spirituality (spɪrɪtʃʊˈalɪti,spɪrɪtjʊˈalɪti/ )
noun : the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
Religion (the institutions and established systems of belief in a divine power) and religious belief should cultivate spiritual experience. Spirituality itself is a subtle distinction to define and can be found in the simplest moments in life.
Not all spiritual practices or approaches are religious, such as yoga practiced with traditional authenticity and many techniques of meditation. Some sects of Buddhism can also be classed as non-religious. Many cultures cultivate spirituality in a great range of traditions, cosmologies and paradigms that may or may not include their connection to nature, celestial forces or the practitioners own inner transcendent nature. There is a common thread in what is characterised as sacred and spiritual.
Like many saints, masters and poets, we can contemplate such attributes as love, bliss, purpose, friendship, uplifted beauty transcendent and in nature and the sense of selfless service. Or we can delve directly into the most profound way we connect with the essence of existence and reality. Contemplating meaning in such moments helps us to align with a greater sense of goodness and connection in a living and friendly vast reality. Universal truth and being can be no less than the sum of all our most true and noble insights and experiences of life. It is also obviously much more. Personal or impersonal, a greater or pure consciousness beyond our sense of self is a subjective experience of vast potential just as love is.
The conviction or even the idea that the universe is living and conscious, is expressed inspiringly in Deepak Chopra and Menas Kafatos’ 2017 book “You are the Universe”. In this book they conclude with a theory of “qualia” which acknowledges ‘qualities’ of experience as fundamental to the observer and the observers existence and reality. Everything we can conceive and perceive is inescapably our own subjective view and experience, even through our man-made devices and equipment. ‘Quanta’ (the smallest sub-atomic unit) and Newtonian laws are discussed as two distinct levels or frameworks of laws and observations of the known material universe only, and so far short accounting fully for unanswered questions let alone the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of continued existence and experience. The ‘quantum’ realm particularly reveals the relative and surprising aspects of time, space and the interaction between the observer and reality itself.
Essentially, the book puts forward that our universe being random and stable from the big bang is against vast odds that would have it imploding or exploding, never forming even molecules if a vast array of variables of were even minutely different. Even more freakish is that such an unlikely random event evolved self-consciousness beings from only matter. Much is discussed along these lines drawing on known science theory and many new conclusions about how the universe formed. An existing but refreshed and interesting argument embracing science and philosophy is then presented that the universe arose and is still evolving from cosmic consciousness experiencing itself through a multi-dimensional universe of energy, matter and conscious beings.
Human unconditional love or compassion, self-less friendship and the vital essence of being alive is as much a part of the absolute and infinite consciousness as is our sense of profundity, divinity and sacredness. These are attributes experienced universally among all cultures, ages and people in many forms and guises. They are a few of many attributes of subjective reality and conscious awakening (becoming more aware of our ‘true’ nature) connecting us closer to a qualitative and subtle sense of universal consciousness. Conscious awakening is often associated with a realisation and identification with the observer of experience (experience including thoughts and feelings). The observer is unchanging pure consciousness compared to observed experience. With this shift of awareness comes a sense of presence, greater mindfulness in each moment. Identification with the observer gives a sense of blissfulness and freedom from physical and worldly attachments and aversions. It frees us from being at the effect of thoughts, feelings and experiences yet able to be present in them more fully.
The contemporary view of spirituality as quoted in the dictionary definition above, associates soul or spirit with a quality of being. It indicates a shared recognition in our society of a quality of consciousness or sense of being with soulfulness or spirit. This recognition is not intellectual or emotional yet is a subtle depth and quality of being widely accepted despite diverse beliefs about its meaning and implications.
Nonetheless, whatever one’s beliefs, personal spiritual experience transcends ideology and is arguably the domain that unites all true spiritual and religious paths but is not restricted to them. If ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ are truly part of our true nature, then this level of ‘being’ is available to anyone and everyone. Buddhist and psychological approaches associate meditation in mindfulness or the pure conscious background to mind activity with bliss, wellbeing and enhanced levels of documented levels of consciousness.
