Spirituality is a concept that has been around for thousands of years, yet it remains difficult to define. It is often intertwined with religion but is not limited to one faith or set of beliefs. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s famous quote, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience”, captures the idea that spirituality is an integral part of who we are as humans and our search for meaning. In this blog post, we’ll explore why spirituality can be so difficult to define, and how it shapes our lives.
What is spirituality?
Within the past three years, the search term spirituality has jumped exponentially. Is this due to enforced pandemic-era isolation? So, in light of this search for a deeper understanding, we will continually revisit the same ideas, especially those posed by our predecessors. But what is this thing called spirituality, exactly? We have created religions and ideologies to try to explain it, but it all comes back to one thing: the senses.
I remember the very first of the many spiritual experiences I would have had before I knew to call them that. I just turned four and my family recently immigrated to the United States from our tropical home in Guyana, South America. It was my first winter, and I got a horrible fever. My mother, who had worked in the medical field for much of her adult life had done everything she could to bring my fever down. She and my dad laid me in my bed and were fervently praying between slathering me with ointments and giving me teas and cold medicine. As I lay there, I vividly remember thinking “I’m going to sleep for a little while, then wake up to play” (toddlers, am I right?). And as I drifted off to sleep, I had a dream that I can remember as if I just woke up from it.
I dreamed that I was running through the rainforest and that a pack of wolves was chasing me. I could feel the leaves slapping my face, and my feet pounding on the earth. They nipped at my heels and I felt that surely, they were going to catch me when suddenly, an even larger brown wolf appeared in front of me. I was trapped, and all I could think of was that I wish my mom were there to protect me. Just as I felt the wolves behind me closing in, the wolf in front of me charged them–it snapped and fought the other wolves until they all ran off. When I uncurled myself from the floor, the wolf had turned into a big brown bear and then, before my eyes turned into my grandmother. She took me into her arms and promised to keep me safe.
When I woke up from my dream, my fever had broken and I was up to my usual antics immediately. My parents were relieved and I didn’t mention the dream to my mother until recently.
I had a feeling of connecting to something outside of myself–something intangible and unnameable. Even though the fever was scary and overwhelming, what I just experienced took on a sacred meaning when I dreamed of being saved by a mystical presence from an unknown threat.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
This is a quote from the French philosopher, Jesuit priest, and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and it can be a difficult concept to understand. We are human beings, but we also have a spiritual aspect that is part of our being. It is this spiritual aspect that can be difficult to define.
To be a spiritual being means that we are connected to something greater than ourselves. We may not always be able to put our finger on what that connection is, but it exists nonetheless. We are spiritual beings because we can have a profound understanding of the world around us. We can sense things beyond the physical realm, such as the presence of divine energy, or qualities like beauty and peace.
When we recognize and honor our spiritual nature, we are better able to connect with the world around us. We become more aware of the spiritual realm, even if we don’t fully understand it. We can open up our minds and hearts to feel more deeply and connect more authentically with others. We can feel connected to something greater than ourselves, something beyond our physical selves.
In short, when we recognize and embrace our spiritual nature, we become more in tune with the world around us and find greater meaning in life. This understanding can bring us closer to understanding the true nature of spirituality and why it is so hard to define.
Why is spirituality so difficult to define?
Since spirituality is such a personal feeling, it can be difficult to express with mere words, let alone try and put into words. One is both looking for spirituality and spirituality that comes upon you in unexpected places in the world. Some want spirituality to fit nicely into a nice box, but spirituality is all about colorfully defying the norm.
Whether you have a gratitude practice, visit holy places, or just try to see the beauty in all things, living a spiritual life is a process, a journey. It cannot be rushed and it should not be restricted to a certain set of beliefs. Instead, it should be experienced as a means of self-discovery and as a way of connecting with something greater than ourselves.
Want to learn more about how to create a simple and effective spiritual practice? Read this article!