Navigating your way through complexity in a rapidly changing, information-saturated world

We all know that we find ourselves in an incredibly turbulent, complex, rapidly changing, and information-saturated world. Intuitively, we understand that our ability to navigate these turbulent waters is the single biggest challenge we will face for the balance of our careers.

Because these times are unprecedented, we need to intentionally create some mechanisms to help us.  If we’re smart and intentional, we can build some routines, attitudes, and competencies into our personal lives and into our business culture that will help us to survive and thrive, even in these unprecedented times.

In earlier articles in this series, I proposed we intentionally build ‘sails’ into our routines – those habits, attitudes, and processes that power us forward. At the same time, we focus on energy and forward movement, we need to intentionally build ‘keels’ into our lives and corporate cultures.  Keels are those principles, practices, and beliefs that hold us down and keep us on course. Like the sails and keel on a sailboat, the dynamic tension between these two opposing forces empowers us to act at our optimum.

So far, we have examined these sails:

We’ve also looked at these keels:

In this article, we’ll look at the next keel: An examined spirituality.

Let’s begin by definition our words.  Spirituality is one of the most misunderstood and misused words around.

I was recently contacted by the publishers of a website devoted to exploring spiritual issues for businesspeople.  “Would I like to contribute some content?” they wanted to know.  Before I answered, I viewed the site.  The first article discussed the spiritual feelings the author experienced during a walk in the forest.  Another discussed the spiritual connection he felt with other humans as a result of an exercise in a seminar.

All of the other articles repeated the same themes.  Spirituality, according to these writers, was an experience of solitude, an emotion, or a sense of one’s similarity to other human beings, or even a sense of being part of nature.

I declined the invitation.  I’m not quite sure what the site was about, but I know it wasn’t spirituality.

The site was another example of the trend to “dumb down” spirituality. Sort of like the political correctness trend.  The more general and vague a concept is, the more people you can include in it, and the less meaning and power it has. Everyone subscribes to the concept of “freedom,” for example.  But you see a considerable drop-off when you link it to “personal responsibility.”

Spirituality at the turn of the century has come to mean, in the common usage, almost anything the speaker wants it to mean. Have a warm feeling as the result of a laugh you shared with someone?  Must be spiritual.  Feel a little introspective while out on a sailboat?  Gotta be a spiritual experience.  Sense a bit of a connection with another human being?  You must truly be spiritual soul mates.

Don’t misunderstand my position.  These are all valid and valuable moments. However, while all these experiences, and others of similar nature, may be warm, pleasant, and even intuitive, they aren’t spiritual.   To call them spiritual is to detract from that which really is spiritual, and to distract people from the search for the genuine article. Provide people with a cheap substitute, and you often knock them off the quest for the better original. The ice cream store won’t sell very much Haagan Dazs, for example, if they give away Dairy Queen. So, if these kinds of experiences aren’t spiritual, what is?

Let’s start at the source. There is a body of knowledge concerning things spiritual available to us.  It’s contained in the Bible. The information concerning things spiritual in the Bible is really quite clear, consistent, and pretty simple.  God is spirit.   Anything having to do with God is spirit–ual.

God has, for His own reasons, lopped off and spread around parts of the “spiritual-ness” that originated with Him.  There are, for example, totally spiritual beings.  The Bible refers to them as angels and demons.

In addition, God has imbued part of His spiritualness into human beings.  There is a spiritual part of every human being.  It’s that part of us that lives on after our physical body dies.  It is partially characterized by its hunger for communication with its creator.

We can all relate to that.  There are probably few human beings who haven’t had, in moments of solitude and reflection, a sense of the infinite, a hunger to contact God.  That’s our spirit hungering for communication with its maker.  It is a predictable, naturally occurring event.  We are all some part spiritual.  And that part longs for completion by communion with its maker, in the same way, that a male instinctively searches for a female that will complement and complete him, and vice-versa.  One of the most natural things in the world is to search for God.  That’s spiritual.

So, spirituality has to do with our search for communion with God.  We grow spiritually when we move toward that relationship with our maker, or more intimate with Him. Anything else, all the other prescriptions for spiritual growth, miss the mark and detract our spirits from their instinctive destination.

