Smalls Talk: Spirituality

Saray is joined in studio by Appalachian State's Director of Student Athlete Development and Leadership with Athletics, Reggie Hunt and Elizabeth Cavalero, Appalachian's Coordinator for Student mental wellness with wellness prevention services. The three explore best practices for fostering a healthy spiritual life.


  • Saray Smalls: So today I have with me two cohosts. So you all will hear two different voices opposite of mine today. I have Reggie Hunt who is the Director of Student Athlete Development and Leadership with Athletics. Hi Reggie. How are you?

    Reggie Hunt: Hi. I’m doing well. I’m glad to be here thank you for having me.

    SS: Yay! Thank you so much. So, before I introduce our other cohost, Reggie why don’t you tell us a little bit about your work with athletics.

    RH: My work with athletics is in a few different areas. I work with community service, life skills and leadership development. I work currently with all twenty sports. That’s about 450 student athletes. Community service includes basic volunteering at schools and other events in the community. Life skills has to do with everything from finances to total health and wellness and partnerships across campus. Then there is the leadership development program. I have been doing that primarily with football for 6 years. I’m not taking on this role with all 20 sports. It’s fun times.

    SS: We are also joined by Elizabeth Cavalero who is our Coordinator for Student mental wellness with wellness prevention services. Hi Elizabeth.

    Elizabeth Cavalero: Hello.

    SS: I feel like we talk about this podcast all the time and now you are a cohost so welcome. Why don’t you tell us about the work that you do with Wellness and Prevention Services.

    EC: I am now the coordinator for student mental wellness. Before, I was the suicide prevention coordinator. You might have known me in that role. Now I am the coordinator for student mental wellness. That means I still do suicide prevention but also do a lot with building the resiliency skills of our students. I am really focused on those who are doing well mentally keeping them feeling well. Those who are having a little more trouble…I am trying to get them feeling well.

    SS: This episode is focused on spiritual wellness. The idea of what values and beliefs you hold and how those drive you to your purpose in life.

    Recently I was watching an episode of one of my favorite shows, Blackish. For those unfamiliar with the show it features a family. They identify as black and the dad narrates it. His name is Dre’. He is very well off. He grew up probably lower class with his mother and his father who are also in the show. Dre’ is now a Vice President of a marketing firm and his wife is a doctor. They have four kids and a great house in a neighborhood of an area that is predominantly white so he is realizing that because of this great lifestyle they have, a lot of the things that he grew up with as far as his cultural, his kids are now missing because they are very affluent. This particular episode also makes fun of the black family in a sense that is very relatable for me. In this particular episode the family are at dinner and they are about to say grace. The oldest daughter says that she doesn’t want to say grace because she isn’t sure if she believes in God. Everyone stops; there is a major gasp. That became the inspiration for this episode because on the show it was as if the entire family was trying to persuade her to believe in God. Some of the family was very open to her newfound identity and were trying to let her know that it was all about “what are you valuing and what are your beliefs because it is important to believe in something.” So I often thought, “Okay when I was in college or even high school, if this were me how would my family take that? When was it that my values and beliefs were really formed?” I just want to take a moment to go through what spirituality really is and how you can find it or be in a constant search for it. For our game today I was thinking about the first time that my values or belief system was tested and I wanted to open the floor to our cohosts to share a story of the first time your values or beliefs were tested? Elizabeth, do you want to get started?

    EC: Sure. There have been multipule times but I will talk to you about “the time.” I grew up Catholic. I was raised Catholic. I would say we were kind of Catholic light. We only went to Mass on Christmas and Easter Sunday and Palm Sunday. I went through Catholic Class. I went through all of the sacrements. Then when I got to college, I started really questioning it. That questioning started in high school a bit but it really came to fruicioun in college when I was attending Mass with my friends. It was around election time and I was sitting in the pue and the pastor was telling me to vote for the person who would have the Catholic ideals and to make sure your vote is for the pro-life candidate and listing all of these different issues. As he was listing the issues I was sitting there thinking, “That’s not what I believe and you are telling me to do something that I don’t really want to do. Also, you are’nt supposed to be talking about politics like that. You aren’t supposed to be telling me who to vote for at church. “ I just got this really terrible feeling that resonated throughout my whole body and after that day I never came back. I had to go home for Christmas and I refused to go to church because I didn’t want to go through that again. It had been building for a few years but that was the moment when the ultimate test of my values and beliefs came. That’s when I decided to make that split.

    SS: Thanks for sharing. That’s awesome.

    RH: I am trying to think about when my values have been tested because I feel like they are constantly being tested. I think the first time was middle and high school. I began to question how much of what I believe is culture. It’s kind of like that Blackish episode. There is a part of being African American that is traditionaly you are a Christian. That doesn’t meen that everyone who is African American is Christian. I think maybe middle school when I am starting to process race, I think there was a collision there. I remember being put out of a Sunday school classroom in middle school for asking questions about race. In high school I think I started to question values more because I started to interact more with people who belived differently than me. I started to wonder if I was Christian because my family was or should I investigate at this time the movie Malcolm X was coming out. I thought okay Malcom X is this great orator and I identify with some fo the things that he is saying that make me feel empowered. At the same time I was growing up in a Christian family. I think those were the times my values were starting to be questioned and I was starting to ask questions like, “Are various texts such as the bible and the Koran as well as others…are they objective truth or subjective truth?” Those were the questions that I was asking back then. I sill ask even now post college.

