Spirituality is the connection and practice of a person’s values and beliefs. I work, however woefully, to ensure that all of my actions, purchases, and words are in line with my values. Our actions are an extension of what we value and our beliefs are evident in how we act.
For example, I value relationships. This includes the relationship I have with the environment and all of our global neighbors, realizing the effect of my actions and purchases. The first step I took in wanting to actually practice this value started with my closet and wanting to know who made my clothes, so to contribute to the suffering of others. If I disconnect myself from my values, I cut my self off from others, putting me in a position of disparaging my beliefs.
We often try to connect spirituality with habits such as prayer, scripture reading, going to church, mass, a mosque or temple. I believe it is dangerous to limit our spiritual life to what we do as a practice. Instead, it is the springboard from which all of our actions lie. Spirituality has become something to “obtain” rather than how we live. These disciplines are helpful, and I believe them to be important, but in my own life they were lip service and a pacifier used to excuse me from the responsibility of my actions. Spiritual practices reinforce your values and beliefs in a way that shapes who you are and where you are heading.
In my own tradition I look to Jesus, Mother Teresa, St. Francis of Assisi, Desmond Tutu and even the Dalai Lama as examples of what it looks like to live a deliberate life. If we did not feel such a way of living was possible, we would not constantly look back toward such people if we did not know we could be better. This is something we expect from children when we raise them not to throw rocks at windows or teaching them the value of cleaning up after themselves. When they go against the grain, we remind them that they are “better than that.” For whatever reason there seems to be a threshold we cross that takes us away from holding ourselves to such a standard. It is instilled in us at a very early age the innocence, goodness and love that is present in each of us, but we become jaded and lose sight of it.
Life is messy and I do not forgo the notion that there is conflict within us, but it is within that conflict we come to a full understanding of what is good. I grew up with constant reminders of how rotten humanity is, but that news only took me so far. It gave me a bandaid to deal with my guilt, but it did not heal the wound. The message of the Gospel recalls the goodness of who we are and where we are going is the present state of affairs. Spirituality can remind us of the good we are capable of. We know that we do not have it all together, but we know the person we ought to be, and we do not need to accept all that we see as just the way it is.
Connecting our values with our beliefs creates the foundation for a life lived deliberately, providing us with a measuring stick to place against every decision, thought, action, vote and purchase. It is for this reason we begin with our values, using them as a template for how we act on our beliefs. Spirituality is about finding that connection and realizing that everything is spiritual.