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What Does Spirituality Mean To You?

In this regular series, Glad.is asks leading thinkers, writers and scientists for their perspective on defining what spirituality means to them. Dr. Larry Culliford, psychiatrist, lecturer and author, recommends exploring spirituality like you would a “brilliant amusement park.” Sounds like fun to us!
It is not ideal to consider spirituality as a thing, an object. It does not have the nature of a specimen that can be dissected and analysed. Spirituality is better thought of as a boundary-less dimension of human experience. As such, it must be admitted, it is not open to the normal methodologies of scientific investigation. It cannot completely be defined. It cannot be pinned down. So… What are we to do?

Firstly, you don’t have to give up! You don’t have to be like people who equate spirituality with a religion they decide is false, then abandon. It is possible to look at spirituality another way, as something free of institutional structures and hierarchies, not so much about dogma and beliefs as about attitudes, values and practices, about what motivates you (us) at the deepest level, influencing how you think and behave, helping you find a true and useful place in your community, culture and in the world. Spirituality cannot be explored using scientific methods because it involves deeply personal, subjective experiences, and in this it differs from the over-riding ambition of science: to be objective. Both are necessary and appropriate, complementary formulas for discovering ourselves, each other, our environment, the universe… and especially an enduring sense of purpose and meaning.

This brilliant adventure park called “Spirituality” contains many related themes, such as the idea that the five dimensions (physical, biological, psychological, social and spiritual) are seamlessly interconnected.  And how about the spiritual themes of joy and wonder, dualism and holism, and the two ways of experiencing time?

According to researchers, children’s spirituality flows through their capacities for spontaneous joy and wonder. A sense of fascination, of mystery, awe and delight, are facets of adult spirituality too. However, by the teen years, most people have developed a powerfully ‘dualistic’ understanding of themselves and the world, as if standing outside it. In this ‘self/non-self’, ‘either/or’, ‘right or wrong’ vision of the universe, opposing features are emphasized: either young or old, for example, not both at the same time. Spirituality, on the other hand, involves a ‘holistic’ appreciation of a universe in which everyone and everything is connected seamlessly with everyone and everything else.

The familiar ‘yin-yang’ symbol demonstrates this principle of wholeness in all scales, from infinitesimal to cosmic, as follows: the dark ground (yin) has a small central white spot, and the light ground (yang) has a small central dark spot. The entire symbol is to be imagined as dynamic, constantly changing. Just as day and night forever precede and become one another, what is light gradually becomes dark, and what is dark repeatedly becomes light. The opposites counteract, balance and turn into each other, like the changing seasons of the year.

Yin Yang Symbol

The ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ can symbolize any two polarized forces in nature. Taosts believe that humans often intervene in nature and upset the balance of Yin and Yang.

According to Taoist tradition, Yin (the dark) and yang (the light) are extended to include several polarized forces in the universe, including night and day, earth and heaven, yielding and firm, feminine and masculine. There are many opposites that similarly define each other, among them negative and positive, hot and cold, dry and wet, north and south, east and west, up and down, in and out, ancient and modern, evil and good. Without one, there cannot be the other. Wisdom involves remembering that such pairs always relate to one-another and are inseparable.

The two Greek names for time, ‘chronos’ and ‘kairos’, represent two types of experience that also interpenetrate one-another like the white and dark parts of the yin-yang symbol. Chronos is the familiar, mechanical clock time, advancing steadily in linear fashion, day by day. Kairos was the name of the Greek god who symbolized chance, fortune and synchronicity. He habitually came calling at the perfect moment, when all was ripe and ready. Kairos can therefore be considdered as spiritual time (or ‘God’s time’), and has a different quality altogether from chronos.

Subjectively, when gripped by kairos, it may feel as if clock time has slowed down or stopped completely. Paradoxically, it may also feel as if it has speeded up, so that minutes, hours, even days go by in a flash. Some athlete’s experience this, for example, when they get ‘in the zone’ during a burst of peak performance.

