Everyday Spirituality is a research project exploring what ‘spirituality’ means in modern society, and how and why people use spirituality in their daily lives. We are not talking here of religion as an organised, institutional way of understanding our place in the greater scheme of things, but as the idiosyncratic and unique ways that individuals seek meaning in their lives in a modern, complex and materialistic world.
On this blog you will find a series of questions or discussions (each post is a new question) based on themes being explored in the research. Please feel free to contribute your thoughts and ideas to as many of these as possible. New posts are added regularly, and if you have an idea for a new one let me know!
This is part of a wider research project being carried out at The Open University. I am currently recruiting new research participants. If you have an interest in ‘the spiritual’ but do not necessarily consider yourself ‘religious’ and would like to take part in the research please contact me.
>What does spirituality mean to me?
I’ve been trying to answer this since you posed the question some months ago, and suddenly tonight the light has dawned. For me, spirituality is the sense, power, faculty which lets me be calm and at one with existence. It is a letting go of everything. And in this state of having let go, peace, happiness, openness and wonder well up. Words don’t work but we have to use them. It is awareness of the whole of creation and a willingness to accept that we know nothing! Inevitably we bring with us to this state our own background and experience, and this influences how we accept the new realization. Angels, gods, spirits, Wicca, whatever helps to put it all into context. But it is from inside and is the link from us to the whole of creation, whatever that is. In fact, there is no link, because we are each the centre of our own universe – it has no meaning without us. I can’t see through your eyes, you can’t think with my brain. No-one can advise or come in between. Great spiritual thinkers like the Buddha, Christ, Lao Tsu can help us, but we must each find our own way.
With everything of value, an acquisitive business will build up and try to take advantage of it. With spirituality, that business is organised religion. Clerics tell us that peace, morality, justice and salvation are only to be found within the (competing) organizations that pay their wages. No way! When I sit in meditation on a rock under the trees by a mountain stream, they have nothing to offer me. And if they would do it from time to time, they might come to that realization too.
>It was well worth the wait – thank you! I think you’ve put in a nutshell what I’ve been hearing from many different people. Fantastic stuff! I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts 🙂
>All this applies purely personally, but the notion of what spirituality is, and what part it plays in life is one that I’ve considered for a long time – usually with unsatisfactory results. But this thinking only comes when I manage to ‘stop’ normal life, or at least stop thinking about it. And that I am beginning to feel is both the problem and solution to my own spirituality.
Most of us look for answers in the world in which we live, to ‘fit’ spirituality into what we know. Thus we buy candles for a rushed bath, listen to songs with meaning, and watch films with deep underlying morals. But perhaps what we need to do is think. ‘Pure’ thinking. No music, no alcohol, no smells, no tastes and certainly no books filled with the words of others.
Personally, I believe this state is unattainable. But that’s just for me, based on my experiences of living a Western life. But, nevertheless, I feel the need for ‘more’ spirituality because, without it, life seems ultimately unfulfilled. And perhaps, that is where I feel spirituality becomes squeezed out of our lives. We gain snatches of it here and there, where we can – or where it is pressed on us. But to make it the centre of our lives, which I feel is the ultimate aim in life, takes more willpower than I possess (at the moment).
However, I am really interested in people’s thoughts on this, and also the project that you are running. I’m an atheist, but a believer in spirituality. I do ‘normal’ things, but look for answers to deeper things. I see beauty in many situations, particularly with regards to ‘nature’ and ‘natural phenomenon’ and I generally associate this with spirituality. I usually fail miserably when it comes to seeing spirituality in mankind. It feels ‘false’ and ‘forced’. This difference becomes clear to me when I compare the sky on a moonlit night and fireworks. One is an incredibly beautiful natural phenomenon; the other is man’s weak attempt to ‘create’ such beauty.
Anyway, these are just my unordered ramblings. I need to take more time to sit and order my thoughts. Ah, if only I had more time……… 🙂
>Hi Mark and welcome to ESp! Thanks for your thoughts, very insightful. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the other questions and postings here. You describe yourself as an atheist, and there is one question on what God is or isn’t, there are also others for which I’m sure you’d have something valuable to add, one on ‘props’ for example…
And you’ve prompted me to think about nature more directly in a question as I don’t think I’ve done that yet and I haven’t posted for a while, so perhaps now is the time…!
Thanks again and I look forward to hearing more from you.
>Do you think perhaps, Mark, there is a way to incorporate your notion of spirituality into everyday life? You say that you find you have to ‘stop normal life’ in order to pursue it. But is there a way of weaving the two together? Would you want to, or do you not think that is necessary?
For example, when you are inspired by nature do you necessarily have to take time out and stop normal life in order to appreciate that as a spiritual experience? (hope those questions makes sense!)
>I think you may have hit it on the head yourself Sara- with the use of your word 'hope'.
In everyday life, and in times of personal disaster, we all hope.
This seems to be a type of 'prayer' to the 'God' in ourselves.
That is,the part of ourselves that oversees,and is able to create.
I believe therefore even in the mundanity of everydayness we have spritituality, because we all hope e.g to find that car parking space,hope someone will call, hope a parcel will arrive.
I believe this kind of hope is in essence the same as the one were we are faced with deep emotional confrontations such as we find at the end of life or great loss.
>Hi Cheryl – thank you for your comment and welcome to ESP. I think you are absolutely right. Hope is perhaps the essence to all of this, and as some wise person once said 'hope springs eternal' – and perhaps that is why even in this supposedly rational and scientific world, people still cling to something that gives them a sense of 'something else' or a 'bigger picture'.