ve been told that I have to worship him…
… and I have to thank him for all the good things I have.
Er, but I didn’t feel that there was any contact or any, any kind of, a relationship with God in my teens.
So from the childhood, you… and your parents taught you to do that.
You then went through to your teens.
Yeah. Just following these ritualistic sort of…
Five days of worship.
So five, five times a day…
… worship. Oh wow. That’s… I’m so fascinated. Tell me more.
Yeah. So it’s just a case of just following them and it was a case of oh, sometimes, you know, the like TV programme’s on and it’s like “Oh, I don’t really want to do this,” and then it’s just quickly doing your prayers and getting it out the way. So there wasn’t a link at that time.
So this was in your teens?
Yes. This was in my teens, yeah. Sort of growing up. Yeah. And er, when I got married as well, it was the same thing. I felt that it wasn’t… it wasn’t a real link. It was just acts of worship that I sort of grew up practising.
And then I think something happened when I was pregnant with my first child and um, just everything, you know, I found the pregnancy amazing.
And then I noticed when I was praying, there was a difference in the prayer, and it really felt like, in being in this state of pregnancy, that I developed a contact. It was almost as if I kind of reached out…
… and saw that there was… felt it in my heart that something was there, and that’s when I think that I believed in God. The belief came at that moment.
So belief seems to be quite, quite, quite a strong thing there really for you.
Sounds like you were doing it from the age of, from a child. How old were you when you talk about childhood, just…
From nine onwards.
So from nine, so you’re talking about from nine right up to the teens.
And then you got, you had your… when were you pregnant with your first child then?
I was actually 21.
So at the age of 21 you really had this sort of belief.
It was, it was like a light bulb moment. There was a spark. Just something hit my heart and it was like a… I think I was worried about pregnancy and what’s going to happen. I was a little bit overdue as well. Er… and I kind of didn’t know what was going to happen. It was, pregnancy was scaring me, so it’s like… I would sit and it would be like a form of meditating. You know, my prayer became more, it wasn’t a quick sort of a rush, how it used to be in my teens.
Yeah. It became more like sitting, being aware of myself, er, my space around me and really looking at myself and, and the world as well. It was almost as if I started connecting with the outside world as well. I started to see and notice, after this moment, you know, how, how, how beautiful the sun looked. You know, how when the wind was blowing, you know, how it would feel against my cheek.
Oh God, that’s amazing.
So it was almost as if these became signs of God for me. As if God was saying “Look, I’m here.” Yeah. And I saw beauty in the world, and then when I gave birth, she was the most beautifulist thing I had ever seen.
And that just, you know, it’s like this isn’t my doing. This is something out there that, that’s given me this gift, and that really sort of, I think it’s from that stage that I developed a relationship with God. Yeah. And…
So you didn’t… Sorry, go on.
Then after that I got busy with motherhood and er, it sort of, for me, this relationship with God kind of, sort of went onto the back burner a little bit, you know, raising a young family and having in-laws and…
Gosh, I can imagine.
… having a really busy household.
But I always gave it a time that was very different from my childhood. So it became something special. It became something… my prayers became, um, these acts of worship became something special to me.
So I’d look forward to it and I sort of made sure that I have time for that.
So, yeah, could you tell me about the acts of worship.
What do you, what do you… you know, have to do?
Er, there’s, there’s sort of… we have to sort of… it’s five times a day. There are different times all the way to the evening, and er, we have to pray and our prayer is sort of, it is as I would describe it as yoga because it is like motions like this and in each step you’re bending, you’re, you’re standing up. Then you go down. You know, this is what we call a Sujud, when we go down.
And that, you are with the ground. You are in the lowest of the lowest place and you’re saying that you know, I’m in the most humblest place ever. You know, I am just a mere human being. Er, you are the er, most mighty and er, you have power over all thing, and it is in each place of, you know, each movement, we have specific…
So the movement is, so you use your hands and you cross your hands over your chest…
Then you put…
Place [something] here.
So you put them on your chest.
Here, er, [inaudible-08:33] in Arabic and it’s, it’s very beautiful and it’s talking to God, you know. And so I learned Arabic when I was little. Yeah, because this is like, an essential. I didn’t understand at the time. The words didn’t mean anything to me and then it was when I sort of looked at the Arabic a bit more, looked at the, you know, the meanings of the Arabic, what, what I was actually saying to God, and that’s when I developed a link. Before it was just ritualistic.
Yeah. And then with each movement you’re going up and then you’re going down and then, you know, we believe that there are angels on our shoulders.
Hence the reason why you cross your hands…
Er, no, we cross our hands here but, but at the end when we finish the prayer, we say er, you know, “Peace be to you,” and we turn our head, and that’s…
So peace be to you as in…
To the angels because we believe…
Well how beautiful is that?
Because we believe that we are surrounded by angels as well.
