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ISSUE 116 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/20/2002

Cultivating the spiritual self

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 20, 2002

St. Olaf is not only an institution of academics, but also a community that encompasses the importance and relevance of spirituality. Spirituality has various meanings. Often times it is equated with religion, but spirituality takes on a greater form; it encapsulates the whole self. Religion is a ritualistic method of how one worships a greater entity or philosophical approach, while spirituality focuses on the soul as well as how one presents himself or herself as a person. Ones gifts are components of one's whole being. A traditional college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America is just one component of the St. Olaf community. Its students, however, contribute their gifts, enabling the college to be complete. All major world religions including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism are represented on campus. Each offers many different perspectives and belief systems. Spirituality is personal and means something different to every individual. To bring the spiritual community of St. Olaf together, support groups and places of fellowship exist that offer alternative methods of worship. Bible study groups, gospel choir, and religious organizations on campus are a few examples of these spiritual gatherings. "The gospel choir connects me with God in a joyful and praise-filled way," said senior Rachel Lyle. Lyle enjoys fellowship with a group, whereas some people, like first-year Jeff Robertson, get in touch with their spirituality on an individual basis. "I develop my spiritual self through listening to gospel music on my own," said Robertson. Word of the Day (WOTD) offers commentary via e-mail correspondence on different interpretations of bible passages. WOTD contributor junior Julie Kelto said, "I devote time to God by looking for His work in my daily life and by being grateful and attentive to His will." "Spirituality refers to being in touch or having a connection with something that is larger than you," said Junior Counselor Antonia Dempsey. She added, "prayer and reflection, giving thanks, seeking meaning, and being appreciative through recognizing blessings around you all come together in making that connection." Others, like Dean LaRue Pierce and junior Monique Galvan, connect through reading the Bible. "In the sense of being spiritual, my denomination is non-denominational," said Pierce. "We should focus on the connection inward and upward," replied Dempsey. St. Olaf has a predominantly Christian population, yet there are still many students of different religions beleifs with different spiritual responses. Junior Tashi Chomzom, who is native to Thailand, follows Tibetan Buddhist faith. "I read my prayer books and try to develop an understanding and follow the teachings. The most important to me are acts of kindness and helping others," she said. Senior Mohammed Mohammed explains the fasting ritual associated with Ramadan in the Muslim faith that constitutes an underlying meaning of what it means to be spiritual. "Fasting enhances my faith and increases strength among weaknesses," said Mohammed. Others like Saroeun Earm see spirituality in a sense of everyday instances such as "laughing or taking a shower." Some people find spirituality in everyday experiences such as finding a quiet place to read a book or meditating in silence. "Your personality or spirit makes you who you are," added Admissions Counselor Justin Fleming. There is a reason why we are individuals who have characterized qualities and our spirituality celebrates these things about us. "Faith makes us people," said Mohammed. As St. Olaf continues to address taking care of the whole self through mind (academics), body (the construction of Tostrud), and spirit (college of the Church), the main focus is that these should all be connected and should have equal concentration towards the betterment of the whole you.

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