The first one:
The definition of spirituality that works best for me is the idea of connecting with something beyond our own ego boundary, our own sense of ourselves. That's a pretty wide definition, because it includes just about any experience where you get outside yourself-- say, connecting with a larger group at a concert or rally, or with the natural world (on a hike or walking or jogging), or reading, or a variety of other situations besides just the standard religious definition. I don't understand exactly what happens, but I don't think you need to understand it intellectually in order to experience it. So I've accepted my lack of understanding and pursued it (spirituality) anyway. Pursued it because spiritual experiences deeply enrich my life.
There are lots of other definitions, of course. In traditional religions, the experience is defined in explicitly religious terms--you are filled with the Holy Spirit, or connecting with the great nothing, or whatever. But I've been trying to stay away from religious terminology. I do connect it with what-I-think-of-as-God, but since the way I define "God" is pretty broad and subject to change, that's not much of a theology.
Probably spirituality is like any other aspect of human personality--some people have a strong aptitude for it, others nearly none. Just like some people have a great facility with words, while others are better at expressing themselves through paint or sculpture or dance--or cooking or woodwork or programming. So the fact that there are people who adamantly assert that they don't believe in spirituality because they've never experienced it doesn't deter me from believing that I've experienced it myself. And also like any other aspect of human personality, you can deepen and enrich and strengthen an aptitude by using it, doing it, practicing.
I could give an example of a spiritual experience I've had to make my point, and in fact, the original version of this post (which I wrote over a year ago), did just that. But I decided to take it out. Mainly because it was a setup for someone to argue with me and tell me exactly why that wasn't a spiritual experience, or why it actually fits their definition of a religious experience.
Spirituality has to be an individual thing, if you ask me. No one can define it for you and tell you how it looks or how you should feel when you're having a spiritual experience. So there's no point in me telling you about my own spiritual experiences because if it's something that interests you, you are probably already exploring what that means for yourself.
In the experience that I deleted, there was no mumbo jumbo, no meditative state, no transcendent moment. Also, it involved working on a computer, something not normally considered to be a gateway to enlightenment. But it seemed to me that I tapped into something larger, something beyond my ego boundaries, so if you ask me, it was a spiritual experience. And also, since it happened without my conscious control, it seems to me that trying really hard, putting in lots of concentrated, goal-oriented, ego-directed effort of will into developing spirituality is not necessarily the way it works.Stub Two, which which was written months after that last one:
Here is a quick story from back in my New Age days. It's about going to hear a woman who channeled the archangel Michael. This was about 18 years ago, so I'm not guaranteeing the accuracy of any of the details of this story. For example, I don't remember her name. For purposes of this story, we'll call her Ann.
The archangel Michael is big stuff--in angel hierarchies, he is often the main guy, the highest ranking angel. This woman Ann lived in California or New Mexico or somewhere, but several of the heavy hitters in the New Age circles around here banded together and paid her airfare to come out and spend a few days. She gave personal readings to people (I don't remember how much she charged but I remember it was way too much for me to pay just to satisfy my curiosity about what she would say), and she gave a free public talk one night.And guess what? I have no idea what I was going to say next. I wish I'd made some notes or something, because it sounds like it was going to be really interesting. I do remember what she told us: that she had recently begun realizing that the Scottish accent and deep voice were not part of the Archangel Michael's "presence" (the skeptic in me requires that I add, if he exists and if he was present at all). She was coming to realize that she (Ann) had needed the accent and the change in voice when she first started channeling so that she could overcome her own skepticism, but the longer she worked with the "angel energy" (as she called it), the more she realized they weren't necessary. In fact, she was no longer sure that she was channeling Michael. Maybe it was just her own inner wisdom, seeking a way to be legitimized and recognized.
So we loaded up a car with people who wanted to hear her (and Michael, I guess), and we drove about 45 minutes to somebody's huge gorgeous house and joined a group of about 45 or 50 people on folding chairs in the enormous living room. Ann was a very normal looking woman, wearing very normal clothes, and she came out and sat in a chair at the front of the room. She talked to us for a few minutes as Ann, and explained to us what would happen. She would enter a trance-state, and Michael would take over and speak through her. When that happened, her voice would deepen and she would have a Scottish accent (don't laugh, we will come back to that).
And that's exactly what happened. She shut her eyes and was silent for a minute or so, then she opened her eyes and began to talk in a deeper voice with a Scottish accent, which was supposedly Michael speaking through her. "Michael" talked for about 20 minutes. It was pretty generic, standard, New Age stuff, if you ask me. The universe is love, love is the basis of everything, we are beings of light and love, etc etc etc. Then she took questions for a little while, and then she came out of her trance-state and took questions as Ann. That's when things started getting interesting to me.
OK, that's all for now. Have a great weekend. Take a deep breath and stay sane in the holiday rush. (I'm saying that for my own benefit, not yours.)