Guiders and inspirers, and er… so, so you’re having that awareness that there is this unknown world that’s around us and it’s with us all the time and er, the, the job of these angels is to sort of write down all the good deeds that we do and all the little bits, slip-ups that we have. Yeah.
So, so you do that, those motions five times a day?
Five times a day.
And are the prayers the same each time?
Er, the prayers are slightly different, yeah. They’re slightly different. There’s what you call… there’s a prayer that is for, for God, and then there’s another prayer that we pray for our prophet, er, the special prophet, Muhammad. Um, then there’s what we call, it’s Nawafil which is a prayer that we pray for our self, yeah, and then God kind of counts up, you know, how much you do, and the Nawafil is something that if you’re busy you don’t have to do but the more you do the more closer you to get to God. So, so it’s… that’s what God is looking at.
You know, how, how much… that extra mile that you’re going to go. Yeah, and it’s said, it’s in our book that, the Qur’an, God says that “if you can walk into me I’ll come running to you,” so…
Wow. How beautiful is that?
And it is a bit like the, you know, the Footprints in the Sand, um, I don’t know if you’ve heard the song.
I have, yeah.
Yeah. Leona Lewis sang that and er, you know, it’s about carrying, you know, always promising to carry you, God is carrying you in the your moment of, you know, sorry especially and despair, and I’ve had a lot of that in my life.
… I think it’s through that, I, I, think it’s my relationship that developed at the age of 21.
I’m totally hearing that, yeah.
That, that helped me cope with so many difficulties in my life.
Yeah. I think, personally think I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have this relationship with God.
It’s like something is out there that I trust totally…
… and I feel would, you know, help me. You know, sometimes I’m having a really bad day and then I have a prayer and sometimes I’m crying my eyes out when I’m praying and then the next day the problem just gets better.
Yeah. It’s better able to manage it almost.
Yeah. So, so I guess what I’m hearing is that connection between you and God that’s strengthened.
And you see God as something that is… you used the word something didn’t you earlier, so you see…
It… I would describe it as a deity, an entity.
Yeah. We are not told in our books what he looks like.
We just know that he is a he and we know that it is the people who will, who sort of go on the straight path in life and who will get a place in Heaven, God will give us so many gifts and then God will say, “Do you want the greatest gift of all?” and then people will say to him, you know, “What could that be? We have everything in Heaven,” and he said, “It’s myself,” and that is when he will reveal himself.
Yeah, and we know of the story of Moses where he did reveal himself in front of Moses but his beauty was so vast and the light was so great that the mountains crumbled.
Yeah. So we have that belief, and that is something that keeps us going in our life and gives us a purpose and a focus so that we can actually see him one day, because it is like a, it’s like a love that I have for God.
Oh wow, tell me more about that.
So tell me about the love that you have for God.
It’s almost like he’s, he’s closer to me than anybody in my life, you know.
Wow, that’s, that’s interesting isn’t it?
Yeah. And it says in our Quran that, God says that I’m closer to you than your jugular vein.
Right, and that means…
So the vein is in our neck and…
Yeah. Of course.
… blood flowing and God, God is in all of us, so he says that, you know, it’s about opening up your eyes and seeing. You know, the signs are there. God is saying “I am here.” I didn’t know that in my teens, and then it was only when I really opened up my eyes and my heart and I let him in, that I feel that he is in me and then giving me the strength and the courage to cope with difficulties in my life. And er, I guess it’s that.
So how does that feel then, when you’re, when you’re actually in that moment, when you’re sort of like there praying, you’re connected to God? How is that? How does it feel?
I would really describe it as an out of body experience.
For me, personally. My surroundings, er, sort of blur, and I don’t know where I am. That’s how it feels. I’m just so into myself. It’s as if I’m really going deep inside.
And it’s, it’s an amazing feeling. There is this, sort of like a, you know, like a wave of peace.
Wow. A wave of peace?
Yeah. That sort of, you know, sort of goes from my feet and all the way in, and almost sort of like a state of sort of… it’s as if you’re reaching, like there are levels of consciousness.
And I feel as if I’m reaching a stage that’s not sort of touched upon in everyday-to-day life.
And I only get that when I’m in my prayer.
And that’s, when I get in that state, that’s when I know that, you know what, I’m actually reaching out to God.
Wow. So, so… on a bodily sense, you feel very calm, is what I’m hearing?
But yet you have…
Almost like a floating sensation.
But it’s like… you’re firmly grounded but you’re floating in your mind.
Mm. And what that’s like then, when you’re floating in your mind? What sort of things do you see? What sort of things do you hear? What’s it, what’s it like?
The whole world around you just blurs out. I don’t hear anything.
It is like a silence. All I can feel is my, my heart. I can, I can hear my heart beating, that’s how it’s feels and I can, I can hear my breathing, and it’s almost as if I’ve gone inside of me. That’s why I say God’s inside. That’s how it feels. Like it’s like… he’s everywhere but you know when, when you get that connection, it’s like you have to look inside of yourself. Yeah… to get that link.
