“There is an Indian proverb that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual . Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.”
I’ve just returned from Valencia in Spain where I was staying in the ‘barrio’ of Rusaffa. It is an old working class neighbourhood that has become gentrified in recent years and is now filled with trendy bars and restaurants, in the evenings it comes alive to the vibrancy of the outdoor Mediterranean lifestyle of food, drink, and conversation.
At the heart of Rusaffa is a busy indoor market, a small square of cafe’s and bars, and the Catholic church with its landmark spire. From early in the morning until late in the evening the square is a bustle of activity; market traders, students, families, locals and tourists.
Shortly before 11 every morning the imposing doors of the church are opened and in the bright sunlight of the day the dark interior of the church is opened to the world. Students gather on the steps before their classes, friends meet, mothers sit with their children, but with the exception of a few elderly people nobody goes inside.
On the hour the church bells peal and conversation stops while each hour is rung with a loud chime. Yet despite the noise of the bells, the landmark spire, and the open doors, nobody ‘hears’ or ‘sees’ the church. It stands ‘hidden’ in full view, so familiar it has become invisible.
Out of curiousity I stepped inside the church and found an atmosphere of dignity and reverence. It is a large space with a soft light revealing an ornately decorated interior. It felt like a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the day. A place of stillness, patience and reflection. Somewhere to centre yourself and restore a sense of balance before stepping back into the helter-skelter of the day.
Our Forgotten Spiritual Room
This imposing, but unseen church at the centre of a bustling community spoke to me as a metaphor for the unvisited spiritual room within our own lives. For most of us it is unnoticed and ignored. But, if we opened the door and aired the room we would find a place of stillness, a sanctuary for a brief respite from the demands of our busy lives. A place of reflection to derive some purpose and meaning as the days, weeks, and months slip by.
So why has our spiritual room become forgotten? What prevents us from opening the door and spending a little time there? I can only speak from my own experience but the absence of a spiritual dimension in my life stems from a disillusionment and separation from the religion of my childhood, and an inability to untangle the spiritual from the religious.
It is this inability to understand that we can be spiritual without being religious that has separated many of us from our spiritual side. And for many of us that has left a gaping hole in our lives.
What is Spirituality?
Spirituality is not religion. It is a path for us to generate happiness, understanding and love, so we can live deeply each moment of our life…….(It is) discovering ways to handle life’s difficulties and generate peace joy and happiness right where we are, on this beautiful planet.
Thich Nhat Hahn
To be spiritual is not defined by membership of any church or religion. To be spiritual has many dimensions but at its core is a recognition of what it means to be human in a Universe in which we only pay a short visit. If religions provide the answers, then spirituality asks the questions, and we don’t always need answers to value the importance of the question.
Whether we are religious, atheist, or simply uncertain, we all need a spiritual dimension in our lives.
Why is Spirituality Important?
At the heart of the human condition is our ownership of our thoughts and feelings as our reality. We experience a spectrum of emotions from happiness, compassion, and peacefulness, to sadness, resentment, and restlessness. It can be emotionally draining.
One of the hardest parts of being human is our relationships with other humans, at home, at work, and socially. When a relationship isn’t working for us it’s like carrying an injury, it nags at us persistently.
To be human is to carry baggage around with us. It may be slights and traumas, or dissatisfaction with our own bad habits and behaviour. Despite a strong conviction that we can shake them off, they just seem to stick regardless.
To pay a visit to our spiritual room allows us to observe our thoughts and emotions and recognise them as our reality but not necessarily our truth. It is an opportunity to bathe for a short while in the waters of serenity and acceptance. A short time to centre and refocus before we return to the fray.
Once we understand that spirituality is not religion, but a basic human need, we can give ourselves permission to connect with an inner nutritional energy that is available to us at any time and in any place.
Visiting Our Spiritual Room
The best way to regularly visit your spiritual room is to create a ritual. A time in the day when you can sit alone in stillness. Is there a place in your home where you can create a small sanctuary? Is there a time in the day when you will not be disturbed? Have you the motivation to connect with an inner nurturing spiritual energy?
The biggest barrier to a spiritual practice is our own scepticism, impatience, and tiredness. We cannot always be still when we sit in stillness. The most important thing to remember is to accept our thoughts and feelings as they are, without judgment.
In the spiritual room we turn off our inner critic and become a silent watcher of ourselves, our thoughts and feelings. It is through observation, patience and gentle concentration that we calm our mind, find peace, and gain valuable insights about who we really are.
It is a life long practice that is deeply nurturing for our spirit.