    SS: Cool, thank you. I think for me it is funny because I also feel like there are lots of different times my faith was tested. The time I remember the most I was going off to college and applying to different schools. I was applying for scholarships. All my life I had been told how smart I was and that I would be guaranteed a scholarship. I can remember praying hardcore for a full scholarship to a particular school. I didn’t get it. I remember feeling really crushed. I asked how it was that I prayed so hard and followed everyone’s advice and I still didn’t end up, “successful.” At that moment I thought me getting that scholarship meant that I was successful. I remember being in my scholarship crying for hours. I know it sounds really like not a big deal. But, for someone who’s family was lower class and single parent family home and I was really trying to figure out how I was going to make it to college without this scholarship. I thought that my future was over and then once I did get into college and ended up going my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and then befriending those that identified as gay or what not and thinking, “How is it that this value system I have has been telling me all of these years that these people are, “not right.” How am I not supposed to love and befriend them? I agree with you Reggie in that it is mulit-layered and constantly happening. There probably was one big moment when I realized I was unsure and had questions but it is a constant test.

    RH: Sure and I think everyone goes through a level of disilliousionment with whatever. I think we all go through that and you can go through a stage where you are so certain about something and then you get hit with challenges and life and you become disillusioned. What do you do after that phase can reshape your values.

    SS: Even thinking from a more childlike perspective we think about Santa Claus. I don’t mind sharing that my family identifies as Christian and celebrate Christmas. Growing up Santa was the, “It thing” I think I was probably 11 year old that I realized that Santa was not real. Even as a child you always believe that he is real. Then you have that one friend in Kindergarted in elementary school who spoils it for you and then you have to make a decision to belive them or not. I know that is very childlike thinking but even then I could have been when my values and beliefs were first tested. Those are really great stories. Thank you for sharing.

    Thinking back to this idea of spiritualness and trying to find my Zen for this episode. What is spirituality? What do you all think the personal definition of spirituality is?

    RH: That’s a broad term for me. Spirituality. I think spirituality and spiritual formation often times is steps to awareness sometimes linked to purpose. I think a lot of people often connect religion and spirituality. I think spirituality is more foundational while religion is more the practice of. Is spirituality steps to awareness? Whether that be inner and connecting with some sense of higher ower? Or is it inner awareness? I would like to understand that spirituality is a foundational issue. Religion is more of a practicing of spirituality which can be shaped, molded and manipulated.

    SS: Sure…Elizabeth what do you think?

    EC: Spirituality is very personal. It can be very different for every person. Who they express it can be different. For me it is how I make sense of the world. It’s what happens to me and what kind of purpose I have and the kinds of relationships I have. It’s also the dedication I have to those relationships. How I deal with good and bad things that happen to me and what kinds of purpose I have and how I create friendships and the depth of those friendships. For me that all has to do with my spirituality. I feel like cultivating those relationships is part of me learning how to live in the world and make sense of it.

    SS: Definetly. I agree with you as far as that connectedness piece so I know for me I think a lot of times I spent when it came to spirituality looking for something externally without first processing internally. I think spirituality is finding that deeper connectedness of self first and how self relates and connects to the world around. So when I think about what lights up my sould. Someone told me that today, “Where is the light?” I feel we are often looking for the light without realizing that the light is within us. We have the light so how do we identify the light that is within us? How do we find that and then how do we allow that light to shine and illuminate others. That’s how I think about spirituality. It’s like an inner light.

    Reggie I know you mentioned a little bit about how spirituality differs from religion in that religion is much more practice based. Are there certain things that you all do to maintain that connectedness concerning your spirituality?

    EC: I now for me every day I try to do something to make myself feel more connected to the world. I think that spirituality is kind of like you were talking about spreding that inner light but also taking in other people’s light and trying to understand how they fit into my little picture…into my little puzzle. Whether that’sreally listening to someone who is talking on the phone and maybe having a tough day and really giving myself to them in that weay or if it’s sitting down to meditate and trying to cultivate a sense of calmness so that when I go out into the world I can bring that with me and I don’t put negative energy into the world or whether it’s taking time for myself when I need it and blocking out the rest of the world so that I can feed my battery so to say and the next time I go out I am ready to accept whatever is coming. I think I do a little bit of all that every day.

    SS: Reggie what about you?

