What Is a Spiritual Person?

I’ve spoken with many people who wonder what spirituality is all about.  What leads one person to say, “I’m a spiritual person,” while another isn’t so sure.

I believe that to be a spiritual person means to live in a way that recognizes that there is more to life than meets the eye.  The spiritual dimension of life opens us to look and to see beyond the surface of day to day events and discover something of depth, of fullness, of richness.  To be a spiritual person is to recognize that this moment is an opportunity to experience fulfillment and contentment in life.  Fundamentally, fulfillment in life is not an absolute.  There’s no maximum quality to fulfillment.  Instead, each moment is an opportunity to choose to experience something of meaning for ourselves that has the potential to evoke depth and richness of life.

While my last paragraph may sound philosophical and almost poetic, I’m attempting to convey something that we know from our experience as true.  Consider for a moment what brings you joy?  Or perhaps, where do you find peace in life?  If we’re honest with ourselves, these experiences are deeply personal and unique.  What brings you joy in life may be far different from me or some other person.  That doesn’t mean the experience or description of joy is wrong in some way.  Instead, qualities in life like joy, peace, happiness, or contentment are real and rooted in each person’s experience.

What are things like joy, peace, happiness, or contentment based on?  While neuropsychologists can explain what is happening within the brains of individuals who experience these things, it’s clear that joy, peace, happiness, or contentment is more than just what’s happening in our brains. There’s no formula or recipe to assure that one person or another will experience these things.  Instead, the experience is much more complex.

It’s from this perspective that I contend that a spiritual person recognizes that there’s more happening in life experience than just what can be identified in some measurable way.  In a sense, there’s an added depth to our experience.  That’s the realm of spirituality.

A spiritual person is simply a person who recognizes that there’s something more in their experience than what can be readily identified.  Such a person understands that at any given moment, happiness, joy, or peace is available to them.  It’s these experiences which lead us to create a sense of meaning or purpose in our lives.

Is meaning or purpose real?  Or are they illusions?  Perhaps they are both real and illusory.  They are illusory in that meaning or purpose can change and are very dependent on a person’s context in life.  At the same time, I could not claim that a parent who stays up all night to care for a sick child does so without a sense of purpose.  I’d further suggest that being a good parent provides very real meaning to the lives of many people.

In the end, I would suggest that the spiritual person is the individual who understands that there is more to life than just going through our day to day routines or living for the next day off.  The spiritual person finds something more that is life giving and life sustaining.

Photo credit: Foter.com

© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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The Tapestry of Life and Death

As I scroll through the postings made by friends on Facebook, I see familiar kinds of postings — status updates, as they are called.  One may comment about a parent’s death, another on the passing of a cousin, another on the anniversary of a loved one’s home-going.  While people often joke about the preponderance of cat videos on social media, it’s rarely acknowledged that social media is also a place to memorialize the loss of loved ones.

While some people go for decades without experiencing the loss of loved ones, many of us have experienced the passing of family members and friends far too often.  In time, there may come a point in life when it seems as though we’ve lost more intimate companions than we have left.  No matter how many years it may be since a loved one has died, we carry tender places within us for those who have passed from our lives.

The process of bereavement is more than just accepting that someone has died.  After several months, we generally grasp the reality that once someone was here and now they are not.  What’s more complicated is the loss of the companionship shared with those who were part of the fabric of our lives.  These relationships are never replaced.  Instead, they leave a hole that’s never quite filled.

When the companion who passed from this life is very significant to us, we carry vivid memories of the loved one twenty, thirty, or forty years after their passing.  Perhaps in a dream we can hear the person’s laugh or in an old song hear the person’s voice.  We find ourselves telling stories about the time we did this thing or the other with our loved one.  It’s truly a perplexing experience when remembering a companion brings happiness for what we shared with them and deep sadness that they have passed from this life.

Counselors, therapists, and social workers often talk about grief recovery.  Let’s be honest: there is no real recovery.  Instead, we reorganize our lives without our companion.  We carry on with our own lives. Simultaneously, we hold within us the feelings of loss which become something of a memorial of those so important to us.  The importance of companions who have passed from our lives remains with us and memories of our connections to them remain very much alive.

As the spring season unfolds, I find myself reflecting on my yard and garden while remembering people who helped to make my life what it is.  Remnants of dead leaves and brown grass remain from autumn. At the same time, shoots of new grass sprout and flowers bud.  The new growth pushes away the foliage which has died.  How similar this is to the loss of people I have loved.  While I am aware that they have died, something life-giving about what was shared with them springs up within me as I remember them.  They remain very much a part of me.  I experience their presence and at some deep level feel them with me.  From beyond the grave, I am aware of their love and care for me.

Life and death are surely mysteries.  While we act as though they are separate things that unfold in linear time, in fact life and death are both present with us as one interwoven experience.  As Einstein noted, our sequential experience of time is an illusion. All things are present in the now.  That’s indeed how I experience my loved ones who have died:  yes, they are gone, but they remain with me and remain part of my life.  I am thankful that my beloved companions remain with me. Perhaps you experience this mystery as well.

As I read status up-dates on Facebook about the passing of loved ones, I extend condolences and offer prayers of support.  I also recognize that people are creating virtual memorials of their companions by making the postings.  In time, they are likely to discover living memorials for loved ones as memories and emotions continue to weave the presence of their loved ones through the fabric of their lives.  In time, experiences of life and death weave a rich tapestry within us.


Photo credit: Wonderlane via Foter.com / CC BY

© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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Spirituality: The Air We Breathe

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.

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