What Is The Meaning Of Spirituality?
Sonja Shah-Williams BSc (Hons) APA, Ayurvedic practitioner and founder of Anala Ayurvedic health shares her thoughts on spirituality.
Towards the end of last year, we had the pleasure of connecting with the inspiring Sonja Shah-Williams BSc (Hons) APA, Ayurvedic practitioner and founder of Anala, an Ayurvedic health and lifestyle brand. She is a great advocate of our oneness with nature, our connectedness to the universe, and the divinity that is in each of us. It was this belief system that lead us to a conversation around ‘What Was Spirituality?’ and her revealing that she had written something on this exact subject, which we have the honour of sharing here.
What is spirituality?
I occasionally hear people ask what spirituality means. As someone who sees herself intertwined with Mother Nature, and to the Universe, as well as to the ‘bigger picture’, I have never felt the need to try and explain my sense of the spiritual to myself, or indeed to others.
Working as an Ayurvedic medicine practitioner for almost a decade now, I am constantly aware of the importance to our health, of paying great attention to physical, emotional and spiritual balance. I would almost go so far as to assert that, without any sense of the mystical, or individual awareness of one’s purpose of existence, one cannot be in true health.
I do believe that many people are looking to find answers to the deeper meaning of their lives, and if they don’t identify with a particular religion, they seek some explanation through the concept of spirituality, even if they struggle to understand what it means. So, perhaps after all, it is a good idea for individuals, including me, to articulate what spirituality means to them.
A mystical force
Most of us recognise that there’s a mystical force that could be defined as Mother Nature; there is certainly a vital essence in the universe, which can largely be interpreted in Ayurveda, as Prana.
This force is not only physical, so the air we breathe, but also symbolically, the vibrant energy of life that we constantly sense around us. The very things we find mysterious that cannot be explained by science, or through logic, are for me, part of the spiritual realm. How do the seasons come back around as if on repeat? Why does the moon affect us physically, and emotionally?
What allows a spider to weave an astonishingly beautiful and intricate, perfectly patterned web, or a bird fly thousands of miles back and forth to the same place every year? How does a tiny zygote become a fully functioning, complex, sophisticated human being? What, and where is the Soul, or our essence, if it cannot be seen, or measured?
Spiritual joy and sorrow
I feel my whole being light up, and sense my own insignificance, when I bask in a gorgeous sunset, or find divinity in a gorgeous flower. I seek daily to be the best version of myself, to always come from a place of truth, kindness, humility, and compassion. To see this as my goal each day, is to bathe in sparkling, clear, spiritual waters. Clarity, and being in my truth, is to me, fundamental to spirituality.
I find myself joyfully tearful when I watch a child playing blissfully, living in the moment, with seemingly no thought for yesterday or tomorrow, or an animal going about its day in the hope of survival. I am enveloped by an aching sadness when I see an aged, frail person struggling to walk along the pavement as I swiftly, unintentionally, overtake them.
Do they have someone at home, or are they living alone, I empathetically wonder, whilst hoping it’s the former. I find great pain, yet also a divine beauty in sadness and suffering, because I am aware that both exist and cannot be extinguished by we humans, despite our advancement in so many aspects of our existence. There are some things that we simply cannot control, such as the universal force that deals us a mixed hand in order that we may evolve.
On those occasions of my own sadness and grief, I am aware of a visceral sense of being cleansed and healed, and once I accept that nothing is permanent, not even suffering, I am able to swim in the murky emotional pool of experience that is familiar to all of us.
The best kind of worship
I understand why some people may follow a religion, but I have never felt drawn to do so.
To ‘follow’ others, or a religious concept, raises alarm bells for me. We can only follow our own hearts and our own calling in life, and that involves following a shape-shifting, direction-changing, but true path, not a pre-defined dogma, or set of rules for worship. There is no judgement in the spiritual; one cannot be admonished for, as an example, not attending a place of worship for a significant event, or not praying on cue.
Spirituality is free, and freeing, and as individually unique as the sequence of our DNA.
I love the sense of the spiritual that imbues me through small rituals of self- love; preparing wholesome fresh foods, lighting a candle, meditating, pranayama (focused breathing), feeling gratitude for the gift of life, revelling in being around loved ones.
This, for me is all within the realm of the spiritual, because it soothes and comforts the soul, and takes us away from the ego, or lower self which seeks to narrow our focus onto ourselves. These rituals evoke in me a sense of wonder and astonishment at how simple life can, and should be. Spirituality is the worship of our mind, body and spirit; it’s the love for, and the nurturing of, our amazingly intelligent bodies, and acknowledgement of our own fragile existence. Selfless acts are the act of the spiritual force that compels us to look in on a vulnerable neighbour, or go out of our way to help a stranger we may never see again.
Awareness of spirituality allows us to check ourselves, and to ensure we learn from the acts that did not serve us, or others, well. It allows us to make amends as quickly and honestly as possible, because it deeply hurts our souls not to. Spirituality compels us to comprehend the enormity and the sheer miracle of bringing children into the world, and to seek to offer infinite unconditional love and support to them, often even at the cost of our own desires. To come from a place of highest good means to guide our children to do the same. Teaching through our well-considered actions is a perfect example of the spiritual.
Finding our own divinity
Worshipping others, be they Gods and Goddesses, ‘celebrities’, athletes, or even our partners, is to lose ourselves on our path towards contentment. Seeking ‘God’ within, is spirituality of the most fulfilling kind; through this we find the perfection we all seek during the transience of our lives. To find beauty in the elements, the seasons, in mountains, flowers, and in waters, to see it in animals and fellow humans, to see divinity in all living and inanimate things, is to surround ourselves with our own warm spiritual glow.