Shall we get spiritual? Whether or not we shall get spiritual is not
up to me; ot at least not just up to me! It may not even be just up to
you. It?s actually a little complicated to describe, but it?s much
more simple for some us to HAVE a spiritual experience than others.
Indeed, some of us don?t WANT a spiritual experience, thank you very
much! Some aren?t sure what we mean by the term spiritual, others ARE
sure about what we mean and don?t believe in it or experience it or
get it or want it or whatever.
Some think you have to have God around to be spiritual, some don?t.
Indeed, others think you have to be a certain kind of Christian, while
many Christians are very universal about spirituality.
The Benedictine Brother David Stendl-Rast is one of those universal
spiritual Christian writers who I have always found inspiring from a
reading in Spiritual Literacy ?Sometimes people get the mistaken
notion that spirituality is a separate department of life, the
penthouse of our existence. But rightly understood, it is a vital
awareness that pervades all realms of our being. Someone will say, ?I
come alive when I listen to music,? or ?I come to life when I
garden,? or ?I come alive when I play golf.? Wherever we come alive,
that is the area in which we are spiritual. And then we can say, ?I
know at least how one is spiritual in that area.? To be vital, aware,
in all areas of our lives, is the task that is never accomplished, but
it remains the goal.?- in The Music of Silence
In setting up the course ?Exploring the Spirit,? I use the Brussat?s
book, Spiritual Literacy as a text book of universal religious/
psychological readings because I believe that religion and psychology
are finely interwoven if, let?s say, ?done right.?
Jeremiah Abrams, Jungian therapist, says spirituality is a ?holy
longing, a yearning to know the meaning of our lives, to have a
connection with the transpersonal.?
Psychotherapist Molly Brown ?When we expand our awareness, strengthen
our center, clarify our purpose, transform our inner demons, develop
our will and make conscious choices, we are moving toward deeper
connection with our spiritual self.?
When I was working as a counselor in a private psychiatric hospital
while I was going to seminary in the early 1980?s I attend a
Psychological Association Conference in Philadelphia on Psychology and
Spirituality; it was an incredibly spiritual experience though
absolutely secular! I could have sworn I was in seminary however! The
organizers commented on the fact that it was the most well attended
Conference they had ever run; obviously there was a spiritual
dimension to psychology that was needing to be addressed. Scott PEck
was, of course, one of the major speakers. This was when his Road LEss
Traveled was on the BEst Seller List at the begging of I think 10
years! He suggested that counselors take a spiritual history of their
clients as well as a psychological and social history. Exploring the
spirit, indeed. even back then. Not in a specifically religious way,
but in a more general universal way. Previously, it was as if science
and religion could never mix, perhaps still left over from the
Freudian days of what I would call prejudice against religion that
many shared. But some like his disciple, Jung, perhaps because he was
the son of a Lutheran minister, saw religion and spirituality ina more
positive and universal light.
When I speak of spirituality, I am referring to what might be, not
necessarily what is; what I mean is that I think we must explore
together what that word might mean to us- what it mans to me and what
it might mean to you. What it has meant and what it means to different
I started conducting ?Exploring Spirituality Workshops, First
Church in San Antonio and for our SouthWest District Summer Institutes
back in the 1990?s. and we would often begin by talking about who we
were and what our religious backgrounds were. Then we would complete
the phrase spirituality is.... As the years went on, I would gather up
the results and the following workshop would read the results of the
previous one as an introduction. I was always going to write a book of
Here are three definitions I have used -
?Spirituality is . . Spirituality is one of those ?slippery? words,
hard to get a hold of exactly. It is the religious connection of ?You,
Me, & the Universe? into a realized oneness; it is having been lost
and feeling an overwhelming sensation that now we are found.
Spirituality is that feeling I get when I sing (or even hear) that
song ?Amazing Grace? or other special songs that somehow move me
emotionally. What does spirituality mean to you??A. Severance
.?Spirituality is a mystical process of opening our hearts and minds
to let the spirit of life, love, and happiness shine through. It is an
emptying of resistance, denial, defensiveness and cynicism; it is a
religious ?aha? experience; it is to be in the awe, wonder, and
delight of a little child again. ?A. Severance
?Spirituality is a feeling, an intuition, a hunch, maybe even a
hope, that the spirit within is connecting with the spirit in the
wider world. It is the profoundest feeling of all of having been
moved and motivated by the Holy, by Higher Power. ?A. Severance
?Spirituality is a religious yearning for the expression of feeling
connected to a oneness, a kind of mon-ism rather than mono-theism. It
is a combination of heart and mind which urges us to be less
self-conscious and more other-conscious. All religions seem to be
about a kind of spirituality, a kind of spirit-lifting, perhaps even
spirit-soaring. Spirituality for me is is a deep religious search for
truth, meaning, and perhaps even a little ecstasy!? A. Severance
My wife, Cathie, wrote a piece called "The Well-Spring of
Spirituality" for a service some years ago, and I'd like to share her
definition: "Spirituality. Those internal and external happenings
which cause 'shivers' and wonder to course through my body. The
experiences which affect me may leave another cold. It is the reaction
and absorption into my being of that which we call life. Spirituality-
it is the essence which makes me the person who I am. It is the force
which makes us all unique creatures."
And one of the participants, who chose not to sign it , wrote-
?Spirituality is an awareness and a striving
towards the Perfection/Wonderfulness /Awe-filling . . .
(Basically indescribable ?It?)
inside of me,
-OR- an awareness of ?It? -- a striving
towards ?It? -- and a comprehension
of the incomprehensibleness of ?It?