    RH: Connectedness I see it…I see Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as inverted for spirituality. I see it starting with self actualization, esteem loving belonging safety physiological. As opposed to physiological being first. I think when we are talking about spirituality it has to start with self actualization. What does that look like for an individual? Some of that is where do you feel connectedness where your belifsystems mindsets things like that. I guess some of the things I do for connectedness is try to…what people would call traditionally for prayer…I think of prayer and meditation. I think of mindfulness not just a lot of retorhic with prayer but what is prayer in a meditative state. Whether that’s meditationg in silence or meditating on a text of some sort. Where do I start there? I think if I can start there I feel a little bit more connected and a little bit more grounded and my needs are being met inwardly and being reinforced outwardly. I am not ooking for loving belonging from you until I have first established love and belonging within and I feel like you are called to reinforce that for friends.

    SS: Yes.

    RH: That’s something really I have learned tin the last two years. As a part of my spiritual journey that connectedness is important. The other part is community. It’s real important to me and I see community more as collective thoughts and not just one size fits all where everybody thinks, acts and talks the same. Those are ways that I connect with spirituality and connectedness and constantly trying to challenge my culture. That’s one thing I keep thinking about with spirituality and culture. There are a lot of things that are cultural and not necesarrily spiritual.

    SS: There are just things that we have been doing over and over.

    RH: Especially when you think about people of color. I think that’s one of the challenges of my belief systems over time. There are certain things that we do that are just cultural.

    SS: People in general are all creatures of habit. Example: We came in the podcast studio today and I always sit in the same chair and I always put my guests in the same seats. We are creatures of habit. We feel that if it’s been working so far we’ll keep doing it. Maybe that is also true for spirituality. I appreciate the fact that you challenge yourself to think and connect differently while also staying true to that self actualization piece. I love that you brought up Masloes. If you’re not farmiliar with that concept it’s set up like a pyramid. Definetly Google it. I don’t know if I’ll give you every piece accurately. It’s an idea that in order to be successful in life you need these core things. It’s set up as a pyramid where you need the things at the bottom first. Basic needs come first like food and water. The next level is you need to be loved or cared for. At the top is self actualization. Reggie what you are saying is if we flip that around that is where spirituality is. We have to start with self actualization and feeding ourselves first. In our culture and society you are never supposed to think of yourself first. You always think of others and put them before you and meet their needs first. But I am coming to realize in my adult years that if I don’t feed myself first I can’t feed others. If I don’t make sure the light in me is on and burning bright, how can I make sure I can provide that light for someone else. That is a good point to bring up concerning Maslows. That was good

    So Reggie I heard you say a moment ago that some of the things you are really concerned with is connectedness. I think all three of us said that was really important concerning spirituality. When we think about values…list of some things for values and beliefs. What are some thinkgs that you all value. We all agree connectedness is one. What are some other things?

    EC: Reggie mentioned community. I value that as well. Forming community, friendships, really deep realationships not shallow relationships where you don’t really know the person but being willing to go a little deeper with your story and also listen a little deeper to theirs. I value that.

    RH: I think the same I really value community. I was more extraverted in my early years than I am now. I am more moderately extraverted now. I also really value dialoge. A mentor once said to me the difference between dialoge and discussion. Dialoge is more, “We all have a piece.” Nobody wins. We are not trying to win the conversation. Discussion is from the root word percussion. We are beating around and somebody is dominating. I value community in the sense that we all bring someithnkg to the table and that we have collective thoughts. I value relationships. I feel like the active listener wins. My experience is different from your experience but if I can listen actively I can learn different experiences and l could possible be an advocate for you. I value those things. Integrity and character and all these other attibutes are fueled from the basic foundation of relationships. How we treat and interact with people…you know those pieces.

    SS: I agree with all that ya’ll are saying. Definetly valuing people…I also value presence. I feel like I say that often. Being present and in the moment even now sitting here we are all very plugged into this conversation and I appreciate that with the connectedness of community and dialoging and being truly present in the moment. I feel like I have shared this before but I have had so many people in and out of my life that presence is something I really appreciate. When you are present with me I feel like we are on the same wave swimming toward the same goal. I also value identity including race, connectedness with people of color and those that identify as women. Those things are really important to me. When I am in those spaces with strong women and people of color I really feel like my light is burning. I feel like that is when I have this exterior glow. It’s like you can see it on me. That’s where I relate my purpose to as we will talk about in a moment. Those are a couple of things I value. As far as beliefs are concerned what do you all belive? What do you belive in or what are your beliefs.

    EC: Oh, I see what you mean by that question now. Okay…I don’t want to go first.

    All: (laughter)

    RH: Do you mean what do you belive….uhhhh

    SS: What do you belive to be true?

    RH: Diety? Theoloy? People? I mean clarify…

    SS: You tell me.

    RH: that’s so broad.

    SS: Go for it. You belive what you believe. You can’t let others dictate that.

    RH: I think I identify as Christian. Part of my challenge of my beliefs earlier was when I was in my developing years and even in high school I wanted to know what in all of these world religions am I going to choose. So, I spent some time talking and asking a variety of questions about world religions. I think coming to that conclusion was my choice. I cose Christianity. I don’t know if I am a traditional religious Christian in that sense. So, I guess my belief is probably more centered around connecting to God in that more traditional sense of Christianity and God connecting to me through relationship with Jesus. I don’t feel like I fit into that main stream though. I was careful to say that when I say that I am a Christian and I belive in Jesus people automatically put me in this box.

