Monday, November 19, 2007

on spirituality and relationality

It is an interesting phenomenon that in my questioning and skepticism of traditional forms of religion, I am met through this strange medium we call "blogosphere" by such kind, probing, and honest religious minds.

All of which is simply an overly wordy preamble to that which I truly intended to say -- namely, thank you all once again for your thoughts and insights.

What intrigues me the most at this point, I think, is the relationship between spirituality and relationality. Because on one basic level, I agree that our spirituality should not separate us from the world, should not focus our energies inward. It should, if it is genuine, connect us in ways ever deeper and more profound -- to our world, to ourselves, to our loved ones, to our communities. A spirituality that fails to do so is either tainted or incomplete, it seems to me.

And yet...

People find depth, meaning, and spiritual growth all the time through various forms of retreat and isolation, it seems to me. People attend retreats, go on long walks, sit in awe of a sunrise, meditate, pray, etc. And while an experience of prayer or of God might be somewhat different in groups or by oneself -- the inescapable truth is that the experience still occurs on the level of the individual (i.e., there is no such thing as a group consciousness). Attuning oneself to God can be shaped by a community, but it remains a process that occurs within each of us as individuals.

So it would seem that the issue of spirituality and relationality is not so much one of whether the spiritual formation occurs within a group setting (although there are advantages to this, noted in my last post) -- but rather one of outcome. That is, that spirituality should enhance our sense of relationship, of interdependence, of connectedness.

So those are my thoughts on the topic for now. I'd love to hear yours, if you would honor me with them.

"If we look deeply enough...we see that our heart is the sun." Thich Nhat Hanh


Gannet Girl said...

Beautiful post.

I did not mean to imply in my last response that spirituality should eliminate solitude from our lives. Far from it. Having done an Ignatian Retreat in Everyday Life (an hour of prayer a day, a weekly meeting with a director) which took me close to a year to complete, and then an eight-day silent retreat this past summer (you can scroll down a little under the topic Spirituality on my blog for a few posts on the latter), I have become very protective of my time alone with God.

In a conversation on "busyness" at seminary last week, someone said that he knew I would become one of those pastors with 25 things om my to-do list everyday. No, no, no. I told him that I guard my walks and prayer time very carefully. People are often surprised to hear that from someone as extroverted and engaged as I am, but silent time to listen to God is at the heart of everything else.

Really, again, such a beautiful post.

Wyldth1ng said...

In my ending paragraph in this postdated June 12th 2005 I talked about what I think about this same topic. I just didn't label it as such.

I liked your post and your point of view.

Katherine E. said...

I so agree! A spirituality that doesn't connect us in increasingly authentic ways to other people, that doesn't nudge us to care ever more deeply for the world, is not a spirituality I would care to engage. "Tainted or incomplete," yes indeed.

Thanks for this post. As always, very thoughtful.

Diane said...

I love your quote.

In Dietrich Bonhoeffer's little book, Life Together, he posits that we need both community and solitude.

I do agree with you that the result of our spirituality would be deepen connectedness -- and not just to a close-knit community (i.e. a church) but to our wider communities as well.

Katherine E. said...

Wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to you, Steve. I'm grateful for you and your blog!