The spiritual poverty of contemporary education provides few opportunities for today's youth to quench their deep thirst for meaning and wholeness. Misguided, or unconscious attempts by students to attain some sense of fulfilment often result in varying degrees of addictive behaviour toward activities, substances or relationships - all of which make teaching and learning difficult, if not impossible.
Compulsive or reckless activity, substance abuse, and empty sexuality can result from students trying to escape the pain of an inner emptiness. In the classroom this can manifest as lack of interest, lack of self-worth, lack of compassion, lack of self-discipline and lack of spirit.
A spiritualised education would seek to open the mind, warm the heart and awaken the spirit of each student. It would provide opportunities for students to be creative, contemplative, and imaginative. It would allow time to tell old and new stories of heroes, ideals and transformation. It would encourage students to go deep into themselves, into nature, and into human affairs. It would value service to others and the planet.
A spiritualised curriculum would value physical, mental and spiritual knowledge and skills. It would present knowledge within cultural and temporal contexts, rather than as facts to be memorised or dogma to be followed. It would be integrative across all disciplines emphasising inter-relationship and inter-connectedness. It would challenge students to find their own place in space and time, and to reach for the highest aspirations of the human spirit.
Spirituality in education could promote the following qualities of spiritual maturity:
- love, compassion and service: Love and compassion are often associated with the beginning of a true spiritual life. Love dissolves confusion and fear and elicits kindness, openness and respect. Unless we love and trust ourselves, we cannot love others. Compassion goes beyond a personal form of love to a love of all creation.
- honesty and authenticity: No longer lying to ourselves and others about what we are doing and what the consequences are. To live as we really are without delusion about the reality of the past, the present, our selfhood and behaviours.
- physical, emotional, mental and spiritual clarity: Physical clarity has to do with attention to the body's health and real needs. Mental and emotional clarity have to do with awareness, discernment and lucidity. Spiritual clarity has to do with wholeness, simplicity and sensitivity.
- responsibility and discipline: Becoming accountable for ourselves without feeling excessively responsible for others. Dependable and creative completion of our responsibilities and a disciplined approach to personal growth.
- serenity: A state of equanimity, inner tranquillity and peacefulness in the face of challenge and change.
- personal freedom: Letting go of attachments and living questions and problems into answers and opportunities without drama, escape, or avoidance.
- tolerance and patience: The ability to embrace self and 'the other' in spite of perceived weakness or difference. To even move beyond tolerance to acceptance and celebration of difference and diversity. Patience means to take events and experiences as they come without complaint or expectation. It also means all things have a natural time and place to be.
- faith, trust, and inner security: The ability to live without anxiety or doubt. An inner security free of fear and deprivation.
- wisdom and understanding: Deep insight, possible at any age, expressed through everyday action.
- gratitude, humility and willingness: Gratitude is the recognition of the little miracles that occur everyday. Humility is the ability to move beyond arrogance and grandiosity toward an honest acceptance of ourselves with all our perceived limitations and faults.
- hope, happiness, joy, and humour: Hope and happiness are states of well-being and contentment emanating from a deep feeling of inner wealth irrespective of outer events or experiences. Joy and humour spring from a warm heart and a sense of the 'cosmic game'.
- connection with the earth, nature and everyday life: Even though we may find great inspiration in sacred systems or transcendent experiences, we recognise the sacredness of daily activities, other people, other life forms, inanimate matter, and nature. "It's no good being an angel if you're no earthly use."
- living in the present moment: The ability to live in the present rather escaping to the past or the future. The ability to constantly 'let go'.
- a sense of wonder, mystery, and reverence: A direct experience of the cosmos which is unitive, inclusive, and expansive. A sense of being aware of the profound interconnectedness of all creation.
- a sense of purpose and place in space and time: A sense of the unique and necessary place and personal contribution of each individual being in the world. "Where does my deep gladness meet the world's deep need?"
Reference : A Thirst for Wholeness, Christina Grof
Spirituality is not about religion. Many people today would say they are spiritual but not very religious.
David Tacey calls this 'generic spirituality'. "It's part of a genre of talking about meaning, and talking about what's sacred in life but not necessarily being part of a specific religious tradition."
Spirituality is about meaning, inspiration and wisdom. It is about a deeper sense of purpose and place. It is about connectedness and the highest aspirations of the human spirit.
"Spiritual literacy is the ability to read the signs written in the texts of our own experiences." (M. Brussat)
It is about reading the sacred in everyday life - in nature, at home, in the classroom, at work, at leisure, in relationships...
Spiritual literacy is not a religious practice for the initiated few. It is a basic literacy for all people that enables the reading and use of the deeper meaning and connection in all aspects of life. Spiritual literacy is widely practised among indigenous cultures who can read and use the 'signs' of the sacred world around them.
Being spiritually illiterate means that we do not see the web which connects us with other people and the natural world. Being spiritually illiterate means that we do not have access to open doors of information and inspiration that lead to more fulfilling lives. Like other illiteracies we would live in a shallower world with less opportunities, limited meaning and a reduced capacity to create preferred futures.
Some might go further to say that being spiritually illiterate can lead to increased feelings of purposelessness, disconnection, isolation and loneliness in the world. (T. Moore)
Brussat, F. and M. (1996) Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life. New York: Scribner
Moore, T. (1994) Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life. New York: HarperPerennial
Tacey, D. (2000) Re-Enchantment: The New Australian Spirituality. Sydney:HarperCollins