    SS: Yeah, You’re out on Sanford yelling at people.

    RH: Are you Baptist? Are you Methodist? Are you condemming me? Do you hate these people? And I find that kind of intriguing because I don’t hink it’s always fair to make blanket statements about anybody. Not about blacks, whites, women, hetrosexuals or gays. I also don’t think it’s fair to make blanket statements about Muslims or Christians. When I say belief I almost feel like I don’t have enough time to really explain the layers of what I believe. On the basic level I belive that’s where I find my purpose. That perpels me to value people and meet them where they are and to earn the right to be heard and to be an active listener and not to condem people and to have dialoge with people. My belief system fuels my behavior and my behavior gives me those humanity results that I am called to engage with humanity.

    EC: I do not believe in a higher power. Surprise!

    SS: For those that don’t know Elizabeth!

    EC: I don’t relly know if there is anything out there and it’s not really something that is taking up a lot of my thinking power. It’s maybe…maybe not. It’s not something that I really care too much about. I really belive instead in the power of people and the power that lies within people themselves. Growing up I really had and I still have an issue with people teling me what to do. That’s just how it is. Saray knows in the office if someone tells me to do something I’ll probably do the opposite.

    SS: Okay so here’s an aside. Yall know I love stories. One day we were in the office and I was like, “Oh Elizabeth I am tired.” I was like, “You’re not tired.” She got so mad and was like, “How dare you tell me what I am and am not.” I had never seen that side of her before.

    EC: Yeah. So I really don’t like being told what to do and I think that was part of this issue that I had with this higher power that I needed to behave a certain way because this higher power wanted me to behave that way. I behave pretty good on my own. I do that because that’;s how I want to act and that’s what I want to bring into the world. I really belvive in the power of pople to be what they need to be and the power of people to changre the world positively or negatively. It doesn’t lie in a higher power. It relys on people and what they do and the actions they take.

    RH: Now elizaeebth let me ask you a question. When you say that statement at the beginning. “I don’t really know if I do or don’t believe in a higher power.” Do you automatically feel that tention of that label of somebody saying, “Okay you must be agnostic, atheist or something.” D you feel that sometimes?

    EC: If you’re going to label me you can label me agnostic. It doesn’t matter. I’ve never really cared that much about labels. People label me all the time so…

    RH: That’s what I feel. When I say whwat I belibe. Do you feel that sometimes you have to explain because of the labels?

    EC: Most of the time I don’t really ralk about religion unless it’s with people I trust. If they’re going to label me it’s something that we can talk about. We may have that deeper discussion but I am not just walking around saying, “Hey I’m Elizabeth. I; agnostic. Nice to meet you do you want to talk about that? Hey I’m Elizabeth I don’t believe in God. Lets talk about it.” It’s not necessarily something for me that I think other people need to know.

    RH: I think that’s one of the real challenges of talking about spirituality. How do we talk about spirituality without labels? Most of that people that I know on either side of the spectrum…if they heard the last three minutes of this conversation would say, “Okay he is the Christian guy. She is the agnostic or atheist person.” They would have label and I think that is really hard because then we move from the foundation of what spirituality is because we just dismiss it as labels. When Elizabeth may have so much more to contribute to the conversation of spirituality that might easily be dismissed because we are going to label her based off of our previuos experiences as opposed to learning more. “Tell me about that experience.” Kind of like the sustained dialogue format, “Tell me more!”

    SS: She is actually in my sustained dialogue group. You know it’s interesting too as far as within the last few minutes of this conversation I have felt like even just us talking for the first half y'all have a lot of similarities in what you believe.

    EC: That’s what I was going to say.

    SS: Yall have a lot of similarities. I feel like we all agree on the same level but because there is this label that has been placed on us at this point in the conversation people would doubt what being said. It sounds again as if spirituality is that foundation and we all have a shared foundation…maybe it’s on different locations of the foundation…one on the corner…one in the center…but we are all on the same foundation of spirituality. What is built upon that is dependent upon our core values and beliefs.

    RH: And on the personal level I think the thing that we both said is that for us it is personal. Now how that is fleshed out is completely different. There are personal attributes to that and we share that commonality.

    SS: How do we work to maintain our spiritual connectedness? We have identified what that means for us. How do we make sure that this stays true within us and for us? For example I maintain my spiritual connectedness in a couple of different ways. Specifically being in Boone, I enjoy hiking and there is something for me that is very spiritual about hiking. I have shared with you all that I do identify as Christian and I believe that there is a God. When I am hiking I feel the closest to God. I almost feel like I can touch him…if it’s a him and if he is upward. It’s like I could touch him. I also look at how beautiful everything is and I also believe in creation. When I see the trees and the way that the mountains are formed, I go back to the idea, “How is it that somebody or something could create all of this from nothing?” That’s a moment where I feel super connected. In addition to that I have mentioned being around strong women. That is another time when I feel very connected. My inner light is beaming. I do spend some time in prayer. While walking over here today I said a quick prayer. That’s another time my inner light is beaming. The question is also, how do you keep that inner light glowing?

