Q&A: What does it mean to be spiritual?

Q: I've read some of your other blog posts where you mention that your new framework for wellbeing isn't about spirituality. Can you explain that?

A. Yes. I call this new framework The Three Bodies - a map that guides you to experience all of you. There isn't anything necessarily spiritual about seeing, managing, and experiencing all of you. It is simply practical. 

Q: But couldn't that be spiritual too?

A: Sure. If someone wishes to see it through the lens of spirituality, that works too, depending on what their idea of spirituality is. It can also be seen through other lenses, such as philosophy. If you use other words and explanations than the ones I'm using, it can also be seen as religious. It depends on a person's background and what they're comfortable with. But inherently The Three Bodies are simply practical. Everything else is window dressing.

Q: Yet it seems like spirituality is making a come back. There's a lot of interest these days in yoga and meditation, for example.

A: Yes, yoga and meditation are effective technologies. But let's also not get hung up on their spirituality. Spiritual comes from the root meaning "of the breath." The implication is that the spiritual is not physical, is subtle, and is an intrinsic aspect of us. This is what the word spiritual technically means. It's a way of directing our attention away from what seems obvious - the physical world around us - and starting to pay attention to what underlies and supports it. Once we start to do that, there is no more need for spirituality per se. Simply continue the adventure and leave the labels and partial perspectives behind.

Q: So spirituality is a new perspective? Is it a shift in perspective from the physical to the mental?

A: Yes, in part. It's a different perspective on what's happening right in front of our eyes and within us. But let's not forget that it's still a perspective - meaning that it offers a partial view. Ultimately, we shouldn't get stuck in that view either.

Q: So then your approach is more secular?

A: No, calling it secular falls into the same trap. We have a habit of labeling things - good or bad, here or there, up or down, cold or hot, spiritual or secular. But must we label experience? If I drink a glass of cold water and feel the coolness going down my throat into my chest, is that spiritual? Scientific? Philosophical? You see - we can make arguments for any of them. And if that compels us, we should. We should be comfortable enough to take an approach that works for us. But at the same time, we shouldn't feel compelled to label it one thing or another. When you experience all of yourself, you will recognize that what you are is beyond labels, concepts, and perspectives. It is neither spiritual nor scientific nor anything else. It is more fundamental than any one of these perspectives.

Q: It seems like all of those perspectives get integrated in the end.

A: Yes, they do. You begin to recognize that religion, spirituality, philosophy, and science are ways of arriving at what is real, or what is true. Science approaches it through objective study, by quantifying the world. Spirituality approaches it through subjective study. But what is real is neither objective nor subjective, because it's not a perspective. We tend to call it a subjective experience today because we have an over-reliance on objective processes. Calling it subjective is more reactive than accurate.

Q: So that's why you simply call this a practical approach. Because you can bring your own framework to it if that feels right, whether it's spirituality or something else.

A: Yes. Or you can bring nothing. There are no prerequisites and there's no denial of entry! Truth is everywhere. Reality is everything.

Anoop Kumar, MD, MM is a practicing emergency physician in the Washington, DC metro area. He is the creator of the online course How to experience your Three Bodies: A meditative journey to wellbeing.