Because spirituality, like life, is about relationships.
What is spirituality about most of all? One word that perhaps most humans will relate to behind the various norms and practices is "connection."
On the one hand, as humans, our spiritual connection (with the divine) is with something we don't see with our physical eyes; on the other, it is with something we discern through a different sense: something like intuition, perhaps.
In other words, there is a paradox behind the word "connection" and the process involved. We seek connection through a mysterious process about something that words often fail to define: the divine reality. It is challenging to pin down the divine truth as this, that, or the other. Yet, we believe in it and relate to it as a reality, or, in most cases, the truth, the supreme reality.
"Paradox" is another word critical to deep spirituality, as paradox helps us resolve the profound contradictions that arise within us due to spiritual experience and process. These "paradoxes" disturb the complacency of what we assume is a "relationship" with the divine reality: they sever our connection or reduce the intensity and quality of our connection to God if we are to introduce that word as a way of speaking about the same other-worldly presence we seek in mystical practices. Yet, paradoxes usually emerge within the state of unitive consciousness that accompanies mystical depth. These paradoxes cannot be dismissed, ignored, or suppressed because they influence our spiritual connection.
Let's explore connection through a few different traditions in a general way. Although we would not be doing justice to these traditions, we only use the references to develop a sense of spiritual connection and understand what that might mean.
CONNECTION IN WORLD RELIGIONS
The Jewish experience of God is based on connection, on a relationship between God and the people of Israel mediated by the law of Moses (the Torah) and the covenant God made to Abraham concerning the promised land.
For Christians, Jesus mediates that connection between God and humans, giving up his life and forgiving human sins to help humans realize that there is an unfathomable love behind this connection, a love willing to lay aside all hurt and grievance for the sake of that relationship.
Hindusim combines many paths and ways, so much so that connection and relationship are not as easy to define as within Christianity or Judaism. We'll take one type of relationship and use it as a reference for our purposes in this reflection.
In Yoga, connection is referenced in the root word yugam, meaning plow, offering a sense that the relationship is already there, that we are yoked to God like oxen to plow. In our ignorance, we do not realize the connection; however, through enlightenment, we do.
Through the light of gnana (wisdom and enlightenment), the connection can reveal itself to be so strong and deep that it can register almost as identification: that we are not separate from God. It could mean we are not different from God in substance and being and, therefore, are never apart from God.
This type of connection, which is almost an identification, is also found among Jewish, Sufi, and Christian mystics. However, there is a stance in the language to avoid identification with God, stressing a relationship with the Divine in contrast to complete and total identification.
In the language of mysticism, we find the words oneness, unity, unity consciousness, realization, enlightenment, and so on. I wish to point out that once we engage in language, we begin to engage in a concept and, in doing so, lose sight of the relationship.
Connection is a relationship. We need two separate things to connect one to the other. In mysticism, separateness is often treated as an illusion. Nevertheless, we all experience the waxing and waning of our connection to the divine.
On some days, our connection is more potent than others; on others, it is negligible. Mystics, however, are undeterred by the intensity of their connection on any given day (or night). Instead, their commitment and practice create the passion around their direct relationship with God, the Divine.
SPIRITUAL CONNECTION AND ESP
We might agree that the keyword is the connection in most spiritual traditions and that this connection is not something we can see with our physical eyes. However, it is something that we can sense with all of our senses.
There may be something visual to what we refer to as our "spiritual connection," but we do not rely upon that visual reference for confirmation. We are in touch with intuition, an extra-sensory perception, to connect to something more than ourselves.
The awareness that the connection involves ourselves and something other than ourselves is important. Why? Because otherwise, we are simply creating the connection within ourselves, an intra-personal connection, so to speak, as connecting two or more parts that belong to ourselves.
There is a difference when relating to a "sacred other." Much like a significant other, a sacred other is discrete from ourselves, with a will of its own, and we contrast that with something actual, meaning it is not predictable, not something we create solely through the projections of our mind.
DECONSTRUCTION AS A WAY TO AUTHENTICITY
Our need for connection is so strong that many spiritual practices are designed to simulate or stimulate a link to another dimension, an alternate reality. It is why, in the advanced levels of spiritual practice, we learn to deconstruct our approach and stop assuming that we are connected just because we are doing spiritual practice.
Deconstruction of our spiritual practice is a powerful tool in cultivating a sense of the real in mystical experience, which persists in our consciousness when we do not create or project it.
When speaking of what we connect to in authentic spiritual practice, we might say we link to something more than our self-awareness. This process takes us beyond typical self-awareness into the domain of another, the domain of God, the divine entity that dwells in a different dimension.
It is within the nature of this other dimension that a relationship with something we cannot see with our physical eyes persists in our consciousness as authentic and indubitably truthful. Around this direct experience of truth, we rebuild our relationship with the divine reality through a keen sense of connection in which "authenticity" is our barometer.
Interested in the inter-spiritual? Check out Sacred Alchemy.
To learn to deconstruct spiritual practice, see Golden Path 2.0