What Is Spirituality?

Are We In Danger Of Throwing Out The Baby With The Bathwater?

Definition Of Spirituality

Historically any response to the question: “What is spirituality?” would have been framed within the religious tradition of the person you were asking.

A contemporary definition of spirituality would be more general and likely to be expressed as an inner sense of connection to something bigger than the individual self. This something bigger may or not be positioned within a faith tradition.

A medieval Christian monk would have answered the “What is spirituality?” question in terms of the presence of God, the Holy Spirit, working inside a person; and a Buddhist monk of the same period would have spoken of Bhavana meaning spiritual cultivation. Modern Christian and Buddhist monks would most likely give the same answers.

Has the modern disconnection between spirituality and culturally grounded faith traditions caused us to "throw the baby out with the bathwater"?

The root meaning of the word spirit is life force, and thus the literal answer to the “What is spirituality?” question is that it is about “matters to do with the spirit”.

In a post religious age where do we find an alternative context and reference points?

The purpose of this article is to set out my response to these questions by outlining two simple models for a practical, neutral approach to understanding spirituality together with links to further articles and resources based on many different aspects of my own direct personal experiences.



My Response To: "What Is Spirituality?"

I want to “nail my colours to the mast”  by reaffirming that:

  • The focus of this site is on how to think effectively and, as part of that process, learning how to stop thinking.  
  • The very specific purpose of this site is to show you how to cope in tough times, and to provide you with the tools to do this successfully.
  • This is all about personal development and spiritual growth.
  • It is based on practices, rather than beliefs, that you apply and that will have a profound and positive effect on your life.
  • When I use the word "spiritual" I am not referring to any particular faith tradition nor am I seeking to push or promote any particular belief or faith position.
  • I use the word "spiritual" in a more generic sense to point to the higher or more transcendent dimensions of human experience.

Think of this in terms of higher awareness or higher consciousness.




A Practical Approach To "What Is Spirituality?"

There are 2 key steps in my approach to understanding and working with spirituality:

[1] What Is Spirituality - Developing A Good Working Relationship With Your Mind

A simple and practical model of the mind is to visualise a ship at sea. The ship floats on the surface of the ocean and its purpose is to navigate and transport you from one location to another.

  • Think of the ship as your conscious mind with access to many of the tools at its disposal, for example: reasoning, calculation, speech and memory.
  • The ocean is your subconscious mind, it is deep, dark and mysterious and generates powerful currents which move the ship in the direction of their travel.
  • The sky is your higher consciousness often referred to as your higher self or higher power. The sky contains the clouds, the wind, the weather, the planets, the stars... the universe.
  • Think of your higher self as your conscious mind's portal to the universe – or the dimension of spirituality.

In order for the ship to take you to your destination it needs to work with the currents of the ocean and the wind and weather in the sky.

[2] What Is Spirituality - Understanding Your Selves

This step uses another model that starts from the premise that there is no singular "self" rather, there are multiple selves. Let's look at some of the key ones, and where it all goes horribly wrong:

The ego

Visualise your ego as your operating system and absolutely essential, in the same way "Windows 10" is essential for the successful functioning of your laptop. It mistakenly thinks it controls everything.

But as with "Windows 10", however clever it is, it is just a piece of software. So when you say me, myself or I; as a helpful metaphor, think of “Windows 10" with self awareness!

As we practice mindfulness, we find that in the spaces between our thoughts, we begin to experience that we are far more than this limited and conventional sense of self. We are not “Windows 10”!

The higher self

As we experience this we realise that we have a spiritual or energetic self and also that we have many unconscious aspects or selves that fall outside of the control of "Windows 10".

The unconscious mind

To extend the computer analogy think of our unconscious aspects or selves as the BIOS (the programme embedded on a chip on a computer's motherboard that recognizes and controls various devices that make up the computer).

The whole self

So to pull this together, when we talk of myself or I, what we are really referring to is the totality of all of it - of all of our unconscious aspects or selves, our conscious self (plus all its resources) and our spiritual self or higher self.

Where it all goes horribly wrong

Given that we are fundamentally energetic beings existing in an energetic universe we need to understand, relate to and work with our higher self. It is the portal to, in the conventional sense, everything "out there".

However, ”Windows 10” is not an energetic being but it thinks it is!

Its sphere of operation is defined by our sensory perceptions. For "Windows 10" seeing is believing. Because its role is to control it thinks it does (or should) control everything.

This is, of course, a major delusion.

This is where the whole teaching in mainstream belief systems of "dying to the self" or "dropping the self" comes into play.

This is the point at which we realise that we have only ever been holding an empty bath...



