Sensei Anthony Schultz has written this insightful blog on what is a spiritual person. Links to his books and website are included within the blog for all to access and expand upon their knowledge base.
It is popular today for folks to say, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” But what does this really mean and how might we define what a spiritual person is? In my opinion, it might be helpful to give a possible working definition of our terms so that when someone asks you about your spiritual path, you can give a pithy and, hopefully, helpful response. After all, if being a spiritual person is central to your life, as it is to mine, whatever you say may be very useful to another.
How do we define spiritual? In the ancient world, the word for spirit became distinct from another word: soul. Soul was a reference to a respirating being. Spirit, however, was related to the sacred or divine inspiration. Whatever the cultural source, spirit always seemed to point to something transcendent that could be experienced in our daily lives. The romantic, William Blake, gave a beautiful expression of this:
“To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.”
In a more contemporary voice, the scientific educator, Carl Sagan, said this:
“When we recognize our place in an immensity of light years and in the passage of ages; when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.”
While one was a poet and one a scientist, they both seem to be saying that when we transcend our pedestrian point of view, we awaken to a larger, more cosmic perspective.
So how does this help address our question? It seems to me that a spiritual person, then, is one who has awakened to the mysterious, interconnected wonder of the Oneness of all life. And more than that, that this awakening inspires that person to live out of this realization in daily existence. This understanding may come from either insight or experience, but either way it becomes ones’ defining existential meaning, the reason for being.
But I would take it one critical step further. A spiritual person is one who, having this understanding, is cultivating it in daily life. Most folks, at one time or another, have powerful experiences of interconnection. I discuss this in more detail in my book, The Three Principles of Oneness: How Embodying the Cosmic Perspective Can Liberate Your Life. When they curate that spiritual experience into a daily devotional practice, it becomes truly transformative. They ultimately move beyond labels of spiritual versus unspiritual and learn the courage of creatively expressing their unique self. Without the daily observation, however, the experience often ends up as merely a memory or footnote in that person’s history and may also morph into a form of “spiritual elitism,” where the person idolizes a big experience but still acts like a jerk!
In summary, for me, a spiritual person is someone who sees the Oneness of all life and is bringing that insight into engagement within themselves, with others, and with the world.
In my upcoming talk for the WSA Launch Event, I will go into more detail about how you can develop your own personal, powerful devotional time. I look forward to seeing you then.
For more information on Sensei Tony, his books, videos, dvds, podcasts, private spiritual direction, spiritual community and teacher training, please go to: asksenseitony.com