Tips for the Teenage Spiritual Seeker
A guide for those exploring other faith traditions.
BY: Paul Raushenbush
Excerpted with permission from "Teen Spirit: One World, Many Paths" by Paul Raushenbush.
While it may seem like a contradiction, traditional religions are a great source for the spiritual seeker. Even if you're not planning on going through a formal initiation into a religion, learning about any faith can be a valuable part of your own search. Religions endure over time because they have provided answers for millions (even billions) of people. Religions offer their particular wisdom as the ultimate truth about the nature of life and the afterlife, answers about the existence of a higher power and how we might relate to that power, and guidelines for how to live our lives as individuals and as communities. Religions, in short, are interesting. Investigate a religion with an open mind, and be prepared for it to inspire your own spiritual discipline.
Spiritual Activity #1: How about your friends?
Ask friends or acquaintances about their particular religious experience or belief. Steer them away from the "official line" on their religion. Instead, guide the conversation to their personal experience, which can be more informative and interesting and could even provide the basis for a stronger bond between you and your friends. Some examples of questions to ask are: How has your religion made your life better? How did you begin to follow your religion? Have there been any moments in your religious life that really stand out? How does religion make you feel about yourself and about other people? What is your personal experience of God? You may wish to get five friends together and ask these questions of each other. Religion is very personal and important, so don't ridicule or judge each other. It is okay to disagree about matters of religion-just remember the golden rule of treating other people as you would like to be treated yourself.
Spiritual Activity #2: Check 'em out!
Investigate the rituals of a religion that interests you. Find out how often they worship and what participants are feeling when they go through their prayer or meditation. Learn how their community is formed and strengthened by their common devotion. Examine your own life in light of this knowledge. How often are you praying or participating in a spiritual ritual? How do you feel while you are engaged in religious devotion and afterward?
Spiritual Activity #3: What do they believe?
Research how different religions approach spirituality. Each religion has answers to the ultimate questions of life. You will gain wisdom by asking specific questions of any given religious tradition. Some examples of questions are: What does this religion believe about the existence of God or a higher power? What are human obligations in relation to this higher power? What are the creation stories of this religion that explain the makeup of the universe? What is the ultimate goal for each person within this religion?