What does it mean to live a secular yet spiritual life? In her new book, My Year of Living Spiritually, long-time Broadview contributor Anne Bokma dives into this question. After leaving the authoritarian Christian denomination of her youth, she finds herself adrift at mid-life, alienated from her religious family and struggling for a sense of larger purpose.
She sets out on a year-long quest to experience a variety of spiritual practices to live a more soulful life, a year she also documented in a monthly blog for this publication. The resulting insights are mixed, although Bokma writes with skill, self-perception and frequent flashes of humour about the journey.
Bokma’s book is most rewarding when it conceives of spirituality as a collective enterprise that connects us to something larger than ourselves. Her chapters on joining a choir, attending the Women’s March and reconnecting with her mother show how tending to our relationships and working for justice are essential aspects of the spiritual quest.
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Less satisfying are chapters where Bokma describes spirituality in terms of personal wellness and uplift. Her experimentations with floatation tanks, magic mushrooms and seeing a psychic, for instance, focus almost solely on inward-looking individual self-care.
Bokma writes poignantly about how narrow, even harsh, expressions of religion can leave lasting scars and give rise to spiritual but not religious leanings. Although I was left wondering if religion and spirituality are as dichotomous as Bokma suggests, her exploration — even while individualistic in places — is a welcome example of how sharing the stories of our imperfect searching can be an illuminating spiritual practice in its own right.
Anne appeared on Global News’ The Morning Show to talk about her book. Watch the clip below:
This story first appeared in the December 2019 issue of Broadview with the title “Sacred dabbling.”
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