The feeling of something so much
better and higher than myself --
that it seems unbelievable that
I sense this ?It? from Inside of Me?. -- unsigned
In our course there were 12 people who signed up to explore what the
spirit might mean and where we might find it, or not, because for some
it was difficult concept. I purposefully scheduled 2 different times ,
one meeting for daytime so for those whose schedule or eyesight made
daytime easier and one evening. I wondered whether there would be a
difference between daytime spirituality and evening spirituality. !
We sang, we meditated a little, we read, we lit the chalice, we
listened, we laughed, we discussed, we checked in, we did homework,
we wrote, we thought, we shared, we cried sometimes, we circled. we
explored what it meant to explore the spirit and for some of us we
explored the spirit. Many times some of us would admit to not feeling
very spiritual either that day or that week, but the coming together
or perhaps the readings would cheer us up and make us feel better and
sometimes even make us feel spiritual! SOmetimes we would say that;s
why we came to church as well as why we left the church of our
previous experience, and how many of us shared that common experience
of having had previous religious home that we had left behind, but
still felt a spiritual need left unfulfilled until we discovered East
?There?s a part of every living thing that wants to become itself,?
writer Ellen Bass observes,? the tadpole into the frog, the chysalis
into the butterfly, a damaged human being into a whole one. That is
spirituality? Editors of Spiritual Literacy add , ?It is also a
capsule description of the holy grail of transformation ?
The chapters I assigned had readings that related and we would
discuss our experiences as well as share favorite readings. I asked
that they read some every day as a spiritual discipline, like
praying, The chapters were ?Places?,"Nature," .?Creativity,?
.?Community,? and ?Service.? My book is marked like a preacher?s Bible
with bookmarks and uderlinings ad yes folded page corners. You have
heard many quotes in my sermons from readings from this book.
I also talked about a UU source From Four Spiritualities by my
colleague, Rev. Peter T. Richardson, comes from a more psychological
perspective and matches up your Meyers-Briggs Personality Inventory
type with your Spirituality type. It?s especially helpful for those
who are on the more rational side who are having a hard time figuring
out what spirituality means or who aren't;t sure they have any!
Richardson writes: ?Unitarian Universalists have spent two centuries
forming a new and distinctive religion for the planet. We can see our
history from the Enlightenment to the present as the spinning of the
cocoon of a new world faith. This faith has been gestating slowly in a
small but vibrant minority. In the turmoil of emergence a synergy of
five powerful offerings has been forged:
* affirming individual religious freedom
* affirming independence of communal life in congregations
* affirming an active tolerance in a pluralistic context
* affirming global citizenship, which considers all branches of human
religious tradition to be our own inheritance
* affirming an open and creative attitude in the practice of worship.?
He then speaks of four spiritualities or paths, like Buddhism or even
Hindu yoga, : ?the Path of Unity, the Path of Devotion, the Path of
Works, and the Path of Harmony. Each has its own characteristics for
mind, heart, and hand. All are equally important as alternative
journeys, and exist in creative tension with each other .?
In other words, for some Social Justice work may be their
spirituality, though it may not appear to be ?spiritual? to either
them or those people who are usually described as such!
We might describe spirit as feeling or motivation, then. something
more understandable outside of a religious context. We talk about
?school spirit,? for instance, and most people would understand what
that means, I think.
When we speak of exploring the spirit, then, I want us to open our
minds and our hearts and our hands, knowing all these terms themselves
are metaphors. What does it really mean to open your heart and mind?
Obviously more than the organs full of tissue and blood, just as our
lives are more than breathing oxygen and eating food to fuel our
machines. When we speak of exploring the spirit, I suggest that we are
exploring meaning, purpose, even religion itself.
Because there are many paths, because there are many of us who
respond differently, there are many ways to explore the spirit. That?s
why I think we need various kinds of music, for instance, to explore
the spirit because different people respond differently to various
kinds of music.
And perhaps sometimes the spirit explores us! What I have called the
?Lure? of love, of compassion, of the holy, of the sacred, of higher
power of what or who some call God, Spirit of Life, Spirit of Love, or
the Force, the Beloved Community, calls us to live lives that want to
be better people and help the world be a better place. To truly live
the Golden rule if nothing else.
Why explore the spirit?Why are you here this morning if not to answer
that very question in your own particular way and time? Because there
is a yearning , a need, a desire. We come together as a church, and
some have been coming together for decades, because when we meet,
when we worship, when we congregate, when we ?coffee hour, ? (yes, I?m
using it as a verb) something profound takes place. or it least it
may. We are transformed from individuals into a new being called
community for religious purpose. We do not lose our individuality and
become mindless, unthinking, conformists; indeed our individuality is
enhanced. Each of us becomes better people (at least in theory) by
being part of the larger community of spiritual exploration.
The great Sufi poet Rumi. of the 12th century wrote:
There are all these religions,
So everyone can sing along.
And all these people singing,
Together make just one song--
The one song is the spirit- of life and love which I believe is what
religion and life is all about; that?s what we explore. Come, let us
hold hands, and singing a rousing song, explore together.
Amen, Peace, Shalom, (Peace in Hebrew), Assalaamu Alaikum(may Peace
be upon you in Arabic), Abrazos a todos (Hugs all around) Namaste, (A
Hindu greeting the divinity within you) Blessed Be, and let me add one
more blessing that I adapted from the Spanish long before I went in to
ministry. ?Vaya con Dios? is Spanish for Good-bye, but literally is
?Go with God,? So I adapted it to say ?Vaya Con Su Dios, ?Go with your
idea or interpretation of God.?
Peace,Love, Shalom,Salaam, Blessed Be,Namaste, Abrazo a Todos,Vaya con su Dios
Exploring the Spirit, Rev. Arthur G. Severance
Shall we get spiritual? Whether or not we shall get spiritual is not