What is Natural Spirituality?

By Mary Jaksch

Let me ask you, are you a spiritual person? Or not?

I think that everyone is a spiritual person. Because spirituality is a natural human attribute. It’s a gift that comes with being human.

Spiritual traditions fail to acknowledge that we all have natural spirituality.

As most of you know, I’m a Zen Master. Most spiritual traditions – Zen included – work from the premise that their way is the ‘right’ way. So when people join a particular tradition they are promised: “Do exactly what tradition says, and you will experience something special.” In other words, if you don’t follow the rules, you will never have that special experience!

This attitude loses sight of something very important:

Every human being has natural spirituality

In fact, nobody can give you spirituality. No teacher and no tradition can do that. Why? Because we already have it! If we honour this human capacity, we can learn to live in a way that supports and strengthens our natural spirituality. The richness of spiritual traditions is then in service of the natural spirituality of human beings, and not the other way around!
What is natural spirituality?
There are three core experiences of natural spirituality. Here is the first one:

1 The present moment is a mysterious doorway.

When we are completely present, without the mind dwelling in the past or the future, our experience changes in a significant way. You’re skeptical? Too much spiritual mumbo-jumbo?

Ok, then let’s look outside the sphere of spirituality to discover how people experience this mysterious change. The Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discovered that athletes who are absorbed in present moment experience being ‘in the flow’. This is a state in which you feel relaxed, confident, ecstatic, focused, and have no sense of time passing. All actions seem effortless, with mind and body working in perfect unison. You can read more about this in my article Turbo Charge Your Performance: 7 Steps to Being in the Flow

In martial arts being in the moment is sometimes described as having a ‘don’t know’ mind. ‘Don’t know’ means keeping an open mind and responding according to circumstances, not according to how we assume things will be. A ‘don’t know’ mind sets us free from the constraints of expectations.

The experience of being ‘in the flow’, as well as the ‘don’t know’ mind, are both expressions of the fact that our natural spirituality regards the present moment as a doorway to wisdom.

Some of us stumble upon the miracle of ‘now’ as children:

When I was ten years old, my father took us on a trip to the Swiss Alps. On our way up my first major mountain, we stopped for a rest. It was a sweltering day and I sank down into the dappled shade of a stunted conifer. Beside me a little brook flowed through the meadow. I was mesmerized by the gurgles and splashes, and by the way leaves would come proudly riding down. Suddenly I felt peaceful and somehow large. I couldn’t feel where I stopped, and where the brook began. I had discovered the miracle of ‘now’.

Learning to be present is the basis of all spirituality and personal growth.

For example, you can’t learn to be kind without learning to be present. Why? Because when you’re distracted or preoccupied, you miss opportunities for helping others in need.

Here is a simple way to find the present moment right now: take one slow breath and notice how the soles of your feet are in contact with the ground. Stay with the experience for a few more breaths and notice what happens.

When you open your awareness to the present moment, your preoccupation with plans, dreams, and memories dies away – and spaciousness arises.

The second core experience of natural spirituality flows from being in the moment. It’s an experience of being without limits.

#2 The self is vast

You may want to say, “What do you mean by ‘the self is vast’ Isn’t that just spiritual claptrap?” You’re right in a way, because our ordinary life doesn’t support this experience. A ‘vast self’ means that it is without boundaries; without inside or outside. But in our everyday life, the boundary between ‘self’ and ‘other’ seems quite distinct. And in many instances, that’s important for survival. After all, when you cross the road, you want to know exactly where you are located in space, and where the car is that’s speeding towards you!

We experience ourselves as individual, separate beings: “I’m in here; and you are out there”. We struggle and strive to make a better life. And we suffer: loved ones leave us; we have health problems; we struggle to find meaningful work; we strive to fulfill our dreams; we age; we worry about family and friends; we feel incomplete and unworthy. That’s suffering.

Natural spirituality shows a different way of living life. We can relax into a larger realization of who we are. That’s when we are not limited and inhibited by our ordinary notions of self. Actually, all of us have glimpses of this way. But we may not always recognize them.

In these moments we suddenly become present to what is happening right now. Instead of sleepwalking through life, we suddenly wake up. Then we can get a glimpse of the vastness that we are.

Rummage in your store of memories, and you may find moments that offered spaciousness and ease. Maybe they were moments in nature, or moments of intense focused activity, or moments of stillness. Whatever the moments were, you may have noticed that the struggle of life suddenly ceased for a while.

When we become present, there is spaciousness and ease instead of suffering. Not only is there ease and spaciousness, but there is also a sense of mystery. We become unknowing and unknowable.

