Spirituality brings purpose and meaning to life, and as we develop it, we grow in wisdom and love. We begin to experience a sense of awe, a sense of connection to all of life, and a deep reverence for the Divine. We find ourselves moved to prayers of gratitude and moments of spontaneous worship. Spirituality calls a human being to a life of trust and service.
When our spirituality is nurtured and vibrant, we are connected. This connection is both a sense of relationship to the Creator, Great Spirit, or God (divine force), as well as a relationship to all people and to Mother Earth (our life-giving environment). Spirituality takes us beyond our egocentered lives by expanding our hearts with compassion towards all.
Spirituality does not dwell in a realm apart. It is not an extracurricular activity. Spirituality involves a reverent attitude toward all things because it awakens us to a divine presence in all things. In this way of seeing and being, all things and persons are interconnected and interdependent. In the Sioux native language, the word for the Great Spirit is Wakan, which means ‘the great mystery.’ Yet this spirit, full of mystery, is every bit as real as the visible, tangible world.
It is important to differentiate spirituality from religion. Some people have rejected religion in order to escape what they consider to be oppressive rules and regulations. In the
process, however, many lose the great gifts of joy and compassion that spirituality brings.
Religion and spirituality are related and intertwined, but they are not the same. A person may experience spirituality without being a member of any specific religious affiliation, and even the most religious person may feel spiritually bereft. The true purpose of religion is to enhance spirituality through ritual and practice. This is accomplished when a person approaches his or her religion as a way to enter the great mystery, to become aware of the sacredness of all life.
Religion can become a barrier to spirituality when it insists on narrow, judgmental dogma, and estranges its followers from a sense of connection with the Divine. Religion serves us best as a vehicle to nourish and develop our spirituality.
It is possible, however, to get too caught up in the vehicle, the religious practice, while losing sight of the destination, spirituality, which is communion with the Divine and compassion for all. For modern, academically oriented professionals, like physicians and health care workers, spirituality is often a difficult subject.
Their training is framed by science. They depend on logical, analytical, and rational approaches, and for good reason. These approaches have successfully ushered in a host of lifechanging improvements in health care and technology. While honouring science and the mind, our cultural tendency urges us to devalue belief and mystery, but the result is costly: They are left spiritually starved and out of balance.
Some of life’s most difficult questions are the spiritual ones. What is the purpose of life? Where does real meaning come from? What is of real value in our lives? If there truly is a God who loves us, how could there be so much suffering and unfairness in the world? Part of our addiction to the busyness of life is an attempt to prevent ourselves from thinking about our mortality, the inevitable fact of our own death. But when we keep ourselves too busy to consider the purpose of our existence, our lives cease to have meaning. Strangely, it is only when we fully accept the reality of our mortality that we truly begin to live. This is the point at which we begin to enter into and learn about the spiritual dimension of our humanity.
At this point, you might ask yourself several questions to help assess your own spirituality. Do i have a sense of connection with the Divine? Do i feel compassion for others? Do i feel awe and reverence? Do i live a life of trust? Am i called to service? Is prayer or meditation an important part of my life? As French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin remarked, “We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a physical experience.” Our spirituality is our true essence. It is that part of our life which relates to our soul, which from a spiritual perspective is connected to the Divine and is infinite. This lifetime is but the physical experience of our deeper reality, our spirit, which is our fundamental nature.
by ALAN SHELTON
source: sunday times.