Spurred by both confusion and curiosity, I recently took a graduate course on contemporary spirituality and prayer that required us students to interview an “expert” on the meaning of those terms. As a result, I spoke at length with a Roman Catholic priest of the Dominican Order—The Order of Preachers—whose nom de plume is Fr. Raymond Shore. His perspective fascinated me.
Jan Vallone: Some people would say that spirituality is an awareness of human experiences that go beyond the material, like love, compassion, feeling at peace. They’d say that spiritual practices consist of any activities that facilitate these experiences. For them, walking in the woods, practicing yoga, meditating, and even having a manicure might be spiritual practices.
I take a yoga class, for example, and although it begins with rigorous exercise, it ends with savasana, corpse pose, when we lie facing upwards on our mats, close our eyes, relax our muscles, and quiet our minds. The sequence produces sensations of inner peace, and when we come out of the pose, we are prompted to take that peace out into the world by being kind and compassionate. After yoga, I find it much easier to be kind and compassionate. Is this a spiritual practice?
Fr. Raymond Shore: Not as you describe it. Spirituality is our approach to God. It’s how we draw close to him. It’s a process that produces a combination of thoughts, feelings, and actions, different for each of us, depending on our personality, but all directed toward the same end: union with God. [Read more...]