What does spirituality mean to you?

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    Profile photo of Shannon Kelly
    Shannon Kelly

    The Dalai Lama talks about the difference between spirituality and religion. Do you think there is a difference? What does being spiritual mean to you?

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    Lexi Julien

    Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines spirituality as “the quality or state of being concerned with religion or religious matters; the quality or state of being spiritual”. Half of this definition is pretty worthless in answering the question of what spirituality is—the “state of being spiritual” tells us nothing, as there is still that mysterious word “spiritual” hidden there. For some, the other half of the definition of spirituality may be accurate, as being spiritual and being religious are often analogous phrases in our society. For me, however, this definition does not capture the essence of what spirituality is.
    Spirituality is not defined by a religion—spirituality is defined by each person for themselves in their own particular context. It is how one interacts with the world through their personal values and beliefs. The ethics that we choose to abide by in our lives are our spirituality, and each person lives by a different ethical system that guides them in achieving what they desire.
    Spirituality is not an easy word to grasp, and I don’t think there is a right definition for it either. His Holiness the Dalai Lama offers a definition for the word in Ethics for a New Millennium, and I think it is a good place for everyone to start on their own personal journey of spiritual discovery:
    “Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit—such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony—which bring happiness to both self and others.”

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    Lena Wiley

    Spirituality can be a hard term to define; everyone has their own idea of what it means. Although the idea is complicated, and the actual notion of becoming spiritual is even harder to understand, I believe that the end product of becoming spiritual seems to be somewhat universal. I think when someone is spiritual, they fully embody their own set of values, and use their values to be concerned with, connected to, and curious about the people around them. This embodiment of values, although essentially the same in concept, can look very different person to person, due to people’s unique sets of values.

    Profile photo of Alyssa

    It is hard to pin a solid definition to the word spirituality because I believe that it means something different for everyone. In our class it has been debated whether spirituality is a part of religion or not, why can’t it be both? Spirituality relates to self, therefore, to religion, everyday life, and the individuals’ character. Why does spirituality have to be solidified one way or the other when it might have been made to just be an interpretation? Spirituality can replace religion, just be the ways in which one lives their life, or it can accompany religion and serve as the interpretation or how one views their faith. In the book Ethics for the New Millennium by the Dalai Lama, he says,
    “Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit-such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony-which bring happiness to both self and others.”(Page 22)
    This interpretation nicely summarizes the idea that spirituality doesn’t have to be connected to religion, rather the person and who they are. It should be noted that he uses the phrase “…I take to be…” emphasizing that it is only his interpretation, not the actual definition. I personally do not participate in any religious activities so it is only natural for me to agree more with what the Dalai Lama sees as spirituality, but that doesn’t mean I should rule out the possibility of it being a more religious practice.

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    David Kerr

    There is certainly a difference between spirituality and religion, but the two are very closely related. As the Dalai Lama puts it, spirituality is concerned with qualities of the human spirit. While this concept of spirituality does seem to be very distant from the idea of religion, the correlation between the two is very important. The Dalai Lama says that religion is the basis for human ethics, and if this is the case, then it is also to an extent a basis for the foundations of spirituality. However, spirituality is not defined only by this factor. While religion certainly has an effect on spirituality, the true definition of spirituality comes from one’s own perspective. It is the events that happen in the individual’s every day life that affect them both physically and mentally and define what their sense of purpose is. Personally, being spiritual means being compassionate towards myself and others, which is a belief adopted directly from the Dalai Lama’s teachings. I find that being present for other people gives me a sense of purpose and harmony with my community, and that it is of greater importance than many other things in this world.

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    Cassie Caborn

    In the book Ethics for the new Millennium, the Dalai Lama defines spirituality by saying, “Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit- such a love compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony- which bring happiness to both self and others.” This definition of spirituality reveals the basic human qualities and importance of positive connection with others as true authentic spiritualistic qualities. When someone is ‘Spiritual” or embodies the basic “Spiritual qualities” they have concern for others’ well-being, and act out of concern for other’s well being. If one does not exemplify concern for others, in order to be spiritual there must be a transformation of self and a willingness to perform with the intentions and qualities of spirituality. There is an inherent obligation as a human being to have a responsibility towards the human family as a whole. The Dalai Lama says, “It is a call for reorientation away from our habitual preoccupation with self.”
    The definition of spirituality is often unclear to many people. Sometimes it gets grouped in with the definition of religion. But it is important to be aware of the distinctions to be made between religion and spirituality. Needless to say, I believe that religious faith demands spiritual practice and a lot of the basic principles of being spiritual and being religious coincide. Religion is defined by the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. In religious practice, spirituality is often found in the way the religion is practiced but that does not mean spirituality is religion. The Dalai Lama says, “Religious belief is no guarantee of moral integrity.” The choice to be spiritual is accessible to all human beings, you do not have to practice a certain religion or even be religious at all.

