Recently, this tweet from @paulocoelho appeared in my tweet stream:
“Spirituality is not only praying and meditating. It is anything we do with enthusiasm.”
Almost everyone loved this! But my alarm bells went off.
I didn’t know anything about Paulo Coelho at the time. Yes, I’m out of it. I’ve since learned he’s a prolific writer with over a million twitter followers. Not knowing the man, this clearly isn’t a comment about him, his work, or his philosophy. I’m sure he’s contributed positively to many people’s lives.
It was just this particular tweet that didn’t sit well with me.
Among all the enthusiastic retweets, there was a lone questioner:
@ywhtvr: “Is that so? Hmm..”
Of course, I agree there’s more to spirituality than prayer and meditation. Neither prayer nor meditation are a guarantee of true spirituality, either.
But is spirituality anything – like enthusiasm – that we suddenly decide it to be? Might there be consequences to defining spirituality however we like?
Food for Thought
As food for thought, here are two other definitions of spirituality.
The Dalai Lama says,
“Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit – such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony – which bring happiness to both self and others.” – Ethics for New Millennium, page 22
This definition was written for the public. I expect the Dalai Lama’s definition of spirituality would be more complex if he were speaking to Buddhist scholars, for example.
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche offered these thoughts on a genuine approach to spirituality,
“We cannot con the existing experience of life; we cannot con our experiences or change them by having some unrealistic belief that things are going to be okay, that in the end everything is going to be beautiful. If we take that approach, then things are not going to be okay. For the very reason that we expect things to be good and beautiful, they won’t be. In a genuine approach to spirituality, we are not looking for a kick, for inspiration, or bliss. Instead, we are digging into life’s irritations, diving into the irritations and making a home out of that. Then the irritations become a source of great joy, transcendental joy, because there is no pain involved at all. – Crazy Wisdom, pages 42 to 43
Spirituality is very personal. I’m not suggesting that we blindly follow dogma or highly esteemed teachers without engaging in our own process of inner investigation.
At the same time, when we start creating our own definitions of spirituality, isn’t there a danger of watering down spirituality so it just becomes a support for ego and further confusion? Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche called this spiritual materialism.
Lately, I’ve seen too many hip bloggers spouting feel-good spirituality all mixed up with their marketing and success schemes. Of course, their intentions are good, but it’s easy to get confused. It really makes me wonder if spirituality will become just another marketing package. Or maybe it already has.
What do you think? Do you agree that spirituality is anything we do with enthusiasm? Do you think there’s a danger of watering down spirituality in these times?
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