by Virginia Christman
What are we talking about when we talk about spirituality?
Spirituality and spiritual wellbeing are interpersonal, intrapersonal, communal, and sometimes ineffable (beyond words).
The definition can be as varied as the people in the world. One possible way to define spirituality is purposeful actions that individuals or communities practice in order to expand and deepen awareness and to connect with ourselves, the world around us, and God or a Higher Power.
If spirituality is about connectedness, then my own spiritual wellbeing is connected to the wellbeing of everyone else around me. If there are those around me that are not well, how can I be truly well without working for their wellness also?
Take a few moments to reflect on these passages from a variety of philosophical and faith traditions:
Bahá’i Tradition of Alleviating Poverty (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity) Spiritual conditions are not dependent upon the possession of worldly treasures or the absence of them…Each one of you must have great consideration for the poor and render them assistance. Organize in an effort to help them and prevent increase of poverty.
Buddhist Tradition of Alleviating Poverty (Itivuttaka 18) If beings knew, as I know, the fruit of sharing gifts, they would not enjoy their use without sharing them, nor would the taint of stinginess obsess the heart and stay there. Even if it were their last bit, their last morsel of food, they would not enjoy its use without sharing it, if there were anyone to receive it.
Christian Tradition of Alleviating Poverty (1 John 3:17-18) If anyone has material possessions and sees their brother and sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in them? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongues, but with actions and in truth.
Hindu Tradition of Alleviating Poverty (The Ramayana) In the kingdom of God there is no premature death or suffering, everyone is healthy and beautiful. No one lives in poverty and want; no one is without learning or virtue.
Jewish Tradition of Alleviating Poverty (Deuteronomy 4:19-22) When you cut down your harvest in your field, and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go again to fetch it; it shall be for the stranger, for the orphan, and for the widow; that the Lord your G-d may bless you in all the work of your hands…And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this thing.
Muslim Tradition of Alleviating Poverty (Qur’an 24:22) Those who have been graced with bounty and plenty should not swear that they will [no longer] give to kin, the poor, those who emigrated in God’s way: let them pardon and forgive. Do you not wish that God should forgive you? God is most forgiving and merciful.
Secular Humanist Tradition of Alleviating Poverty (A. Philip Randolph) A community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person can enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess.
Sikh Tradition of Alleviating Poverty (Guru Granth Sahib) Those who remember God generously help others.
Each of these traditions points out that as you consider your own spiritual wellbeing, remember that it cannot be separated from the wellbeing of others. If you look around and see others who are suffering, working for your wellness means working for theirs as well.