When we get a deeper recognition of who we are, we find a new sense of capacity, a lasting sense of ease, and an awakening of love and kindness.

Just imagine how your life would be, if you could let go of the struggle, and embraced ease and kindness instead!

Each of us has the capacity to transform our life in that way. All we need to do is to nourish our natural spirituality. The nourishment can come from simple changes to our everyday life, as well as from traditional practices, such as meditation.

Beside the experience that the self is vast, there is a second core experience of natural spirituality:

#3 We are interconnected

All of us experience moments when we feel deeply connected. It’s as if the barrier between self and other suddenly melts away.

I’m thinking of simple moments. For example, today I was driving along a congested road, bumper to bumper. I could see cars banked up in a side road, waiting to join the flow. Suddenly I caught sight of a woman peering out anxiously over her steering wheel. I waved her into the queue. Her face lit up and we smiled at each other. It was a fleeting moment, but I could feel the warmth of kinship throughout the day.

Can you remember moments when you experienced a sense of kinship? Maybe kinship with other human beings, or kinship with other beings, or with the whole wide world?

Maybe there were moments when you embrace your loved one and the idea being separate melted away. Maybe there were moments of kindness when you felt an intense connection to another being, even though you might not have known them well. Maybe there were moments in nature when you forgot to observe, and instead you became the valleys and mountains, or the raindrops on a rosebud, or a blade of grass.

wheat fieldWhen I was a child I used to sneak into the farmer’s wheat field when the crop was ripening. I would lie down on the ground, spread-eagled on my back. The wheat ears nodded in the wind and the clouds scudded across the sky. Sometimes I would lose myself and know that I was part of a larger, mysterious reality. It didn’t last long, though. Suddenly I would hear the farmer bellow, “Get out of my field, you little monkey!” and I would scamper away to escape his threatening stick.

We can enhance our natural capacity for connection through learning to be present, through learning to listen deeply, through having a conscious relationship with ourselves and others, and through practicing love and kindness.

Our sense of interconnection is part of natural spirituality.

What is your experience of natural spirituality?

Photo no 1 by Jeff Kubina Photo no. 2 by SIngraham< ; photo no. 3 Jecate ; Photo no. 4 by FotoRita [Allstar maniac]

 

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{ 26 Comments }

  1. I love the phrase “natural spirituality” and the idea of this post in general. Human beings don’t have to be “forced” to be spiritual or religious, it’s already a part of us and our daily experience. Even in the simple or mundane – we just have to be looking for it (or maybe just open to it). 🙂

    Amanda Linehans last blog post..How To Embrace Your Worst Qualities

  2. CG Walters says:

    Wonderful work, Mary!
    “Every human being has natural spirituality”
    blessings and continued inspiration,
    CG

    CG Walterss last blog post..CelebraZine 19Dec08

  3. Tomás says:

    Absolutely beautiful, Mary! This post is the single most to-the-point, no-nonsense and inviting piece of writing on the subject I’ve ever read. What a jewel of a post – I hope it’s just the first of many on Natural Spirituality (what a great way to call it, btw)!
    cheers,
    Tomás

  4. I really really enjoyed this one Mary. I love how you put all of yourself and your training into it. Yet, it all boils down to these 3 things that we can all access right now. Thank you for that, it’s good to know you are teaching us the important lessons.

    Nathalie Lussiers last blog post..Recession: Good, Bad, and Ugly

  5. Bengt says:

    This is a great post.

    I totally agree with this: “nobody can give you spirituality. No teacher and no tradition can do that. Why? Because we already have it!”

  6. Rudolf says:

    Thanks Mary! Your article reminds me how important it is to be in the flow..so I can appreciate true spirit of Xmas better. 🙂

  7. rroderik says:

    Hey zen master 😉

    The Hungarian guy you quote is Mihaly [Csíkszentmihályi, Mihály], no “i” in the end of his first name. Probably just a typo.

    wish you all the moments,

    roderik

  8. Very inspirational. I love your points on human interconnection.

    Stumbled. 😉

    Marc and Angel Hack Lifes last blog post..10 Things We Can’t Have Without the Other

  9. The main thing about recognizing our natural spirituality is that we act on it. If we are millionaires and act like we are paupers, then we might as well be poor. Or better yet, we should wake up and recognize our wealth.

    Good article with great examples, Mary.

    ReddyK – The Atma Jyoti Blogs last blog post..Cultivating Happiness: A Gardening Metaphor

  10. I always love your blog, but this post was especially meaningful – thank you!!!

  11. Thanks Mary, this post is absolutely beautiful. All the 3 points resonated with me! I’m a spiritual person but non-religious, and I usually find people behaving weirdly when I say that because they can’t seem to phantom the concept of being spiritual without having a religion.

