The word “Spirituality” can invoke a wide variety of meanings and emotions. Depending on your background, beliefs and opinions, it can mean anything. Are we talking about the deep core connection we feel the life we live? Or, some part of us separate from our physical bodies? Perhaps I’m just referring to some sort of New Age woo-woo?
It’s a word with many connotations. It has strong religious overtones for some, and for others, conversely, it is a watered down version of their world view that has no structure, finding god, without the need to adopt moral responsibility.
So as a point of reference on the blog, I think its important to find a working, or rather workable, definition.
We are not talking about “finding God”, as you as a reader may or not believe in God or gods, or in one of the almost infinite ways that story unfolds. Spirituality, as I’ve come to understand it is about the qualities we adopt when we come in contact with the unknown.
The word “Spirit” is derived from the Latin “espiritus”, meaning breath. It is the subtle, unseen, aspect of our being. In a time before the functions of the body and the elements were understood as well as they are today, the idea that there was a connection between breath and “Spirit” made sense. It is a connection present in both early Christian theology and in the meditative traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as earlier shamanic systems.
Breath connects us to life, it is necessary for life. Of all the body’s functions it is the most immediately interchangeable. If we share a space, the air I exhale is, at least in part, the air you inhale. It connects us to each other. That breath we exhale, we now know, is taken in by plants and converted back to oxygen for us to breath. During that conversion the plants nourish the soil, that ground creates nourishment that we may eat, and we then exhale to return the chemical gasses needed by the plants.
If we use this as a guide then, “Spirituality” must meet 2 conditions. First, it must enhance our life, it must be life affirming. Second, it must join us to each other and to the world around us.
Most religions, at their core, attempt to do these same things – provide a way of living, and a way of living in community. They also attempt a 3rd – to provide a way of seeing the world that makes our lives make sense in the face of the vast, unpredictable, unknown. So, culturally, at least at this present time and place in the history of our species, the religious meaning is often heavily implied in the word’s use.
In “Spirituality” there is no doctrine, catechism, or judgements. The 1st 2 conditions provide everything we need to see and see beyond our own self interest. The third is question, one we can answer through existing faiths, through science and existing world views, or through our own experiences.
So when I use the term “Spirituality”, in this or any other writing, I am using it in light of these three meanings simultaneously – it is a word that means (here at least) “A way of making sense of the unknown that is life affirming and consciously connected to the world around us.”