When Siobhan Curham decided to write a book about happiness there was only one small problem, which became a massive problem as soon as she sat down to write – she wasn’t truly happy. Not wanting to be a fraud, Siobhan set out to discover the secret to true and lasting happiness. Her quest took her on an unexpected path deep into the heart of the world’s spiritual traditions.
Something More is a funny and moving account of Siobhan’s journey, as she found religion – and promptly lost it again – then went on to develop her own spiritual ‘pick and mix’ of practises from Buddhist chanting, Irish yoga, Jewish philosophy and Reiki healing, to connecting with her inner goddess and finding her shamanic spirit animal (who, it turns out, was a large, black, talking horse). Full of brutally honest anecdotes and age-old wisdom, Something More is for anyone who has ever thought about exploring their spiritual side, and those who might feel disillusioned by organised religion but still crave that elusive ‘something more’. After all, who wouldn’t want to find inner peace and everlasting happiness?
In 2017 something momentous happened: a British Attitudes Survey showed that for the first time, the majority of people living in the UK (53 per cent) didn’t belong to a religion. Another study has shown that only 1.4 per cent of the population now attend an Anglican Church service on a Sunday morning. This shift away from the Church isn’t unique to the UK. Between 1979 and 2011 the number of Roman Catholics attending a weekly church service in Ireland fell from 91 per cent to 30 per cent, and a 2015 survey showed that only 15 per cent of Irish Anglicans attend a Sunday service. A similar decline is happening on the other side of the Atlantic. Various studies have shown that less than 20 per cent of Americans now attend church services and in 2013, Southern Baptist researcher Thom Rainer estimated that between 8,000 and 10,000 churches were likely to close that year. However, the hordes of people turning their backs on religion aren’t necessarily turning their backs on spirituality. In fact, a growing number of people (20 per cent in the UK and 25 per cent in the US) now refer to themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious’.
This book is for those people – the ones who, for whatever reason, have turned away from or could never relate to religion, but still believe there’s Something More to this thing called life; people who desire a spiritual anchor in what is becoming an ever more turbulent and fast- paced world. I am one of those people. Having been raised as a devout atheist, in 2011 I set out on quest to see if there was anything in this spiritual business – if it could bring me a lasting source of strength, love and joy that had so far eluded me. Although I knew next to nothing about religion and spirituality, I had had two experiences at rock- bottom moments in my life when I’d inexplicably felt the presence of something far greater than me.
My quest to find out what this ‘something’ was took me down some fascinating, unexpected and occasionally hilarious paths. Over a seven- year period I chanted up a storm with Buddhists, joined – and promptly left – a Christian church, fell foul of a false guru, studied the teachings of ancient Jewish scholars and the poetry of the Sufis, danced with the divine, tuned in to my inner goddess, had a passionate encounter with a soulmate and made true soul friends. I took part in a Mayan cacao ceremony and ended up talking to trees, met my shamanic spirit animal and had part of my soul retrieved. I also studied mindfulness and became a Reiki- healer- tarot- reader and much, much more.
In short, my exploration of different spiritual traditions was a revelation to a devout atheist like me. Once I cut through the dogma that had put me off before, I found certain teachings and practices that I’ve come to view as superpowers, beautiful in their simplicity. They form the basis of my life today – the basis of my inner joy, strength and peace, and the basis of this book. This book is for spiritual misfits like me, who have had enough of the doctrine of separation and fear.
It is for those who look around at the world today – at the politics of division, the hashtags of hate and the spiralling mental health crisis – and think, surely there has to be a better way? Numerous scientific studies are now showing the benefits of a spiritual practice. In an article titled ‘The neuroscience of spirituality and religion’, William Sears MD, a doctor with fifty years’ experience, says that science has now shown beyond doubt that spiritual people have ‘happier brains, healthier bodies and longer lifespans’. Focusing on something greater than ourselves and on a sense of connection with others helps lift us out of negative thinking. Pathways are created in the brain that enhance our sense of self and our empathy. Studies have also shown that a regular meditation practice reduces blood pressure, stress and anxiety, and boosts our immunity. Neuro- imaging techniques have shown that meditation stimulates the brain’s compassion centre. Mindfulness also has a calming effect on the amygdala, the part of the brain that produces fear responses. Sears concludes his article by urging everyone to make a spiritual practice part of their health routine.
So, if the word ‘religion’ sends you running to your collected works of Dawkins muttering, ‘Out- of- date mumbo jumbo,’ I would urge you to take a small step rather than a giant leap of faith, and invest a few hours reading these pages, absorbing the lessons I’ve learnt and trying the practices I recommend. This is a book about finding deep inner joy and peace, and most of all, a love that unites and guides instead of divides; a love that doesn’t care if you’re male, female, straight, gay, black, white or purple; a love that frees us from fear and revolutionises the way we view ourselves, each other and the world.
Siobhan Curham is an award-winning author, editorial consultant, motivational speaker and life coach. Her books for young adults include Dear Dylan (winner of the Young Minds Book Award) and Finding Cherokee Brown. Her books for adults are: Dare to Dream, True Love Always, The Sweet Revenge of the Football Widows, The Scene Stealers and Antenatal & Postnatal Depression. Siobhan has written for many newspapers, magazines and websites, including the Guardian, Cosmopolitan, Mother and Baby, Practical Parenting and Take a Break. She has also been a guest on various radio and TV shows, including Woman’s Hour, BBC News, GMTV and BBC Breakfast. Find out more at www.siobhancurham.com.