Reflecting on Spirituality

Posted by Marcia Penner Freedman

A woman – we’ll call her Iris – stands between two bristlecone pines and flashes back on an elementary school lesson about the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. As she stands there she feels a connection to the trees and to all of life.

Could  Iris’ experience be described as spiritual?

The following are the comments Iris made as she attempted to answer that question for herself.

There was something about standing on the path between those two trees, and I just felt a connection, but it was a connection I hadn’t thought about since I learned about it in grade school. I thought about how the trees give off oxygen, which we take in, and we give off carbon dioxide, which they take in.

And I thought about the relationship between animals and plants, our beautiful connection to each other, that we need each other, that we’re all part of the same living organism. I don’t know if that was spiritual, that feeling of connection to everything in life. I felt it at that moment. But, maybe it was.

I would think spirituality can be a connection to something bigger than ourselves. When I stood there with a tree on either side of me and I was in the middle, what I felt was a smallness.

I’m just a speck in a big universe. You feel that you are here for a small period of time, passing through.  But those mountains and those trees are going to be here a long time.  I was humbled, not frightened.  It gives you some perspective.

The bristlecone pine are not lofty and not magnificent, not like the redwoods and sequoias. They are small and gnarled. But they are survivors, 5000 years. Think about what was happening in the world 5000 years ago. Europeans were probably still living in caves. It was before Judaism. Around the time the Egyptian pyramids were built.

And yet, a spiritual experience might be as simple as looking at the stars at night, or it could be walking through a field of wildflowers. Moments like that, awe-inspiring, wow moments. I guess a wow moment can be an appreciation of the beauty of the moment. But do I see that as a part of a big connection to God? No. You could probably be an atheist and feel the spiritual connection to nature.

I’m such a practical person, that I kind of don’t want to deal with spirituality. The feelings are too amorphous.  It’s the unknown, and spirituality has a sense of the unknown.  It could be comforting for someone actually seeking it, but for me it’s uncomfortable.

Beauty. Emotion. Connection. The unknown. God. Iris has touched  upon many of the elements we associate with spirituality. Her statement gives us a kind of blueprint for considering the topic.

Next week’s post, It is. It isn’t. Maybe It Iswill explore the role of beauty and emotion in connection with the spiritual experience. 



5 thoughts on “Reflecting on Spirituality”

  1. Interesting regarding feelings of smallness and being a speck. In our humbleness maybe. In the big picture for sure. But I know that I am a vital piece of that puzzle. I know that I matter and without me the universe is not the same. We all play our vital part, even if only for a nano second…..

    1. It’s too bad that Iris’ moment of revelation disturbed her, rather than her being able to perceive it as a beautiful gift. Certainly we can’t do without practicality, the things that must get done, but moments like these elevate our more mundane experiences. Or perhaps they remind us that God is also in the day to day transactions of life.

      1. It’s been a real adventure for me, talking with people about spirituality. I’ve been really moved by how people open up about their feelings, talking about their experiences of touching the oneness of all of life. This is not something that is integrated into our culture. It’s so foreign to our goal-directed, material focused way of life. So, to me it makes a lot of sense when people become uncomfortable.

    2. A great start to what I expect will be a fascinating series. I definitely find spiritual connection with the outdoors. Though not traditionally religious, I don’t mind calling “spiritual” the feelings I get from the beauty of nature and of animals. Looking forward to the next few Thursday blogs!

  2. I have been humbled and awed by many things but nature is the place that brings me closest to God and yes a feeling of spirituality. I believe we are all One. I have found pieces of myself in the wilderness that I thought I had lost.

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