Around religious holidays the question often comes up about what is religious and what is spiritual. Is there a difference? In a word, yes. At its most basic, spirituality is based on the idea that something greater than us exists outside our five human senses. When we look at the awe-inspiring pictures of the universe taken by the Hubbell Telescope, there can be little doubt we are creations of a higher power; that regardless of what name we give it, a Divine Intelligence exists that is far greater than any single religion or philosophy. It is beyond anything our human minds can grasp. True spirituality goes beyond the teachings or belief systems of any particular religion or church. In essence, it is our personal relationship with the Divine. It can either be a part of a specific religion, or it can be a self directed and personal inner path.
Spirituality is primarily a search for meaning, purpose and truth in life—it is our longing
to find our identity and place in the universe.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, in our heart of hearts every person on earth feels a deep longing—a fire within and a desire to belong, do something, be somebody, find our right place in the world and define who we are. This is the spark of Divine creation itself and is the driving passion that makes us feel alive when we acknowledge it. This inner fire is our own gift to the world and it is our inner path that leads us toward what we came to this earth to do. While we might want to escape from it, we cannot—it is hard wired into us and comes with us when we are born. Even though we may not have a choice about it, we can choose how it manifests and that choice—what we do with our fire—is spirituality.
Why is spirituality important in our lives?
According to behavioral scientists, expressing our spiritual nature is fundamental and critical to the development of humans and human society. Psychological researcher J. Huddleston defines spirituality as that which determines our vision of ourselves as human beings. In defining what our own humanness and spiritual vision is, each of us must make our own decision as to how far we are willing to go to explore this lesser-recognized side of ourselves and start down a spiritual path.
How do we experience spirituality in our daily lives?
A common misperception is that living a spiritual life is difficult and demanding and must involve some degree of deprivation or isolation. Nothing could be farther from the truth! We can have spiritual experiences simply by listening to a beautiful piece of music, viewing an amazing work of art, or reading an inspirational book or poem. We can experience spiritual moments whenever we connect with nature—hiking through the woods, walking barefoot along a beautiful beach, or watching the sun set.
We can also experience a spiritual connection by working with others to achieve a common purpose or goal, such as raising funds to help those in need, playing on a sports team, or being in a musical band or orchestra. Spirituality is an essential part of any activity that involves teamwork and cooperation with others.
How can any of that be spiritual?
They are spiritual because when we are immersed in and are deriving pleasure from any activity, it touches our soul and connects us to creation itself (God). When we are in tune with God, nature, each other, and ourselves, we are being spiritual and there is no limit to the many wonderful ways we can “connect.”
What Does Spirituality Mean to You?
However, since we all have differing viewpoints and philosophies, before we can begin a spiritual journey we must first define for ourselves exactly what that means. Various spiritual leaders have offered their own definitions of spirituality, but perhaps Eckhart Tolle, author of A New Earth, defined it best when he said that being spiritual is to live in a state of openness. "With that openness, a far greater power comes into your life," he says. "So to be spiritual is to be in touch, connected with that dimension of depth in yourself."
With so much conflicting information confronting us on a daily basis throughout our lives, our spiritual nature and what we truly believe can be difficult to pin down. Every religion has its own views about what should or should not be believed, or how we should or should not act and behave. But we have to remember that religion is merely a vehicle; underlying it all, and in order to grow spiritually, we must find our own way toward what we can accept and ultimately believe, regardless of our religion (or lack of it).