Jewish Journal


April 15, 2013

How to Define Spirituality Part 2



By Adam Siegel

Last week, my colleague and friend Yeshaia Blakeney wrote about the challenge he frequently faces in trying to explain the nature of the spiritual counseling at Beit T’Shuvah (see How to Define Spirituality).  In fact, it’s apparently so challenging, that he didn’t end up offering much of a definition.  Similarly, I often times struggle with succinctly describing the spiritual work we do at Beit T’Shuvah (truth be told, I struggle with succinctly describing a lot of things).  After an initial reading of his post, I was still longing for a more concrete answer.  However, upon further reflection, I realized what he did offer was actually a more accurate way of relating to the topic of spirituality.

In brief, rather than trying to define what spirituality IS, he instead describes what spirituality is ABOUT.   Forgoing a boxed-in definition, he instead speaks about the relationship humans can choose to have both with the sacred and the mundane.  For me, it’s usually easier to speak about spirituality in terms of what was or what can be, rather than what is.  This seems to happen because the act of becoming aware of where I’m at spiritually, in and of itself disconnects me from the present.  Even then, finding the language to describe the spiritual realm is often elusive.

Over the past year, I’ve been working on a long overdue project (i.e. next blog topic: procrastination) focusing on spiritual development.  From the beginning, my stubborn insistence of an accurate definition of spirituality has tripped me up.  We, as humans, seem to be both internally and externally driven to name, identify, and/or otherwise control things.   However, I’m slowly finding the wisdom in resisting definition of the Indefinable. 

I’ve come to see that finding a definition is much like taking a still photograph.  A good photo might get you close to capturing the “essence” of the subject/situation, but there are inherent limitations to the full meaning it can provide (especially because a moment after the picture is taken, the world has already changed).  So, instead of trying to corner it head on, I’m finding that taking a indirect, descriptive approach to be more effective.  What seems most helpful has been to connect to spirituality through reflections about the past, as well as moments of hope and aspiration for the future.

How do you describe your spirituality?

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