Awakening to a Vital Spirituality

There is a revolution going on. And, perhaps without even knowing, you are standing right in the middle of it. For this revolution is being staged within ourselves—our hearts and souls. And more than anything we are being called to surrender rather than fight. As the Latin meaning of revolution implies, it is time to "turn over" the soil of our inner world.

Yet to do this it is natural to ask what are we turning over to? At different times in our life we face a series of questions about personal meaning and the fire, passion, comfort, and purpose which keeps us growing. Questions such as: Who am I? Is this all there is? What lies beyond this life? What really matters?

If we grew up in a religious setting, clergy, school or scriptures easily answered these questions. But many find these prescribed answers to be contradictory or empty and pursue answers outside of what they used to know and trust. As the sociologist Robert Wunthrow (1998) discovered, Americans’ spirituality is shifting from that of the Member (of church, temple, organization, etc.) to that of the Seeker. With this revolutionary change, where we "turn over" more to the Unknown than ever before, comes great and inspiring revelations.

What is Spirtuality?
One of the unknowns Seekers encounter is how to define spirituality. This quest can be a confusing and humbling journey. In this discovery process one can open to new ways of knowing through sifting through what spirituality is not. In the past it has been relegated to morals, ethics, the psychic or religious. Yet we have come to see these paths are partial and incomplete.
So how do we truly know what Spirituality means for us, individually and collectively, if the paths we are used to are so limited? This drawback becomes very obvious when we taste living a spiritual life, for we realize that spirituality lies beyond these limits, including them perhaps, but opening us to a much deeper yearning and vaster realm of possibilities.

Spiritual Values
Over the last several decades researchers have found that those who explore spirituality become aware of a set of values that redefines their sense of self, relationships, nature, life and whatever one considers to be "The Ultimate". These values are:
1. A transcendent dimension: Believing in "something more" and gaining a sense of empowerment and comfort.
2. Meaning in life: Developing an authentic and unique personal purpose.
3. Mission in life: Responding to a "still small voice" or "calling".
4. Sacredness in life: Finding awe and reverence in daily living.
5. Ultimate satisfaction: Appreciating the invisible, not just the material.
6. Service: Supporting the common humanity we all share.
7. Idealism: Committing to the betterment of the world.
8. Realism: Acknowledging the suffering of others and developing compassion.
9. Courage: Willingness to open to change and growth.

These fruits of spirituality, derived from living a life based on these values, are seen within a spiritual person’s attitude, beliefs, and activities. Their compassion, joy, devotion and courage have a calming and inspiring influence on their lives and relationships. But these values are not just learned or consumed. Rathered they are uncovered through the experiences of striving to live a spiritual life.

So where does one start on this quest? The sociologist Wunthrow’s research reveals that when we move from the limitations of being a member of an institution we often sacrifice our sense of belonging and affiliation. This is a essential human need and many of us suffer a feeling of separation and loneliness. And if we were to just stay in the role of Seeker we could likely encounter a sense of being lost and ungrounded.

There are many beginning points. Points that help us balance a sense of connection throughout our individual searches for the spirituality that has vital meaning for us. The crux of those points is to develop a practice where we can awaken and discover a spirituality with substance. Committing to a spiritual practice can open us to a dynamic creative process and offer us an inner space to dwell. It can nurture us and provide a vehicle of service. And in the process of delving deeper into a practice we find ourselves transformed. Changed in such a way that we know, deep inside, the spiritual values outlined above can be felt and understood right down to our very bones.

Wunthrow, Robert. After Heaven: Spirituality in America Since the 1950’s. University of California Press, 1998. Wunthrow looks at the difficulties Americans face in sustaining a spiritual life and their draw to "practice-oriented spirituality" to find ways to relate to the sacred in daily life.