A number of years ago, while in my hometown of Ocean Grove, NJ, auditing a D.Min. course at Drew @ Ocean Grove, I heard this definition of spirituality: spirituality is a way of being in the world. It was like a light going on for me. This simple definition helped me to express my spirituality as something that is earthy and ordinary, and, therefore very real. It is not something that is "so heavenly minded that it is no earthly good."
Spirituality is a way of being in the world. It is not the only way. Some people live in the world and deny their spirituality. But living a life in the spirit is lived in a body, on the earth and in very ordinary ways, every day. During a sermon, I once told the congregation that the life of the spirit always involves the body. I said, "if that doesn't make sense to you,then please feel free to attend worship next week without your body. Just attend the worship service and leave your body at home!" The life of the spirit is always a life that is an embodied life.
Some people tend to think of the life of the spirit as something beyond the body or away from the body. But spirituality is holistic. It involves body, spirit, soul, mind and heart. It is a life connected to God, people and all of creation. In this world, one cannot be a spiritual person without a body. We cannot be a spiritual person in isolation from other people. We need each other. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are connected to the beauty of the created world.
Spirituality is a way of being in the world. Jesus taught us that the two greatest commandments are to love the Lord God with all your heart and soul, mind and strength, and, to love your neighbor as yourself. Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourself, requires us to take this earthly life seriously.
To define spirituality as a way of being in the world is to also acknowledge that how we live our lives in this world is important to God. Spiritual practices cannot be disconnected from earthly practices of mercy, peace, and justice. The Hebrew prophet Isaiah said that fasting, prayer and worship that does not result in sharing our bread with the hungry, providing shelter to the homeless and doing justice in the workplace is not the true worship of God.
What I do–or don't do– with my life is a spiritual matter. The four gospels tell us how Jesus lived in the world. When our way of being in the world is modeled after his way of being in the world, we experience peace and joy. He has shown us the way.