I was at my daughters’ speech pathologist appointment the other day, when the word ‘spiritual’ was used in a comprehension exercise. We had to look up the dictionary meaning of the word.
Meaning number one: relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things. (Yes, thanks, I agree)
But to my chagrin, with meaning number two, I was reminded that the word ‘spiritual’ also means: relating to religion or religious belief.
It got me thinking about the words we use when it comes to our spirituality and some of the comments I have heard lately. These are a couple of words that come up over and over again in the world of spirituality and personal development.
I like all these words, but it seems that some of them are causing some of us a whole lot of discomfort. Seriously. I heard someone say they don’t like using the word ‘power’ when it comes to women’s empowerment work, as it is too masculine sounding. (Empowerment was ok, because power is camouflaged inside of the ‘em’ and ‘ment’) Now far bit it from me to jump on any kind of feminist bandwagon, but, since when is it so ‘unspiritual’ for us to not be into our own power? How many articles and pieces self help advice all advocate holding onto our power, or not giving our power away?
Dictionary meanings of Power include (but are not limited to):
- ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something.
- great or marked ability to do or act; strength; might; force
- legal ability, capacity, or authority
- delegated authority; authority granted to a person or persons in a particular office or capacity:
None of these sound terrible to me. Of course I know that there is also ‘power over another person’ which is what can cause the disquiet of feeling that has arisen. But I think that personal spiritual power is something we should all be looking for.
And I realised, that as we move forward in this fast paced society with its 24 hour news cycles and constant need for instant gratification, some of these words are becoming ‘unfashionable’. I hear those cries of ‘oh, I don’t like the word ‘spiritual’ or ‘goddess’ or ‘inner power’ or ‘divine’. And, if I am honest, I don’t like the fact that the word spiritual actually originally meant anything related to religion. In the world of spirituality, one of the catch-cry’s is that I am ‘spiritual’, not ‘religious’ and I am someone who sits rock solid in this category. I think that that in itself is telling. I am guilty of it. It would seem that sometimes, we remove ourselves from the deep and poignant meaning of words as we constantly seek to find new ways to express ourselves and be heard out in the world.
Is it the next cultural shift? It is true, there is a big divide consuming the world of the awakened soul. New Age is ssssooo passé now. Spiritual became the new, ‘new age’, yet it seems like everyone’s a bit over being spiritual now as well. For me, this is really about what these words mean to you and whether you place a lot of value on whether other people have essentially hijacked the word, given it a new millennium update and swapped out its original and intrinsic meaning.
WHAT is happening? Are we suddenly unhappy with our language? Or, perhaps it is more appropriate to say what is happening with our ability to use it effectively when it comes to what and how we communicate with each other. Are we so easily bored with an idea that we become dismissive of important truths and deep wisdom, because we are hoping it is going to come wrapped in some shiny new semantics? Or do we need to give it our own personal ‘spiritual signature’?
Frankly, I think the media and marketing have a lot to answer for when it comes to this issue. The ideals and meaning behind a lot of spiritual work are now being thrown at us by advertisers, and once something has crossed the threshold into the mainstream, it effectively becomes nothing more that fodder for manipulating the masses into consumerism. And if we check back in to that original meaning of ‘spiritual’ being about things relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things we can see it is losing the essence of its’ esoteric meaning because of its popularity. The spiritual and self help world is littered with mini-gurus and their courses, worksheets, lifestyles and promises of a one stop shop to creating a magnificent life. The love child of spirituality and mass marketing is crowning out of your laptop.
‘Sigh’, as my 9 years old currently says out loud, as an actual spoken word, not as deep releasing tonal breath….you know an actual sigh.
I have self identified as deeply spiritual for a good twenty plus years now. But for the first time, I am becoming a little uncomfortable saying it. I deeply value my spiritual nature. For me this is a love for metaphysics, meditation, nature and the universe itself. It means I have a deep reverence for the awesomeness of creation itself. I am fascinated by the physics of space and time. I am awakened to the possibility of the miraculous, as it exists both as an internal place of wonder, and in the external manifestations of it out in the world. I understand myself as a being created in both a biological and energetic nature.
This is a sense of what being ‘spiritual’ means to me. And to be a spiritual person means that I undertake ‘spiritual work’. This is another of the important differences between ‘spiritual’ and ‘religious’. One relies’ on self evaluation, self actualisation, and deep inner work. The other passes responsibility to a greater power and relies heavily on faith and prayer. Because faith and prayer are commonalities though, I think this is one of the many reasons these two ideas become blurred in some people’s minds.
So, for now, I will continue to use the word spiritual with respect to how I have taken it into my heart. Separate from the sense of religion, where we have a set of agreed upon beliefs that are practiced by the masses. (Nor is it something I am looking to buy from the latest new age catalogue.) Spirituality to me is a set of mutable self beliefs, agreed upon by me, tested out by me, practiced by me and experienced by me, as part of my soul’s evolution toward understanding its own nature. I think it is a lifetime’s work and I don’t think I will ever reach a time when I will feel it is ‘passé’ or uncool. (Although I have plenty of times when I don’t want to do it anymore, because spiritual work is bloody hard sometimes.)
It is not a fad. It is not a tool. It is not a one size fits all idea. I think more than anything, it is an ever changing question we ask ourselves about who we are as human beings. And that question has been around for a very long time, and the answer to it is the same as it has always been. Look inside yourself for your own answers.
Megan Freeland XOM
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