    Here is one of my favourite quotes on spirituality and our existence which sums up my thoughts perfectly: ‘We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience’

    Celes | EmbraceLiving.Nets last blog post..Become the Master of Your Time

  12. Oh I forgot to mention – have stumbled the post! 😀

    Celes | EmbraceLiving.Nets last blog post..Become the Master of Your Time

  13. Hi everyone! Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad you like this article. I reckon it’s the most important thing I’ve written this year. Important in a sense that I’ve been able to clarify the niggles that have been in my mind for a long time.

  14. Mary, a really good article, for me of 1. The Present Moment, 2. Abundance and 3. Oneness. Natural Spirituality gives humans a whole and (the) real new frame that is not of the mind but within us – natural.

    Myrko | AwakeBloggers last blog post..The Mindset to Getting Things Done: Think Result-Oriented

  15. claudio says:

    Love this post Mary!

    I like to think of spirituality as a potentiality we’re all born with. But that’s it….it’s just a potential! I believe it needs to be nurtured and developed….What I like about that road to travel is that is different for each of us and its never the same road for each aspect of our personal lives….
    take care…

  16. Great article, I think spiritual mumbo jumbo, as you call it, is a big obstacle for many people. I like how you’ve related spirituality to the average joe. I think people need to find a way to connect to spirituality without it being called “spirituality”. Ya know.. for marketing purposes.
    How about “Human Nature”, or maybe even “Life”?

    MiniLifeHackss last blog post..The Pain is Only what you Make It – Mind over Matter

  17. Hi MiniLifeHacks!
    Your point about using the word ‘spirituality’ is interesting. Yes, we could just say “life” but I don’t think that quite cuts it.

    I think spirituality is triggered when we lift our gaze above and beyond what preoccupies us. Then we get a sense off being part of something vast.

  18. Is spirituality really something that can be “triggered” any more than life or existence? Is it any more profound?

    I believe that spirituality is often what preoccupies us.

  19. There is nothing more profound than the taste of tea, or the feel of wind on our face. But we rarely experience it.

    We rarely taste the moment as it is – without veering off into thoughts of the future or the past.

    For me, spirituality is the experience of each moment as profound. Each moment as vast.

    I’m just writing some talks for a Zen retreat I’m leading in the mountains next week. I came across teachings of the Japanese Zen Master Takuan. He said:

    This day will not come again.
    Each moment is a priceless gem.

  20. CG Walters says:

    Mary…this wonderful article is featured at
    http://kathmandau.blogspot.com/2009/01/celebrazine-10jan09.html

    blessings and continued inspiration,
    CG

    CG Walterss last blog post..CelebraZine 05Jan09

  21. […] Jaksch presents What is Natural Spirituality? at GoodlifeZen “I think that everyone is a spiritual person. Because spirituality is a […]

  22. […] from a dimension of being human that adds ease and joy to life. We’re estranged from our natural spirituality. By natural spirituality I mean the insight and wisdom that comes from a deeper recognition of who […]

  23. […] from a dimension of being human that adds ease and joy to life. We’re estranged from our natural spirituality. By natural spirituality I mean the insight and wisdom that comes from a deeper recognition of who […]

  24. […] from a dimension of being human that adds ease and joy to life. We’re estranged from our natural spirituality. By natural spirituality I mean the insight and wisdom that comes from a deeper recognition of who […]

  25. […] from a dimension of being human that adds ease and joy to life. We’re estranged from our natural spirituality. By natural spirituality I mean the insight and wisdom that comes from a deeper recognition of who […]

  26. […] from a dimension of being human that adds ease and joy to life. We’re estranged from our natural spirituality. By natural spirituality I mean the insight and wisdom that comes from a deeper recognition of who […]

  27. Nicely written, so have you any other information on that, if yes, then please send it to me, I am hungry to read your next post.

  28. Spirituality is high level of mind. I like to read about it.

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  30. […] 52. 10 Social Media Meditations 53. How to Meditate: 10 Important Tips54. On Learning to Slow Down55. The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success56. Finding Clarity and Inner Stillness through Meditation57. What is natural spirituality? […]

  31. Good article Mary. Please feel free to contribute your future articles to TheSpiritual for publication.

    Thanks.
    TS

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  33. Nice List. Simply writing down your thoughts is really helpful. So imagine the potential when you use journaling tools, tips, topics and prompts to intentionally focus the immense powers of your conscious and subconscious minds. You intentionally invite the quiet voice of intuition to speak through your writing.

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