    EC: When I moved to Boone I had a little trouble I guess…with my spirituality. I didn’t feel really much of anything. I was really not in a good place mentally for various reason I won’t go into here. That was a time for me to rebuild. Reggie talked about the turning points where something happens and then you are starting to explore different things. One thing I discovered that really helped me get connected back to feeling alive and good was meditation. That helped me stay more in the present and helped me really appreciate the little things that were happening that were great and were happening right now. Things weren’t great overall but right now there is something great happening….and all the next moments there were great things that were happening and the next moment everything was fine…so on. Turning to meditation helped stabilize me when things start to go off track. Another thing you are talking about hiking…I love that but I have a dog. I love this dog so much but I think part of it is that when we’re together it is like I can take on the whole world and he is my partner in crime. Going outside…I have to go outside with him because he is a dog. Just bring in nature and running around with him and really I don’t bring my phone with me when I am with him. It is really just me and him running around enjoying nature. Just being in this world that sometimes sucks…but also is sometimes really great and learning to appreciate those moments of the sun shining or even when it isn’t it’s raining and we are running through the rain because he is a dog and he needs to be walked even in the rain. Even that can be fun. That seems so silly that it’s the dog that can connect me back spiritually but I think it takes me away from having to work and having to always be doing something productive and just being allowed to be. A dog is just there. He is happy to be around me. That inspires me to just be happy to be where I am with him.

    SS: Cool….Reggie?

    RH: Youknow I think again it’s those stages. Things I probably connected with in my 20’s that wer different in my 30’s . I am an illustrations person so I have been doing motivational for basketball and football. One of my first motivationals with the baskeball team…I was trying to get them to understand connectivity. I went outside of the convocation center. There were some houses right there and I took two branches and asked them which branch they wanted to be. One had flowers and the other was bare. They said the one with the flowers on it…I thought it was hilarious to get a bunch of basketball players to say they wanted to be flowers. I told them they are both disconnected from the source and it was only a matter of time before the one with flowers looked like the one that was barren. Conectivity…what are the sources that refresh me? Again community. I think I maintain spirt=itual connectedness by community and I try to make sure that my community is eclectic. I ftry to find people ain my little sphere that are external and internal peers. So people in my little Christian bubble and people that are not church or Christian people at all. People that I mentor an people that mentor me. I try to build that community to be so eclectic that it challenges me to think outside of what I would normally think. Also solitutde…how do I practice meditation or prayer or other diciplins in a community or by myself. There is a lot to be said for solitude. And being still. Sometimes I am so busy pouring out just like you said earlier…you get up and think about how am I going to love today? How am I going to connect to people. I also need that time for receiveing. Part of my meditation time is receiving. Part of my community time is receving, listening, taking in encouragement and feedback. A little encouragement goes a long way. Sometimes I need it for a down day. I think one of the things that has probably been the most life changing for me is I am reading a book right now that is connecting emotional health and spirituality it’s called, “Emotionally Health Spirituality.” It discusses mental health and spirituality. That has been really rich for me. Sometimes I think that we see mental health and mental illness as the same. I have tried to be more proactive like someone who exercises because it is healthy for them; I try to think about mental health as not being something that I deal with when I am at a particular place.

    SS: So how would you differentiate mental health and spirituality based off of some of the things you have read?

    RH: I think they go together. In a traditional Christian church for example, you might have been taught that all of these emotions: anger, depression and anxiety are things that you want to avoid and if you feel them, you must not be that spiritual.

    As opposed to, “How do I invite God and others into this possible season of my life?” One of the things the book is talking about is not to shy away from these feelings. Self care plans are part of it. Part of my self care plan includes a meeting with a counselor and not because something is bad but just as a part of self care. It’s just like eating healthy. Yall are all wellness people so you understand right?

    How do I connect that with spirituality? A lot of people I grew up around think that their self care program is church. That maybe a part of it but it’s not the end all be all to that. Those are some ways that I try to maintain my spiritual conectivness and it’s a work in progress. I feel like every so many years I have to recalibrate based off of my life stage and my responsibility. I have a partner at home and three young boys. You were talking about this dog that you connect with. You two run and you feel like you can overcome anything. That’s another way that I am with my kids. I have one five year old who is the happiest most joyful…he wakes up every morning happy. He is just happy even after he has been in trouble. Even after he falls. I receive from that. I receive from my kids. I receive that energy and love. If I had a bad day they think I am a superhero. I receive from that.

    EC: I think that when we are talking about connectedness and maintaining our spiritual connectedness it really does depend on what season we are in. Like Reggie was saying, there are some seasons where maybe just a hike is really all we need and then there are other seasons where things are a lot more difficult and we are needing to rely on people and really digging deep into support from others and then there are other seasons where we are able to provide that support. It’s not going to be the same thing every day or week or year. It’s going to be something that you are continuing to explore and find things that work for you and maybe discard some other things because they are not working anymore. I think you need to be open to that process.

