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What Is Spirituality? Why Do We Need It? - Part 2

This is Part 2 of 2! Click here for Part 1!

vista of dry maze canyons of Badlands, South Dakota


In many ways, we are so fortunate to live in an era of secularism, characterized by proliferating technology and a proliferating humanist and empirical worldview. These forces have undoubtedly helped us alleviate bigotry and violence, as well as material hunger, disease, and poverty. But this progress has come at a price.

Secularism often insists on a belief that the material world – the one we can most easily perceive, act in, and optimize – is the only real world. Though most people don’t agree with this belief, our culture nowadays reinforces the idea that nothing is truly sacred – or at least that if anything is "sacred" or meaningful, it's only technology, humanity, or empiricism itself. Thus, adapting our working definition of spirituality from the previous post, we can say secularism is:

  • a narrative of the meaning (or "meaning") and nature of life

  • reinforced by practices and community

Whereas spirituality is:

  • an experiential narrative of the meaning and nature of life and the Divine

  • reinforced by practices and community

mysterious mountaintop vista of sky and mountains in distance - Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Healthy spirituality recognizes our material world is actually just a small fraction of the real world. Healthy spirituality recognizes that the universe is a wild, mysterious place, full of wild, mysterious Divine presence. Because secularism is so confined to the material world, and because it has either nothing or merely disparaging things to say about wild, mysterious Divinity, in practice it can be a much more restrictive and prejudicial worldview than it claims to be.

Secularism can be prone to convincing us that we’re either the narcissistic center of the universe or fatalistically insignificant. Healthy spirituality holds the transcendent, inclusive, empowering truth in the middle: we are small but hugely significant. Secularism can be prone to convincing us that life is controllable and certainty is achievable, but deeper meaning largely absent. Healthy spirituality helps us release illusions of control and certainty, so we can live life as the sacred adventure it is and see the deeper meaning everywhere.

Secularism can also be prone cynicism about spirituality’s experiential, heart-centered approach to knowledge. It often wrongly conflates emotionality with uncritical sentimentality, quarantining this vital aspect of our being from the domain of the rational mind. But spirituality recognizes that, not only is the heart essential and irrepressible in the pursuit of knowledge, the heart can work in harmony with the rational mind. By recognizing the enchanted-ness of reality, the spiritual mind is capable of much broader expansion and sharper insight than a limited, self-satisfied secularism.

In the modern quest for narrow correctness, we have sacrificed the ancient quest to discover the near-endless possibilities of consciousness. But we can reclaim our elevated mind by cultivating the science of spirituality, and can even help secularism do the same.

view of rocky desert wilderness - Mojave


Again adapting our working definition of spirituality, we can say a philosophy is:

  • a narrative of the meaning and nature of life and the Divine

But to evolve into spirituality, it would need to be:

  • reinforced by practices and community

It’s great to feel and think deeply, but spirituality is about much more than that. For our spirituality to be more than just a personal philosophy – for it to tangibly change anything for others or ourselves – we need to express it in the practical, creative, bodily, vocal, activist, relational, and communal dimensions of life.

under giant tree, its branches stretching high - Woodland Park, Seattle

Now more than ever, we desperately need spirituality that transforms the world. With crises looming on every front, we can’t afford armchair-philosophers – we need people stepping up as activist-philosophers, as spiritual-leaders. We all must engage practices that bring healing, wholeness, wisdom, and evolution into our and others’ lives. We all must live in reciprocal communion with our local and global ecosystems. We all must engage relationship and community so we can support and be supported in these efforts. There are countless ways to do these things, whether traditional or newly-innovated, whether in religious or secular or more personalized contexts. I offer some examples here.

As a spiritual guide, yes, I’m here to help you develop these practices and community. But in this, my ultimate hope is to help you discern and enact your sacred callings and vocations. Callings are the broad "vision statements" of your life, the why's that emerge for you, whether via your life story, emotions, dreams, imagination, Nature, or any other source. Vocations are the more concrete "mission statements" that emerge, the how's of channeling your visions into reality each day. My goal is to help you craft and live out a sacred vision and mission statement for your life.

There is no formula for spirituality, calling, or vocation – these processes manifest differently for everyone, which is partly why it can be helpful to have a guide. But we all have sacred visions and missions, and we all need to know them and enlist them in service to our struggling world. And to do this we need to be cultivating the craft of spirituality.


trekking through canyon country - Red Cliffs, Utah, USA

Now revisiting our original definitions, we can also say spirituality is the art, science, and craft of:

  • integrating our hearts, minds, and movements into a holistic way of life, thus

  • being fully human and

  • discovering the Divine

Whether by continuing to explore and subscribe to this blog or by meeting with me as a spiritual guide, I hope you join me in cultivating this spiritual way of life.

From here, you may be asking, what exactly does it mean to "discover the Divine?" For more on this, check out What are the Divine, Spirit, Soul, and the Sacred?

Or you may be asking, how do I get more practical with spirituality? For more on this, check out What I Help People Do.

Along the way, I offer you some reflection questions:

  • How have you seen your spiritual life as an art, science, or craft?

  • How have you been testing, exploring, following your heart, and nurturing personal relationship with the Divine?

  • How have you been experiencing the universe or the Divine as wild and mysterious?

  • How have you been releasing illusions of control and certainty, living life as a sacred adventure, and seeing deeper meaning?

  • How have you been stepping up as an activist-philosopher?

  • How have you been cultivating your sacred callings and vocations, your sacred vision and mission, your spiritual practices and community?

  • How would you like to?

Thank you for joining me InVocation!

Image credits: #1 - Devin Bard



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