One term that seems to increasingly capture the values and belief systems of individuals in the West is ‘spiritual.’ Survey data from both Canada and the United States shows that more people are identifying themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious.’
While organized religion provides its believers with a set of ethics and rigid practices, spirituality seems to be more fluid, subjective and open to interpretation. Consequently, this results in some ambiguity surrounding the term.
Personally, I have been thinking about how to define this term, and contemplating the meaning and implications of a spiritual life. Perhaps it means the belief in something greater than yourself or following the moral imperative to treat all of humanity with inherent dignity and respect. At its core I think spirituality is an attempt to find meaning, purpose and connection in the world. As Robert Fuller notes in his book Spiritual But Not Religious,
We encounter spiritual issues every time we wonder where the universe comes from, why we are here, or what happens when we die. We also become spiritual when we become moved by values such as beauty, love, or creativity that seem to reveal a meaning or power beyond our visible world. An idea or practice is “spiritual” when it reveals our personal desire to establish a felt-relationship with the deepest meanings or powers governing life
As part of this blog, I wanted to explore this concept of spirituality, and what it means to different people.
I met Rosemary in a yoga studio where she was one of my instructors. At the end of each class she would read quotes touching on topics of spirituality, some of which deeply resonated with me. So, I asked her a couple questions about what spirituality means for her.
1. What does the word ‘spiritual’ mean for you?
For me, the word spiritual means to be connected with your deepest self. I know that this word is pretty broad – but I think that it means exactly what comes to mind for the person it’s being asked to. For me, it’s finding your true purpose – and perhaps that’s just finding something to believe in (I.e. religion), or pursuing your true passion, or career path. We are all put on this earth for a reason: big or small – and we are all on a journey to find our purpose. Once we realise this, the person can become more spiritual as they connect with their spirit and deeper self.
2. What authors, ideas or practices helped shape your idea of spirituality?
Growing up Catholic, I was always inclined to believe in something more than just the physical. Once I started practicing yoga, I started to go a bit deeper and delved into my inner self. And that’s when I found Alan Watts. I was so drawn to his philosophy and adored his lectures that I began to play him in yoga classes that I taught. His work was such an inspiration to me, and through researching more about him, I discovered Eckhart Tolle (duh).
3. What does one living a spiritual life seek to accomplish?
I believe that they are seeking to accomplish either: discovering their purpose in life, or pure and sheer happiness/enlightenment.
4. Many contemplative and spiritual traditions touch on the concept of ego dissolution. This idea is that our sense of the ‘self’ is an illusion. Does this concept resonate with you at all?
Yes – I don’t believe that we are our ‘self’. I think that we experience our self, and that are souls are the true being.
5. How does this idea of spirituality connect with the pursuit of happiness for you?
Back when I was completing my masters, I had countless moments where I kept asking myself, “what next” and “what’s the purpose of life”? I struggled with these questions almost every day. What’s going to happen after I graduate? Will I find a job? What’s the purpose of all this? Why are we here?
It wasn’t until I realised that we are just all on the pursuit of happiness.
6. Spirituality has gained a lot of attention recently. Any advice for people trying to find their footing and navigate this complex space ?
Our spiritual journey is ever-lasting and will constantly change. As you continue to explore your spiritually, some things will land on you, and others won’t. Be open to anything that comes your way – signs, books, readings, people. Hey, maybe even reading this article was a sign you needed.
If you are starting to find your foot, or if you ever feel lost, close your eyes and simply ask yourself, “who am I before anyone told me anything?” or “what do I believe in”?