“I’M NOT RELIGIOUS, I’M SPIRITUAL.” Over the years I’ve heard this repeatedly in spiritual circles (and truth be told, I’ve said it myself). Most people nod in understanding, but what does it really mean to be spiritual in the modern age?
Wikipedia states there is no definitive or agreed upon definition of “spiritual.” So, while the jury is out, allow me to propose a definition that responds to today’s individual and collective needs:
Spirituality is a process of awakening into and embracing the sacredness of all life. It is a journey of remembering who we are — our humanness and our divinity alike — through which we reclaim our unique gifts and then unabashedly, courageously and tirelessly shine these gifts directly from our heart into the world for healing, happiness and peace.
First, spirituality is a process of awakening into and embracing the sacredness of all life. While “spirituality” may conjure up images of retreating from day-to-day life to reflect, meditate, pray and fast, these days there are so many seekers of all ages and from all walks of life who are spiritually hungry right now but have families, jobs, errands and commutes, which make retreating infrequent at best. While retreating is an immensely rewarding experience, we simply cannot afford to live the majority of our lives in suspension, holding our breath for the moment we can get away and be “spiritual” at some retreat or foreign country (or a meditation cushion!). This approach to spirituality leads to frustration, anger, hostility and deep sadness, as it separates and compartmentalizes our lives, leaving us half awake and spiritually empty.
This new definition of spirituality invites us to be fully present to witness and participate in the sacredness within all stages and circumstances of life. We cease separating the “mundane” from the “spiritual” and instead merge them together. This is it, right here: this traffic jam, this sandwich, this conversation. There are gifts just waiting to be opened inside a child’s laugh, a clean toilet or a failed relationship. Open your heart to all of it. Feel. Hurt. Laugh. Cry. Yell. This is what it means to be alive, and nothing is more spiritual than being alive and knowing it.
Secondly, it is a journey of remembering who we are — our humanness and our divinity alike. We hear it often in spiritual circles: “We are divine beings, having a human experience.” But how many of us secretly wish to skip over the muddy, imperfect and painful human experiences and abide only the divine, enlightened and ethereal ones? Or conversely, how many deny our divinity, cloaking it under false humility that serves neither us nor the world?
We are both imperfectly human and perfectly divine. Our humanness provides experiences and lessons, allowing us to shed layers of false truths, masks and limitations. Our divineness empowers us with wisdom and inner knowledge, liberating us from dependency on any outside authority or guru to emulate or venerate (community support is important, however). By remembering and honoring all of who we are, we cultivate wholeness, authenticity and integrity.
Finally, we reclaim our unique gifts and then unabashedly, courageously and tirelessly shine these gifts directly from our heart into world for healing, happiness and peace. Each of us is tasked to serve and contribute healing to the world’s countless needs in a unique and inimitable way. Like a facet of a diamond, we each sparkle uniquely when we let light through. Once we understand, embrace and hone our gifts, we rise up, shake off society’s limiting views dictating how and when we can be of service and courageously share them whenever and wherever we are.
It’s time to discard old images of spirituality and adopt a definition that is empowering and engaging, one that allows us to pick up the reins in our lives and lead by example — a kind of spirituality that is all-encompassing, all-embracing, and powerfully grounded in compassion and loving-kindness. The world is counting on us to return from the mountaintops and practice spirituality as a way of life: witness and participate passionately in the sacredness of life, fully embrace who we are, and share our profound healing gifts with abandon each and every day.