And what’s that like then, when you go inside yourself and get that link? I’m just trying to get a clearer picture of exactly what it’s like for you.
It’s almost like he’s there on a sort of er, unconscious level, when you reach that higher state of consciousness. It’s like a magnet. He’s sort of pulling me towards him, and then when I do reach and I feel like I’m standing by him, and I feel that anything that I say, he is listening, and I feel that he… he really understands me, he really hears me, he really sees me. I can be who I want in front of him. Yeah, he loves me for who I am.
Yeah, and it’s an amazing feeling where you don’t have to be what other people want you to be.
Just be free. That’s what I feel. I feel free. Where I get that way, and when I sort of come out of that, it’s like a, that wave of peace that just floats in me.
Tell me about what you mean about being, feeling free, because I’m really interested to hear about that.
What, what’s that about?
I think it’s, it’s a, it’s a sort of a, a moment where you can sort of just leave all your worries and all your anxieties and nothing matters when I’m in that state. So I love praying because it, it sort of gives me that focus that I need in my life and makes me see that, you know what, so what, you know. If, if these things are happening, it doesn’t matter.
So, so your, your religion gives you er, focus?
That’s the thing you see. I, I, I reflect on that so many times. There are so many people that I know who do these ritualistic acts…
… but can I say that it’s religion? Religion is one thing…
… but then this connection is er, spirituality.
Yeah. And it’s this connection [Wahada] that I’m extremely interested in.
And I would like you to talk to me more about this connection and this bond and this relationship that you have with what you describe as God.
As an entity, and it’s something that you became connected to when you were 21.
It’s that that I’m really, really interested in and want to know about, is that connection, your spirituality, and what that means to you, you know, and how significant that is.
I, I, I think without this connection it would be, er, for me personally, it would be almost like I’m floating in space.
Without the connection?
Without the connection.
If I didn’t have that connection, it would be as if I’m surrounded by this vast blackness and floating, not knowing where I’m going. Um, I, I don’t think I can hear anything. I think I’m almost blind as well, you know, that’s how it would be. Yeah.
It, it… you’re just floating in this nothingness, that’s how it would be for me if I didn’t have this connection. So this connection means a lot to me and it came to me about I had my first…
First child, yeah.
Mm. And how… you talked about um, without this connection you wouldn’t be… you don’t know where you would be. Tell me more about that.
[Long pause] I described it as a blackness because if it was taken away from me, that’s how I would feel. But I have it. It gives me… it’s because of this I know that God loves me.
Yeah. And I know that God is there for me and I have so much to be grateful for.
So God doesn’t need our acts of worship so I know that.
Yeah. It’s, it’s about me needing him. So this is why I, I, I sort of do the… walk towards God so that he…
… comes to running to, to me.
Yeah. Yeah. I mean what was really interesting in what you were saying is that er, you know, some people do these um, rituals, and yet really don’t have the connection, whereas you can clearly see the difference there.
You know, so it’s…
I think they’re just walking around sort of, er, they’re sleep-walking basically.
Yeah. They’re sleep-walking. They are just er, doing minimal. You know, it’s like we have to do this because it’s expected of us. The Quran says this, but are they really, sort of, really looking in, deep into themselves and finding God? And that’s where I think spirituality, the word spirituality, you can use it in that sense.
Religion is one this, culture is one thing.
Culture because of people culturally, you know, it’s like expected to pray five times a day and do your fasting, go on Hajj, you know that’s the pilgrimage in er, in Mecca.
Um, all of that, you know, they deal all of that, but there’s this, the debt inside. I, I think that with this connection, you become alive. You are living. You are, you are connecting with the world around you, you know. You’re, you’re breathing, you’re living and you see things differently with this connection.
How do you see things with this connection?
When I didn’t have it, yeah life was one… difficult time for me and it was er, a scary place. The world was a scary place to be in.
That doesn’t sound nice.
Yeah. And er… also I um, remember in my teenage years, I didn’t develop a connection because in a way I was a bit angry with God.
Yes. Because my, my father passed away and um, I didn’t understand, you know, a healthy man, 35 years old that suddenly just… yeah, has a brain haemorrhage and dies.
Er, so for me that was a shock.
Er, I thought “That’s not fair.”
How old were you then [Wahada]?
I was 14.
Yeah. So for me, that was like, if there was a God out there, that my mother says there’s a God out there…
… why’s he doing this to me? Yeah. Why is he taking my father?
Mm. And at that time you were purely doing what your mum was expecting you to do in terms of your religion.
Yeah, yeah. But I, I really appreciate what she did…
… because I think that if she didn’t push us to do these ritualistic acts, I wouldn’t have been at the same place I am at now. So I think it’s as a result… she made us walk towards God.
Yeah. Because if, if we didn’t do that, I think the connection would’ve been lost.
