There is no agreed-upon definition of the word spirituality. For some it is connected very specifically to God and religion, while for others it is connected to non-religious experiences. Whatever the actual definition may be isn’t of concern to what I want to talk about here; I want to talk about the “spirit” in spirituality.
We are all familiar with the word spirit. When we see someone who is happy despite a sad occurrence in their life we say, “he/she is in good spirits,” or we may say that a teenager shows a lot of school spirit and attends all the school games, or we may describe a very calm person as having a calm spirit. I truly believe that everyone and, to some extent, every thing has a spirit and we need to talk about this elusive word.
All human beings (and all living things) have a spirit that is wholly different from the physical body, and even the mental brain. Our spirit is our deepest essence, but we don’t speak and act from our spirit very often. Sit down and really think about your spirit and I bet you could come up with some words to describe it (again, you’re describing your spirit, and not the traditional “you”). One of my favorite authors on this subject, Sonia Choquette, describes a condition called “psychic anorexia.” Don’t get too caught up in the word psychic being in there, it simply means the starvation of your spirit. She finds that many people in the modern world suffer from this condition, that their spirit has been starved for a very long time, and so may suffer from various physical and emotional ailments.
When I think about what feeds my spirit I think about nature, beaches, deep conversations, nourishing food, helping others, and visual entertainment (plays, movies, tv shows). Today I can say I feed my spirit on a daily basis, I know what my spirit likes and I make sure that my day is full of those things, but this wasn’t always the case and I felt the effects. When I was living in NYC, I was far removed from nature, and especially beaches. I was surrounded by concrete and more people than you could imagine, and in my spare time I was so tired that I couldn’t bother to take a walk around central park or take the train to a nearby beach. During this time I felt so tired and sick; my spirit wasn’t happy and it was beginning to show.
One weekend my partner and I went to visit my friend in Long Beach, Long Island, a beautiful beach about an hour away from Manhattan by train, and when the train reached the part of the journey where we cross a little channel of water to see the ocean my partner said my face lit up (or rather, my spirit lit up) and was so happy. Our spirits know what they want, we just need to pay attention and become aware of it and then act on it. Filling your life with experiences that feed your soul is one of the greatest things you can do— there is literally no down side!
Kids are usually better at connecting with their spirits than adults are, which is why I love asking kids what they want to be when they grow up or what they really love doing. They answer from their spirits, not from their brains. You can’t be your healthier you if your spirit isn’t healthy and nourished. Because you are doing activities that you love anyway, it doesn’t feel like this is specific health “work.”
Another funny story about me feeding my spirit just happened the other day. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and I really like (occasionally) watching TV shows on netflix while I’m cooking. I set my lap top up on the highest part of the counter and I listen in and glance over when I can look away from what I’m doing. Last week I was doing this while watching the show “Jane the Virgin,” which I love for its amazing cast and witty script. My partner was working in the other room and could hear the show (which he doesn’t find as witty as I do) and complained that I should be watching a documentary or not watching anything at all. I quipped back, “it feeds my spirit!” We had a big laugh about it, but I really did mean it. Something about that experience really feeds my spirit, whether or not others see the value in it isn’t of concern.
Have you ever walked by a tree or a flower and felt something special for it? More than just admiration for its physical beauty, but a feeling like the tree/flower had a special energy that you could feel? If so, you may have been sensitive to the tree/flower’s spirit. Assessing plant spirits is a fun way to start becoming aware of the spirits all around you, so is assessing the spirits of the animals in your life. Almost everyone can describe their pet’s spirit if asked, so it’s a good place to start. Once you feel comfortable talking (or thinking) about plant and animal spirits, move on to talking/thinking about your spirit and the spirit of those around you. I think you will be surprised how fast you can connect to the world of “spirit.”
Spiritual health has played such a big role in my healing journey and I feel compelled to urge others to become aware of their spiritual health as well. Feed your spirit everyday and I am sure you will see and feel a difference.