Are We Being Spiritual Yet?

by Suzanne Sadowsky

The concept of spirituality is elusive. What does it mean to be spiritual? Is it an out-of-body experience? Does spirituality imply quietude? Or does being spiritual also allow for energy and excitement?

For many, a meditation practice offers a spiritual path. I have tried practicing meditation a little and for me the experience has offered a time and space for detachment. It quiets my excitement, my desire to react and respond to major and minor aggravations. It allows me to sit forward and to experience events from a distance instead of immersement. I find myself trying meditation when I am worrying or anxious over things that I have no ability to control. It sometimes gives me a sense of perspective and allows my anxiety to recede. I come away more able to look up at the stars and feel more accepting of my temporal place in an infinite universe.

But for me, a religious practice that is meditation alone or even primarily one of meditation, is not enough. I am more of a doer than a sitter. I am much more of an action person than a contemplative. When I try to understand the nature of ‘spirituality’, I think of teachers, of storytellers, of givers of all kinds, of participants in the continuous creative process of the world. I think of what the Jewish people refer to as tikkun olam, of the responsibility of human-kind for repairing the world. A lot of this has to do with a feeling of community, of being a part of something larger than oneself, and of being responsible for and towards each other.

As the High Holidays come, it is with a sense of awe that I view human life. This perspective is not entirely with concern about the brevity of life (although, admittedly, there is that also), but more with a sense of energy of how much can and needs to be done in a single day. The amazing potential in just one day is made very clear in the experience of Yom Kippur, when Jews are enjoined from doing much of anything else except praying and walking, talking and meditating together for just one day. It is a fast day during which many of us refrain from either eating or drinking for 25 hours. And for some of us (if we are lucky), the result may be a higher sense of awareness or consciousness.

There is another aspect of spirituality that I find in Jewishness and that has to do with joy and celebration in a community. I feel it when we sing our ancient melodies and read our poetic literature during holiday services. I experience it when we come together for Shabbats or during our heated discussions and laughter at planning meetings. I feel it when I light Shabbos candles or participate in other rituals. The doing makes it real. It is an ‘in-body’ experience that helps me to realize the possibility of transcendence of the Self in concrete, tangible ways. I feel it in my heart and in my soul.

It has been exciting and a delight for me to participate with our congregational community in learning, singing, praying and experiencing Jewish life together during this past year. I wish for all of us continued strength, health, and peace for the New Year to come. Shalom

—from our September 1993 Newsletter

Copyright © 1993 Suzanne Sadowsky