The etymology of the word ‘spirit’ is from Latin spiritus, literally, breath, from spirare to blow, breathe. No matter our life orientation we all breathe, have to breathe. This is so for animals and plants too.
Spirituality is as accessible and close to us as our breath.
Dictionary definitions while being limited, especially for this subject, can bring a lot of clarity.
According to Miriam-Webster online, ‘spirituality’ is “the quality or state of being spiritual.” Spiritual is then defined as, “of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit.” Finally, ‘spirit’ is described as, “an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms; the immaterial intelligent or sentient part of a person.”
Professor of psychology David N. Elkins, Ph.D., echoes this: “The word spirituality comes from the Latin root spiritus, which means ‘breath’—referring to the breath of life. It involves opening our hearts and cultivating our capacity to experience awe, reverence, and gratitude. It is the ability to see the sacred in the ordinary, to feel the poignancy of life, to know the passion of existence and to give ourselves over to that which is greater than ourselves.”
So far, we see that spirituality is inherent to life, to being alive, almost synonymous.
Despite this intrinsic link, so many people are at a loss about spirituality, or resist it forcefully. There are undeserved labels attached to it, taboos and judgments about it. This is odd considering how vital spirituality is to our existence and life in general.
Spirituality is the basis of our relationship with ourselves, others and life. It relates to our origin, self-discovery, our present, and our purpose in life. It’s the largest container in which all other aspects of ourselves exist. It also pervades the microcosm of our life.
There seems to be the perception that spirituality must be mystical or esoteric, somehow inaccessible or only for certain souls. Religion and the concept of ‘enlightenment’ have also played their part in alienating people.
Even big businesses like Google, Aetna, Merck, General Mills—the list goes on—want the benefit of spiritual practices like meditation, but without the perceived stigma associated with it. It’s put into clinical terms and a corporate language is built around it.
Spirituality is simple and straightforward.
The true task of spiritual life is not found in faraway places or unusual states of consciousness; it is here in the present. It asks of us a welcoming spirit to greet all that life presents to us with a wise, respectful and kindly heart.
— Jack Kornfield
The world is made up of unique individuals living variegated lives. Yet, if basic motives, aspirations and wishes are examined, they all turn out to be spiritual. What does every single human being want and/or need?
- To be loved.
- To be healthy.
- To be safe.
All beings are just like you. — Dalai Lama
We all seek happiness and try to avoid suffering regardless of our race, religion, sex or political status.
Because there are only a few fundamentals we truly need and want. How is health spiritual? Please refer to How Spirituality and Health are Linked. Is feeling and being safe really spiritual? The only real security is in the abiding.
Paramahansa Yogananda points out that, “When tigers of worries, sickness, and death are chasing you, your only sanctuary is the inner temple of silence… a calm interior silence into which neither menacing worries nor even the crash of colliding worlds can intrude…”
Similarly, the Dalai Lama says, “The inner peace of an alert and calm mind are the source of real happiness and good health.”
Refer to this post about silence.
Love is surely spiritual. Not lustful or attached love, but a mother’s love or love of a cause, love for animals, love that heals, love that breaks boundaries and joins people together.
Love exists naturally. We don’t need to have any instructions. It arises all by itself and we feel it. Love is woven intricately into the fabric of life. At the same time, love requires our attention and thoughtfulness. Love’s deepening is a moment to moment cultivation.
— Pamir Kiciman, from Love’s Depth and Breadth
Spirituality has a cohesive, unifying effect on all aspects of our life and being by giving meaning and structure, and empowering us to live from a core of our deepest values.
In making spirituality conscious, i.e., aware and embodied moment to moment, we’re no longer isolated. We aren’t isolated as an ego, with only its little knowledgebase to get us through life. With an active spirituality, we’re able to dip into and rely on wisdom and compassion, and other meta-intelligences. We realize that we’re bigger than our brain, body and limited self.
When we discover this deeper sense of self we are freed from many of the fears that plague us unnecessarily. We discover a greater inner peace, an inner security that does not depend upon events or circumstances in the world around. As a result we become less self-centered, less needy of the other’s approval or recognition, less needy of collecting possessions and social status, and become happier, healthier and more loving people.
— Peter Russell
Why are we, as a society and as individuals, so afraid of spirituality? It’s intrinsic to life, its foundation, main driver, and arguably sweetest expression. Perhaps we can just keep it simple and remove the layers of confusion about spirituality.
When I use the word ‘spiritual’ I mean basic human good qualities.
— Dalai Lama
“Good qualities.” That’s nonthreatening. And clear. Who would turn down goodness?
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