Contemplative Practice, Spirituality and Love

Spirituality: Why It’s for Everyone

Spirituality is for everyone. But we often don’t realize this because we hear very little about spirituality, or we get confusing messages about it.

People define spirituality in different ways, but in this post, I define our spirituality as that part of us that that helps us connect with our higher self. We may conceive of this higher self as the light of God in us if we believe in God.

Or we might conceive of the higher self as the part of us, the ancient philosopher Mencius tells us, that contains the seeds of goodness like love, creativity, wisdom, and hope.

You can find a book of Mencius’ writings here: Mencius.

The Brazilian philosopher Paulo Freire defines our spiritual capacities as our ability to be consciously aware of our world and to transform both it and ourselves through love.

Picture of Paulo Freire courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Freire’s book Pedagogy of Hope discusses our spirituality.

The Quaker Christian tradition, which is my faith tradition, suggests that our spirituality helps us connect with the light of God in us, which everyone possesses. Quaker George Fox spoke of this light when he says,

“Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit from thy own thoughts, and then thou wilt feel the principle of God to turn thy mind to the Lord God.”

 You can purchase The Journal of George Fox on Amazon or likely find it at your local library.

Connecting with this higher self helps us in several important and life-giving ways.

That is because connecting with spirituality reminds us of our divinity. While humans obviously aren’t God, we possess the image or light of God. Or we possess God-like capacities like love, creativity, wisdom, and hope that can help us grow infinitely into better, more beautiful versions of ourselves.

Such growth is certainly divine, so in the rest of this post, I will refer to such traits in our higher self as our divinity. Once again, we might think of our divinity as the image of God in us or as God-like capacities, seeds of goodness, we possess.

And connecting with our spirituality helps us become fully human. Becoming fully human means being fully expressing all our amazing human capacities like creativity, kindness, compassion, reason, care, and wisdom. (These are just a few of our capacities.)

Human beings have the capacity for all these wonderful character traits, but they are capacities we must develop. And the more we develop them, the more fully human we feel because we express our unique human and God-like powers. Connecting with our spirituality helps us do this.

And connecting with our spirituality also helps us build more loving, constructive relationships with other people and the world.

“The Love of the Sun”, by Akash Debnath, picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Just as connecting with our spirituality reminds us of our own divinity, it also reminds us of the divinity of others.

Too often we view others merely as a means for getting things we want. But spirituality reminds us that because all of us possess divinity, we are all valuable in ourselves. Remembering this can help us create better relationships with other people.

And connecting with our spirituality can help us transform society for greater love and justice.

For example, in his sermon “Transformed Non-Conformist”, Martin Luther King Jr. suggests that connecting with our spirituality helps us identify unjust and dehumanizing elements of society, such as the racial apartheid laws that governed King’s day.

Picture of MLK, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. You can find this sermon of King’s, as well as many others, in his book Strength to Love.

Our spirituality can help us understand how to refuse to obey these laws and to strive for a society that is more just, humane, and loving for everyone.

As such, King argues, we become transformed non-conformists. We don’t refuse to conform merely to rebel. Rather, we refuse to conform for the sake of a higher, more beautiful possible world. (You can read more about this here: Is Non-Conformism a Virtue?)

These are just a few of the ways that our spirituality and connecting with it can help us.

And, in fact, when we don’t connect with our spirituality, it can cause some significant problems in our life.

For example, when we don’t connect with our spirituality, we may get stuck completely in our material conditions. Now, there is nothing wrong with our material condition, our body, and the world around us. Our material condition is a crucial aspect of our existence.

 However, it is only one part of our existence. And if we focus on our material condition to the exclusion of our spirituality, we may feel determined by it and like we can never change or transcend or transform our materiality. This causes suffering.

For example, if we believe our material condition is all there is to life, and we feel like it is especially bad, we may feel hopeless, despairing, or disenchanted about our life.

