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.
I want to “nail my colours to the mast” by reaffirming that:
Think of this in terms of higher awareness or higher consciousness.
There are 2 key steps in my approach to understanding and working with spirituality:
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.
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.
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:
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...
These are links to a series of articles that I started during the 2020 Covid-19
are based on my direct personal experiences on the theme of spirituality:
Impermanence and This Too Shall Pass
Definition Of Belief - A Model For Understanding The Structure And Types Of Beliefs
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