If you are a person who lives outside the country you were raised and feel at a spiritual level something does not completely make sense, I dedicate this article especially to you. This article’s inspiration came from my own journey as a person living abroad for over 5 years.
I left my home country, Romania, 5 years ago to move to London, UK, at a time of personal changes and looking for new career and business opportunities. Despite enjoying my new life in the amazing multicultural London, and dedicating a good part of my spiritual practice to new learnings and assimilating new ideas especially from the culture I now live in, I realised, at some point, that a big part of my personal identity has slowly dissipated.
Spiritual and Identity Challenges I feel living abroad ( and maybe you do too)
I first forgot my own traditional holidays, as here no-one would celebrate them. For example, we have a beautiful tradition to celebrate so-called The Name Day – which is a celebration similar to a birthday but marks the day associated with the name. It is a beautiful reason to celebrate family members and colleagues during the year and an extra party, good wishes and gifts are always a lovely thing to do.
Then, I started to use less my own mother tongue. Everything I’d read or write it would be in English. Despite speaking Romanian at home I started to exclusively use English for absolutely everything else: learning new information, integrating new spiritual teaching and even journalling. I realised after a while that this had already had a huge impact on my own identity.
Many times I found myself having to translate for example spiritual terms or concepts, and many times I wouldn’t be sure how to best express my ideas in my own mother tongue, because my main communication language is now English.
As much as I like trying new international and many times quick modern dishes, I noticed that over time I cooked less and less the food I grew-up with. Some foods I almost forgotten they existed. You may ask what has food to do with spirituality? Believe me, it does. The food we use to nourish our body is a gift. If you look at human existence most of it gravitates around food. Food is used in ritual, in celebration, honouring different holidays, and of course to assure our own survival. I felt that forgetting the food I grew-up with it had a lot to do me forgetting who I was.
5 Ways to ground your spiritual practice as a person living abroad
1. Folk holidays and customs you grew-up with
In the modern earth-based spiritual practices you’ll hear more and more about the 8 holidays of the Wheel of the Year. If you did not grow up with any holidays at all, celebrating the Sabbats might be a beautiful idea to start a spiritual practice. But at the same time, I’d strongly suggest you to look at your own native folk customs and holidays that are celebrated throughout the year around the same dates. Most of the pagan holidays have equivalents in all cultures, you’ll be surprised to discover so much richness in your own culture.
What I like to do is to celebrate each of the holidays such as Autumn Equinox, Samhain, Yule, Beltane but I also look at what is celebrated in my own culture. Sometimes these holidays simply help me remember what I once used to celebrate, or even discover more about my own native culture and understand it better in a multicultural context.
For example, I still prefer to celebrate Christmas because this is something I strongly relate to and I grew-up with. Why should I let-go of Christmas and switch to Yule in this case?
Actually, the time of Winter Solstice is celebrated in many cultures along with Christmas and a beautiful way to connect with your own authentic spirituality is to learn how did people in your country of origin used to celebrate it?
2. Use more your native language
If you live abroad like I am, you know at some point you’ll use your mother tongue less and less. But I learned that connecting with your own native language represents a deeper connection with your own spirit. Your native language is the language you learned the first information about life. The patterns imprinted in your unconscious are so deep and nothing can remove them. Once you stop using your own native language a part of the information from your unconscious becomes less used and mostly forgotten.
If you live abroad and use the language of adoptive country most of the time, give yourself permission to write once a day a couple of sentences in your mother tongue in your journal. Ideally you can do the entire journalling process in our own language. This will help you reconnect with parts of yourself you disconnected from. It helps you remember the fluidity and beauty of your language and it will help you profoundly rewire your brain for healing and comfort.
This is even easier – try to read something every day that is written your native language. It can be a blog or website that you like, or a piece of literature. It will help you regain your fluency and richness of expression. If you like to read a lot of spiritual information, then ideally is to find a blog or read spiritual books written in your mother tongue. This way it would be much easier for you to integrate the teachings, concepts and ideas at a personal, deeper level.
3. Cooking your native food
You don’t have to cook complicated dishes all the time to trigger those identity memories in yourself, but cooking is a great way to bring closer the memories of who you are and what you used to enjoy. Sometimes very simple foods that perhaps were basic day-to-day dishes can have a big comforting and grounding effect. For example, to me, these are very simple things like specific fermented vegetables, polenta, or adding sour-cream to some foods.
If you don’t have many ideas, simply ask yourself: What dishes did I enjoy as a child? What was the most common dish my family used to have for dinner? What is one spice or herb I used to consume in my country and I now forgot about?
4. Scent, Symbols, Objects
Scent, symbols and objects are an essential part of the spiritual ritual and connection to the sacred. To connect more with those forgotten parts of yourself, try to remember:
- What specific scent creates comfort for you?
- What native symbols, folk patterns, colours, animals are close to your soul and you wish to integrate into your life?
- What sacred figures and representations of the divine speak more to you, what is familiar and comfortable?
Remember: you don’t have to work hard to assimilate new symbols, images, deities to create a spiritual practice that is authentic. Most of the times those symbols and archetypes are already imprinted in your subconscious and all you need to do is to let them speak again to you. Perhaps in your childhood you really felt connected to fairies, or heroes, or the Greek Gods, or Mother Mary, or certain plants or other representations of Spirit. Look within yourself and you’ll find that all you need is already within.
5. The sacred native land
One of the biggest losses I suffered since I left my native country is the land, the mountains, the seaside, the wild woods and deep rivers, the morning mist and mysteries of Nature. As I rarely go back to my country these days, and when I do it is always more about meeting people than places, I realised that this was not enough. I feel deeply in my heart, bones and soul, the longing to connect with my native land. To spend time in nature in places I am familiar with. I always saw nature as the temple of the divine, the supreme embodiment of what the creative forces of the Universe can bring into our world. Yes, I see nature as sacred and I long to walk my native land. To heal, to ground, to remember.
My suggestion for you if you feel the same, is that next time when you go to visit your family or friends in your native country, keep a couple of days just for you, so you can visit dear places too. Perhaps you have a favourite tree in a park, a lake or a river, a place to hike in, or your favourite beach. Take it as a sacred gift and a spiritual experience and just visit that place, to connect and remember.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about how do you feel spiritually at this time especially if you live outside your home country ( or even outside your home town). And let me know in the comments if you’re missing any places, foods, and folk customs.
Until next time,