“The Head Ache”, George Cruishank, picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Or if we focus solely on material conditions, and we lack any connection to a higher realm, we may feel controlled by our material condition. For instance, we may solely feel driven by the need to earn more money, gain people’s recognition, and fulfill our cravings for various pleasures.

And by the way, while nothing is wrong per se with money, recognition, and physical cravings, they can ruin our lives when they become our master, rather than our servant. Unfortunately, focusing on our material condition to the exclusion of our spirituality often opens the door for these aspects of our material condition to rule our life, becoming our master.

But neglecting our spirituality can have other unexpected negative consequences, too.

For example, neglecting our spirituality can negatively impact our faith or the way we practice our religious tradition, if we have a faith or religious tradition.

As a reminder, our spirituality is that part of us that helps us connect with our divinity. Now faith and religious traditions can be a wonderful way for us to connect with our divinity. In fact, that is their true intent.

But sometimes, oddly enough, people forget our divinity when they practice their faith and religious traditions. And such folks, accordingly, turn faith, religious tradition, church, and liturgy into a long list of rules people must fulfill to prove their worth.

And they also often turn God into an angry deity watching over us, just waiting for us to fail. (You can read more about one expression of this here: Morality vs. Moralism. And you can read more about it here: Is Your Doctrine Making You Sick?)

For example, the Christian New Testament often portrays pharisees as religious leaders who had lost sight of spirituality. As such, they were much more concerned, the New Testament tells us, with the letter of the law, rather than the spirit of the law.

“The Pharisees Question Jesus”, painting by James Tissot, picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Or put another way, they had forgotten that their religious tradition was meant to help people connect with their divinity, or the image of God in them.

And instead, they used religious tradition mainly to control and punish people. When leaders use religion this way, they encourage people to forget their divinity. (You can read more about this here: Step Six—Releasing Punishment and Control.)

And of course, some faith leaders today still use faith and religious tradition to control and punish people rather than connect them with their divinity. On the other hand, some faith leaders do a brilliant job of helping people connect with their divinity.

And this is why people can use faith and religion for the greatest harm or the greatest good in the world. It depends on whether they use faith to connect people with, or to cause them to forget, their divinity.

Now the natural question at this point is how we connect with our spirituality and nurture our divinity.

The good news is that there are hundreds of beautiful ways to connect with our spirituality. You can read more about this, and about some specific practices, here: Contemplative Practices—A Post for Everyone.

“Enjoying the Sunset”, photo by Hari K. Patibanda, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Rather than listing a bunch of spiritual practices here, I would like instead to suggest a way to view spiritual practices. Spiritual practices are much like feeding ourselves nourishing food or engaging in nurturing physical movement, like regular walking.

Feeding ourselves nourishing food and engaging in nurturing movement may not seem like a big deal on a day to day basis. However, when we consistently engage in these habits, no matter how small our practice, over time, we cultivate profound benefits in physical health.

These benefits are likely things like greater strength, clarity of mind, energy, and a zest for life.

Be assured that nurturing your spirituality, which connects you with your divinity, brings the same type of results. Namely, when we regularly connect with our divinity, we gain emotional strength and equilibrium, wisdom, spiritual energy, and zest for life, which looks a lot like joy and hope.

This is the kind of spiritual power that transforms our lives and the lives of the people we touch.


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3 thoughts on “Spirituality: Why It’s for Everyone”

  1. Hi Shelly, thought-provoking as always. I had always regarded spirituality to be, in part, about our relationship with the non-human world, including a humble recognition that we are merely part – and not the most important part – of a vast, interconnected web of life which has absolute, intrinsic value. Any thoughts?

    1. Hey There, Friend! I love this comment and think you are right. My only quibble is that I think spirituality is also about our connection to ourselves, each other, and something bigger than us, which includes nature. But you hint at that in your comment, as you point out that our connection to nature is part of our spirituality. I really appreciate this comment because it has inspired me to write a follow-up post about nature and spirituality. Stay tuned . . .

      1. Ah, it’s good to know I was on the right track! Looking forward to reading the follow-up post.

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