Jump to content

What Does It Mean To You To Be Spiritual?


Guest billmc
 Share

Recommended Posts

We've kinda danced around this subject a bit lately on this forum, so I thought it would be interesting to ask outright: if you describe yourself as a spiritual person, what does it mean to you to be spiritual?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good topic. This reminds me of what I posted on the Labels thread, quoting Spong’s definition of spiritual as fully alive and vital, animated. I believe that’s a valid interpretation from the biblical usage, but to most people it would mean “spirited” rather than spiritual, which is more commonly understood as contemplative. That is how I would describe myself.

 

Randolph Ross defines spirituality as the awareness of God as the context within which we live, and a directing of one’s self towards God in the way one lives. His “common sense” approach works for me also.

 

I was glad to see Grampawombat asserting he’s not mystical but actively involved in church work-- social activism as one of the many ways of being a progressive Christian.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Id like to state right up front that I consider myself to be a spiritual person, but that I am not much of a mystic.

 

Now, with the wide range of views present on this board, people are going to quite naturally bring their own interpretations of what spiritual and mystic mean. So please allow me, for the sake of clarity, to define the terms as I use them. These are not text-book definitions, just my own handles on the concepts.

 

Spiritual When I first became a Christian, God was described to me as a spirit. Nobody could quite tell me what a spirit is (they still cant), but they could tell me what it wasnt. I was taught that spirit was an immaterial force or being, analogous to the popular myth of a ghost. In fact, growing up in the Pentecostal movement, the Holy Spirit was often called the Holy Ghost and he was portrayed as part of the Trinity that came to actual live inside believers and, in some ways, take possession of them. The main mark of this in Pentecostal circles is speaking in tongues. If you had the Spirit, you spoke in tongues. If you didnt speak in tongues, you didnt have the Spirit. After my first year of Bible school at a Pentecostal Holiness college, because I could still not speak in tongues, I was asked to consider whether this was the right school for me. I decided it wasnt and I didnt return. For them (and for many Christians today), being spiritual meant having the Holy Ghost (who was normally not here) come into a person and put that person on a higher plane of existence of humanity. There was a lot of judgment in that college over who was spiritual and who was carnal and this kind of spiritual one-up-manship still goes on today in Christian circles. I dont use spiritual in this manner whatsoever.

 

I dont believe God (or the Holy Spirit) is an other-worldly force or being who comes from there to here to invade, possess, or influence us. Sure, the other-worldly view is the biblical view, but I am not a theist and therefore dont believe that God is a person out there. To me, being spiritual means, from the via negativa, not confined to time or space. As a person, I dont have to be confined to the worldview of just one time or one location. I can be, in some sense, ecumenical. On the positive side, it means feeling and living with a sense of connectedness with myself, with others, with this world. To me, being spiritual doesnt have anything to do with being from another world or going to another world, it has to do with experiencing and enjoying life NOW, right where I am. It is not at all about being on a higher plane or being closer to God (another theistic term). It is about enjoying being a human and making the most of that opportunity for my own sake and the sake of others and this world. I want little to do with the sort of spirituality that is all about going to another world or escaping reality. My spirituality does not stand in opposition to the matter universe. Instead, it allows me to enjoy it as part of it.

 

Mystic - Just a quick word. I am not one, so for me to talk about mystics and mysticism is like a rock mason trying to talk about electronics. I readily acknowledge that and so I must ask in advance for forgiveness if I misrepresent, misinterpret, or malign mystics and mysticism. What attracts me to mysticism is the capability or opportunity or openness to experience God or Ultimate Reality for ones self without being told by a religious institution how to do it or whether it is valid or not. I can appreciate that mystics have a relationship with God that does not require a middle man. They, therefore, enjoy a freedom that many of us in institutional religions dont have.

 

At the same time, I frequently am frustrated with the inability that the mystic has to describe his/her experiences in a way that communicates meaningful to others. To me, mystics often speak in nebulous, ambiguous terms such as isness or suchness that seem to be, analogous to the Pentecostals, words that they themselves dont even understand but use as a kind of code language amongst themselves so that they can recognize each other. From some conversations that I have had with a few mystics, they themselves admit that they cannot find words to describe where they are on their journey or their experiences. So it sometimes makes me wonder if it is worth the time and effort to try to even communicate with them when they are the first ones to admit that words and communications are often useless or meaningless. :) I love words. Im not very good at using them. But I think they are wonderful tools for making and maintaining relationships, connectedness. Of course, they can also start wars. But I tend to think that where they start wars, it is often because people have not used words in the first place.

