What Everyday Spirituality is Not
Everyday spirituality has a long and rich history. It is practiced in many religious traditions and among those who call themselves "spiritual but not religious." But what is it?
First, perhaps we should say that it is not the kind of spirituality we grew up with. We were taught that spirituality was the part of religion that focused on the "inner life." It was something that you did in a special place or time, usually a quiet room at home or on retreat. It involved finding ways to connect with the divine – quietly, reverently, and usually by ourselves.
Seeds of Everyday Spirituality in Wisdom Traditions
Goddess religions invest nature and the body with spiritual meaning and value. Native Americans look for signs of Spirit's presence while walking in the woods, through encounters with animals, and in community gatherings. Groups within Judaism emphasize taking the ordinary and making it holy. Islam encourages believers to look for signs of God's activity in everything going on around them. Hinduism encourages recognizing manifestations of the divine in an enlightened person, a cow, a plant, or a small object. Buddhist masters the world over have helped practitioners regard the routines of daily life, from walking to cooking, as basic expressions of spirituality.
Tutors in Everyday Spirituality
Tutors in the art of everyday spirituality have appeared in all times and places. Meister Eckhart, a 13th century Christian mystic, was always on the lookout for God in the midst of life. Brother Lawrence, a 17th century Carmelite monk and cook, examined the present moment in order to practice the presence of God. Thomas Traherne, from the same era, was an Anglican priest and poet; he saw the ordinary as a vehicle for the transcendent. He, like English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins two centuries later, held up an incarnational spirituality built upon the coming of God in the flesh. Jean-Pierre du Caussade, a French Jesuit priest of the 18th century, tried to practice "the sacrament of the present moment. And Thich Nhat Hanh, a contemporary Vietnamese Zen teacher, poet, and scholar, has written widely on the art of mindful living.