I’ve recently had a few conversations about spirituality, all sparked off in different contexts. It’s a loaded word for many. For some it speaks of religion and formal theistic belief; for others it’s a murky non-rational space, a bit ‘hippy’ for want of a better word. It causes discomfort, confusion, question in equal measure. For others it is a core belief, or a term they feel comfortable about whether couched in a formal collective or very personal practice.
I shared a link via Twitter to Jane Goodall talking about science and spirituality. These two subjects may seem incompatible. For Jane Goodall who has spent a life time in scientific study of apes and chimpanzees, it seemed quite clear that the two could sit side by side. She talks in her interview of experiencing a sense of a wider mystery while in Africa, lying back and looking at the stars. In that moment she had a sense of her tininess in the universe and yet her fundamental part in it.
In her observations of chimpanzees playing at a waterfall, there was a sense of both the scientist observing and also the wonder at this play and reverence seemingly without purpose. There was also a mystery to this, beyond science. I was particularly struck by her statement that some things shouldn’t be explainable by science (my poor paraphrase).
For me, this view resonates with my sense of what spirituality is. Inspite of our rational, scientific minds there are experiences which transcend what can be explained through data and science. These experiences are often felt in the whole body rather than just in the mind. They are sometimes accompanied by an extraordinary synchronicity of happenings. Goodall talks of walking into a cathedral as music was playing and light streaming through a stained glass window and experiencing that as a moment of deep realisation and truth about the wonder of human creation and spirituality.
In the Kiddey family Ramblings episode I mentioned in another post they talked of the extraordinary appearance of rainbows following the death of Hugh. Somehow we become alive to images, symbols, our environment with a deeper attunement. A part of our sensing which isn’t always accessible becomes awakened momentarily. We may feel expanded, larger than our usual selves, more connected, more alive, more awake to the world and the universe.
This is more an immanent type of spirituality – one that is within us, pervasive, emergent rather than transcendent or beyond us.
Of course the label ‘spiritual’ may have turned you off this blog post already. But I wonder if the experiences I describe resonate at all? And if so, what would you call them? At oneness? Aliveness? Connectedness? Peak experience? Other worldly?
Whatever your term for it, these are experiences which are unique to each of us and yet common too. We all have the capacity to experience them; maybe it’s a question of staying attuned to them.
By Matt Fox www.mattfoxcounselling.co.uk Counselling in Totnes, Paignton and Newton Abbott
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Image by T. Bika licensed under Creative Commons