So I guess to start off with then you had the ritual thing. You know, kind of your mum telling you that this is what you need to do.
But it was only when you had your first child, you really felt that connection.
Because you talked about worrying a little bit about the baby when you were…
And how things will be…
… being a young mother…
… having to look after her. Er, only being 21 and…
Yeah, all of that. So quite a scary place to be in.
So it sounds like you had some good tools there to sort of manage, manage that worry.
Yeah. Yeah. So it really was… yeah. Really able to sort of ground yourself and to, you know, also look at yourself as well, you know.
Wow, that’s interesting. Tell me more about that.
Yeah, because I think that… you know, these people that are doing these ritualistic acts…
… find that spirituality links in with the self as well.
Yeah, and finding yourself and I think with my teenage training and therapy.
I, I learnt so much more about myself and as a result I find that my connection with God has just deepened at an even higher level now.
Wow, that’s fascinating. Tell me more.
So what’s that like?
It, it’s amazing. It’s like… there is just, it’s like nothing bothers me.
That’s how deep my connection with God is now.
You know normally if you have a bad day and you let… how I can describe is like there’s absolutely no negativity in me at all. I just don’t feel any negative emotion.
It’s all about it’ll come to me. Let’s say I feel angry and then whoosh, it’s gone. You know.
It’s about being social and so, you know, so contented with yourself or with your life, despite the difficulties.
So that’s how I describe the even stronger connection.
Yeah. I mean I don’t want to put words in your mouth but would you say that your sense of self has developed through TA and that’s then helped you strengthen your relationship with your spirituality?
Because I don’t want to sort of lead you in any way but…
No, no, no. That’s exactly it. Yeah.
So it’s like… it’s a question that I can pose. I mean do people achieve that spiritual state when they get to know themselves? Because…
Very good question. Very good question.
Yeah, because God is inside me. So if I don’t know myself, how am I going to know God?
Yeah, so I, I, I feel that I’ve gotten to know God even more because I’ve gotten to know myself.
And you’re… when you talk about yourself, what do you mean, in terms of… how… do you mean your feelings, your emotions, your thoughts? You know, what, what, what goes on for you when you talk about yourself?
Well it’s like…
Or learning about yourself.
… if we look at it in TA terms…
… it was like, for me it was like, that higher level is “I’m okay, you’re okay.”
Yes. Life positions.
And… in my religion, er, we see um, here like anger, jealousy, all these emotions as negative emotions.
And we believe that they blacken the heart and God says that “to be free and to develop a link with me, you have to learn to have that control over your emotions and to be free of the negativity.”
Because how can you have a positive life if you’re going to have a negative mind.
Yeah. So I feel that this connection gives me that, that, you know, viewing life in a positive way.
Yeah. If I didn’t have this connection it’d be so easy to be down and depressed and anxious and worried and, you know, in this state, just nothing matters. It’s like I’m okay, you’re okay. And even if someone treats you badly, you know, it’s like so what. Yeah. I know that I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do which is be good or a human being because there’s God in all of us.
Mm. And the sense I’m getting from you is, is actually about sort of… [pause] is being with it and learning how it is, the internally isn’t it?
And what I’m getting from you is a still… you used the word still but the sense I’m getting from you is that sort of stillness.
Yeah. It is.
It’s like you’re frozen in this state.
Yeah. And it’s, it’s a level which… I think it’s higher than even… I don’t know, sleep.
Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s a level that’s higher than that.
And, and I know that because I’ve had quite sort of religious dreams as well.
Well, tell me about those.
Yeah. There was a time when I um, I’ve, I’ve just been diagnosed with this illness and my health has actually…
And um… I’ve been really worried and quite, you know, I was praying and doing all of that but I had that worry.
And I had a dream that I was driving in an open top car…
… and my daughter was actually with me. The one that’s, the one that’s sort of… who I get a sense of calm when I’m around her.
My eldest, my eldest is quite boisterous. Quite…
… sort of hysterical and quite, quite a drama.
But she’s really calm. She has a calming effect on me.
So she was in the passenger seat with me. I was actually driving. And it was like a long, windy road and there were sort of trees, but it was a very, very sort of… as I was dreaming it was like a, a dark picture. It was grey and black. Very, very gloomy.
And I’m driving along and it’s like I don’t know where I’m going. I’m just driving, just driving. I’ve got her with me. And… I’m really worried, and then all of a sudden I um… this dream I actually had er, the night before. I actually remember actually sobbing my eyes out and saying “You know God, I’m at my…” I was in my lowest of the low. Really low. I mean I can’t describe it.
Oh. I’m really sorry to hear that, yeah.
Yeah. I, I didn’t know whether I would be around to see my youngest daughter um, go to school. These were the thoughts that were…
… going in my head. I don’t know where my health is going to go. Whether I’ll see my eldest getting married. Whether I will see grandchildren.
You know, that’s how… these were the thoughts that were going in my head as I was having, er, when I was given this diagnosis.