    SS: I agree.

    RH: That hike part….you know? Here how can you not do that right?

    Right up past here where Hardee’s is as you go up toward Hampton Funeral Home there is Strawberry Hill. I probably was in Boone for 20 years and just ftwo years ago I walked to the top of that.

    SS: Wow! How was it?

    RH: Incredible!

    EC: Go sledding down it.

    RH: Oh I have been sledding down it several times.

    EC: Terrifying!

    RH: I never walked up to the top though. There is this beautiful oak tree. You feel like you are out of town even though you are right in town. So, if you don’t have time to drive out the parkway and you have a couple of minutes, you can go up there. It was just one day when I was having a kind of challenging moment I walked up there in the fall. Right down on this beautiful stone slab much like the work across campus, somebody had written down and I took a picture of it, “Look up.” It was just so simple but it was a real connecting moment to look up and look over this beautiful fall color and really connect. Like you said some of the simple things that we can do that can really help us feel connected.

    SS: It almost feels like we have to pay more attention and be more intentional. I hear you saying, “Look where you are.” I hear all of us giving these strong powerful images of hiking, spending time with family and dogs. It creates this image that says we need to pay more attention to where we are and what we are doing. How is that feeding back into us? Paying attention and being intentional about the conversations we have with people. Being open, honest and a little vulnerable are high points as far as spirituality is concerned. Would you all agree?

    RH: I would. One thing you said earlier that resonated with me was when you were talking about your mother being diagnosed with breast cancer. Part of my connectedness is some of the things that shake your faith can shake your faith. My mom’s twin sister died of breast cancer. She overcame a lot and eventually died of cancer. On one end it shook my faith and on one end it helped shape my faith to see her faith while she was going through that. I think those are some of the ways that I have connected over time. To be around a variety of people going through different challenges. My gratitude goes up when I go to the Brenner Children’s Hospital and see kids facing cancer treatments. Also my faith is challenged when I hear the confidence of people in their spirituality. Listening to Elizabeth talk about with great confidence her journey…those things that shape us and those things that shake us are sometimes synonymous.

    SS: Yeah. I agree. We have talked a lot about our personal beliefs, thoughts and feelings. It’s been great. So for our listeners…our college students that are listening…we want to provide you all with a how to which I have coined, “A spirituality guidebook.” After listening to Reggie though I think it’s almost like a self care manual. Reggie and Elizabeth have both shared that different times call for different measures. Maybe this time or season I am doing one thing but next season I may need something else as far as my self care and spirituality is concerned. Just providing some tips here, I know both of you have mentioned meditation. I have never done it. I am wondering if I could be quiet that long and if I could focus for that long. What are some steps to meditation? We put meditation in the guidebook. What are some how to’s with meditation?

    EC: Anyone can do meditation and you don’ t have to do it for long. You could do it for five minutes if that’s all you can do.

    SS: Oh that’s too long. Just kidding.

    EC: It is hard at first and I think a lot of poplej think meditation is essentially just paying attention to your breath or some other thing that you are intentionally paying attention to. Maybe that’s the sound around you or just your breath. That sounds so simple. It can be really challenging especially if you are just starting. If you are just starting meditation know that it might be hard to stay quiet for 5 minutes but also know that you are not trying to block out thoughts. A lot of times that’s another misperception that you sit down and meditate and the goal is to stop thinking. Really the goal is to let those thoughts just go by without becoming too attached to them. The moreyou mediate the more you’ll find that in daily life when I am stressed out or have a bazillion thoughts going on in my head, I can separate myself a little bit from them and say, “hey there’s a thought” and then return to my work or the conversation that I am trying to have with somebody. It takes practice. It’s not something that you will just sit down one day randomly and meditate and be a master at it. Just start with 5 minutes a day and build from that. Anyone can do it if they take the time to practice.

    RH: I am excited about that topic and I pulled out my phone because I have an Headspace App. It’s a meditation app. It’s called Headspace. I absolutely love it. Have you heard of it?

    EC: I have.

    RH: I love it. Right here it has foundationals and you have acceptance, appreciation change, relationships, sports health performance and even a section for kids. The way I learned about that…they also have animations and alerts. I started off like Elizabeth said…with 5 minutes…I see meditation and some practices of prayer…they are not always the same…but I see that as building a mental muscle. If you start with five minutes…I am all about his piece of fixed mindsets and growth mindsets from Carol Dewick’s Mindsets book. The brain is plastic. It is not hard wired. We can expand. So starting at 5 minutes…you might do 5 for a month and then 10 minutes. At first if you try to start with 15 or 20 minutes that can be overwhelming for meditation or prayer. This app, I think especially for students listening, it’s a great place to start.

    SS: is it free?

