Spirituality gets a bum rap because of its association with belief in an invisible supernatural realm, and people suffer as a result, unwilling to even consider the ways that a healthy spiritual life enhances the human experience here and now.
Not only is this association with the supernatural unnecessary to spiritual experience, but it is positively ruled out by a careful examination of what spirituality is.
The idea that spirituality is all about “transcending the material” is an unfortunate and pervasive misnomer due to dualistic thought. In truth, it is something very close to this but fundamentally different: it is learning to release our attachment to particular arrangements of material.
By its nature, the arrangement –the world as it appears to us via our nervous system–is in constant flux (impermanence), and the unnamable infinite we call God or Tao or Brahman or Blank is the only level at which there is no change. Think about it: how can the Whole gain or lose anything? Where outside the infinite Whole would it have come from, and where would it go? Nothing can be apart from this Whole, or the Whole would have time-space limitations like any conditional being, dependent upon a greater holon to be its ground. (For instance, the “known universe,” believed to have originated 13.7 billion years ago, cannot be the Whole in and of itself. Its time-space parameters make it merely a very large holon.)
So, if by “spirit” we mean something within our sense of self that is eternal, birthless and deathless, that can only indicate a state in which we identify with the Whole, by whatever name or no-name we call it, in an all-inclusive interbeing with Existence itself.
Though always our deepest level of truth, like it or not, a supreme identity with the Whole is not sustainable experientially, because the very local nature of experience draws from a unique time-space perspective within the Whole. But we don’t want to lose that sense of connection of our unique experience with all others. And that is where spiritual practice comes in: it reminds us that 1) the arrangement of materiality we see before us is impermanent, 2) the only thing that is permanent is Existence itself, and 3) your sense of being a spirit in a human body is none other than your deepest identity with Existence itself.*
To perceive these things while having the human experience requires not a complete detachment from linear time, but at least enough to know that attachment to it is impossible. For eternity can only be experienced from a unique time-space perspective by release from any fixed points, including the present. One cannot stand still in the river of time. If we try to hold onto arrangements we liked in the past, or fixate on ones we anticipate in the future, we lose touch with the presence of what is now –that is easy to understand. But just as importantly, if we enjoy what is happening now so much that we try to grasp it and hold it still, we lose it. This is like trying to grab a river and put it in a box. The only way to experience time as eternal is to let go and be carried by its current.
Spirituality is thus the fine art of transcending attachment to particular arrangements of the material by remembering that the true, deep down self, what we all really are, is infinite and omnipresent. This does not take us to a separate realm, just a holistic perspective of this one.
*The most common forms of theism would all quibble with this because they somehow manage to separate Existence itself from all that exists. I won’t quibble back here. (But I will here, very much.)