And um, er, you know, I didn’t know I was going to be…
Yeah. Could you say what the diagnosis is?
Er, yeah, yeah. It’s er, systemic scleroderma.
Yeah, and er, doctors don’t know exactly where it’s going to go.
Yeah, and like suddenly mainly my body parts are affected.
Yeah. So… so I was devastated with that.
I’m… I can clearly see that, yeah.
And then I really, really was in the lowest of the low. I was in a very black place. Yeah, where I felt like, I felt suffocated. Where I couldn’t breathe, and then when I went into my prayer I just cried my eyes out and begged God for help. Then that night I had this dream and then…
And as I was driving along and it’s all dark, it’s all grey and it was cloudy and there was storm, and then as we were driving, all of a sudden the sky kind of opened up, and a bit of light shone down onto the car and then all of sudden this huge hand came from the sky and lifted me up and took me up and I woke up.
Wow. I… that is just so amazing. That’s just… I just felt a massive sensation myself.
Yeah. And I… how I describe that when I woke up was as if God took me in their hands and is saying “Look, I’m here for you,” and I was so emotional after that.
I can imagine. I feel emotional listening to you.
Yeah. It really was as if… and, and the whole scene changed, you know. The, the trees became brown. The trunks, as I was going up, I could see the trees started, the trunks started going brown and the leaves started becoming green and the sky started to turn blue, and the car changed colour and er, and I was just looking around and um, I was being taken up. Yeah. Almost like the hand of God. Almost like God sort of holding my hand, you know, and saying “I’m alongside you and I will walk with you. Take you with me,” you know. I’m with you one hundred percent, don’t worry, everything is going to be okay.” And it’s after that moment that I… feel that my connection was… by far the best that it will ever be. And my whole life has just changed after that moment. This was actually a year ago.
I remember a year ago, and I’m just… totally different person after that.
[Wahada] are you okay to carry on or do you want to have a break or anything?
Are you sure?
Okay. Because I, I really appreciate that you’re sharing some sensitive stuff, information and I just want to make sure that you’re okay.
No, I’m alright thank you.
Yeah, yeah. And yeah, and there I feel that, yeah, God is in me, God is with me, God is around me.
Um… I’m deeply spiritual.
[Pause] Wow. So… so it seems to be when, when you’re in need of something or when you’re feeling, I mean the diagnosis that you’ve had, um, you know, has been quite distressful for you as, as you said, when you got the diagnosis you were worrying about your daughter and what might happen and, you know, er, and then you turned to your prayer… and that’s, and you said and that was another moment. That was a moment where your, that spirituality which you define as a connection with God…
… heightened even further.
Yeah. Even further.
And how is for you on a daily basis then, now?
On a daily basis, I mean, it’s part of our religion where we, we say a little prayer before we eat, before we get in the car, before we, you know, so it’s almost as if we are having, I was having a conversation with God every day. Every moment of the day it’s like there’s this connection. Little things that my mother has put in place. You know, you have to say your prayer before you eat, before you go out the house. Then there’s a prayer for looking in the mirror. There’s a prayer for er, putting your clothes on, taking them off, going into the bathroom…
So how does that all resonate with you then? The, the different prayers that you need to do? How does that, how is that for you then? How do you…
It was a chore before. I thought “Ooh do I have to,” then, you know, I, I, I’ve told my children the prayers, you know. I sort of… they’re all, sort of, from the age of two, three, they were taught these prayers, but I’m hoping that they’ll get that link… when they find themselves.
Because okay, you can push religion down your children’s throats, but it’s, this spirituality, this connection, it’s between that individual and God. It’s not something that, that, you know, parents can force.
And there are some who, who does these acts but they’re not connected.
So what do you think religion is then?
Religion is just practising these rituals.
Yeah, these acts of worship. But spirituality is that connection.
Yeah. And whether people know the difference between the two or what, I don’t know.
Well. I don’t know. You tell me. What do you think?
I , I think that there is a difference and I think that if you put two people in a difficult situation, the one without spirituality will definitely go downhill. That’s my belief. They’ll become depressed. They might even become suicidal. Yeah. I, I think that this is an area that, that us as therapists need to sort of look at, you know, and address and help client that haven’t got er, this… I think it’s a part of our development. You know, it’s a part of our self.
And it’s something that clients need to sort of look at and maybe something that we can sort of nurture and help them find that path. Yeah. That’s, that’s something that I would like to think about in my practice.
Very much so, because I see the benefit of having this connection.
Right. So how would that work for you then? Using it with clients? What would that mean for you?
It’d be great because, you know, I hope with work with Muslim clients as well. Er, there, you know, there may be some who are angry with god.
Angry with God?
You know, a difficult situation their in and then look at that and sort of, you know… share my experiences and…
Mm. So it sounds like you, you’ve benefited a lot from… the connection that you’ve described.
