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Spirituality Perspective

Spirituality: Perspectives from Theory and Experience

 

Irrespective of the language used, the process in all cases is one of fundamental discovery by the individual that they have an inner life that can help them become free persons – Christian spirituality seeks to free people and increase their freedom to choose to be people who more and more make things happen, rather than being people who powerlessly accept things that happen to them. In other words when we talk of spirituality, we are talking about behaviours and attitudes that are influenced by a sense of oneself that stems from inside.

 A spirituality approach is process orientated and respectful of each person’s story. As an approach, it is not one that requires a large commitment of effort into providing new resources. There are many suitable programmes that currently exist under the heading of personal development, self-esteem and empowerment programmes, etc. The challenge for people of faith, who believe that God’s grace works through human tools, is to affirm people who use these tools. For people of faith whose primary training is in the use of these ‘secular’ tools, it is important to help them recognise the underlying spiritual dimension. This might be achieved by writing (a newsletter), or by workshops to help professionals who deliver these programmes to develop their own sense of the ‘spiritual’ nature of these programmes and to lobby for more holistic provision in drug treatment services. A further challenge is to expand on this and offer aspects of our spiritual heritage that are not to be found within the secular helping programmes. This may include meditation, prayer (petitionary and contemplative), sacramental life of the Church, pilgrimage, etc.

 

The Oblate writer Ronald Rolheiser has developed some insights into spirituality that are worthy of reflection3 when considering making a spiritual response to the street drug culture. Firstly, he has spoken of the misunderstandings that surround the term ‘spirituality’: ‘chief among these is the idea that spirituality is, somehow, exotic, esoteric and not something that issues forth from the bread and butter of ordinary life…. Long before we do anything explicitly religious at all, we have to do something about the fire that burns within us; what we do with that fire, how we channel it, is our spirituality’4.Spirituality is more about whether or not we can sleep at night than about whether or not we go to church. It is about being integrated or falling apart, about being within community or being lonely. More affirmatively, he has asserted that ‘The opposite of being spiritual … is to have no energy, is to have lost all zest for living – lying on a couch, watching football or sitcoms, taking beer intravenously! But providing us with energy is only half of the soul’s job. Its other task, and a very vital one it is, is to keep us glued together, integrated, so that we do not fall apart and die’5. Under this aspect the opposite of a spiritual person would be someone who has lost his or her identity, namely the person who at a certain point does not know who he or she is anymore. A healthy soul keeps both energised and glued together.6

A useful background to understanding spirituality and addiction has been developed by the highly regarded psychologist of spirituality, Gerald May. He has drawn attention to the fact that addiction to drugs must be understood in the wider context of addictive living. In other words, everybody struggles with addiction, whether it’s to security or ideas, substances or work. Addiction arises from the human energy of desire getting attached and glued to something that is perceived to meet the desire. Desire can also get attached to great ideals of love and generosity. Gerald May has helpfully outlined how the great wisdom traditions of the world have all reflected on how to achieve freedom of desire (detachment), which of course is not freedom from desire.7 One example from the wisdom of the past is the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who observed that the need for attachment is often fulfilled ‘at the cost of the soul’. The Dublin urban theologian Martin Byrne has noted that context and culture are also significant factors to consider when seeking understanding a specific spirituality. He defines contextual spirituality as ‘the focusing of spiritual reflection from a particular localised situation which gives a definite perspective and flavour to the project. Cultural identity, social change and popular religiosity are taken into consideration along with the elements of scripture and tradition’8. He also offers a definition of culture as ‘the concrete context in which life happens. It represents a way of life for a given time and place, replete with values, symbols and meanings, reaching out with hopes and dreams, often struggling for a better world’

 

 

Reference:

3. R. Rolheiser, Seeking Spirituality: Guidelines for a Christian Spirituality for the

Twenty-First Century (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1998).

 4. Ibid., p. 6.

 5. Ibid., p. 11.

 6. Ibid.

 7. G. May, Addiction and Grace (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1998).

 8. M. Byrne, A New North Wall Spirit (Dublin: Elo Press, 1998), p. 8.

 Paper from: A FAITH RESPONSE TO THE STREET DRUG CULTURE

A Report from the Irish Centre for Faith and Culture Eoin G. Cassidy

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