It occurred to me recently that although most of my friends and colleagues are really comfortable with the concept of spirituality, a lot of people consider the whole thing pretty ridiculous. So here are a few ideas around what you might call Practical Spirituality.
Don’t panic! You don’t have change your beliefs or get all ‘woo-woo’ to experience the benefits of what some people label spirituality. (And of course, religious or philosophical belief doesn’t automatically create someone who is ‘a spiritual person’.)
It’s possible that many of the things you do already, naturally, simply because you’re human, come under the heading of spirituality.
Have you ever watched a sunset or walked along a beach and felt at peace? Walked in a forest and felt part of nature? Fallen in love and felt utterly connected in that moment to someone you’d only just met? Held a new born baby, sat quietly with a pet or been in a crowd of happy people at an event? Had a certainty that something was true before you found evidence? Had a dream that came true or you MADE come true? (Think of Einstein and the theory of relativity!)
Perhaps a sense of your own ‘spirit’ is the simplest place to start. Being aware of the flow of thoughts, emotions and sensations, simply allowing them to pass, knowing that somehow there is a ‘self’ which is capable of observing these things. That internal awareness, and the mental clarity and stillness that comes from it, is the beginning for many of a sense of their spiritual nature, no matter what name they give it. (This state has been clinically proven to lower blood pressure, improve immune response etc. Plus it feels really good!)
It’s almost impossible to be human and not believe in something, ideas and concepts that are not tangible, but important to you in many ways. How about justice, honesty, loyalty, the importance of family, the value of art (however you define that)….. You can’t measure them, but they matter. Without them, life would be less. Beyond logic, from the heart/subconscious….however you define it.
Perhaps it would be simplest to consider spirituality to be a deep sense of connection to that which is greater than yourself. The spiritual aspects of your life show up in your thoughts, beliefs and actions that build that bond. And yes, the feelings are hormones and chemicals, oxytocin, an adrenaline high. So? Just because you can analyse the process doesn’t change the power or the reality of it!
Me? What do I believe? What am I trying to push? I’m a pragmatist. I’m not a scientist, simply an intelligent, curious, and thoughtful person. If I experience something worthwhile, and I can replicate the process, and teach others and they get similar worthwhile results, then I assume there’s a useful explanation somewhere. I prefer to find underlying structure and logic so I can apply things effectively and develop new options. I also assume that although humans see things at the macro level, at the same time there’s a whole lot more going on underneath that I, as a human with all the limitations that implies, might never understand.
All too often words get in the way of experience, and my version may not match yours, in fact the way humans take information and hallucinate meaning out of it in the privacy of the brain means that it almost certainly won’t. Anyway, no description of beauty is ever going to explain what it does for the soul. (Yes, there, I’ve said it, soul….whatever that means)
We function best when we feel connected, to other people (whether individuals or humanity as a whole), animals, nature, our dreams and goals, the eco-system… lack of physical and emotional contact, even when there is enough food and warmth, can kill (in newborns this is medically known as ‘failure to thrive’) or send people insane. Primates and many other mammals are wired for connection as a survival instinct – think of herds, troops and tribes. With the human awareness of the universe, we crave connection at a higher level as well. And here the language gets even trickier.
The word spirit is what puts a lot of people off, yet it’s basically a label for the part of being human that is more than the physical. I recently read an article in Scientific American that discussed the concept of the mind being ‘non-local’ to the brain……well, that’s a whole other discussion. You might consider that energy, vibes etc are imprecisely used terms, but if it really bothers you, think of it as slang with a culturally accepted meaning.
After all, at a very basic level we ARE all made of vibrating energy (assuming string theory has merit!) and integrated parts of the Quantum Field – literally a state of infinite possibilities. We’re all, in our own way, using words, definitions, attempts to give meaning and structure to our experience. All limited by our human senses, and language that developed from an attempt to explain where the bananas are.
Religions, cultures, and scientific theories develop over time. Some are useful, some are not. Whether you believe in God, Source energy or just random fluctuations in the space/time continuum (doesn’t really work as a swear when you drop a hammer on your foot though!) we’re all humans, living the mystery of life, and making sense of it as best we can. Sometimes we just need to stop thinking, stop defending our beliefs for a bit, and start experiencing. One moment at a time.
The basic reality we share is the same. Breathe out, rest the breath a moment, and find the stillness and peace in the moment. What you make of it is up to you, but please, take the time to enjoy it.
Love, light and laughter,