I’ve discovered that if I use the word ‘spiritual’ in a conversation the conversation can unravel rather quickly. It is a word more vague in meaning than ‘love.’ As soon as it is mentioned the ??? mark appears on a face or in the loss of the context of what we are talking about. Things get grey fast.
I know what I mean but the other person certainly does not. So I am here to acknowledge that the meaning of ‘spiritual’ is highly subjective or contextual. Its meaning clamors for clarification every time it is used.
I know what I mean by the term. It is a key word in my lexicon. See my background and that will be clear and for obvious reasons.
But if I am to use it I need to define it or use it in a context that has been carefully built. That usually means in a conversation that has already built, or has a built-in, context related to some other issue. We are on the same page already. Let me attempt a working definition of ‘spiritual’ that can be useful, and I hope enlightening.
First, I use ‘spiritual’ in a cultural context that is meant to distinguish the user of the term, his or her personal self, their very identity; it is a way to refer to one’s “deeper self,” or put a Bigger Picture frame around the subject. ‘Spiritual’ in this context does not mean ‘religious,’ which has to do with how organizations and institutions see their collective member people through their doctrinal lens or perspective.
This is the most common confusion of the term because the church long ago usurped the way of defining ‘spiritual’ for its own purposes. Most people recognize this but still fall through a hole in the brain’s thinking that immediately goes to ‘church’ rather than to one’s ontology, their self identification and Being, the Bigger Picture of themselves or some value they are dealing with in the context of a current problem or issue.
You see my bias. It is that philosophically we share a ‘Big’ dimension of humanity that has a value to it about who we are as a species and as individuals of course. ‘Spiritual’ used this way says you and I have this dimension in common and it as to do with what makes us human and individual. It is the basis of the beliefs that enables us to have a conversation in common at all.
Second ‘spiritual’ as an adverb or adjective denotes something called ‘spirit’ as a noun. Now we are in even wider confusion. ‘Spirit’ too has 100 meanings in our language and literature. The vague trying to inform the vague. The greatest irony here, for me anyway, is that the function of ‘spirit’ and the use of the term ‘spiritual,’ is almost always about meaning in our lives.
‘Spiritual’ connotes to me the questions of purpose, identity and meaning in human living. Who am I? What am I doing here? Where am I going?
Have I totally lost you?
Just remember one thing: you and I are a conundrum, a puzzle, even a labyrinth, or a maze. We are both a question in search of an answer and an answer in search of a question. We are each a unique paradox and a set of ironies. But we have these things in common, so we can talk. We can talk ‘spiritually.’
So if we talk of ‘spirituality’ we are by nature in the land of Searchers seeking Big Picture. At least we imply this dimension of ourselves. By definition we are in the realm of seeking answers to these primary questions AS THEY APPLY IN WHAT IS OUR CURRENT CONTEXT, TODAY, NOW, WITH EACH OTHER REGARDING THE ISSUE AT HAND, perhaps in what you want to ‘transform’ by being coached professionally.
All this is an example of how a spiritual coach and priest thinks and spend his time. Better you know this now about me. It’s relevance is that I may be helping you seek you answers to these very real life Big Picture questions when I am your coach.
Coaching for me is a ‘spiritual’ enterprise because it addresses these Big questions in a current context, and especially is one is seeking transformation by nature a work of answering these questions and creating new answers for yourself This is what a professional and proficient coach does.
Charles Benz, the Rev.