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What is Spirituality?

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“It is important to distinguish religion from spirituality since while they may overlap it’s entirely possible to be spiritual without being religious and vice versa.”

It is important to distinguish religion from spirituality since while they may overlap it’s entirely possible to be spiritual without being religious and vice versa.

Spirituality is a commitment to a life of depth and compassion that connects each of us to a larger whole. It is predicated on the development of a contemplative life in the classic sense of contemplation: an open and curious examination of experience as it unfolds, moment by moment. This is also called Presence, and it is the basis of an awakened life based on guidance from the Source, in service to the highest good.

Our personal spiritual development must ultimately serve others for it to be an authentic unfolding of the heart of spirit in action.

Re-printed from joanborysenko.com

Dr. Joan Borysenko is an SBNR teacher, founding partner of Mind/Body Health Sciences, LLC located in Boulder, Colorado and the Director of The Claritas Institute Interspiritual Mentor Training Program. She will be visiting our local SBNR community in August.

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6 Responses to “What is Spirituality?”

  1. Brian
    May 28, 2009 at 10:33 am #

    I agree with the opening sentence but will quibble with the remaining definition. Spirituality, as I would define, is the subjective experience associated with an otherworldly/divine/non-corporeal force or power. As it is entirely subjective descriptions are limited and unprovable. The experience may or may not result in behavioral change. Religion, again, as I would define, is the codification of an individual or community’s subjective spiritual experience.

    The described results from being spiritual are of course desired but not required.

  2. Larry
    May 29, 2009 at 4:49 am #

    I’m not sure that spirituality is a good paradigm anymore. It has been diluted to such an extent with hundreds of intellectual explanations along with vague advice, that it is difficult for the aspirant to know where to turn. Of course, the spiritual life is one with less labels if one lives in the moment. So, a paradox is inherent whenever one seeks with the intellect leading the way. But that is how most approach spirituality.

    It is extremely difficult not to know where every step is going to land. But that is the spiritual way. It seems to me that that a simpler approach is needed where competing ideologies have minimal influence. In other words, the essence of the spiritual way could be expressed much better.

  3. Blayney
    May 29, 2009 at 7:50 am #

    Seems to me the matter of religion versus spirituality – at least in the modern west – has much to do with ego. The sticking point for virtually every institution in the west is its sense of the need to be strong and dominating in order to prevail over competing institutions. That, along with post-Freudian sense of self, combines to create an angst about preservation of the self in the face of challenges, the biggest being death.

    Whether Zen practice, meditation, relaxation or dropping out (yes, I am a child of the 60s), the discipline of letting the self merge with all else becomes a Way out of that dilemma.

    How well I remember a member of our church vestry in my days as an Episcopal priest, when I suggested we might find our way through some issue we were debating by taking some time to be quiet, sit still, meditate, calming down.

    “I think that’s a terrible idea,” he said. “I want the people who work for me to be at least a little scared and uneasy all the time. That’s what gives us a competitive edge.”

    When the church offers herself as a single body, a way to enter into death as the portal to life, its religion is life-giving. When she adopts the familiar institutional strategy of seeking an advantage over other churches, she leaves the spiritually hungry with no choice but to find another Way.

  4. Hank Nash
    May 30, 2009 at 10:35 am #

    I was disappointed, I thought I was reading an article on what is spirituality, maybe I missed something. In the few short sentences I read I did not get a feeling of defining spirituality but more what one is doing if one is spiritual i.e. contemplating, being present, guided by the “Source” whatever that is,and serving others. But isn’t it also important to delve even deeper into the actual substance of spirit, and what motivations arise from one insprired. For, to me, while we may connect to spirit through our five senses, spirit is not indwelling. It is inspiration, beyond what we can sense and even what we can learn. Like the difference between light and the sun or a drop of water and the ocean. But this is only a poor example for light can be analysed as can water, but spirit cannot. So we speak of its effects and wonder at its causes, for we have few words that can really describe it. So how do we know what spirit is? Or spirituality?

  5. Judith Myers
    June 4, 2009 at 3:10 pm #

    When I was a kid my parents thought it important that I go to church and Sunday School, although they only attended at Christmas and Easter. They also felt strongly that I attend the church to which I didn’t have to cross too many streets. And they moved a lot. So I attended the Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Roman Catholic churches – plus off-shoots of some of these and others I don’t remember and a Reformed Jewish Temple. I was christened, immersed in baptism, and nearly Bat Mitzvahed until it was discovered that my mother was not Jewish. I got a close look at religion. I joined “Youth for Christ”, “Young Life”, and witnessed at missions. Unfortunately I was expelled from Sunday School twice! for asking too many questions. As an adult, I read Alan Watts, Nisigardatta, Ramana Maharshi and a hundred others. I loved it all. I just couldn’t get my questions answered in Sunday School.
    So now I am SBNR. And I am that because I am finding the answers through experiences, through what has been called “peak experiences”. And through discovering that I hardly matter at all. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still live in the world and I can easily get to mattering here. (or is that matterring? Spelling can be tricky). But I am spiritual because I, not only have a relationship with spirit, but because every once in a while, I am, myself, spirit. So what? Right? But also because every tine I think I have it all… I DON’t.
    And I guess that’s what I am missing in Ms. Borysenko’s contribution here. I like her. Really. What’s not to like? She is a nice and smart lady, and very successful. But you know what? She doesn’t tell us what we don’t want to hear. She hasn’t given us the scary parts. The “I don’t know what I am doing” parts and the “Am I nuts or what parts?”.
    Spiritual? Spirit is the kick in the head. Its the “WHO KNEW!” It is so not for wimps.
    But I am still 98% wimp. But there are those times…. those knowings, those OMGs who knews?, And isn’t it those that makes it all worthwhile? Isn’t it those that keeps one foot in front of the other?
    By the way, Ian, I give talks in a Unity congregation twice a month. And I use you and Rami for inspiration, not to mention ideas.
    Love ya, J.

  6. Zym Soljourn
    November 30, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    I have put alot of thought in to this subject, I agree a contemplative-life is part of a spiritual live, but not the ear mark of one. Just as service work to others may be a sign of ones spiritual life, but not poof that..that person is spiritual.

    To be Spiritual.. one must be aware of a “other than worldly relationship” growing in there conscience mind, a recognition of events, experiences that over time have accumulated to the point that one can not simply ignore that some thing more is out there and directly involved in ones life.

    There are plenty of Good people out there doing good works and kind-hearted in all they are, but not spiritual..i know many Atheist that fit that example.

    No; Spiritual is something more,,, it is a person making a recognition that they have begun the Journey to understanding the connection between themselves and the universe as well as each other, finding it almost impossible to use language to define, but a strong inner pull to shear this awareness… it engenders a joy about life, and a sensitivity to the Experiences as well as Evidence that God or some Spiritual Force is present in our life’s

    A true Religious life is one’s developed way of living in response to that spiritual awareness, ear-marked by one’s going awareness of the Value and meaning of people places and things, so much so, that they act in response to this awareness, kinder more attentive and compassionate.

    Your Personal Walk with God or what ever you want to call Him/IT is your spiritual life and the disciplines you develop to engender it’s growth is your Religion. all in all, a personal experience.

    Much love and Blessing
    Stay True To The journey

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