Good question. Probably one that should have been considered further before founding a half-fast site centered on this very topic. According to Google/Wikipedia, “Traditionally spirituality has been defined as a process of personal transformation in accordance with religious ideals. Since the 19th century spirituality is often separated from religion, and has become more oriented on subjective experience and psychological growth.” Thanks Google/Wikipedia for allowing me to demonstrate my intellectual laziness. Now where the heck does that leave this post? I suppose we can putz around the issue and try to illuminate this definition with examples and partial truths. But as the Zen Master Dai-o Kokushi poetically said,
“Wishing to entice the blind, the Buddha playfully let words escape from his golden mouth, heaven and earth are filled, ever since, with entangling briars.”
Or consider another quote from Lao Tzu,
“He who knows does not speak; He who speaks does not know.”
Well fiddlesticks! I suppose by discussing such an issue we’ll run the risk of moving in circles and be no further from the start in the end. But as humans we are creatures of habit, and one of our favorite habits is to talk a lot about stuff we know nothing about (one of my favorite habits at least). I suppose I would begin by stating, in a reduced sense, that spirituality is nothing more then a narrative we tell ourselves that exists relative to the other narratives we tell ourselves. Hey, it’s a start. Now if I were to describe this narrative personally, I think I would say that spirituality represents a certain attention given to that part of me that longs for a state of being best demonstrated as a peace/clarity of mind coupled with a heightened awareness of “what is” as far as it can be known by my discriminating mind. I would have to say that this is a very personal definition brought about by all the secondhand information I’ve come to understand as topics relating to spirituality. In the end, spirituality is just as much, if not more, a subjective experience as well as a shared experience. So, you might as well color the concept with your own predilections.
So what should spirituality do for you? If anything at all. Well, I suppose many spiritualists would say it depends on who is asking the question. “Who am I?” is one of the fundamental questions that Hinduism posits any seeker reflect on when setting upon the path to spiritual enlightenment. The point being, as far as I understand it, that one learns to separate out the thoughts that are the ego from the pure awareness that sits behind it all. This awareness has been called “the watcher” or the “atman.” Still, even once one recognizes this awareness, I’d imagine a particular amount of ego should survive to enable one to navigate day-to-day life. Perhaps spiritual practice sets us on the path of taming our egos rather then the full dissolution of it. Further, we should attempt not to identify ourselves to much with the fears and anxieties that manifest in our thoughts. Beyond all the ego talk, it seems that spirituality should help us illuminate and find meaning in our daily lives.
One should observe from a reductionist standpoint that spirituality seems to be derived from the pleasure principle. That is, once the negativity in one’s life becomes to much to bear, many of us seek spiritual practice or meditation as a way to escape pain. From a psychological point of view, this cannot be ignored. However, I don’t feel that spirituality being rooted in our base biology or emotions discounts any higher interpretations of such spiritual inclinations (oh i said the site title, snap!). This is a world of opposing points of interest, where everything exists in a state relative to everything else. How should we choose (more on choice/determinism later) more awareness or a higher state of being if we aren’t first exposed to a lack of those modalities? Of course, we must first be exposed to the possibility that there is probably always more to existence then what we understand at any given moment. But as far as spirituality coming about as a result of certain experiences, whether they be external or internal to the self, it seems that it arises as a natural process. It is therein that I find a foremost interpretation of what spirituality often is. It is a process, it is an act of becoming.
Though spirituality is often an act of becoming, at certain points I believe spirituality need be nothing more then a state of being, a state of aware and peaceful contentment. That being said, it appears quite obvious that the preeminent theme of this existence is change (duh!). From change can come many things. Though for our purposes, we’d probably prefer that this change result in growth rather then stagnation. Perhaps the endgame of this growth is to exist in a state of simultaneous hyper-awareness and serenity, like a blissed out Buddha or a loving Christ. Personally though, I don’t believe there is an endgame. Once awareness becomes aware of its awareness, the degree to which this wakefulness can rise to may be boundless.
There is so much more that can be touched on concerning such a broad topic. Seeing as this is my second post ever, the purpose of this post is more to play at ideas then to come to any obligatory conclusions. At any extent, all I am is a conscious point of attention trying to understand its consciousness as it integrates into the whole of being. Further, spirituality may be viewed as the act of each of us coming to understand that we are all conscious points of attention manifesting within the same ground of being. What does this really mean? Well that’s a post for another time. But as for now, why say more on the subject when we’ve already found ourselves amongst the entangling briars?