How You’re… Already Spiritual on this Journey

Reflections from Dr. Howell

A young man asked me, How did you get to be spiritual? – which I took as him asking me How can I become spiritual? My gut answer is You already are. You were delivered into this world with a little chapel in you. It might be overgrown with clutter or dusty from neglect. But you don’t have to build it. It’s already there.

Aren’t you spiritual already? I bet you have dreams, wounds, loves, hopes, fears. You cry or cheer at a movie. You feel dissatisfaction. You hope for a better world even though it seems hopeless. You are awed by beauty, the Rockies, a sunset or a puppy. Things strike you as funny, or lovely. You’ve sent money to total strangers. When trouble explodes on the scene, when someone you love is in dire straits, you pray, even if you don’t usually pray. You want your life to have some purpose, some meaning, although you’ve learned that it’s never quite enough. Age, illness and the news all disturb you. A love song sticks in your head. You read my emails.

Aren’t all of these signs of something special, beautiful, harrowing and crucial in what it is to be human? The squirrel outside my window doesn’t laugh or dream or grieve or give nuts or bird seed to strangers. You’re special – and spiritual.

You may be wary of religion, and still be spiritual. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks reminds us that “Spirituality is not the same as ‘religion,’ though the two are related. In essence, spirituality is what happens when we open ourselves to something greater than ourselves. Some find it in the beauty of nature, or art, or music. Others find it in prayer, or learning a sacred text. Yet others find it in helping other people, or in friendship, or love.”

The secret of life is in building on and living into that spirituality, and finding ways to let it be the gyroscope that keeps us fixed on true north, the lantern that illuminates new gifts, wonder and even a calling. Being spiritual is being okay with needing – needing a few repairs inside, a fresh direction, more purpose, more… well, more something. And maybe some help beyond what I can muster for myself.

TRY THIS: today, tomorrow, and the next day, take note (maybe jot it down!) of any times something remotely qualifying as “spiritual” occurs in or around you.