Do you want to say more about that, because there’s a connection that I’m really, really interested in?
I think I’m still going because of this connection.
You know, it…
Still going in terms of…
Give me hope.
Yeah. Gives you hope?
With this life… and er, to carry on basically.
Despite all the hardships. Sometimes it so easy to just sit back and just give up, saying “You know what, I don’t want any more of this,” but I think you have to be in a really, really deep sort of, and you have to be in a deep despair to find God, and I think God is there because he’s saying “You know what, I’m here for you.” That’s why [inaudible-38:15] people find God when they’re in that rock bottom and they’re drowning and they’ve hit rock bottom. That’s how it was for me.
That’s how it was for you?
Mm. Sounds like you already have the, the sort of um… the build-up to it…
… as if to say…
… um, you know in terms of…
But we, you know, like having children and a busy household…
Of course, yeah.
… mine is sort of, the time I had, it almost felt like God was sort of drifting away from me. That’s how I felt. So in my life there has been moments up and down where it felt like God is really far and I can’t reach that, you know that higher state that I talked about earlier?
What does that do to the… what does that do to the connection that we talk about then? That you and I have talked about.
Yeah. I think the connection’s still there but it became quite, almost like you’re holding um… a kite.
Yeah. So you’re holding the string and the kite is all the way out there and you can barely see it. That’s how far you’ve let it go. So I think the connection is up to the individual, just how much they’re willing to pull the, you know, the kite string down, down, down until finally you get the beautiful, you know, the kite.
And it’s so big, it’s so beautiful.
So it’s up to the individual how much work they put into finding God. Just some people waiting for that thing missing in their life, searching for something. It doesn’t come to you. You’ve got to learn by yourself. You’ve got to know yourself. You’ve got to know the world around you. You’ve got to connect with people. That’s the most important thing for me, is this connection with people, because I believe God is in all of them…
… and if you connect with people and you, you give out this positivity, they will warm to you.
You’re connecting with God at a difficult level there…
… through other people.
Mm. Wow. I, I, I just find what you’re telling me so interesting. It really is. And… I’m hearing you say that… for you it’s when, you were at rock bottom is when you really found that…
… higher self.
[Pause] Yeah. I, I think, okay, I have the connection… um… but it’s like that kite, it’s far.
But it’s only when you hit rock bottom that you learn about yourself and that’s where God really just stands up before you.
Mm. Almost like a coping mechanism isn’t it?
Would you say?
I would, yeah. But I, I… I think other people probably see it as a coping mechanism, but for me it’s… it’s knowing that there’s something out there. It’s this entity. He exists. I have a belief. I trust in him. And er, I know he’s there and I, I hope to able to see him one day. Yeah. And I know that, you know, he loves me.
And that’s what helps you carry on.
Yeah. Yeah. Because you see it’s, it’s the little signs that you get in your life, that, that shows you that God does love you, and then I see these signs, you know.
Yeah. Like the tree…
Yeah, yeah. That’s amazing, that.
Sometimes I’m deciding on something and should I go this way or should I go that way and then I get a thought in my head, “Go this way,” and I’ll go that way and it proves to be good for me in…
So you, so you almost like get direction from it?
Absolutely, yeah. And I call it inspiration. I call it divine inspiration.
That’s how it feels.
Yeah. It really does. I feel like that and I feel, I feel blessed, I feel really happy, I feel lucky to be in this state, you know, and I, I would love for everybody to be in this state. It’s an amazing state to be in.
The connection that you have with God.
That is an entity.
Yeah. And I find that it’s the same God but different religions are doing their different acts of worship and there are different ways of doing it, but it’s all going to the same God, that’s my view. Yeah.
So all going to the same God?
Yeah. The same one God.
So you believe there’s…
The same creation but everyone has different ways of connecting with him.
Do you think that’s about…
Yeah. Er, and I think this is where culture comes into it, and different religions come into it. If you’re looking at spirituality, that’s connection.
Yeah. And every religion and every, you know, they, they all have this connection.
So people have…
To reach that state of connection they have different means, you know. I mean for us, we, we have… it’s a requirement that we go and do the pilgrimage.
And that’s, that’s the Quba, the…
Is that at least once, once in a lifetime is that?
Yeah. This is what I hear…
Well Hajj is once in a lifetime.
Oh right, okay.
And then you can do smaller pilgrimages…
… and er, I was very fortunate enough to do that.
Yeah. And it was an amazing experience. It really was.
What was it like?
I, I would describe it as a cleansing experience.
Yeah. So it’s as if every little sin that you have committed in your life has just been washed away when you go there.
By going to the pilgrimage?
Going to God’s house. This is like God’s house. So we believe that by er, circulating yourself round, we have to go round it seven times and say prayers.
Yeah, because there’s a stone there that’s from Heaven, and if you can, you have to touch it.
Yeah. And er, footprints of er, prophet Abraham er, there, because he built this, um, Quba. He built it with his son.
