Interspirituality is Best Understood at 30.000 Feet but Can Only Be Practiced on the Ground

Interspirituality is Best Understood at 30.000 Feet but Can Only Be Practiced on the Ground August 7, 2023

Altitude gives an overview of interspirituality; life happens on the ground. Picture: CC0 License

The deeper you dig into something, the more differences you see. Details unveil diversity. That is why interspirituality is best understood from 30.000 feet and why I’ve been engaged in big-picture thinking for most of my adult life. Whether New Age, theosophy, integral philosophy or yoga, I always gravitated toward unification theories, looking for similarities instead of getting bogged down by details. Recently, though, I’ve realized that details are necessary since an interspiritual approach can only be practiced on the ground.

Living at 30.000 Feet

Based on my previous articles, it’s clear that I have a strong interest in spirituality, particularly in holistic and inclusive concepts. This interest goes all the way back to my introduction to New Age spirituality in the early 90s. My crowning achievement in this search came as part of my interfaith minister training from 2016 to 2017, when I wrote a thesis called Experifaith. I postulated that wisdom traditions become more similar when you compare individual experiences and more diverse when you compare their stories. I even categorized the experiences into two broad groups, oneness and goodness, that encompass most religious and spiritual activities. Experifaith honored everything I had learned until that point, including Swami Vivekananda’s universalism, Aldous Huxley’s perennial philosophy, and Ken Wilber’s integral theory.

Getting Stuck at 30.000 Feet

Because I so enjoyed the rarified air of broad interspiritual explorations, I did not realize that I had become stuck at 30.000 feet. It wasn’t until I was explaining some of my newer findings to a friend that it dawned on me. I told him that “…all the wisdom traditions include practice categories such as restrictions, aspirations, forms of prayer and meditation, gatherings, service, and rituals, to name a few.” As I said those words, my mistake became evident. I was only engaged in a handful of the things I listed. My view from above had so captivated me that I was stuck in my head. I needed to come back to earth and practice.

No Such Thing as “Interspiritual Practice”

Before we go any further, I need to make one thing clear (and I am writing this as much to myself as I am to you, the reader, because I have used the term “interspiritual practice” before in my writings). The truth is that there is no such thing as an “interspiritual practice.” Interspirituality draws from existing wisdom traditions. A practice can be “interspiritually informed” or “inspired by the ideas of interspirituality,” yet it cannot exist separately. You cannot cut a lake off from the rivers that feed it. This means that when I come down from 30.000 feet, I have to go against my inclinations of inclusivity and use discernment to determine which specific practices to engage in.

Making Hard Choices

In all honesty, it requires courage and discernment to go from “all of the traditions are right in their own way and have much in common” to “I am going to choose this practice for me and stick with it.”

Let me give an example. When exploring morals, it is a good starting point to acknowledge that all traditions emphasize restrictions to tame the instinctual animal nature of humans, but we can’t just stop there. We need to look at the totality of restrictions, understand why they are important, see which ones are the same, and then choose a moral code to follow. Without the last part, we are just engaging in an academic comparison exercise that will not improve our lives one bit. And here is the hard part, once chosen, we need to stick to our moral code even though it differs from others. In short, we don’t need to compromise or dilute our code to validate others. Their code is right for them, and ours is right for us. Both exist under the interspiritual umbrella of restrictions.

Specific Inclusive Practice

The above process is the kind of discernment I am going through now. I am looking at interspiritual categories—things that all the traditions share—and making personal choices for my practice. I am choosing prayers, meditation techniques, rituals, and approaches to gatherings and service. The last two are difficult since I do not belong to a group (one reason why interspiritual explorers are lonely). Being specific is key. Vague general ideas don’t lend themselves to practice.

Gravitating Back to Yoga

In this exercise of discernment and choosing an interspiritually informed practice, I notice that I am gravitating back to yoga. Yogic practices are close to my heart and fit under the interspiritual categories listed above. It is the most holistic approach I’ve ever encountered. In fact, I spent more than two decades immersing myself in every aspect of yogic practices and philosophies. However, I turned away from my established practice in the mid-2010s as a rebellion against the commercialization of yoga. Unfortunately, this rebellion only ended up hurting me. Now, I’m rediscovering a holistic yoga practice grounded in spirituality. I’ll share more on this later.

Both Are Important

To summarize the essence of this article, it appears to me that exploring from 30.000 feet and practicing on the ground are both equally important. Practice without knowledge lacks meaning. Knowledge without practice lacks substance. To acquire wisdom, we need applied knowledge.

Gudjon Bergmann
Amazon Author Profile

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