 

So all of that to say that I see myself as being spiritual but not a mystic. I feel and try to live out of a sense of connectedness to all life around me. This includes what I consider to be God and the rest of the world that I am able to communicate and relate to. And I might even be a very borderline mystic in that I am not letting anyone dictate to me how to enjoy or grow my spirituality or life. But I am not the sort of mystic that would sit on a mountaintop in a lotus position feeling at one with the universe while people are suffering below. That, to me, is not spiritual. My mysticism, if you want to call it that, is about experiencing life and helping others to the best of my ability to do it also, not about escaping the world.

 

Thanks for listening.

Edited by billmc
Link to comment
Share on other sites

We've kinda danced around this subject a bit lately on this forum, so I thought it would be interesting to ask outright: if you describe yourself as a spiritual person, what does it mean to you to be spiritual?

 

 

To me, to be spiritual simply means to be consciously connected to the One formless eternal substrate that is the source of all existence, seen and unseen. We are already all connected.

 

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We've kinda danced around this subject a bit lately on this forum, so I thought it would be interesting to ask outright: if you describe yourself as a spiritual person, what does it mean to you to be spiritual?

 

To me, it means having a moral standard that is outside this world.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don’t know that I could define spirituality or what it means to be spiritual. Some, in the group I formerly identified with, believed the Holy Spirit could be found only in the written words of scripture. That belief implied the Holy Spirit didn’t actually exist in any real or physical sense, but that is contrary to the biblical assertion that the Holy Spirit is a gift from God and that the Spirit dwells within the believer. I find many groups beliefs confusing and contradictory.

 

I think believers have a spiritual nature. However, the problem of free will also has to be considered and added to the equation. That leads me to believe the nature of the indwelling Holy Spirit is revealed as a moral influence, which some might refer to as having a conscience, moral compass, ethics, or a sense of right and wrong. I assume those attributes constitute the primary components of spirituality and are the driving force for compassion, mercy, and grace.

 

I seems to me humans have the capacity for two distinctly different natures. One is carnal, or self serving, and the other is spiritual or extending love and compassion to others. The purpose of religion, or so it seems to me, is to change our inclination to focus on ourselves and become aware of others and their needs

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To me being spiritual involves a subtle recognition of supreme mystery - that at the root of all things is a deep and ineffable Truth, neither part nor whole, nothing particular, nothing defined, beyond category, complete beyond all concepts and systems. As such, our lives, and life in general, are nothing less than the movement, oscillation, and existential fact of this Truth. I would say that we are manifestations or incarnations of Truth, but that language would create a duality that I really suspect is not ultimately useful.

 

This ‘supreme mystery’ is not something I see as something to be understood, as if it could be made just another object of our understanding and examination. It is much too immediate, all-pervading, too subtle. If we try to pinpoint it, we don't have it. How could we? Neither we nor anything else has such a vantage point, nothing is on the outside - reality is not an object.

 

However, this mystery can be lived. The mystic, to me, is anyone who relates to reality in such a way as to live this fundamental mystery. As such, in my own mind, I do not see a fundamental distinction between spirituality and mysticism. Perhaps they simply carry along different connotations in popular usage.

 

To me this does not at all outright deny a material universe. Spirituality, to me, generally tries to look deeper and beyond what we have called 'matter,' or to not take the concept of matter to have the final say on the nature of life and existence. After all, matter becomes as nebulous a notion as any when you push it to its extreme. There may be some who deny the existence or validity of 'matter' altogether, but I'm not one of them.

 

This all may be still very theoretical. In practice spirituality and/or mysticism to me is about finding a shift in identity. Seeing what is beyond ourselves into what is at the heart of life. There are real psychological reasons for wanting to do this: shifting my identity lets me breathe a sigh of relief at the thought of my own limits and ultimately of my own death. It creates a way for me to let go and not cling to desires and illusions, what is generally called the false self.

 

In practice this means looking beyond the ego. You don’t have to necessarily entertain a host of metaphysical notions to do this, either. I think Karen Armstrong did a good job arguing this case when I read it in this thread:

 

So, if religion is not about believing things, what is it about? What I’ve found is that, across the board, religion is about behaving differently. Instead of deciding whether or not you believe in God, first you do something, you behave in a committed way, and then you begin to understand the truths of religion. And religious doctrines are meant to be summons to action: you only understand them when you put them into practice.

