Thursday, February 27, 2014

When Have You Felt Most Spiritual?

A couple of days ago, my buddy Steve said he might create a podcast about "religion as it relates to spirituality."

He was interested in hearing people's feelings about religion, as long as no one debates the existence of God.

I was rattled.  I began contemplating questions of spirituality looking for an entrance to the topic.  How do we talk about something so intangible?
Net Spirituality

What is spirituality?
What does it mean to be spiritual?
What is the spirit?


These questions led me nowhere -- at least nowhere sufficient.  Answering those questions would be like capturing spirituality in a butterfly net and pinning it into a display case.

As I explored the topic, I discovered that every attempt to explain or define spirituality involved words that were undefinable.  "Spiritual" led me to "peak experience" which led me to this definition on Wikipedia:

"Peak experience is a kind of transpersonal and ecstatic state, particularly one tinged with themes of euphoria, harmonization and interconnectedness. Participants characterize these experiences, and the revelations imparted therein, as possessing an ineffably mystical and spiritual (or overtly religious) quality or essence.

"Transpersonal is an experience in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche, or cosmos."

We might get closer to understanding spirituality if a variety of people answered this question:  When did you feel most spiritual?

Was it spiritual when I imagined that I was deeply in love with another human?  At times, I was in an altered and ecstatic state.  At other times, in the presence of the lover, I felt peace, harmony, and rightness.  Once I looked in a lover's eyes and I saw my future unfold, but I would not describe those times as spiritual.  Those times were rooted in a physical present and full of contingency.  

Perhaps I could say I felt a spiritual awe when I was faced with raw nature:

  - an earthquake in Vancouver -- the explosive bang, the earth moving
  - a rainstorm in north Ontario when sheets of lightning filled the night sky for hours
  - the view from the top of Squamish Chief
  - the sunrise -- any sunrise

Those experiences bring me closer to a sense of spirituality.  I am conscious of this magnificence, but have no part in creating it.  It is bigger than me and goes on regardless of my presence. 

Just as the creations of nature fill me with a spiritual awe, so do some human creations -- what I have called transcendent art.  As I wrote in an earlier post, these creations took me beyond myself, outside of time.

I also feel spiritual when I participate in family rituals.  In my case, some of these are Jewish rituals.  Once a year, I sit with my family and talk about slavery and freedom.  It's a moving spiritual experience because, in doing so, we are participating in a ritual that has been passed on from generation to generation since Biblical times.  I imagine our way of telling stories and singing union songs is unique to our family, but the motive, the spirit, and many of the rituals are the same as they have always been.  I am present and bring my perspectives, but it is not about me and it is not about any other family member.  It is about human history.

My examples are not far off from the definitions of "peak experience" and "transpersonal."  For me, feeling spiritual involves connection with nature, creativity, and other people past and present.

However, I find that, more and more, I crave silence, emptiness, and stillness.  Only then can I hear my own wondering, creative spirit.  My spirit voice speaks in a whisper -- it is hard to hear her when I'm surrounded by noise.

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