Let’s use this understanding and apply it to some commonly considered “spiritual” moments.  For example, when we experience a feeling of connectedness to other human beings, that’s not spiritual.  Dogs, chimpanzees, and porpoises recognize a similarity to others of their species as well.  That’s just one member of a species recognizing another. However, when we experience hunger for or communication with God, that is spiritual.

You feel a bond with another person – you are somehow mystically drawn to that person.  Is that spiritual?  No.  In a world with billions of people, it’s only natural that with some you are going to feel an affinity — and some are going to rub you the wrong way. That’s just natural.  It’s not spiritual.

On a solitary hike into the mountains, you stop for a rest at a scenic place and are awed by the grandeur of what you see.  Is that spiritual?  Could be.  The physical beauty and the feeling it inspires are natural – not spiritual. But, if that beauty and those emotions cause you to reflect on the nature of God and your place in His scheme, or perhaps to offer a short prayer, then that part of the experience is spiritual.

Here’s another.  You go to the local church and half-heartedly go along with the worship rituals.  You sort of mouth the words to the songs in a voice no one else can hear.  You listen to part of the prayers and kind of follow along with the messages from the pulpit. Surely that must be spiritual.  It depends.  If you are doing these things out of habit or because of your interest in being seen by other people, then of course, it is not spiritual. It has nothing to do with communing with God.  If, however, you are striving, through these actions, to commune with God, to learn about Him and his interest in you, then yes, these are spiritual.

What’s the point of all this?  If you want to grow spiritually, you must search for communication with God.  If you want to work on the “spiritual side of you,” it must be somehow connected with God. You must find Him, and your spirit must intermingle with His.  Any event which in some way moves you closer to God is spiritual.  If it leads you in other directions, it is not.

So, if you want to develop the “spiritual side “of you, don’t think that yoga, Zen, herbal concoctions, crystals, pyramids, and past-life regression support groups and their like will help. They may be fun, interesting, and good for you in other ways, but they are not spiritual.

Search for commune with God. One of the themes expressed throughout the Bible is this:  If you seek God, He will reveal himself to you.  That promise is repeated over and over.  Moses recorded it in the earliest days of the Bible when he said  “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29) Solomon, King David, and many of the prophets repeated the same promise.  Jesus repeated it in slightly different words, during the famous sermon on the mount: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  (Matthew 7:7)

Too many people spend their whole lives in a quest for spiritual fulfillment and never meet God. Too often it’s because they have been deluded with false ideas of what “spiritual” really is.  They, like the refrain from the song, “Look for love in all the wrong places.”

What is Examined Spirituality?

The vast majority of people on this planet hold beliefs in the realm of spirituality that have been handed down to them, in much the same way as their last names.  It just came with being born into this family. They are content to believe and practice what their parents told them to believe and practice.

As a result, their beliefs are often only superficially held, and easily compromised by the urgency of the day-to-day decisions that fill our lives.  Because they have been easily attached, they have little sticking power.  And, in our rapidly changing, information overload world, loosely held beliefs are easily shrugged off.

Relatively few people have ever examined those beliefs and practices.  They have never looked at them from the perspective of what is reasonable and rational. They have never asked, “What evidence is there for this belief or that one?”

It’s easy to understand.  They are surrounded by people who actively support the belief system.  We have different names for them:  Pastor, priest, imam, shaman, etc.  Regardless, they make their living by supporting one belief system or another.  They all have a vested interest in maintaining the practices and adherents to that belief system.

While I have never seen any data on this, I suspect that organized religion – just in terms of its cash flow — is one of the largest industries in the world.

The natural tendency on the part of any believer who may question some of the beliefs is to first consult with one of the folks who have a vested interest in maintaining that belief system. A little bit of reflection will reveal the flaw in that approach.

Examined spirituality means that someone has deeply examined the belief system he/she holds dear, viewing it through the lens of someone who does not have a vested interest in it, and inspecting in under the microscope of the criteria  “Is this rational,” “is this reasonable” and “is this supported by ample evidence?”

If you were to do this, you’d arrive at a set of beliefs that would be defendable, and relatively unassailable.  Then, when faced with the challenges of our rapidly changing times, you’d be able to hold fast.  Like a keel in a storm, your examined spirituality will hold you on course in even the most turbulent of times.



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