Some thoughts about spirituality
These are some of my thoughts about spirituality. This is entirely my personal view. Needless to say, I reserve the right to be wrong.
The American Heritage Dictionary provides the following definitions of “spiritual”:
1. Relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material
2. Concerned with, or affecting the soul
3. From, or relating to God; deific
4. Belonging to a church or religion; sacred
5. Relating to or having the nature of spirits or a spirit; supernatural
This encompasses a pretty big territory, to say the least, right?
When preparing for a presentation on this topic for the Master/slave Conference in Washington DC a few years ago, I spent some time trying to identify different spiritual perspectives. Here is a partial list of the ones I collected:
- Religious: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, American Indian, Taoist, etc.
- Other: Wiccan, the evolutionary view, GLBTQI perspective, U.S. constitution, new age, the scientific/pragmatic perspective, etc.
For me and my own understanding of spirituality, it has been important to to distinguish the two concepts: (a) spirituality in religion and (b) spirituality as opposed to religion. In most religions, spirituality plays a central role. However, we can simply just practice spirituality alone. That is, we can be spiritual, without having to be religious. How do these two views differ?
First, to me, the commonalities that unify spirituality in many religions appear to be:
- The divine principle. For example: Hinduism – Brahman, Buddhism – Dharmata (true nature), Christian – God, Islam – Alhaqq (the eternal truth), Taoism – the Way
- Transformation through intuition – our soul and heart learns through direct experience
- The duality of human nature (and the union with the divine principle to overcome its negative aspects)
- The purpose of human life is the discovery of truth (revelation)
Second, from my point of view, the following are the key elements in most spiritual practices (can be, but does not have to be, part of religion):
- Meaning – making significance and deriving purpose of life
- Values – beliefs and ethics that we hold on to
- Transcendence – experience and awareness of a dimension beyond ourselves
- Connection – awareness of a connection with our inner-self, others, a spirit, and nature
- Becoming – a reflective unfolding of life, an understanding of who we are
So somewhat simplified, we may want to summarize the religious view as spirituality is the process of knowing, feeling and becoming God. In the religious view of spirituality the divine principle has a central role. In the nonreligious view, on the other hand, this principle has been “replaced” by transcendence and connection. One can of course argue that this is just semantics – but for me this difference has been important in understanding my own view of spirituality better.
Finally, let me be a bit controversial (or not?) and suggest the notion of leather spirituality. This is what it means to me:
1. Power exchange is an intimate and intense form of physical bonding
(a) Deeper meaning beyond the physical reality itself (meaning)
(b) Trust, respect, dedication and honor (values)
(c) Submission and surrender (transcendence)
2. Our relationships have a deeper meaning and a strong connection to our inner selves
(a) Who am I? What do I need/want? Where am I going? (meaning, becoming, connection)
(b) Healthy and non-judgmental sexual life (a physical form of transcendence and becoming)
(b) Sexual activities have deeper meaning and can provide us with eye-opening/cathartic experiences (meaning, connection)
3. Strong community
(a) All-acceptance and diversity (connection)
(b) Promotes personal growth and healing (becoming, transcendence)
(c) Leather companionship and support
4. Possibly most importantly, the degree to which we connect with spirituality and/or religion is entirely a personal matter, yet respected by others