Does leading an authentic life really require a spiritual connection?
If you are a seeker like me, you’ve pretty much witnessed that every teacher, guru, New Age purveyor and/or life coach has connected authenticity with spirituality. Are they right? Is this a necessity?
There are many that shudder and cringe at the mere mention of “spirituality”. What’s interesting to me is that in conversations I’ve had with friends from differing backgrounds, all too often atheists and Born Agains often have the same reaction to the modern use of the word “spirituality”.
The Godless ones believe we’re just skin and bones with a brain, the ultimate creation of evolution. There is no higher power or spirit beyond self that’s running things. My Born Again friends believe the modern definition of spirituality is much too broad and all-inclusive, a direct contradiction to their “turn or burn” ethos.
Hmm. Where does that leave us?
Most of the successful people I have known did, indeed, believe in some kind of higher power. The attitudes I illustrated above are extreme ends of the spectrum. Most of us dwell somewhere in the middle – and our relationship with spirituality is as complex as it is individual.
Whether it is an all-knowing celestial benefactor, walking on the water messiah, or a pantheon of gods playing dice with our souls, the common theme I have seen is that there is agreement that there is something bigger than ourselves.
And at the core of this belief is a shared experience of morality. From this I find the next agreement: The authentic life is inherently moral.
I think it is best said that, while we are all so different, we share basic agreements about morality. Don’t lie, cheat or steal. Definitely don’t commit murder or commit otherwise senseless violence. Respect another’s property and relationships.
We all pretty much agree on these things. But, beyond the rightness or wrongness of things, there is one practical thing to consider: lying, cheating and stealing simply don’t work.
Sure, anyone can get away with this type of behavior for a while. But, when it is discovered there will be wreckage and chaos and hurt. Separation will occur until the amends are made, a new pattern of behavior is established, and forgiveness is offered. Even then trust may be hard to re-establish.
I have a friend that runs an alcohol and drug treatment facility. He has told me that the main cause of addiction and the horrible wreckage it inflicts is all due to a “spiritual break”. It’s a loss of internal integrity, seeking meaning through artificial means. A facsimilie for real life.
From what I’ve seen and experienced, an authentic life does require a belief in something bigger than ourselves – in fact, I think it requires a commitment to this higher calling. It’s been proven time and again that when we place our focus on helping others get what they want and need, our needs typically are well met. This principle is basic to business success. It’s also true in one-to-one relationships.
So, maybe one definition of spirituality as it applies to authentic living is our connection to that which is larger than us – an unseen energy that we can nevertheless feel in our hearts.
Therefore, authenticity seems to require getting over ourselves, This is a simplistic answer. Throughout this site there are different ways to explore the complexities of leading an authentic, fulfilling life. But, maybe we can agree that having a calling bigger than ourselves is valuable and important.
Does that mean having purely personal goals are inconsistent with leading an authentic life? Of course not. In fact, they are essential! In the next post I’ll explore why this is so.