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Finding Meaning in the Word “Spirituality”

Meditating by the Sea

Finding Meaning in the Word “Spirituality”
by E. Cobb

Spirituality can be a hard word to say out loud, even for those who practice it.

I meditate, got married in a Christian church, and read about and explore many avenues of religious and nonreligious inner life regularly. However, I used to completely avoid the word “spirituality.” Despite feeling deeply “spiritual” in my own sense, I have preferred to call it “aware,” “in touch,” “mindful,” or “holistic” when speaking about myself. These aren’t really even synonyms, but still, I felt something about those words were easier to say out loud than the word “spirituality.”

Where did these feelings about the word “spirituality” come from for me? First, I used to think that spirituality was inherently attached to religion. My religious exploration in life is something that I have preferred to keep as my own private personal journey; hence, I have shied away from the public “spiritual” discussion. Second, I worked in schools for many years implementing social and emotional wellness programs and mindfulness programs. When working in schools, it is often imperative to keep our language secular, thus, again, a reason to steer away from the “spiritual.” Finally, I felt like the word “spirituality” was vague and somewhat mysterious to me in its meaning.

My recent immersion through the Spirituality Mind Body Institute into the language of spirituality has expanded my understanding of the word. First and foremost, I have come to appreciate “spirituality” not just as a religious term, but also as a scientific one. We are at the brink of an exciting explosion of new scientific research showing the benefits and the impact that spirituality has on individuals and on communities. As I am exposed to exploration of spirituality in others, my view of spirituality has shifted to extend past just the religiously inclined. Instead, spirituality has expanded within my understanding to be for anyone who feels “connected”- whether that is connected to nature, to each other, to our own paths, or to a greater presence.

I am increasingly alert to the expansiveness that the language of spirituality can represent, as it can be individual and personal or it can be collective and shared. As my understanding of the word “spirituality” has grown to encompass the range of religious and nonreligious, personal and collective, intentional and inherent, it has been become a more comfortable, regular word in my vocabulary. I have developed a strong belief that the word “spirituality” has limitless meanings, and therefore, its subjective meaning is worth exploring through each and every one of us.

For those who do not identify with the word “spiritual,” but have experienced sacred moments of connectedness and are mindfully in touch with their inner journey, I believe that we can still have an open dialogue about our inner lives and our connections to each other. With or without the use of the word “spirituality,” the power of its meaning is present.

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