Reflections & Practical Tips & Suggestions

These are links to a series of articles that I started during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown. All are based on my direct personal experiences on the theme of spirituality:

- Understanding "The Energy Of Life"

- Working With "The Energy Of Life"

- Empowering Practices




Related Articles

The Higher Self and Intuition

Your Higher Self - Relax And Trust It

Intuitive Decision Making

Impermanence and This Too Shall Pass

This Too Shall Pass - The Blessing And The Curse Of Impermanence

Definition Of Belief - A Model For Understanding The Structure And Types Of Beliefs

Definition Of Belief



Dropping The Ego

Dying To Self


Consciousness

Deus Ex Machina and "The Ghost In The Machine"


Walking The Talk

On Becoming The Ferryman

Things Of The Spirit






Return from "What Is Spirituality" to: Home Page



Zen-Tools.Net



English Chinese (Traditional) Russian French German Italian Spanish Vietnamese


LATEST ARTICLES

  1. How To Live In A Participatory Universe

    What good is a universe without somebody around to look at it? What Conclusions Can We Draw About Living In A Participatory Universe? The inescapable conclusion is that the world and the universe (wit…

    Read More

  2. 4 Keys To Working With The Energy Of Life

    The journey home to the energy of life does not consist in arriving at a new destination it is a coming home to one’s self. [1] How are you feeling, what is your dominant emotion right now? [2] Where…

    Read More

  3. How To Deal With The Challenges Of Playing The Long Game

    You have to be willing to suffer today in order to reap enormous rewards tomorrow. The long game is so hard to play because it involves taking a series of very small steps, that people rarely see, per…

    Read More

  4. A Message For The New Year

    The outcomes that you experience are determined by your responses to the events in your life. 2 questions for you: [1] Have you made that fundamental connection between response and outcome? [2] Have…

    Read More

  5. If You Don't Take Care Of You, Who Will?

    How To Build Self Esteem In my early life and until my early twenties I suffered from a deep inferiority complex and low self esteem. Forty years later and, said in sincerity and with humility, I have…

    Read More

  6. Pay Attention To What Bothers Other People About You

    How To Develop Self Awareness Self awareness is how you consciously know and understand your own character, feelings, motives, and desires. In practical terms self awareness means: looking for pattern…

    Read More

  7. Be The Light At The End Of Someone Else's Tunnel

    What does it mean to Be the Light? "I can't cope with life, I just don't want to live any more," says a woman's softly spoken voice. "Nobody has listened, I just want to go to sleep and not wake up."

    Read More

  8. Asking The Right Questions - How To Avoid Wonky Thinking

    The human brain is hardwired to deal with immediate threats but in the modern world we live in a delayed benefit environment. One of the major points of focus on this site is learning how to think and…

    Read More

  9. Learn How To Benefit From The Fat Tail Fractal Factor

    Less than 1% of your efforts and resources can deliver over 50% of your results. Put simply, the fat tail fractal factor is a statistician's way of saying that less than 1% of your efforts and resour…

    Read More

  10. Dunbar's Number, More In Common And The Narcissism of Minor Differences

    A Reflection On Human Perversity. Dunbar's number has become an urban myth. It is an estimate of the number of people that we are allegedly hardwired to be to able to maintain stable and meaningful r…

    Read More

  11. Give Thanks In Everything - Respond Don't React!

    This is about responding to what happens not reacting to it. To give thanks in everything involves a seismic shift in perspective that can appear illogical and at best counter-intuitive, and at worst…

    Read More

  12. Recognising Limbo As A Stage Of Transition

    Limbo is transformed when you use it as an opportunity to do what you've long needed to do. Limbo is a situation in which nothing happens or changes for a long period of time, and it is difficult to m…

    Read More

  13. On Becoming The Ferryman

    The art of living is knowing how to make use of suffering. The traditional life of The Ferryman is all about transporting passengers from one side of a river or estuary to the other. He is needed wher…

    Read More

  14. Things Of The Spirit

    We are more than our bodies, and belong to more than just this earth. True wisdom lies in seeing the bigger picture, and fully living in a world that we know experientially to be intimately interconne…

    Read More

  15. Mind Games & How To Free Yourself From Them

    Don't give 100 percent of your attention to the external world and to your mind. Keep some within. This morning was the beginning of a not-so-good day. I sat down first thing with my early morning cup…

    Read More

  16. Just Do It - A Call To Action And Getting Started

    "Just Do It" has been popularised by Nike who have had it as a trademark since 1988 and like all successful promotional ideas it is one of those phrases that can mean whatever you want it to mean. In…

    Read More

  17. Self Dialogue - Dealing With Your Many Selves

    The key to effective self dialogue is to have tools, techniques and resources that work with all levels of your mind. This simple self-facilitated technique - or practice - that I am going to share wi…

    Read More

  18. The Transformative Power Of Acceptance

    There is one word in amongst the 400,000 words on this site that does have the power to change you and to transform your life - if you choose to act upon it. That word is acceptance. The power of acc…

    Read More

  19. Stop Thinking

    Discover The Benefits Of Having Space In Your Mind Can you stop thinking? According to Zen Buddhist priest Shunmyo Masuno the art of not thinking about anything is not easy to achieve. Even practising…

    Read More





The Balanced Life



The Balanced Toolkit



3 Keys Solutions


Get new posts by email:



Support This Site