 

Now, pride of place in this practice is given to compassion. And it is an arresting fact that right across the board, in every single one of the major world faiths, compassion — the ability to feel with the other, and the way we’ve been thinking about this evening — is not only the test of any true religiosity, it is also what will bring us into the presence of what Jews, Christians and Muslims call “God” or the “Divine.” It is compassion, says the Buddha, which brings you to Nirvana. Why? Because in compassion, when we feel with the other, we dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and we put another person there. And once we get rid of ego, then we’re ready to see the Divine. And, in particular, every single one of the major traditions has highlighted — has said — has put at the core of their tradition — what’s become known as the Golden Rule. First propounded by Confucius five centuries before Christ, “Do not do unto others what you would not like them to do to you.” That, he said, was the central thread that ran through all his teaching and that his disciples should put into practice all day and every day. And it was the Golden Rule would bring them to the transcendent value that he called rén, human-heartedness, which was a transcendent experience in itself.

 

When compassion is seen in this light - as transcending the self and thus making room for the Divine - then it is as valid an expression of spiritual/mysticism/faith as I can think of. Seeing it this way, grandpawombat seems to me a very spiritual person. :)

Edited by Mike
  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think being spiritual means being concerned with matters of the soul rather than just physical matters. Traditionally it has been linked for me with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but that is SO Pauline. AND I know there are others of different religious traditions I would consider to be spiritual that don't speak of the Holy Spirit.

 

Experiencing the Power of God, the energy and Love of God's spirit -- it is a way to find meaning in this temporary, material world. We want to have meaningful relationships that we sense will go on after we die. Glorifying God in our relationships with other humans infuses them with meaning, and doing our part to make God's kingdom come connects us with the past and the future.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"And I am enough of a theist to find the idea of God very important for how I live my life (or try to anyway). "

 

This was part of granndpawombat's post from the mystic-skeptic forum referred to above. I guess the reason I didn't reply was that this statement very much reflects my thinking of what it means to be spiritual.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In my experience to be spiritual is to expand my experience to a spiritual consciousness where I see the diversity of forms within a unified whole that I call God or pure consciousness. I see all who have posted on this thread as very spiritual even the ones who claim not to be. Even I don't claim to be spiritual, but I think many think I am a mystical fool because of my nature. I think that is because my life experiences have caused me to trade my intellect for intuition and plain amazement at the consciousness all around me, manifest and un-manifest.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I must say that I am very impressed with the depth of knowledge that many of you have regarding religious authors, books and writings. Unfortunately I am a simple person who found this Love not by way of mental deduction but through necessity. I will try to explain but sincerely words fall very short.

 

Although I wish no one the painful journey that brought me to the doorway of my soul, what I can share is the reality of this Love from God. I discovered ‘It’ when through my deep pain and anguished prayers to God after my sons’ birth, something shown through to my very heart. It stopped my racing mind with this incredible warmth that surrounded my heart. This feeling of being connected is real, tangible and can be felt by our souls. I always had a strong passion to be close to God, in fact this passion has brought me into a relationship with God.

 

Yes that is correct, a relationship in the truest sense of the word which changes the characteristics and attributes of the recipient. For me this “parent child relationship” has dominated my being over the last ten years so much so that life is forever different. That life without this Love in it loses its meaning in the noise and confusion of our daily lives. But it exists despite our awareness of it.

 

Being spiritually oriented means that you are aware that you are much more then mere flesh and blood. You are participating in this world but are not of it. For many people it stops there and then. I wanted answers and was blessed to have them come.

 

We are all connected on the spiritual level, we truly are all one and our success for peace depends on us lifting our brothers and sisters and not holding each other down.

Before we were our race, our beliefs, our politics, we were soul first and foremost from God. If we see with God’s eyes we see beyond the material coverings, to the heart of the person. From this perspective we are all one, we all need this Love to flourish, to open our eyes.

 

My experience I described was over 13 years ago, I have had many more. This Divine Love is very important to me. I have been an apprentice of this Love and see that we are all equally deserving of It.

 

Prayer is the key, your desire to connect with God is paramount. I truly believe that if not for the dire circumstance and deep pain I never would have made this connection. It drove my soul to cry out and the answer came in the form of Love.

 

Love is the currency of God’s economy and it the only thing that we can take with us when we leave this material plane.

 

Finally I understand that the one who stands before me is equally deserving of this Love and in this regard we are all the same.

Edited by determined soul
  • Upvote 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Determined Soul,

 

That was simply a wonderful and powerful testimony of what i perceive to be truth. Thanks so much for sharing. Your story says so much more to me in simplicity than speaking a myriad of ways in deep knowledge of theology or concepts.