Kairos is in play when things happen unpredictably, but at just the right moment. Eternity and clock time seem to intersect for human benefit and instruction. Such an experience, when something eternal appears to break through into everyday life, is an ‘epiphany’. Heaven and earth may seem briefly to coincide and… ‘Something happens’! Something new and profound, something inspiring and life-changing is revealed in an instant.

The new wisdom resonates powerfully with something already present, deep inside. It feels like a reminder and confirmation of something already known but forgotten. Such revelations herald a kind of awakening, a key moment of transition on life’s journey towards spiritual maturity. As the fallen leaf never rises to rejoin the tree, so is this a point of no return. The significance of these experiences is re-enforced by ‘synchronicities’ unexpected but meaningful coincidences; such as may occur when two people meet for the first time, who later become life partners.

Synchronicities and serendipities – unexpected discoveries – often go together. There is a kind of mystery about kairos. Kairos is spiritual time.

Joy and wonder, dualism and holism, and the two ways of experiencing time are just some of the myriad themes to engage with in the spirituality adventure park. Some of the rides may feel challenging, more intimidating than exhilarating at first. Later, with familiarity, the spirituality park may feel increasingly restful, like a beautiful paradise garden. Entry is free. We are all already in the park. Why not experiment using all five senses and your capacity for mindful reflection? Take advantage of life’s literally wonder-full opportunities for excitement, learning and growth. Why hesitate? What do you suppose a person might have to lose?

What does spirituality mean to you?  We’d love to know, Tell us below!

To read more of Dr. Larry Culliford work visit his happiness website.

 

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We Are All Made of Stars

Check out this mind-blowing, heart-bursting, video of the beauty of the Earth and our Universe as you’ve never seen it.

Every image in this video comes from picture frames taken by the International Space Station, courtesy of NASA.  It shows the immensity of the universe, and the utter magic of connectedness in everything. It would be easy to look at this and feel that we are but a speck lost in space . After all, our sun is just one of 50 billion stars in the galaxy and there are billions of galaxies.  Still,  rather than feeling separation, the video brings an absurdly wonderful sense of celebration and a feeling of kinship:  Because stars exist, we exist. The processes that created those billions of unimaginably distant galaxies also created us.

 

The Earth as You’ve Never Seen it Before: Atmosphere, Airglow and Aurora from AJRCLIPS on Vimeo.

You and I are not merely separated from the galaxies by unimaginable immensities of space, we are connected to them by unimaginable immensities of time. We are literally made from stars. We are their descendants. The only difference between us and stars is time.  The scientific fact is that the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms in our bodies, as well as atoms of all other heavy elements, were created in previous generations of stars over 4.5 billion years ago.  Because humans and every other animal — as well as most of the matter on Earth — contain these elements, we are literally made of star stuff.

From Physics Central:
Every element in the periodic table (aside from hydrogen) is essentially stardust…but how much of our body is made up of this stardust? Since stardust atoms are the heavier elements, the percentage of star mass in our body is much more impressive. Most of the hydrogen in our body floats around in the form of water. The human body is about 60% water and hydrogen only accounts for 11% of that water mass. Even though water consists of two hydrogen atoms for every oxygen, hydrogen has much less mass. So, we can conclude that 93% of the mass in our body is stardust.

You know this, right?  It’s been popularized in the media, but in case you’ve missed it, here are our three favorite references:

1) At Woodstock, Joni Mitchell famously sang about this in a song aptly titled “We are stardust.”

     ”Billion year old carbon.
     We are golden..
     Caught in the devil’s bargain
     And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

2) In 2002, music artist Moby released “We Are All Made of Stars,” explaining during a press interview that his lyrics were inspired by quantum physics. “On a basic quantum level, all the matter in the universe is essentially made up of stardust,” he said.

3) In the early 1980s, astronomer Carl Sagan hosted and narrated a 13-part television series called “Cosmos” that aired on PBS. On the show Sagan, thoroughly explained many science-related topics, including Earth’s history, evolution, the origin of life and the solar system.

“We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff,” Sagan famously stated in one episode.

Just think, long ago someone may have wished upon a star that you are made of.

How does this video make you feel? Did we miss any popular references to this theory? Tell us!

 

 

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