Is a Spiritual Connection Really Needed?

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.

The Inner Oracle

Know thyself.

This ancient advice is at the heart of every sacred belief system known to man. Knowing thyself – self-truth. This is the basis, the deep-rooted foundation of living an authentic life.

So, the first agreement must be this: know your own mind. Know your own heart. Know the content of your soul.

It’s a simple and profound truth: accept yourself.

And yet, how many people do you know that lead lives of self-delusion? Or, they’re stuck in jobsmarriagesrelationshipslives they don’t love? Maybe you’re in that space, too? Lord knows I’ve been there. In fact, I think most move in and out of authentic living. We’re constantly searching, seeking, surviving. Maybe we get caught up in other people’s dreams for our lives. Parents, teachers, bosses, spouses, friends, pastors, gurus…a lot of people thin they know what and how our lives should be. I’ve been there, too. We all have.

I can think of two profound times when I said “yes” and “I do” when I should never have uttered those words. In fact, I recall knowing that those decisions were completely wrong for me…and yet I went ahead anyway. In both scenarios I was ripping off others and myself. I was never “all-in”. I did a good job of making the most of both situations, but there was a lack of integrity at the core – and neither lasted. Both were based on “should”.

I should want this job. I should want this relationship…

Second agreement: There are no shoulds in an authentic life.

Survival is fraught with the word should. We do things because we think that’s our only choice. We get stuck in a job we hate because the rent has got to be paid. We stay in bad marriages because we don’t want to be lonely or give up security or we’ll hurt the kids, or whatever the excuse is. Those are big things, but survival is dripping with myriad small situations in which we don’t tell the truth in order to simply get along. The little lies mount and gather a kind of heavy gravity that pulls our souls into the basement. Pretty soon we’re stuck down there with all the ghosts of lives we never led.

It takes courage to say “no” to survival, and “yes” to an authentic life. It takes courage to leave your job to start a business. It takes monumental courage to transform a marriage. It even takes courage to say “no” to hanging out with relatives you don’t really want to be around during the holidays. It takes courage to say “yes” to carving out 20 minutes a day to meditate, write or do something you enjoy – especially when you have a husband/wife/SO/kids clamoring for the undivided attention you normally provide at their demand. It takes courage to upset the apple cart.

Third rule: Authenticity requires saying “no” to survival and “yes” to life.

This is a start. Maybe I’m going down the wrong track here, but it doesn’t feel like it’s wrong. Next post I’ll go deeper into this. I think the surface has only been scratched.

The Authentic Life…?

In doing research for my next book, I started seeing a trend. The “authentic life” is the buzz in the self-help world.

Seems like every life coach, meditation expert, creative consultant and self-help blogger is writing about the need to live authentically. I’m not immune, either. Heck, in the sub-title of my book I claim that if one follows what I’ve presented, an authentic life can be had. I stick by that claim…

But, I began wondering, what does having an authentic life actually mean?

Most of the stuff I read was either framed in the context of religion/spirituality, or via some type of new age belief system. Of course, this got my mind going…what if one wasn’t religious or particularly spiritual? In fact, does morality even come into play when considering “the authentic life”?

For example, I would argue that Donald Trump has led an extraordinarily authentic life and he doesn’t strike me as being exceptionally spiritual (I could be wrong, of course). Just seems like Trump is who Trump is, makes no bones or pretense about it. Of course, that authenticity is already being tested in this political season. Guess we all have our trials.

Then I started thinking about other folk, people who were really coming from left field – like Salvador Dali or Ayn Rand. Both led colorful, push-the-envelope lives that can only be described as authentic. Dali was, well, Dali. And Rand invented Objectivism. Neither was particularly spiritual (Dali was an agnostic and Rand an atheist). Would their lives fit into the current ethos?

So, maybe I’m missing something. Seems like “the authentic life” has nothing to do with morality or right and wrong. I mean, couldn’t a criminal lead an authentic life? Maybe not one that you or I would live, but…

Or, maybe we define having an authentic life based upon a set of agreed upon principles and ideas. I’ll go there next post in my quest to define exactly what is meant by having an authentic life.