    RH: It’s free for the first 30 and if you like it, you can maybe pay a little bit more. If you want to do it I have accumulated some gifts in it. I’ve been doing it for a while. I’ve given it to…well they are doing mindfulness with athletics now. They are doing it on the women’s basketball team this summer and also some of the football and other sports are using it as well as businesses. This app is a good place to start.

    SS: On the topic of mindfulness, Elizabeth facilitates the mindfulness workshops here on campus. If you’re interested in that, visit our app synch page to figure out when they are and when you can sign up.

    RH: We have to connect then. I didn’t know that. I was excited about that.

    SS: We also offer guided meditation weekly. If you’re interested in that visit our app synch page to figure out the specifics. They are in 30 minute increments. Take advantage of that as well.

    Okay so we have mediatation in the spiritual guidebook. We have our headspace app and mindfulness. I know we have all mentioned hiking. Where are some really dope places for students to go.

    EC: Rough Ridge is a little bit longer. Maybe like 40 minutes.

    SS: If you’;re looking for a quickie?

    RH: I think you;ve got a few. Rough Ridge, Strawberry Hill and my favorite is Beacon Heights. I love it and my kids love it. The Glen Burney Trail in Blowing Rock near downtown in pretty nice. There is a little pathway off of Thunder Hill which is kind of going toward the parkwy…go left insteasd of right. Moses Cone.

    EC: Moses Cone is great. Any of those trails.

    RH: Elk Knob is another one. There are a lot of great trails.

    SS: The lakes are great too. Price Lake. If you just want to go out and bring a chair. Just sit at the water and focus…that’s a good space for that as well.

    RH: Bass Lake.

    EC: If you’re loking for a place in town the Greenway is a nice place to get out and they do have some side hikes if you are adventurous enough to go up the side of the hill. They have some side hikes there athat are more like hiking on trails instead of concrete. Me and my dog go to the Greenway three or four times a week.

    RH: The Grandfather Mountain Profile Trail is beautiful. That’s a full days hike. It’s 4 or 5 hours roundtrip but it’s a beautiful hike.

    SS: A Ccouple of other things I have listed is this idea of expanding your world view. I think the both of you have mentioned the importance of connecting with people that are a littke bit different from you who have different belivs and values. Are there other ways that we can have students expand their world view to even better establish or reaffirm their own values?

    EC: You can read. If you are curious about anything there is probabaly a book or article online about it. That’s one good way.

    SS: Also podcasts. Hahaha Seriously I have a trillion podcasts…well not a trillion…maybe like 7 that I am always plugged into. Expanding your world view as far as other folk’s perspectives on a topic or subject is good. It also feeds my soul very well.

    RH: I think as Elizabeth just said that world view of reading…anybody’s truth can become yours if you are willing to read. The other part is sometimes it’s good to dig deeper where you are. I thnk identifying with the Christian faith, altough of people take surface level as opposed to digging deeper. For example Southern Christianity is a lot different form Northern. The Western world is a lot different from people I know in South Africa. Sometimes you can change your worldview if you remove this level of fear that to think differently or to even ask questions is going to be me not having faith or not being spiritual. Then just that eclectic community piece…how can we learn from people that different from us? That worldview will really broaden our mindsets. Sometimes our mindsets get stuck if we have a limited worldview. We see more and more of that in the landscape of where we live.

    SS: I think something attached to that…and adding to the guide book is when we are around those that are around us and they are different from us and we’re having those conversations being vulnerable is important. Listening to others but being wiling to share what your thoughts and beliefs and faith are as well but then also being inquisitive and that’s maybe inquisitive of those that you engage with if it’s someone that you seek spiritual guidance from then I think its completely acceptable to be inquisitive of that person too. I think we are naturally wanting to know more even as a child we are always running around asking why. Some of us as children may have taken things apart to figure out why things work the way they do. In our adulthood we should not allow that inquisitive nature to stop just because something is being forced on us concerning what we should belive. I think it’s still appropriate not even so much to question your faith but question what is and what is not. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

    Do you all do yoga?

    EC: I hurt my ankle so it’s a little hard to do some of the poses. Although even if you have an injury the teachers are really good about adapting poses for you. I just don’t want to be the special one doing special poses.

    SS: I know University Recreation offers yoga so that is something you can look into.

    EC: And they do free yoga at Turchin too on Saturdays.

    RH: Neighborhood Yoga seems to be pretty good. I did go one time but you know I have to make a decision if im going to do yoga or workout with a personal trainer. One of the things that a personal trainer recently sid to me is at some point you have to make it a life style. I thought okay well now I have to go back and decide which one to do but I know neighborhood Yoga dn the other place aas well as the places on campus seem to be really beneficial for folks connecting in so many ways. I just have to make a decision on that one.

    SS: What is tricky about yoga…I went once with a couple of friends and did hot yoga and it was the worst. For those of you that like it just do what works for you. I just remember thinking, “This is trash and why am I here?” It was trash for me because yoga is about the idea of centering yourself and I was so focused on theposes and getting things right and looking good in the mirror and hacinf the instructor really like me that I dind’t focus on processing interneall and letting go and being balanced. That’swhat the core of yoga is all about so if you go don’t just focus on the poses really focus on self.

