What is Spirituality?
Let’s go on a walk. I know a relaxing, easy hike through a beautiful forest. The day is mild with a slight breeze that cools the back of your neck and the tip of your nose. We’ll start our hike noticing how the sunlight cascades through the compact branches of the forest trees. As we move along the path, you notice how the light filters through the treetops like a jewel toned prism. Its golden rays gently touch the highest and most delicate leaves; yet as the light makes its descent toward the forest floor, it gradually moves in shades of mint to dark and brilliant emerald. You make your way down a muddy path where, just ahead, there is a slight break in the foliage. Delicately, you peel back each branch, finding your way through the hedge until your standing on the precipice of the most amazing view you have ever seen. A valley of treetops extends like a sea before you. Every mountain surrounding the valley is magnificent in height and breath. A dusting of feathery clouds sits atop each mountain, lending a feeling of mystery without any sense of foreboding. The view takes your breath away and in that moment, you know it isn’t by chance. This was all created by the hand of the most careful artist – it was all created for you.
Let’s explore another scenario. Have you ever felt compassion for a stranger? Perhaps a person begging on the street? A map of wrinkles creasing their face as they wearily sit on a busy street-corner, their heads bowed over an empty cup. Their clothes are riddled with holes and they worn out the soles of their old shoes. Their skin is marked with dirt and grit and their hair is dirty. You might wonder what happened to put this individual in such dire circumstances. Knowing what you do about life, you are slow to judge but quick to feel compassion for this fellow human who looks so down-trodden. Pity doesn’t drive you forward, pity resists against compassion. You feel empathy and you are quick to act, to empty your pockets of what little change you have or ask them if they desire a warm meal. You might take your shoes off and offer them, knowing full well that you have another pair at home.
This is spirituality. To look at the world without “I” but with us in mind. Whether it is you and your creator or you and your fellow man, that connectedness we feel is crucial to our fulfillment in life.
How The Expert Defines It
I love the work of Brene Brown. Her definition of spirituality in the book “The Gifts of Imperfection“, is better than my explanation:
“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.”
“Celebrating”. It’s something wonderful to celebrate! To know and feel as though we are not an accident – not a blip in the mysterious fabric of the universe – that we serve a purpose born out of pure love; that’s one amazing thought.
Interconnectedness inspires us to take care of one another. It helps us reach across political and social boundaries. Common humanity says “I am with you”. When we can say “I am with you” and apply principles of spirituality – recognizing and celebrating our connectedness through and by a greater power – we can develop hope and foster love in our homes, communities, and throughout the world because we know that we all serve a purpose and that we are all worthy of love and compassion.
Finding your own spiritual path helps to make sense of life’s mysteries. When life tosses us in the throes of sorrow or when we have questions about our identity, spirituality often brings peace and calm to these deep and confusing questions. I don’t only feel spiritually nourished when I am sitting in church but I feel most spiritually sound when I spend time in nature.
Whether it’s a long run in my favorite park, a hike with friends, or taking my morning tea on the porch of my family’s cabin, I feel most connected to God when I am witnessing His artistry in nature. I find that being in nature calms my anxiety riddled mind. I can breathe and meditate on ideas. I often offer silent prayers when I am sitting alone in nature and I feel my most open and vulnerable to accept answers. Being in nature reminds me of my purpose, of my identity, and that I am made by a God of Love and that we are all connected through Him. It makes the world seem a little smaller, which makes far off problems in the world more meaningful to me. The way I see it, the smaller the world, the more connected I am to issues that seem far away.
I grew up religious and continue to practice my religion. My religion brings me peace and comfort. It has greatly impacted the way I view the world. I believe we are all brothers and sisters, no one is lesser or greater. We’re all unbelievably loved and we have been sent here to grow and serve one another. I won’t get into all the details but these beliefs have served me well. They have always emphasized the importance of compassion, the interconnectedness of not only people but animals and nature, and the duty we have as human-beings to serve one another and take care of our world. We don’t always get it right but I believe that developing a great sense of common-humanity has helped me through times of loneliness and suffering. The comfort lies in knowing that I am not the only one, that suffering serves a purpose, and that I can’t ignore the suffering of my fellow-man because, at the end of the day, their suffering is mine.
May you find what spirituality means to you.