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bill, Mike, et.al.,

 

OK, if you define spirituality as feeling compassion for others, or as I might put it, seeing the face of Jesus in every oppressed person, then I may not do it well, but that is what is valuable to me. However, for me, who does not see himself as spiritual, the term has to do with a clear sense of the divine or transcendent, and just don't have that clear sense.

 

Let me tell you a story. About 1960, the Presbyterian Church sent someone into a predominately African American community to determine whether of not to establish a church there. The person who did the investigation wisely observed that there were plenty of churches, but the community could use what I call a settlement house, that is, a place where people within the community could meet with one another and with interested outsiders to determine and address the communities needs. The denomination with equal wisdom (not an abundant quantity among church bureaucrats) followed the recommendation of their investigator and set up a pilot program with a staff of one paid organizer (a Presbyterian pastor) and some volunteers. The organizer had experience working in an inner-city ministry and had been trained in the Iona Community. They named the program the Mid-Peninsula Christian Ministry, and the building Community House. People from the community worked with a variety of interns and church-folk from the surrounding communities, and over time had a very positive impact in areas like child care, employment, education, housing, and community development. After about a decade, the original organizer concluded that the community leadership was strong and capable, and outside support of the sort the ministry represented was no longer appropriate or needed. So he put himself out of a job. But not before the community held a big celebration of the work that had been done and the effect it had on everyone who participated. I was one of the participants, more of a wannabe that a real player, but the experience had a profound effect on my approach to life in general and religion in particular.

 

One of Karen Armstrong's observations quoted earlier was that belief (at least as we commonly use the term) is not a historical part of religion. I couldn't agree more.

 

An editorial postscript--the "outsiders" came from churches in almost every Protestant denomination, and from several Catholic churches and Jewish congregations.

Edited by grampawombat
Link to comment
Share on other sites

grampawombat,

 

You just don't want to be fixed no matter how hard we try, do you? :lol:

 

However, for me, who does not see himself as spiritual, the term has to do with a clear sense of the divine or transcendent, and just don't have that clear sense.

As one who tried to fix you, I really appreciate your respect for words (spiritual, divine, transcendent) by not allowing us to make them fit you when they don't.

 

Good story about what happens when we attend to the needs of the people.

 

Dutch

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bill, Mike, et.al.,

 

OK, if you define spirituality as feeling compassion for others, or as I might put it, seeing the face of Jesus in every oppressed person, then I may not do it well, but that is what is valuable to me. However, for me, who does not see himself as spiritual, the term has to do with a clear sense of the divine or transcendent, and just don't have that clear sense.

 

Let me tell you a story. About 1960, the Presbyterian Church sent someone into a predominately African American community to determine whether of not to establish a church there. The person who did the investigation wisely observed that there were plenty of churches, but the community could use what I call a settlement house, that is, a place where people within the community could meet with one another and with interested outsiders to determine and address the communities needs. The denomination with equal wisdom (not an abundant quantity among church bureaucrats) followed the recommendation of their investigator and set up a pilot program with a staff of one paid organizer (a Presbyterian pastor) and some volunteers. The organizer had experience working in an inner-city ministry and had been trained in the Iona Community. They named the program the Mid-Peninsula Christian Ministry, and the building Community House. People from the community worked with a variety of interns and church-folk from the surrounding communities, and over time had a very positive impact in areas like child care, employment, education, housing, and community development. After about a decade, the original organizer concluded that the community leadership was strong and capable, and outside support of the sort the ministry represented was no longer appropriate or needed. So he put himself out of a job. But not before the community held a big celebration of the work that had been done and the effect it had on everyone who participated. I was one of the participants, more of a wannabe that a real player, but the experience had a profound effect on my approach to life in general and religion in particular.

 

One of Karen Armstrong's observations quoted earlier was that belief (at least as we commonly use the term) is not a historical part of religion. I couldn't agree more.

 

An editorial postscript--the "outsiders" came from churches in almost every Protestant denomination, and from several Catholic churches and Jewish congregations.

 

Hello Don,

I appreciate you sharing this story with us.

You said:

However, for me, who does not see himself as spiritual, the term has to do with a clear sense of the divine or transcendent, and just don't have that clear sense.

 

I'm not sure Karen Armstrong would have argued that any clear sense is needed, at least I don't think it is. The fact of compassion itself is transcendence enough (transcendence being defined as placing 'the other' before 'the self').

