Portrait of an African American woman with open hands.

Spirituality is a quality of life and mind, as well as a practice to bring on that quality. Spirituality is often about religious experience, and it can also describe what many feel amidst the awe and wonder and power of nature, or when one is completely at ease with oneself and the world. The root word of “spirit” in English comes from a word for breath, so spirit can be seen in a nontheistic sense as what gives us life. Here are some musings on spirituality from a variety of thinkers, writers, and practitioners.

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Deep caring about each other’s fate does seem to be on the decline, but I do not believe that New Age narcissism is much to blame. The external causes of our moral indifference are a fragmented mass society that leaves us isolated and afraid, an economic system that puts the rights of capital before the rights of people, and a political process that makes citizens into ciphers.

These are the forces that allow, even encourage, unbridled competition, social irresponsibility, and the survival of the financially fittest. The executives who brought down the major corporations by taking indecent sums off the top while wage earners of modest means lost their retirement accounts were clearly more influenced by capitalist amorality than by some New Age guru.

— Parker J. Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life

The most important aspect of being on the spiritual path may be to just keep moving.

— Pema Chödrön

In a genuine spiritual experience, there is no time, no thought, there is nothing — just the light and a profound, limitless stillness.

— Pema Chödrön

Inspiration and wretchedness complement each other. With only inspiration, we become arrogant. With only wretchedness, we lose our vision.

— Pema Chödrön

One of the most powerful, and deeply spiritual, ways to work for social change is for us to take action in the present that embodies — right now! — the future vision that we seek

— Rabbi Arthur Ocean Waskow

Great are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

We ask for long life, but ’tis deep life, or noble moments that signify. Let the measure of time be spiritual, not mechanical.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

All of the places of our lives are sanctuaries; some of them just happen to have steeples. And all of the people in our lives are saints; it is just that some of them have day jobs and most will never have feast days named for them.

— Robert Benson

Spirituality exists wherever we struggle with the issue of how our lives fit into the greater cosmic scheme of things. This is true even when our questions never give way to specific answers or give rise to specific practices such as prayer or meditation. We encounter spiritual issues every time we wonder where the universe comes from, why we are here, or what happens when we die. We also become spiritual when we become moved by values such as beauty, love, or creativity that seem to reveal a meaning or power beyond our visible world. An idea or practice is ‘spiritual’ when it reveals our personal desire to establish a felt-relationship with the deepest meanings or powers governing life.

— Robert C. Fuller

Thus when I have to summarize naturalized spirituality in a single phrase, it is this: the thoughtful love of life.

— Robert C. Solomon

Whether one sees the world as God’s creation or as a secular mystery that science is on the way to figuring out, there is no denying the beauty and majesty of everything from mountain ranges, deserts, and rain forests to the exquisite details in the design of an ordinary mosquito.

— Robert C. Solomon

Spirituality can be severed from both vicious sectarianism and thoughtless banalities. Spirituality, I have come to see, is nothing less than the thoughtful love of life.

— Robert C. Solomon

In a spiritually sensitive culture, then, it might well be that age is something to be admired or envied.

— Rowan D. Williams

What I’m asking you to entertain is that there is nothing we need to believe on insufficient evidence in order to have deeply ethical and spiritual lives.

— Sam Harris

Life becomes religious whenever we make it so: when some new light is seen, when some deeper appreciation is felt, when some larger outlook is gained, when some nobler purpose is formed, when some task is well done.

— Sophia Lyon Fahs

Spirituality is allowing compassion and love to flourish. When belongness begins, corruption ends.

— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

So I would hope they would develop some kind of habit that involves understanding that their life is so full they can afford to give in all kinds of ways to other people. I consider that to be baseline spirituality.

— Susan Sarandon

The spiritual path is not a solo endeavor. In fact, the very notion of a self who is trying to free her/himself is a delusion. We are in it together and the company of spiritual friends helps us realize our interconnectedness.

— Tara Brach

We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.

— Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

The soul has an absolute, unforgiving need for regular excursions into enchantment.

— Thomas Moore

Family life is full of major and minor crises — the ups and downs of health, success and failure in career, marriage, and divorce — and all kinds of characters. It is tied to places and events and histories. With all of these felt details, life etches itself into memory and personality. It’s difficult to imagine anything more nourishing to the soul.

— Thomas Moore

The miracles of the church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always.

— Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop, 1927

That is happiness; to be dissolved into something completely great.

— Willa Cather

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common — this is my symphony.

— William Henry Channing
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