a while ago we talked about the lack of scripts for talking about mental illness (at least in “polite society”), and before that we had a conversation about how uncomfortable it can be to engage in peaceful communication. and now evan took up the topic the other day and asked how can we talk about our spiritual experience?
“i find it hard to talk about spirituality,” he says. which is interesting: spirituality is a much talked-about topic, especially on the internet. so what’s the problem? let me attempt to summarize evan’s ideas:
we don’t share a widely understood language, notwithstanding the fact that many different religions are represented, from christian to buddhist to new age. in the media, these languages appear side by side, almost as flavours to go shopping for. this is very different from the experience of spirituality, which, to name but a few, can go to the depths of who we are, can mean “waking up” or “dying and being re-born”, or can have a feeling of inevitability – very different from shopping.
the wide variety of languages that can be found can also be beneficial; we now have the opportunity to talk to people from many spiritual traditions, even those who have none.
we need to represent our spiritual experiences, with poetic and academic words, with images, with sound – and we will probably be telling our spiritual stories for a long while before we will start understanding the language. we will need to become sympathetic and respectful listeners and viewers and doers. our language will need to stay close to our experience.
this is different from religion, which has often been presented in terms of intellectual belief. this leaves out much of our experience: the delights of the senses, the connecting with others through emotion, moments of transcendence and intimacy …
evan finishes the post with this:
this post i hope is just a preliminary. i would like to hear about your spiritual experiences and whether these experiences have led you to any particular tradition; have you drawn on various different traditions, or even formulated your own? what aspects of your life do you regard as spiritual? are there some parts of your life that you don’t see as spiritual?
i am curious about that, too. before we go on to exploring this, i thought it would also be interesting to go back to the two posts i mentioned at the beginning and see whether some of the commenters have ideas that may apply to spirituality.
make it positive
alexander zoltai suggested framing things in positive terms. so perhaps rather than saying “it’s difficult to talk about spirituality” we could say “discussing spirituality is new for me and i’m excited about experimenting with different ways of talking about it.”
evan himself had the idea of avoiding labels. instead of mentioning the catch word spirituality or words like god, church, prayer, etc. one could describe the actual experience. “the other day i went for this beautiful walk; the leaves were of all conceivable shades of red, gold and brown, the sky was blue, the air was fresh and clean; it just made me so happy and grateful to be there right at that moment!”
do we really need to talk? how about listening?
listening is something that ian from quantum learning said is important: “listen for what sits under the words of others”. talking is about communication. communication is as much, or more, about listening as it is about speaking. listening closely to what the other has to say, or wants to say, may give us clues about how to engage with them regarding spirituality. or it may just end up being that listening to them will be our spiritual experience.
choose who you talk to
sandy said that in connection with talking about mental illness it “takes quite a bit of getting to know someone before they’ll own that their life has a problem.” in my experience, they same holds true regarding spirituality. maybe that takes us back to listening again. through listening we form relationships, relationships that may then be ripe for a discussion of spiritual experiences.
yet another commenter wrote that it feels good to share such experiences with others who have been there themselves.
using the written word
marie said “having a blog that brazenly describes what is going on with me ‘in secret’ is helpful. i write under a pen name; but when i want to share that side of me with someone in my 3D world, i can simply point them to my blog.” this reminds me of a minister i was once friends with. we could talk about a gazillion things but not about spiritual matters – for that we needed the framework of the pulpit, from which he spoke most movingly.
just keep talking
another commenter recounted that the only way he achieved a well enough state to have nice conversation as well s complete wellness was by continuously talking. so here the advice would be to just keep on talking, no matter what. this goes with what another commenter mentioned, namely that it’s important to remember that when we are afraid of judgment by others for talking about “strange” subjects, it often comes from being afraid to be judged my ourselves. not everyone will understand, and that’s ok.
what do you think? how can we talk about spirituality?