For previous weeks, see: Spiritual Essays
The first time that we do something on our own, such as ride a bike, drive a car or even fly a plane is a cause for personal satisfaction. Though these are individual accomplishments, they usually have become possible only with the help of guides, instructors and good examples, as well as those who have made the equipment that we might have used.
A frequent expression in contemporary usage is “I am spiritual but not religious,” which would seem to indicate personal contentment with solo kinds of experiences. Like many of our first-time successes, we could reflect a bit on the sources from which all of us have received the possibility and the impulses for becoming spiritually aware persons. If being spiritual includes a sense for transcendence, we are already in touch with someone or something that has a positive influence upon us. And if we acknowledge that interior movements are a basis upon which we make decisions that guide our actions, we are implicitly accepting responsibility for the effects of our spirituality upon the world beyond just our own selves. Any personal spirituality is in some ways communal, though not necessarily involving a distinct religion.
We find ourselves in need of spirituality in order to become fully ourselves. The inbuilt requirement for transcendence moves us beyond solo experiences to some manner of sharing with others who are responding to the same interior movements as we are. If we concentrate on maintaining or privately developing our own positive experiences, we will soon lose interest, for we are not content with solo accomplishments. Whatever is good is ultimately to be shared. One of the ways of describing God is to say that Goodness, of necessity, goes out interpersonally.
Many of the best practices, positive insights and helpful descriptions of lived spirituality come from those who have reflected upon their experiences within communities of like-minded persons, including organized religions. Some who are spiritual are also religious. Much wisdom of such communities is available in writings, but even more is transmitted through personal and communal interactions. Those who consider themselves to be spiritual very often receive affirmation and encouragement for themselves through contact with those whose experiences, including those of the various religious denominations, has been quite positive.
All organizations, whether civil or religious, are subject to human limitations. There are no perfect organizations, because there are no perfect individuals, even the most spiritual among us. We are always changing in response to our experiences; we are never done learning. Some of the best sources for personal growth are found in faith-communities, including those of formal religions. When we take our spirituality seriously we follow the inspirations of our interior movements in choosing responsibly and honestly whatever options seem better rather than less good, no matter what others’ opinions might be. The more courageous we become in trusting the positive impulses we receive, the more willing we are to accept helpful ideas and practices that come to our attention even from sources we might have once considered to be “too religious” or only for “those people.”
God does not force us to move past our “solo” orientation, but we all have a hunger for community.
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Last Updated 3/13/17