    Profile photo of renata-massion

    The word “spirituality” in a modern context has the connotation of religious affiliation. This often brings up negative feelings towards the concept. But a spiritual person does not need to be a religious one at all. The Dalai Lama says, “Spirituality is concerned with those qualities of the human spirit – such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony – which brings happiness to both self and others…” While a religious person may have these qualities of the human spirit, a belief in a higher being or beings is not necessary in order to achieve this state. Spirituality is a state of balance. A balance between the trials faced every day, and the ability to step back and appreciate the entire picture. When a person gives into negative thoughts, emotions, and actions, towards themselves or others, this upsets the balance by putting a spike in their spiritual well being. The human spirit craves this fluid sense of balance.
    It is said that each action is like dropping a pebble into a serene pool. It has an infinitely continuous ripple effect on everything surrounding it. When a person has reached the state of spirituality in which they completely understand this concept, there is an obvious affect on not only themselves, but also those around them. Just as a smile is contagious, so is spirituality, and the desire to be a spiritual person in every sense of the word.

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    Spirituality is within itself a subjective term given the personal nature of spiritualism. If you examine spirituality based on the belief that each person has a soul or transcendental element of being, then that is directly related to the individual themselves and may be completely different from someone else. In my opinion, I believe that spirituality can encompass any number of things, including religion. I would self-identify as a mainly atheist person, yet I consider myself to be relatively spiritual in the sense that I take time to reflect upon my existence within this world and the existence of others around and me how we all relate to this universe, significantly and insignificantly. Despite the fact that I am not religious, I do find value within various religions and attempt to embody various lessons that they teach. I also feel that if a person can find the admirable, applicable qualities within multiple religions instead of merely confining themselves to a single belief, they will be able to experience a more expansive interpretation of spirituality, but, as stated earlier, this is a personal, subjective opinion. I find value within many different beliefs and lessons such as Greek and Roman mythology, Buddhism, astrology, indigenous practices, Christianity, etc. All of them have pertinent information but many of them are also very dated and antiquated within our modern society, which is why I examine them as a conglomeration in an attempt to achieve moderation.

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    Rami Renee Walker

    Spirituality takes many forms in our lives. Some we might not even notice or acknowledge. Spirituality is concerned with being in tune with yourself and your surroundings and registering the relationship between act and consequence. It also pertains to ritual and religion. In my life it takes the form of practicing nonviolence. I believe that the negative energy we expend when killing animals comes back to us, and so I do not eat meat. This is only one facet of spirituality. Any beliefs that influence the way you live your life are spiritual. Even practicing Atheism is spiritual because it is a strong belief. Although many people may not identify as “spiritual”, chances are they practice some form of restraint for moral and ethical reasons and are therefore spiritually connected to humanity. The stigmatism associated with identifying as spiritual, or a hippie, or full of crap needs to be eliminated to open up the conversation about what the human consciousness can accomplish, and what ethical thinking can do for humanity.

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    Christopher Colip

    What is spirituality? The Internet defines spirituality as, “giving ones life meaning.” In a sense I think the internet is on to something. Spirituality can only be defined by each individual for his or her own benefit. In my personal opinion to be in touch with ones spirituality occurs when that person is at peace with himself or herself, when there are no force pulling them in any direction. That is not to mean disconnection from the world, only that in a particular moment one lets all of the responsibilities, regrets, and issues slide of the table. Nor does being in touch with spirituality mean siting and meditating for twelve days, unless that works for you. In fact it merely means what activity brings you to peace with yourself. It could be football, dancing, running, any number of activities, it could be laying in your bed and breathing. In a sense what makes you happy? When that questions is answered spirituality will be achieved. The Dalai Lama calls for a spiritual revolution in his book, Ethics for the New Millennium He says that, “it is a call for a radical re-orientation away from our habitual preoccupation with self towards concern for the wider community of beings with whom we are connected, and for conduct which recognizes others’ interests alongside our own.” As one teacher said, “we don’t need to stop being selfish, we just need to expand our definition of self to include others.” What these quotes have in common is the fact that they connect spirituality with helping others. Something that is interesting is that if you speak to those who do community service, they do it for those in need yes, but they also do it for themselves, in the same way that otters hold on to their mates when they sleep so as not to drift away. They do it so they will not feel lonely, in a sense a selfish act that includes others. The Dalai Lama has another quote, “Eighty percent of suffering is self absorption.” Again tying into the spiritual revolution and the over all theme of this writing. Spirituality is expressed through selfless selfishness.

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    Lj Nogler

    In my opinion, being spiritual has nothing to do with religion. Many individuals practice religion, as many practice spirituality. One is the practice, with education of a way of life. While the other is being one with yourself and with the universe. You can believe in religion without being spiritual and be spiritual without being religious. Some people are forced into religious beliefs, upbringings and what not. You can not force a spiritual state of mind on someone. When the mind is not open to the spiritual world, you can not experience the true effects of spirituality while still living a religious lifestyle.

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