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A way of being
That leads to
A way of doing
Describing spirituality is like describing the taste of water. Words can point to the experience, but in the end, we must directly experience spirituality for spirituality to be known and understood.
Spirituality refers to a harmonious relationship with Reality. What we experience, understand, and do are all in harmony with each other.
Spirituality is not religion, though they may be related. Religion is a defined set of beliefs, rules for how to live, and rituals. Spirituality transcends beliefs and rules. It is universal, such that even a devout Atheist possesses the capacity for spirituality, as spirituality is not necessarily about a belief in God, but a direct experiencing of Truth. Conversely, there are many devoutly religious people who have very poorly developed spirituality, their lives characterized by conflict, judgment, hatred, inauthenticity, violence, or disconnection. While religion concerns itself with belief, spirituality concerns itself with experience. It is far better to experience and directly know Truth than to “believe in” some manufactured idea or concept. Experience always trumps belief. This is why spirituality is the source from which religions arise.
Part of spirituality involves our connection to Reality beyond our physical sense perceptions. We intuit something more—It is the feeling of being one with “something more,” a ground of being, if you will, that permeates everything and of which we are a part. Some people call this experience “transcendence.” This is an experience beyond words. While not measurable or describable in words, it is nonetheless very real. In a state of deep meditation or contemplation, we experience our pure Awareness, our true nature, apart from our thoughts. This Awareness flows out and is one with Everything. Feeling ourselves part of something greater than ourselves stirs us to live our lives to serve the One Reality of which we are a part. From Oneness springs Love.
Spiritual experience also informs our authenticity. As we switch from operating based on thought to operating based on our authentic experience, we come into alignment with a greater loving life force that flows through us. We experience our authentic, true self, apart from manufactured ideas and beliefs about who we are or who we should be. Living from authentic, direct experience flips our relationship to our mind; rather than our mind being in charge and using us, our True Self is now in charge and uses the mind to serve Life. Our thinking consciousness then submits itself to the service of what is true, good, and right beyond words. We have made contact with and submitted to our “higher power,”(Reality) based on direct, authentic spiritual experience.
We cultivate our spiritual experience of Oneness through the practices of silence, stillness and mindfulness. In stillness, we experience deep connection to the world and others. We experience a sense of unity with the world, with all that is. From this comes a wealth of positive emotions, including love, grace, wonder, awe, mystery, beauty, compassion, humility, respect, forgiveness, gratitude, peace, serenity, and acceptance. Shame, guilt, resentment, and judgment dissolve in the light of our Awareness, for our Clear Seeing reveals these emotions to be harmful to Life. We experience our proper place as just one tiny part of an immense web of being. In stillness, we can even sense this vibrant ground of being all around us as well as in us. We sense a deeper Truth that cannot be put in words. In one Zen practice, the meditator asks, “What is this?” The answer is always, “Don’t know,” because the mystery of Reality forever remains out of reach of the cognitive, thinking mind. By moving beyond the thinking mind to a direct experience of Reality, we develop clarity—a direct seeing and knowing of What Is beyond words.
Based on our spiritual experience, we develop understandings of the world—of others and ourselves—that are spiritually-informed. These understandings are based on rational intuition, which is a merging of direct knowing and reason. We see that our purpose, as part of Life, is to serve and savor Life. We understand that life is good, that others are sacred, and that we too are both good and sacred. We see that all is perfect in its seeming imperfection. We see that we are dependent upon one another for our survival and prosperity. We see that there are rules by which Reality works, such as the law of Karma. We see that, as One, everything affects everything else.
Positive experiences lead to positive understandings, which lead to positive actions. The experience of Oneness and Goodness, combined with our understanding of life derived from these experiences, influences our Life Agenda. Out of oneness and goodness, fueled by faith, we derive the motivation to nurture and savor life. We are now empowered to act in harmony with Reality. We come to a state of being “Right with Life.” In this way, experience, understanding, and action all come into one symphonic whole to create a rich inner life and a loving way of being and acting in the world. We become open, receptive, present and engaged in this Reality, this Moment. Our openness enhances the ability to be flexible and adaptive to ever-changing conditions. Our openness to What Is also enables us to grow and change, for we have let go of life-killing opinions that can so easily prevent us from seeing things just as they are. Based on our understanding, fueled by our experience, we act with love and integrity towards both ourselves and others. As we put Good out into the world, the world generously gives Good back to us. What was once hell on earth now becomes heaven.
Spirituality is a practice of a way of being. It is a verb—an action. Spiritual experience emerges as a result of a lifetime of gentle, consistent effort to be mindful, to be openly and acceptantly one with the Present. We can cultivate this way of being through meditation, contemplative prayer, yoga, or any other meditative practice the brings us into silent and still direct contact with Realty. We benefit from committing ourselves to a daily practice of silence and stillness, at a minimum of ten minutes once or twice a day, combined with a continuous moment-by-moment returning of Awareness from its immersion in thought to the Now. Many people accomplish this by simply returning awareness to the breath throughout the day, and by encountering each experience as if it were both the first and last experience of life, which in actuality it is, as life only exists in this one, unrepeatable present moment.