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What is Spirituality to me in 2023? – Maria Dimopoulos

I am founding committee member of Spiritual Health Lived Experience Advisory Committee (SHLEAC)  who came together in June 2021.

My belief in spirituality involves the recognition of a feeling or sense or belief that there is something greater than myself, something more to being human. Spirituality means knowing that we are a significant part of life.

I have always been a spiritual being and it has provided me with a purposeful life. I was raised in the Greek Orthodox tradition, and as my late father used to say to us ‘Catholic, Greek Orthodox, all the same!’ My two brothers and I were taught the Catholic religion at primary school but most of our lives Greek Orthodox was traditional practice embedded in our family life.

Ten years ago, when in a bookstore I came across a book of Buddha’s Principles. I did not know much about Buddhism but was curious enough to purchase it. Buddhism spirituality is an indefinable desire to reach beyond the limits of ordinary human existence that is achieved by the discovery of higher values in ourselves and to live them consistently in our relationships and roles.

For me, spirituality involves exploring certain universal themes – love, compassion, life after death, wisdom, truth, and saints or beings that have achieved enlightenment such as the Buddha. The principles have taught me to ‘live a day at a time’, ‘moment by moment’, and to share these and other positive teachings with others.

I joined SHLEAC because I wanted to get involved in a like-minded group that I personally related to, and to cultivate ideas around our experiences of spirituality. Discovering the work of Spiritual Health Association and SHLEAC has provided me with opportunities to positively enhance my state of spirituality. I experience secure self-esteem, self-worth and an increased capacity for love and generosity with an open heart.

I have had a bipolar diagnosis since 1988. This condition contributes to feelings of unworthiness, depression, guilt, and shame whilst struggling with a label that is stigmatising. I have come to see that spirituality is taken up by a person in their own time and this inevitably reflects their own level of development and maturity.

Recently in the span of two weeks, I attended the funerals of a close Auntie and Uncle. It was a difficult time for me as they were very close to my heart. I spent a week and a half visiting my Auntie in hospital and using that time to say goodbye to her, as I did at both funerals. The Greek Orthodox priest read her last rights. Spirituality can provide a source of meaning for us all. I am thankful for my Catholic, Greek Orthodox upbringing and Buddhist beliefs. I felt comfort in knowing they both have left this earth to go to a better place. In the aftermath I was left to question my own inevitable immortality.

I consider that spirituality is what helps in both good and bad life events. It brings us together as human beings and reminds us that however challenging and whatever the situation we experience in life, we can overcome it.