The open-ended Beauty of Spirituality

Spiritual. This is how many people describe their beliefs. But what exactly does this mean? Literally, spiritual means ‘relating to things of the human spirit rather than material or physical things.’ But in a more religious context it can mean a wide range of ideas.

What does it mean to be spiritual?

For some it means they embrace the idea that there is more to life than what we see, while rejecting the dogma of organized religion. They feel a connection to something beyond themselves they may call the Divine, the Universe, the Sacred, God, or it might even remain nameless. 

Spirituality can be a very open-ended concept and therefore it is not incompatible with religion or belief in God. 

In the latest Gallup poll of Americans from 2018 reports:

48.5% Protestant

22.7% Catholic

2.1 % Jewish

1.8% Mormon

0.8% Muslim   

2.9% Other non-Christian

21.3% No religious identity

Other polling sources come out with similar results. If you think everyone is honest when responding to polls, I have a nice bridge to sell you. These are how people self-report and I think many people are afraid to say they are not religious.

Additionally, Gallup did not offer the category ‘spiritual’ as an option. If they had, my guess is the numbers would have looked very different. 

I have met with many couples who want to connect to their faith traditions, but in ways that are more compatible with a 21stcentury view of the world which includes science and our evolving ideas and knowledge. Think about Galileo and the Church in 1600s for a great example of what happens when dogma trumps progress. 

So how does one honor spiritual ideas and values in a wedding ceremony? There are as many ways to express it as there are different paths of spirituality itself.

Sometimes I simply make a statement of fact, saying that the couple share a sense of spirituality, and perhaps try to describe it, if possible. For example, ‘they find peace and meaning in nature.’

Other times we include specific poems, excerpts or quotes from various sources, that reflect their worldview. There is wisdom everywhere, and it doesn’t take long to find it. 

Some of my favorites sources are in poetry and literature, along with classics such as Rumi, Kahlil Gibran, Celtic writings, Lau Tzu, and Buddha; but it is the couple themselves who will direct me to the right inspiration. The texts of Hinduism (the Vedas), and of course the Torah and the Bible all contain beautiful and meaningful words. There are scientists such as Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Carl Sagan, and naturalists such as John Muir, who have written eloquently about our place in the universe.  

Beyond words, there are rituals that connect us to earth, air, water, fire, nature, culture, ethnicity, history, art and family. The possibilities are endless, and it’s always challenging and exciting to explore how we humans view our place in the world. 

To me, being spiritual means putting great value on love and goodness in the world. What could be more beautiful than that?

Another beautiful photo from Lisa Rhinehart


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