Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.
Spirituality involves the recognition of a feeling or sense or belief that there is something greater than myself, something more to being human than sensory experience, and that the greater whole of which we are part is cosmic or divine in nature.
Spirituality means knowing that our lives have significance in a context beyond a mundane everyday existence at the level of biological needs that drive selfishness and aggression. It means knowing that we are a significant part of a purposeful unfolding of Life in our universe.
Spirituality involves exploring certain universal themes – love, compassion, altruism, life after death, wisdom and truth, with the knowledge that some people such as saints or enlightened individuals have achieved and manifested higher levels of development than the ordinary person. Aspiring to manifest the attributes of such inspirational examples often becomes an important part of the journey through life for spiritually inclined people.
The spiritual journey involves first healing and affirming the ego so that positive states are experienced; with secure self-esteem, belief in self-worth and a capacity for love and generosity, a person becomes less constrained by ego defences. An opening of the heart is an essential aspect of true spirituality. In this regard one may question the spiritual nature of masochistic religious practices such as selfflagellation, which is based on a belief in the wickedness inherent in the body rather than on any real connection with, and therefore compassion for, the body. This illustrates the fact that religion does not always serve the progress of spiritual development but may get side-tracked into practices that create pride, feelings of superiority etc. or else lead to a person becoming bogged down in unworthiness, guilt and shame -all of which emotions are commonly suffered by psychiatric patients. In short, religion will be taken up by a person in a way that inevitably reflects their own level of development and maturity.
The development of spirituality is generally recognised as requiring some sort of practice or discipline in order to make ‘progress’. This can involve the aspirant in paradoxes such as non-striving, the gateless gate, or coming home to oneself. Contemplative practices such as prayer and meditation are the common denominator of many religions and the foundation of spirituality. Without them, personal growth is much slower and haphazard. A teacher or mentor is usually recommended.
Spiritual development often involves spontaneous happenings that cannot be accounted for scientifically and that may be attributed to an external force, for example: grace, or angelic or divine interventions. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus is one such dramatic example. Development may not necessarily be an instantaneous event but can happen more gradually as when going through an experience of severe illness, or a terminal diagnosis, when the fragility of life is revealed and a person re-evaluates the meaning of their life.