Why is seeing yourself as “spiritual” important? Why is it important to incorporate “spirituality” into your life? And, what exactly does this mean?
Now, if you consider yourself as “atheist” or “agnostic” or “secular” or any other word that distances you from anything smacking of “God” or “other worldly” and are about to move on to something else, then hold on for a moment. I want you to consider that your label you place upon yourself is simply another name for your brand of “spirituality”.
What Does It Mean to Be Spiritual?
An article I wrote a few years ago addresses that question exactly. It is still one of the most popular blogs on Conscious Bridge.
I encourage you to read it. It outlines three different worldviews – and in those worldviews, three different ways in which we “search for the sacred”….different ways we search for meaning in life, to understand why we are here, what the purpose of our existence is. Some find meaning in traditional religions, some in science and technology, some in seeking their own path and experience of something transcendent.
Here is key point #1: the concept of spirituality is not simply related to our old ideas of “religion”, it is a concept that relates to our view of life. Because we hold some view about life and its meaning, that informs our concept of “spirituality”.
Recently, I have been reading Steve McIntosh’s book The Presence of the Infinite: The Spiritual Experience of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness where he describes the same 3 groups as my blog, labelling them as “traditional”, “secular” and “progressive” forms of spirituality. He then outlines a newer type of spirituality which he calls “evolutionary spirituality”, which is exactly what I described in my book Our Spiritual Evolution. Both books get at the fact that we are evolving in our idea of what it means to be spiritual (that is, shifts are occurring within our consciousness) and that spirituality itself plays a deeper and more important role in our life once we begin to see things through an evolutionary lens.
Here is key point #2: just as the physical world is “evolving”, so is our inner world, the world of our consciousness….and this evolution can be seen to be heading in a certain direction.
What is that direction? Many writers and mystics have come to a common conclusion (including in both of the books mentioned). In a very broad generalization, I can simply say that we appear to be heading towards a realization that we are all connected….that everything and everyone are “one”.
“Oneness”? Are You Kidding?
It is easy to look out at the world and see all of the fighting, the polarization, the competition, the income inequality and so on….and to conclude that we are certainly not moving towards “oneness” —if anything, we sometimes look like we are moving towards some kind of social breakdown and armageddon. Isn’t this proof that “oneness” is not where we are headed?
Not really. At least, I don’t choose to see it that way.
Sure there is a lot of things “out there” in the world that I would like to change…..I would like to see we all express a greater degree of love and kindness towards one another….I would like to see that we set up social systems (schools, health care, etc.) that value all humans (over corporate profits)…..I would like to see us spending our resources to build up the nations of the world and offer everyone everywhere economic opportunity (over continuing to fund excessive military destructive capabilities and tearing down countries through war)…..I could go on….
So, yes, there is plenty of evidence that we are moving away from seeing our interconnectedness rather than growing towards it….but to me, that is simply a stage we may need to go through before we shift our consciousness….it may be the “breakdown before the breakthrough”, as they say.
Which brings me to why it is important to be spiritual….
Why Be Spiritual?
A lot of folks have offered their reasons for why spirituality is important. If you need some other reasons for why this is important to you, I would recommend you read either of these articles which take an alternate approach to the topic:
Ok, so in general, if you read these other articles or similar ones you might recognize that being spiritual can help you with being healthier and living a happier, more fulfilled life…..but I want to offer you 3 other big reasons to consider as to why you may want to “be spiritual”:
Big Reason #1: You already are spiritual anyway, why not acknowledge it and incorporate it into your life in your own way!
If you are religious in a traditional faith kind of way, you have already incorporated your religion into your life. You probably equate your religion with being spiritual. I would simply ask you to consider if your religious/spiritual actions are working for you and if you need to make any adjustments? If there room for any improvement or growth?
If you are atheist/agnostic, then you are most likely denying that you are spiritual. If so, I would ask you to consider what exactly you believe is true about life and the universe. Why are you here? Why are we all here? What is your role in such a universe? If you are comfortable with your answers, then I would ask you to consider what you are being called to do and be in the world based on your answers. Is there a “spiritual role” for you relative to your belief? Are you incorporating “spiritual” actions into your daily “to do” lists? I encourage you to see yourself as spiritual and certain actions as being your spiritual life.
If you are a spiritually progressive, “spiritual but not religious” person who has sought their own path towards an experience of the divine, I ask you also….how is that going for you? Are your actions driven towards yourself and your own growth exclusively? Is there a way to bring your spirituality to the world in a way that benefits others? Where is there room for growth in your spirituality?
The bottom line here is that we all tend to look at our life in boxes…..job/career, education, family and relationships, personal development and so on….do you have a “box” where you look at your “spiritual life” and what you are doing to grow and evolve it? If so, then you are beginning to move towards being a evolutionary spiritual person…..
Big Reason #2: We all have a natural tendency to experience self transcendence which being spiritual supports.
Abraham Maslow studied human needs and created his famous hierarchy of needs. Most of us know the pyramid of needs as outlined in this article.
Many of us get stuck on lower level needs (safety, security, love, belonging, self-esteem) and never progress to what Maslow termed the “higher reaches of human nature”. If we cannot fulfill these basic needs that are driven by “lack”, then we will never be free to become all that we can be. Yet, we are still driven by the higher needs. We all want to experience “self actualization”. Not moving beyond our base needs to explore these “higher levels” tends to be frustrating.
Later in life, Maslow added a higher level to his pyramid based on his research. What he found is that people who were successful in meeting self actualizing needs were then driven by a need for “self transcendence”. Here is how he described it in one of his later books:
“Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos.”
In my words, we are called to see ourselves as a part of something beyond (transcending) this person that we have experienced….to place and experience our life in the context of a cosmos that exist outside our individual bodies, our individual consciousness. Our efforts to build spirituality into our lives is a means to moving us towards meeting this inner — and higher — desire.
Big Reason #3: Our spirituality will ultimately serve to evolve us beyond our sense of separation and into recognizing our sense of connectedness.
This is why I am optimistic that we will move beyond the outer experiences of the world that appear to show us stuck in competition, fear and separation. I know that at some point, each of us in our own individual consciousness will look out at the world and feel disappointment and frustration that we are not progressing beyond such a point on our collective path. Each of us will take action in our own way to move forward, both in our individual lives and in the collective social world. It may not be in one’s current lifetime, but I am confident a critical mass of us will reach such a point in this or a future life.
You see, beginning to see our lives as “spiritual” (no matter what our viewpoint on life is) shifts our awareness to some degree towards bigger questions regarding life and meaning….and in doing so, our thoughts let go of focusing on our basic needs and move us to the consideration of our higher levels of motivation….and in doing that we will move — both in our thoughts and actions — towards seeing a world of Oneness and interconnectedness.
When that occurs, we will truly find peace in our lives and create peace on earth.
If you have read this far, why don’t you check out my other writings? Here are all my 4 books available on Amazon including the popular Becoming a Spiritual Change Agent and Our Spiritual Evolution (available in paperback and Kindle versions). Also, be sure to follow Conscious Bridge on Twitter and Facebook!
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