Spirituality. While it’s a word commonly used today, “spirituality” is often confusing to people. This confusion arises from the wide variety of definitions and connotations of spirituality, some of which are misleading or simply wrong.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines spirituality as “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.” That definition underscores the mistake we commonly make about spirituality. We think of spirituality as something different from or “opposed to material or physical things.”
Consider the etymology (the origin) of the word “spirit.” It comes from the Latin word spiritus. Spiritus means both spirit and breath. It’s much like the Hebrew word, ruah. The first book of the Hebrew Bible, Genesis, describes life coming into being through the breath of the Creator. The narrative of Genesis conveys the image of sprit/breath of the Creator hovering over the void and calling forth creation, including the material and physical things. In a following section, the Creator breathes into the human being, infusing the human being with a spirit.
Consider for a moment that spirituality refers to both spirit and breath. While we think of spirit as something vague and without form, it’s also something as intimate to us as our breath. The ancient words spiritus and ruah convey that this spiritual dimension of life is both amorphous while also bound to the fundamental aspect of being alive: breathing.
Spirituality, then, is the essence of our very real lives. It’s not something added on to us. It’s not an option which we can take or leave. Instead, spirituality is our life, our breath. Breathe in deeply. That’s how much spirituality is part of you. Just as you wouldn’t be alive if you weren’t breathing, so you wouldn’t be alive without spirituality.
Many people aren’t aware of the spiritual dimension of their personhood. This lack of awareness doesn’t mean it isn’t there. We go through life without being aware of many things about us. For instance, when was the last time you were aware of your pancreas or liver? Unless you’re having a particular health issue, you probably don’t think much about your internal organs. But they are present and doing wonderful work to keep you alive. In a similar way, spirituality is very much part of your life, even when you aren’t aware of it.
Spirituality is that part of us that enables us to experience awe in nature, to find ordinary tasks as meaningful, to discover a sense of purpose in the things we do and the relationships we have, to value life, love, and time spent with another doing ordinary things. Spirituality opens us to experience a connection between ourselves and the cosmos, to make a leap of faith toward something we value which in turn permeates our understanding of reality. While some may understand this leap of faith as belief in a deity, others may hold onto values and ethics that cause them to strive to be better people. This is all part of spirituality.
Is it any wonder that the most basic form of meditation is to simply sit quietly and be mindful of breathing: to be aware of a breath as it comes into our bodies and fills us and to exhale fully allowing that breath to flow from us to the world? Yes, spirituality is pretty simple. It’s really as simple as breathing. Just like the air we breathe nurtures every cell in our bodies and gives us life, so too spirituality nurtures us in tremendously life-giving ways.
Spirituality: it is the air we breathe.
Photo credit: Nicolas Stajic via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.