A Metaphysical Musing: What is spirituality? Part I of many….
” We are part of a glorious cosmic dance which is always going on. It beats in the life blood of all of us even if we do not know it. The purpose of the spiritual life is to help us to learn how to remove the obstacles that stand between us and the union we already have with God [good; source of all; etc.]. This means that we don’t search for something that is foreign to us, but uncover that which we already have.”
An Invitation to the Spiritual Journey, John P. Gorsuch
When asked to define elusive terms such as spirituality, we have to rest on the shoulders of the inclusive world religious traditions, just as we have to take personal responsibility for shaping and mining modernity for new ideas, and courageously investing in and exploring new working paradigms. Here is a first attempt, a brief synopsis, of what can be meant by spirituality.
To be spiritual, at its root meaning, is to be vital- to possess and express life. The origins of the word, spirit, are intimately connected to breath, wind, energy, creativity and movement. In that regard, we can call spirituality a non-mechanical and unconfined energy; a freely expressive, compassionate way of living; an active orientation toward the deep self and the gracious affirmation of the connections to the deepest parts of all humanity and the all of Creation.
As expressed in our humanity, a spirit filled life is one that is inner-directed; one that moves us from the busy, often preoccupying external, imposed or superficial demands of our lives, into an abiding regard and a ongoing respect for our inner wisdom, our soulful dialogues, our interior truths. Whenever we learn to listen to the stirring of wisdom, conscience, and connect our actions to these guiding principles, we make progress in embodying and understanding the spiritual approach to life.
Spirituality, then is the motive power behind and within our lives that moves us toward a deeper consideration for who and what we are, and toward an affirmation of our place in the Cosmos; World spirituality teaches that our rightful place is not in differences and contradictions based in ego or culture; Our place side by side equal with all other humans, as a caretaker and preserver of eco-justice, personal dignity, freedom, and acting as if we committed to a Universalist point of view: we are all saved- or nothing will be saved; all life is holy or sacred; or none is; that all life is sacramental- worthy of our compassion, and care.
Spirituality is often defined as being different, even opposed to religion. Part of this adamant distinction comes from equating religion with rules and regulations of belonging, with ascribing to and asserting certain theological beliefs, and condoning certain practices while excluding all others. Many people define or at least associate spirituality with a more free flowing personalized search for one’s answers. However, spirituality contains a deep resonance with ethics and justice; spirituality also holds us accountable. One cannot be a dilettante or an impostor and truly be connected to an authentic spiritually inspired life.
Spirituality is intimately connected to our sustaining sense of community. If there are no shared ideals, nothing held or believed in common, community disappears and spirituality is understood as absent. For many U-Us, the intent behind our congregational mission statements, our Principles and Purposes that holds the UUA together, becomes our statement of adherence to liberal religious ideals.
While our individual members often will insist on granting each person sufficient autonomy to seek out their own individual expressions, answers, their own purpose and meaning, the interest in spirituality has given rise to an increased understanding that any rampant or excessive license in individualism can rob a congregation of its common intent; its shared responsibilities; its ability to serve one another or to become a community that models virtues and values that we want to see be in our world, and expressed through our future generations.
Spirituality propels us on our individual quest; it also forms the feelings bond of affiliation and affection that hold communities together. That which is of the Spirit, then, can be defined as whatever is deemed sacred, true, love and respect worthy for the individual, for their community, and for their world. To be spiritual is to pay reverent attention to the holy within, between, among and beyond us all.