With his son?
Yeah. And er, it is a… and this is why when we pray you’re praying in that direction, in the direction of the Quba.
Yeah, yeah. And we believe that the real house is, God’s house is in the heavens and it’s directly, you know, above this house that God made on Earth for us. That God inspired Abraham to build. Er, because it’s got the stone of Heaven there and people go, and because it was white when it first got put down, and people have touched it and because of their sins it’s black.
And it’s turned, changed colour.
Gosh. So would you say that [Wahada] that… religion… would you say then that religion is um… related to your spirituality, because without that would you be spiritual?
It certainly helped. It sort of paved the way for it.
So it… I mean it’s like some people don’t have any religion.
But they say that they are spiritual people.
Yeah. So I think that they’ve just found a way of connecting. It’s all about connection.
Yeah. That’s what it is. You don’t need a religion. You don’t need culture. This is a personal thing between yourself and God.
Yeah. So people are not religious but they are spiritual.
Yeah, because they’ve achieved that, that… it’s the highest state.
Yeah. Spirituality is a higher state of being isn’t it?
Yeah, and, and I guess from yourself, it’s… your mother sort of paved that way…
… for you.
Yeah, it’s like you have to do it.
So it was the Islamic way.
It’s like, you know, you’ll be sinning if you didn’t do these things.
Er, you have to, you know, thank God for the food and the roof over their head.
You have to be grateful. So it, it was just something that we did because it’s like, you know, you have to do it.
Yeah. And then in your time of need…
… is where you really felt that sort of… you use the word connection…
… but connection with God?
And I suppose with other religions, they have different, other means of getting in…
… to that, to that connection with God.
A connection, yeah.
And your definition of God was an entity.
Do you want to say anything more about that, about your definition of God or…
I, I just… I’m so curious as to what he looks like. Yeah.
And you say he, you use he a lot.
Er, I don’t know whether that’s from my history and that’s what we’ve been brought up… and it’s, and it’s mentioned in our holy book as well that it’s a he. What he looks like and er, how he sounds and… you know, we just don’t know. We just are told that it’s like a beautiful light. You know, his beauty is… there’s like the warmth, you know like when you’re sort of, er, by a window and if you’ve got a sofa by your window side and the sun is shining. That sort of warm feeling against your cheek.
That kind of feeling, I, I would describe this connection as, but how he looks, I’m curious about it but I, I just can’t comprehend it.
So it’s that feeling that is… how you describe the connection, did you say?
Yeah. It’s like a very warm sort of a feeling. You know, it’s like… touching my cheek now, it’s quite warm. Yeah, that’s how it feels. You know, like when you, when you, when you’re in connection and it’s kind of a, a glow that fills you from the inside, from your heart. And…
What’s the glow like?
The glow is like a… warm, red sort of sensation in the body.
Warm, red sensation?
Yeah. And it has a sense of peace about it. Yeah. And you know you’re going to be okay, when you get that. And that’s when I feel that I’ve got that connection.
That is… I’m so, so fascinated by that.
And do you get that every time you do your prayers?
That’s the thing, no. No. I think that it, it’s like that moment when you’re in your…
… lowest of the low. Yeah. So now it’s like sometimes I, I sort of, I’m in my own thoughts and I have a little laugh and it’s like “God?” Through any difficulty in my life, it means that I get to connect with you in that way, I’ll do it, you know. So nothing bothers me now. Yeah, I take everything in my stride and I, I just say “Thank you God. I am living,” you know. I am breathing. I have sight. You know… all of that, it could be taken away from me. I have so much to be grateful for.
Purely through this connection with, with God.
That is… very much an internal…
… thing isn’t it?
It’s, it’s an internal, personal thing. Um, whether it’s in the heart or you could say it’s, is it linked to the mind? Is it… is it, I feel it’s sort of… there’s a link between the two. I feel like it’s the heart and the mind.
But then I start thinking that those two things form a part of what I would describe as a soul.
Yeah. Tell me more.
Yeah. That is something I think, when we, when we talked about before about religion and spirituality and there are people who are practising these acts of…
Sure, sure, yeah.
… worship and are they spiritual, and I said no, they’re walking round like they’re sleep-walking.
But my belief is that that’s because… everybody has a soul and it’s the soul that I, I believe the soul is kind of taken out and that’s the thing that God created to put inside the body because the body is like a vessel, carrying the soul.
So what people are not doing… to get the link with God you’ve got to feed your soul. So what’s happening is that there’s these starving souls and people are wondering why is there not this connection with God.
And what did you describe the soul as?
The soul, I would describe it as… there’s a link with the heart, and I would describe it as it’s connected to that higher level of mind. So it’s a, it’s a highest level of consciousness I believe.
So your soul is your heart and the connection it has with your higher level of consciousness.