Not only spiritual practices can cultivate a persons sensitivity and awareness on a ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ dimension but so can lifestyle (choices of music, foods, environment) and social life (friends with whom one can share reflections and experiences ‘soul to soul’). In India, the term ‘sattvic’ is used to describe such harmonising and more spiritually aligned influences and vibrations.
Spiritual experience transcends thought and beliefs. Beliefs may determine what we make of it, and like meditation even pave the way for a clear personal experience and conscious shift. However, the experience freed of interpretation and mental-narrative is where many spiritual practitioners aim to immerse themselves when in communion or meditation, or through prayer, then eventually attain it continuously. It is possibly what Christ referred to as approaching God like a child. Opening ourselves to feeling close to a greater universal presence or consciousness, albeit through glimpses and intuitive knowing, is a mark of progressive spirituality.
So to, is the recognition that it is a shared and existential nature we all share. Pure spirit or pure consciousness at a spiritual level can provide an authentic sense of brother-hood and sister-hood. It is a real transcendent nature, consciousness of the pure subjective experience beyond all human doctrines and beliefs. As more people recognise the essence of a living personal spiritual experience holds a truth and absoluteness that cannot be contained by our unique and conditioned interpretations and beliefs we can respect differences in ideologies yet know when we are aligning in the same essence and reality.
Progressive spiritual attributes are also indicated by enhanced appreciation of beauty and goodness underlying the negatives and positives of worldly appearances. A universal theme in spiritual and religious practices is living from values of love and compassion, support and service to others, and removing ones self from purely selfish desires.
The bottom line universally is that of harmonising ones self and as a society by cultivating the primary drive of intent and action from love or compassion.
The dictionary view above connects “quality of being” with attributes of “soul” or “spirit”. Based on the discussion above, spirituality, as concerned with ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’, can be extended to being concerned with ‘consciousness, life and energy’. Distinguishing it as “opposed” to anything concerned with “material and physical things” may be an old distinction. I would suggest spirituality is concerned with realities beyond ‘purely material and physical things’ yet inclusive of physicality. To the spiritually awakened, all things are spiritual. To the spiritually deprived, nothing is spiritual.
Thus ‘spirituality’ represents a holistic and contextual knowledge and understanding of existence and life.
Crisis can also harness an instinctive need to develop our sense of ‘the whole’, so spirituality out of necessity can develop as we collectively gain greater maturity and knowledge as a global society, along with the issues that we have created.
From contemplating the big bang and the ensuing universe to each and every daily action, can we attune to the wholeness and profoundness of conscious existence – something coming from nothing and, nothing we can grasp with the intellect, mysteriously being behind everything. We must re-attune ourselves beyond material wonders and distractions to that which is soulfully known and felt without form. In this way we can redefine the simple presence of consciousness practically. We can rediscover humility, wonder and a sense of sacredness towards the power, profoundness and infinite potential which is our gift of life and consciousness. Being authentic with this as part of the art of being more fully ourselves, we find our own pathway through our unique life and practices. Connecting beyond our conditioned ideas of self to Divine Mother or Father can still be a high and powerful concept during such intimate and personal moments of insight, awareness and revelation.
Religion and Spirituality are not the same thing.
A spiritual universe is a living conscious universe.
Universal consciousness is no less than the most noble attributes of human nature.
Spiritual practices, lifestyle and social factors can cultivate values, spiritual meanings, communion or alignment towards a transcendent or cosmic consciousness.
Nearness to the presence or sense of a higher presence or universal consciousness is indicative of spiritual experience as is recognising it.
Enhanced appreciation of beauty, goodness, truth and meaning come with spiritual awakening.
Engaging in higher values through support and service to others, especially through love or compassion is central to spirituality.
Unification of mind and soul tis through a sense of universal love.
Our inner nature and global circumstances combine to create greater tension, prompting many to instinctively attune more to their spiritual personal nature and shared well being with others.
Identifying with our sense of spiritual connection authentically and beyond our own conditioned thoughts and habits can provide the basis for our inner practice.