Love. Revere. Discover. Connect.

November 15, 2009: “Exploring the Spirit”

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