Yeah. And it’s these good deeds that you do. Like if you’re kind to people, we believe that smiling is a charity. Yeah. It’s the sayings of our prophet. Um… these are the things that are going to feed the soul, you know.
I… my religion teaches me to have control. So not to be excessive. Not to spend excessively. Er…
… you know, not, not to drink because we believe it’ll affect that higher level of consciousness. You won’t be able to reach it if you’re drinking. You know…
Drinking. Can we just clarify what you mean?
Yeah, alcohol. Er, you know, smoking, we believe that that’s going to… if you’re damaging your, the vessel that the soul is in, you know like if you’re starving yourself…
Yes. I understand what you’re saying, yeah.
Because the soul is going to develop, so I’m wondering whether… you know, the thought’s just come to my head, whether the soul is the self.
I don’t know, what do you think?
Yeah. I’m just thinking whether the soul is the self that people just haven’t reached out and sort of like found.
I just find… I’m smiling, I know, I’m just really, really interesting in what you’re saying and I feel impacted as well, because I have a huge interest in spirituality and I really want to learn about your experience of it.
Yeah, yeah. That’s how I see it. Er, I am feeding my soul.
Which is my heart. That’s where I would, I would see the red colour that I talked about before, and um… it’s the thing that keeps the soul going and then the soul is connected with the mind.
And what does the red colour feel like? Is it…
It’s like um, you know like I said, like a wave of peace.
Wave of peace.
Yeah. And um, it…
Wow, that sounds amazing.
Yeah. And, you know like you have, you plant a seed, God planted the soul inside us. You have to portray, you have to feel it, to make it become a beautiful tree that’s bearing fruit.
So I, I believe that this soul, if you’re, if you’re not feeding it with these acts of worship or with these good deeds, it’s not going to bear good fruit.
And that I, I see it as, you know, the fruit, I see it as energy, and… you know, it would just be negativity. You would just surround yourself with negativity. Yeah, because it’s not fed.
Yeah. So you’re going to feel all these harsh emotions that are so negative and they’ll impact your body.
Yeah. Anger, that’s a big one.
Yeah. [Pause] Yeah. So it is about sort of getting rid of the, that negativity is what, is what I’m getting from you.
You know, to get that peace.
And the connection helps. It’s only… if you sort of look at yourself, and TA’s helped me do that.
Yeah, you know, like look at yourself and why is it that I… am seeing thing this way, you know, the ego states and everything. You know, what ego state am I in when I’m responding to so and so? I’ve learnt so much about myself.
And I know why I do certain things.
Mm. How… I’m just conscious that we’ve got five minutes left, but very quickly, how does that… the knowledge that you have about Transactional Analysis, TA, how does that then relate to your spirituality?
I think it’s… helped me tap into a part of my soul that I wasn’t aware of before. So I got a greater understanding of myself.
And as a result I’m understanding myself better. I’m strengthening my link with god and knowing god better.
I mean TA, we’ve both been training together. We know TA is a theory of personality. So and use the parent, adult and child don’t we, so I guess hearing from you that you know what’s in your parent ego state, you know what’s in your child and the adult is the rational sort of thinking. So when you’re in situations you can sort of like, you’re aware of where you are is what I’m getting from you, and that’s strengthened your connection with God.
And out of curiosity, I would like… it’s a… food for thought as to what ego state I’m in when I’m in this connection. I’ve yet to reflect on that.
Yeah. So that’s something that I’m really, really interested in.
What ego state are you in when you are…
Connected with God.
When you’re connected with God? [Pause] Would you, you know when you’re doing your um, rituals, how would you define that? Would you say they’re um…
You come out of your body. It’s an out of body experience.
And it is… you’re, you’re sort of connecting with that higher state. That’s how I would describe it.
But what I was meaning was would you say it’s your sort of er… time that you sort of, it’s prayers isn’t it I guess? Yeah, yeah.
You’re asking God.
You’re telling God. You’re talking to God.
So what I was thinking about [Wahada] was when you, what you said was… how your prayers, what ego state are you in when you’re praying and you’re in that state?
State, yes. Yeah. I have yet to reflect on that. Yeah. It’s just the thought came to me. “Oh I wonder what ego state I’m in when I’m in, actually in that state?” Yeah.
You’re meditating really.
Yeah, yeah. So everybody is doing it. They’re connecting, but there’s different means of doing it.
Yeah. And trying to achieve that higher level of…
… consciousness, connection… and happiness.
And being at peace with yourself. Heart and soul.
Yeah. That’s brought us very nicely to the end of our interview. Is there anything else you want to say [Wahada]? Is there anything…
I mean I’ve found this… I, I really got a lot from this interview. I mean I, I… it wasn’t in my awareness about the ego state and…
So that’s something that I’m really looking forward to reflecting on more.
Er, yeah, you’ve made me look back as to how I’ve kind of developed as a person really.
Yeah. Mm. And I’ve been really, really interested in, in what spirituality means for you.
Yeah, yeah. Thank you.
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