    EC: If they ever offer laughing yoga anywhere ever go do it. It is the best. It’s usually about 30 to 45 minutes. The best 30 – 45 minutes you will have in your life. It’s not doing poses and they call it yoga because you are cultivating inner spirituality stuff so they explain it all as to why it is still yoga. I went and have been several times. It is the best form of yoga ever. You leave feeling so high and all you have done is laugh.

    SS: I think another one to add to the guidebook is the idea of laughter. I sometimes think we don’t laugh enough. We are so serious and always in meetings or even for our students they are boing told not to laugh in class and to be quiet and pay attention. That’s great but at some point reserve time and space for yourself to really engage in laughter and have a good time.

    EC: Laughter and play…embrace your inner child.

    SS: I agree. I think all in all the spiritualty guidebook…you have to do what works for you and make it work while staying true to yourself. Just like those that love hot yoga…it works for them but not for us.

    RH: Or some type of exercise. One of the things I am also thinking of in the spiritual guidebook is a retreat that works for you. I think there is something to getting away from your environment to do something differently. Even if that is a planned retreat, a spiritual retreat, a solitude retreat or even a roadtrip, sometimes those things are I thnk some of the most benefiscial times. A retreat or roadtrip with friends where we are creating something in the car together. Our dialogue is in the car together and there is a type of spontinaity.

    SS: I thnk that wraps our spirituality Guidebook. Of course listeners you can’t listen without receiving your challenges. We have a couple for you. Similarly to what we did at the beginning of this conversation, I want you to make a list of the things that you value and the things that you believe. Write them down/ There is something I think that is somewhat spiritual about writing something down. It almost holds more truth when it is written. Write is down in a journal, notebook or sheet of paper. Make a list of the things you value and believe. The second challenge is listen closely. I know Reggie mentioned just amoment ago about retreating and getting away. I think it is important that we in order to listen closely you have to turn something off so you can tune in. For myself I have been taking somewhat of a break from social media. I realized that it was consuming parts of my life that I didn’t want it to consume I was spending a lot of time on social media and minutes, hours…posting Snapchat stories. I had to sit back and think why am I doing this and what is it feeding? Am I feeding it or is it feeding me? I was definetly feeding me. That was me turning something off so that I could tune in and find my purpose for life. I am engaging in these types of conversations and allowing my light to shine. It wasn’t doing that on social media at all. Listen closely. The only way you can do that is if you take a moment to turn something off so that you can tune in. Another thing is find a way to further develop your values and beliefs. The three of us sitting here mentioned that connectedness is what further develops us…it’s that as well as dialoge. I also mentioned being surrounded by women. Elizabeth mentioned her dog, being outside and family. Whatever it is just find that thinkg that will help you further develop your values and beliefs. Also make an effort to engage in those that have differing religious beliefs or values than you. I know we three have different belief systems and religiouns but we all found a level of connectedness and commonality sitting here today and I really enjoyed our conversation today. So studens, those are your four homework tips, your challenges. Definetly make use of those. So friends what are some take aways from todays conversation? What were some things that really resonated with you?

    EC: It sounded to me like one thing we all had in common was that spirituality was a way for us to feel more alive and connected to the world and like we belong here.That’s what I heard. It’s not this mystical thing necessarily. It’s how we feel alive and find our purpose.

    RH: And that it is personal and that we own it. I love what Elizabeth said. I don’t think any of us wants somebody to tell us to do something. We don’t want somebody telling us what we should do or who we should be. I think it is personal. We own it and we walk through it. We evolve in it. That really resonated.

    SS: I think what resonated the most with me is this idea of our inner light shining and allowing our lights to illuminate on someone else. Visually it’s a way that I think of spirituality. Moving forward our song selection for this episode is coming from Andra Day it’s called “Rise Up.”

    (Short Clip of Song Plays)

    SS: I picked that song for this episode because I thknk that spirituality can be hard. I know we talked about it today as though we have it all figured out but figuring out your spirituality and finding that connectedness can definetly be difficult it is indeed a jorney. It’s something that you’re constantly looking for it. With any journey there are going to be some difficult times. In the song Andra mentins the idea of rising up like even if there is a struggle or when there is a difficult time, she isstill able to keep going and I think that’s what spirituality provides all of us. It’s the ability to keep pressing forward. Give that song a listen if you have never herad it…it is the best if you need to cry. It’s a good I need to cry song. If you feel like you need to feel triumphant song it’s good for that too. Give that a listen. In the end I would like to thank both of my cohosts today. Reggie and Elizabeth, you all have provided some really great insight today so I am going to allow you all the opportunity to share your contact info with our listeners.

    EC: My email address is and that is the best way to reach me.

    RH: My email is My phone number might be a better way to reach me. Call me on my work phone at 828-457-4044.

    SS: Awesome. Thank yall so much for listening. Thank yall for being here.

    RH: Thank you for having us.

    EC: It was my pleasure.