Things I Don’t Understand

I often write my blogs about things I don’t understand. The thing I probably understand the least are matters related to spirituality, religion and the divine. I have called myself an atheist for most of my life, yet the topic has been of great interest to me lately. I sense that this is an important subject, but my scientific brain just cannot wrap itself around it.

I was somewhat glad/nervous that my masters program discussed spirituality and religion as a topic that is becoming less taboo among researchers. Science shows us that spirituality and religion are overall good for individual and community wellbeing (e.g., Iftzan, 2013) and that humans are spiritual beings by nature. I confess that I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t dismiss the subject outright, and that at some point I have to confront my ambivalence about being a spiritual creature.

The topic engaged me enough to where I felt the need to focus my capstone on finding your calling, a topic at the secular interface of religion. A summary of the capstone is now a chapter in a book called, Being Called. Scientific, Secular, and Sacred Perspectives, which addresses the emerging knowledge on callings.

Fortunately for me, Chris has been my spiritual interpreter and guide, or I would not have even been able to even conceptualize the topic. His definition of being spiritual is being open to the concept that there may be forces that are beyond our comprehension or detection. The book refers to spirituality as “one’s personal relationship to transcendent realities” whereas religion has more to do with spirituality within the context of an organization and its traditions (p. 47).

That sense of spirituality and self-transcendence implies a connection to something greater, thus providing meaning and purpose. That sense of spirituality and connection, whether to yourself, forms of human expression, other people, nature, or the divine, help us to be successful and thrive. The VIA and Gallup strengths assessments identify those personal qualities, called spirituality and connectedness, respectively. According to the Gallup organization, people with connectedness have “faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason.“

That need for connection and meaning appears universal, even outside the context of religion and spirituality. Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly, describes connection as being comprised of love and belonging and  a source of purpose and meaning.  According to Brown, fear of losing connection is the essence of shame, an emotion that we all feel on some level. Those that are particularly resilient to shame, the Wholehearted, tend to be high in spirituality.   Though spirituality can include connection to nature or God, Brown limits her discussion to connection with and feeling seen, heard and valued by others.

Finding and fostering meaning through connections is something we all can do, regardless of whether we buy into notions of self-transcendence and ourselves as spiritual beings.   Valuing relationships, nature and our natural world, truth, peace and justice are spiritual qualities.   Grow them. Nurture them. Consider expanding your sense of connection to the wider world or universe. This is your spiritual practice; it may have benefits beyond your comprehension.