 

In any case it is not very important, as we are only speaking of labels. I consider the story you related to speak of something far more real and redemptive than abstract notions of transcendence.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think of a spiritual life as a life that is playfully "becoming" in the divine milieu. For me, it seems to entail a call to become a life-enhancing conduit of an other-centered, justice-oriented, and self-giving love...in a way that does not negate, but enhances who I am as a human being, and not just any human being, but the one who specifically has to walk in my shoes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don,

 

As said in other words by others, I think it bears repeating in different words that the word spiritual can be confusing and you may not see yourself as spiritual but biblically speaking, if the fruits of the spirit are experienced in your life being love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: Gal 5:22-23 (KJV) then you must be 'spiritual' by that definition.

 

To me, it seems spiritual is not a thought anyway. Nor is it who you are by what your birth certificate says or what you think, feel, perceive or experience of yourself in terms of the things in your life that are continually changing or passing away. (temporal things) Spiritual realization to me, is, in a sense to see clearly that YOU cannot be found in any of these things because in your true being there is no separate self to be found. I believe when Jesus said to "deny yourself" , he was pointing to the fact that the self we think we are is not our true self. In other of his words, that you had "to lose your life, to find it". And again "you are in the world but not of the world". And again, we are One in Christ. To understand or see clearly these deep sayings is 'spiritual realization'. But perhaps, closer to the truth of whether one is spiritual or not, is that everyone is a spiritual being having a physical experience whether realized or not.

 

Just a point of view concerning the issue,

Joseph

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There seems here a great variety of definitions of the word !spiritual", perhaps demonstrating just how difficult it is to truly tie the word down. I have no real love of the word which to me always suggests separation and distinction from the "everyday".........the implication that some thoughts are "higher" than others, some activities "better", even more "refined"! I once read a little book on Cistercian spirituality and loved a sentence that sought to sum up the Cistercian life........"Here is a life which is not a succession of alternating superior and inferior activities, but rather a continuous rhythm of equally valid ones." Yet the word does indicate certain things, for me a certain capacity to truly listen and see the world around me and react in authentic ways, not mindlessly.

 

While others may well be dipping into "The Imitation of Christ" or other well thumbed classics of the spiritual life, I've been wandering through the new biography of John Lennon by Philip Norman. John Lennon was fundamantally flawed like all of us, yet what great creativity and moments of genuine tenderness throughout his life. But I was particularly taken by a short section at the end where the author interview Lennon's son Sean. One particualr passage seems relevant........Sean is speaking of how he has learnt so much about his dad through the media, but goes on to say....

 

I share those impressions with the rest of the world. I think that at some level when I was a kid I did feel jealous of the world for having known and spent more time with him than I got. But in a way the experience of someone that you can get through there work is really not comparable to the experience you can get from just sitting on someone's lap. That is more than songs and words and stuff can really explain. And that's reality - the way that the light hits someone's hair, the sound of their voice, the sound of their footsteps in the hallway.

 

Sean's words bring to mind another few words of a Jewish guy who said he had just come back from a visit to see a particular rabbi. He was asked what he thought of the rabbi's teaching of the Torah....."oh, I never went to listen to that, I wanted to see just how he tied and untied his shoelaces"

 

And again, in a semi autobiographical work by a Japanese writer, Hiroyuki Itsuki, when speaking of the legacy of his own parents. He spoke at length of his father and his fathers attempts to "make it" in the world, and of how sometimes late at night he would hear his father give a long deep sigh. Itsuki said that though he had dipped into and studied many philosophys and books, he had in fact learnt more from his fathers sigh. This seems as close as I can get to what "spirituality" may or may not be, and how it is passed from person to person within our world.

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

tariki,

 

Good insight, especially your point about "spiritual" potentially becoming a word that implies not an "everyday" thing. I'm leery of such a distinction myself. It can lead people into a rigid framework of expectations rather than inviting them into the depths of our humanity, which is actually quite ordinary, messy, and often not very impressive.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I was a fundamentalist, the church never clearly defined what spirituality was, but in my mind I had always associated spirituality with devotion. Like you were considered really spiritual, a "super-Christian", if you not only had all the "right" beliefs, but you knew all the "right" apologetics to use to defend the faith. You also were considered to be highly spiritual if you were actively involved in the church in spreading the gospel, going on missionary trips, and had memorized every scripture in the bible. I now still see spirituality as being about devotion but I have a different standard of what it means to be devoted than I did as a fundamentalist. For me now, spiritual devotion is when we realize there's more to life than materialism. Spirituality is when you commit yourself to something greater than yourself to work for a greater good beyond our own selfish desires, whether you call this God or the Universe. I like the way James 1:27 defines what spirituality is

27Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Edited by Neon Genesis
  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service