Spirituality is a term for the concerns of the soul. To be spiritual you embrace a way of thought and action beyond the material needs of physical survival. Spiritual belief, in practice, ranges broadly, but consistently represents thoughts and feelings embracing ideals connected to a purpose beyond simply staying alive.
This article will explore the idea of spirituality in our current age, and this particular time in human history, which is caught in the throes of a global pandemic. A strong spiritual belief can be as valuable to your life as good nutrition and fitness. Humans, after all, are spiritual beings having a material experience, not material beings seeking spiritual knowledge, which is the foundation of my spirituality.
Religion, Atheism, and Spirituality
Like most people, I started out my “beliefs” journey under the tutelage of my parents’ belief system, which was Christian. Christianity has many variations, and my first memory of the name of the practice my parents included me in was Protestant. We attended a Protestant church in my earliest years. It did not mean much to me in terms of belief; I went where my parents took me. Whatever it represented for them did not stick because we switched to the Baptist sect just before my teen years.
Religion was mostly an obligation, which I performed dutifully and reluctantly until I became a teenager and rebelled. My rebellion took the form of atheism, a total denial of religion and any form of spiritual belief. I carried the atheist torch well into my late 20s and would have been considered a stellar member of the tribe, having collected and read all the works of Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins. But, eventually, this system of thought also failed to give me a depth of understanding I clearly craved.
After my divorce in my mid-30s (2002) and with the emergence of online dating I noted a category in the profile options for beliefs and one of the selections was “spiritual, but not religious”. My leaving atheism behind did not re-activate any interest in religion for me, but I was certainly craving something more than the void of atheism and different than the “canned” spirituality of most religious practices. To be religious is to be spiritual, but you can be spiritual without being religious, which suited my identity better.
While it could be said that one can embrace the spiritual nature of individuality, that is not what I mean by individualistic spirituality. What I mean is the spirituality of an individual; in my case, it would be “Philipism” and yours would be your first name with “ism” at the end. In our current age of information overload, competing belief systems aggressively “hawking their wares”, and a global pandemic, finding one’s spiritual center is no small task.
A solid and consistent spiritual belief can prove to be a steadying force in our highly chaotic world, made even more unreliable because of the ongoing disruption caused by COVID19. It may be clever and true to say that life is an illusion, but it is an illusion with a real impact on our states of being while we are living on the planet and in the illusion. The truth may be chaos and the unexpected at any time, but we would not do well if every time we needed to act we would have to wonder, at a profoundly deep philosophical level, if the package I ordered from Amazon would arrive or my car will start today.
While it is true that anything can break at any time, we do not need to be “of the mind” that I need to be aware of this fact all the time. It is not only useful but necessary to hold the belief that my car will start today because it started yesterday, especially if I am trying to start it after I parked it in the garage and followed my routine like I have hundreds and thousands of times before. This pandemic is forcing and reinforcing chaos, as truth, in our faces, on a daily basis, which can break us down rather quickly if we do not have a strong spiritual belief.
To that point, individualistic spirituality is your unique process for giving yourself a context for being on the planet and at this unique time in existence. Whether you “call” to one god, gods, and goddesses, or a universal mind/intelligence, believing in a purposeful and interconnected whole can help you feel more stable and secure when life fractures, at it eventually does, over and over again throughout your lifetime. Believing in purpose, both on an individual and universal scale is the prime lesson of human consciousness and our brief but recurring time on this planet.
Too often we hear the word “unprecedented” and it is hyperbole, an exaggerated claim or statement not meant to be taken literally. Only the people over the age of 100, could claim that this pandemic is not unprecedented as a known, not historical, fact. Even World War is not as pervasive as a virus, and the last reasonable comparison to the current situation would be the Spanish Flu of 1918, which killed an estimated 20 to 55 million people. Unfortunately, the current disruption is just getting underway.
Let me use an astrological comparison involving the idea of retrograde motion as it applies when a point in the sky moves over a degree in a sign aligned with a point at the same degree and sign as was the case when you were born, this is known as a transit. When, say, Venus moves through Aries and reaches 23 degrees, it “transits” or passes over my Sun, which was at 23 degrees of Aries when I was born. If it goes retrograde soon after, it will pass back over my Sun a second time, then go direct again and make a final 3rd pass. In rare cases, there can be 5 passes.
Spirituality as a Defense Against a Chaos
The transit can be like a happy surprise visit or a punch in the face. Since I am writing in relation to the global pandemic, we will follow the “punch in the face” metaphor. The initial arrival of the virus is the punch in the face, the retrograde phase represents the time we have to get our hands up and protect ourselves (lockdown), and the final pass is the chance we get to throw our own punch back (vaccine). Spirituality is rather like martial arts or self-defense training. If you have it, then you are better prepared to “take the hit”, recover faster, and adjust to change quickly.
In my spiritual, but not religious, and ever-evolving belief system, I now hold at my core several spiritual ideals that are helping me weather this very violent storm. Among my beliefs is reincarnation, so this is not my first or last “rodeo” on this planet; not only will this pass but so shall I … but I will be back. My soul knows there is a lot more work and learning to be done. I also believe, on a spiritual level, that I chose to be here and signed a spiritual contract to live this experience for reasons that will unfold as I have the experience.
Do these beliefs eliminate fear or worry? No, not completely. Some days yes, they do, but not every day. But like good training can help you maintain your focus in a crisis, a solid and healthy spiritual belief can help you survive and thrive in this current age.