All of us — whatever our religious or philosophical persuasion — need spiritual experiences because they provide each of us the necessary inner joys of human existence. As comestibles nourish our bodies and ideas nourish our minds, so spiritual experiences nourish our souls, the vital essence of our Being.
Especially in the context of current cultural and global strife, it is more important than ever for all individuals to generate for themselves a loving, soul-satisfying private life untouchable by external events. Fortunately, an exquisite state of stability within the present turmoil — a personal, spiritual “Still Point” in the global storm — can be achieved by everyone regardless of situational context, allowing each individual to seek and select their own paths to self-created happiness.
My new book "SOUL CELEBRATIONS AND SPIRITUAL SNACKS"* explains how to achieve this state of inner renewal. My thesis is original, practical, and unusual in that it will appeal to both religious and nonreligious people. Centering its premises in values — and everyone has values — the guidebook offers broad avenues and private pathways to achieve a variety of sustained, empowering, exalted, and expansive “Soul Celebration” experiences that are singular to every individual because each person’s value system is exclusively theirs alone. In addition, it offers smaller, simpler “Spiritual Snacks” to provide instantly available, delectable bits of spiritual nourishment and inspirational energy for those wishing to experience the wondrous joys of being alive and active on a “spur-of-the-moment” daily basis.
Our essential self-created or accepted value center defines our distinctive personhood. This interior core can be activated by external stimuli into experiences of sustained secular spiritual bliss, which become celebrations of our one-and-only individualized Self. We also can validate that same seat of our unique personhood as a secular “soul” (explicitly defined and differentiated from religious definitions in the book) or “Self,” depending on context, because all of these terms refer to the deepest personal value system that constitutes our distinguishing individuality. Think of how the word “soul” is used casually: for example, “This music has soul” — meaning it belongs to itself as an authentic and exclusive property of sonically expressed individuality. So it is that our own soul — or Self — is expressed and revealed in every tiny action of our everyday lives. This is also why we each need special, set-aside periods of time to celebrate our value-centered Self, so we can soar high to experience, both mentally and physically, a gloriously personal affirmation of our own exclusive individualism in a spiritual manner. By “celebrate,” I do not mean momentary merriment or pleasant feelings associated with commemorating an occasion. I mean “stopped time” — time taken to experience fully, as a mind-body-integrated individual, the sum of who we have become. Humans are not born with an instinctive blueprint for value selection and decision making like lower animals; we must achieve who we are through choices large and small. It is this wholeness of Self that we celebrate in ecstatic, empowering secular spiritual experiences.
How to create these moments of uplifting inner renewal? By connecting to and uniting — becoming “One” — with three “other” here-on-earth entities, we can stimulate our value center both emotionally and physically, these three being nature, art, and romantically beloved humans.
Rain can become a spiritual experience rather than cause for an umbrella. By learning how to approach the wonders of the physical universe selectively and in a focused manner, we can experience a “merging” with chosen aspects of nature and come away with a gloriously fulfilled sense of having participated in eternity. A museum stroll, a novel, and music may turn into empowering experiences that feed the soul because art at its best expresses ideas that make manifest — in an external, material form — the artists’ internal values; if those values match our own, we may feel elevated to the point of true exultation and experience the art spiritually as well as aesthetically. Romantic love with its sexual component can become the ultimate secular spiritual experience because the most desirable and cherished human being is a living embodiment of our top, supreme values — and that makes this mind-body union the most sacred of all. Plus, happily, aside from these three primaries, families and friends are two secondary subcategories where delightful and rewarding spiritual-like experiences can be shared.
Religious individuals of all creeds can add these enthralling pleasures to their already existing faith-based experiences. Nonreligious individuals can experience the heights of emotional-physiological-spiritual (mind, body, and soul) exaltation usually unimagined in a secular environment, thus elevating their normal levels of pleasure to the summit of passionate earthly joy. All can discover new, enlivening, and soul-stirring experiences for personal happiness and spiritual fulfillment.
*E-book, paperback, and hardcover are available on Amazon, B & N, etc. Print versions also can be ordered through any bookstore.
Alexandra York is an author and founding president of the American Renaissance for the Twenty-first Century (ART) a New-York-City-based nonprofit educational arts and culture foundation (www.art-21.org). She has written for many publications, including "Reader’s Digest" and The New York Times. Her latest book is "Adamas." For more on Alexandra York, Go Here Now.
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