informal_homeOne of my favorite TV shows is “Once Upon a Time.”  I haven’t missed one episode.  I always enjoyed fairy tales and stories that were fantastic or almost unbelievable, but that transported me to another world.  I wonder if a lot of people think of spirituality the same way.

What is “spirituality” for you?  I imagine I would get a different answer from everyone.  “Spirit” is one of those mysterious words that are difficult to define, but we know it when we experience it.  It is a way we connect with the deepest part of who we are in an urgent need to understand or know.  Whether or not we pay much attention to it, spirituality is our basic outlook on life.  It goes beyond the mere perception of reality.  It also includes our responses to reality, the actions and behaviors that flow from that perception.

We connect with the spiritual in three primary ways: emotionally, cognitively and through practices.  Spirituality involves an emotional response, which include feelings of significance, unity, awe, joy, acceptance, and consolation.  Such feelings help us to deal with difficult situations involving death, loss, and disappointment.

Shared emotions bring us together.  We mark many of tragedies in our country by vigils and services that focus on the raw and difficult emotions we unite us around the event.  Souvenirs, photos, family gatherings, Facebook postings, and love and friendship elicit those strong emotions that can awaken our spiritual core.

For many people spirituality involves a cognitive or intellectual context.  It often takes the form of a set of beliefs about oneself, creation, and humanity in general.  We look into our sacred writings to find an interpretation or understanding for current situations through reflecting upon past events.  This can lead to a response, often an emotional response.  Our place in the universe, theology and doctrine, inspired writings and talks all contribute to the cognitive aspects of spirituality.

But the intellectual or cognitive may not be enough; spiritual practice gets our bodies involved.  These activities help move us from the head to the heart.  It is in the heart, or the gut, where we find the most powerful intrinsic rewards of spirituality.  Through spiritual practice we trigger the emotional content of spirituality: feelings of connection, significance, serenity, and acceptance.  These may be common to all spiritualities even though the background beliefs and specific practices may vary tremendously.

We tend to be most familiar with spiritual practices since they take on concrete form in religious traditions.  Prayer, meditation, spiritual reading, themed sharing, dance, community service, environmentalism, and even sexuality can be part of spiritual  practice that helps a person move from physicality to the transcendent nature of mind and soul.

So what’s our spirituality like?  How are you connected to it emotionally?  Do you need a cognitive component to make sense of it?  What are your favorite and most meaningful spiritual practices?  Let us know in reply and share the wealth!

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