A student asked me recently if I was “religious” or “spiritual” and when I answered, “I think I am both” she was confused. I talked to her a bit about the innate spirituality in all people as evidenced by the archeological evidence of every era, including the time of prehistory—in other words, the long period of time before language existed. We don’t know much about the prehistoric period, but what we find in early tombs and burial sites suggests a belief in an after-life, alongside ritualistic preparation of the body. So, in my mind at least, the ritual belongs to “religion” and the seeking itself belongs properly to “spirituality” even though I know very well that the two are not so cleanly divided.
As we journey from birth to death, many of us choose to ask questions about our life, striving to improve ourselves in order to become our best selves. We seek out knowledge to feed our rational nature, but we also seek connection with Ultimate Reality—whatever that Reality happens to be. In the Catholic Tradition, we use the word, “God” to describe this ultimate reality. This sort of seeking is the essence of spirituality, and the searching is a very personal pursuit because we are all unique.
We are all “spiritual beings having a human experience” and as we wrestle with life’s exigencies, our inner being tries to connect with the idea of Oneness: oneness with God, with the universe, with All That Is—however we want to express it. This need to search seems built into the human DNA, so in a certain sense, it doesn’t matter where we begin on the spiritual path because on a gut level, we know that all legitimate truth leads to the deepest expression of Truth. In that context, then, finding our own individual truth is necessary because since all truth is connected, we ourselves are ultimately connected not only to each other, but also to the Ultimate Truth/God/Spirit/The Universe. This is, to use the words of Jesus, “the peace the world cannot give” because only through the inner journeying can we find authenticity and wholeness. It can never be imposed from the external world.
Our spiritual path reveals itself to us through our daily prayer routines or meditations. It reconnects us with our Source and gives us purpose. Practicing compassion, gratitude, appreciation, forgiveness and generosity transform us beyond the limits of who we once conceived ourselves to be. The process is at the same time the goal because we sense intuitively that we will never fully reach the Goal in one lifetime. If we are new to exploring our personal spirituality, we can be adventurous. We can try new ways of praying or practicing awareness of God. We can visit the holy places of other religious traditions as well as our own.
Accepting the importance of spirituality is healthy and good. Finding spiritual practices that enhance this spirituality is essential if we are to be healthy and whole. All the great religious traditions of the world agree: the most profound spiritual experiences of our lives come from perceiving the intricate connectedness of our lives with the Ultimate Reality. As we finish out this week of remembrance of 9/11 and continue to wrestle with the question of when violence is morally just, I invite you to simply see and embrace the interconnectedness of all things. As you explore your own spirituality and walk your path, you will feel more connected to God and to everyone else.
God bless you,