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Spirituality

spiritual

spɪrɪtʃʊəl,-tjʊəl

adj.
1. Relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
2. Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul.

I’d like to think that I can find humour in most things. But 26 December, 2013, was a humourless day. Not a drop of humour was to be had. You see, I was working in Westfield, London, from 7am, for the dreaded Boxing Day sales. Apparently people hate their family so much, they are happy to wake up at 5am, after Christmas Day, and go shopping. These ‘humans’ converged on my store, literally pushing and shoving each other as the doors were opened, in order to be in a better position to run towards the sales. Anyway, those savage, bargain-obsessed barbarians almost broke my spirit irrevocably. Half-way through the day, I lost the plot and quit my job in an act of self-preservation. Yes, I quit!

So now I’m about to go back on the road. But first, let me tell you about another thing that vexes me greatly, other than Boxing Day sales.

Spirituality.

On my travels, particularly in India and, to a lesser extent, Nepal, I heard other travellers lauding the ‘spirituality’ of a certain place. One example that springs to mind is McLeod Gang (Dharamsala) in north India. As the official residence of the Dalai Lama,[1] you might think the place was teeming with ‘spirituality’ which would be… temples? Got those all over Asia in every town and village. Religious artefacts pervading the area? Likewise. A general ‘spiritual’ atmosphere? An Australian friend of mine got his knocked out, robbed of everything he had, including his shoes, and was sent tumbling down the mountainside unconscious by a resident drug dealer, because he didn’t want any drugs. True story. Even the ‘culture’ of the area wasn’t exactly ‘spiritual’ – pizza restaurants and off licences competed for trade with yoga classes and lectures on Buddhism. Food for thought.[2]

So what gives people the impression an area is ‘spiritual’? What even is ‘spirituality’?

Handily, I have already provided a definition. Once more:

Relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

Can I interpret this as how something, tangible or not, can affect our emotions or state of being? I like prefer to simplify things so there it is. In any case, the non-tangible ‘vibe’ that a certain place gives off could be classed as spiritual, if only in a ‘I feel at one with nature’ or ‘I feel more relaxed here, in India, than when working during the Boxing Day sales’. But then, I already mentioned working on that fateful day almost broke my spirit. Something ‘spiritual’ relates to or affects the human spirit, right? So Westfield shopping centre is a spiritual place? By the Oxford English Dictionary, apparently so.

Dear travellers: next time, when you consider some place ‘spiritual’ – have a think about what you’re actually saying. There’s nothing wrong with saying a place is cool, fun, interesting-because-it’s-based-around-religion or anything else. But spiritual? Everything affects your spirit, or soul, if that’s what you’d rather call your emotion spectrum. Even Boxing Day. Don’t make a fool of yourself by claiming an area you don’t know much about, other than what a paragraph in Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a Shoestring told you, is ‘spiritual’. Especially don’t mention it whilst eating a meat feast pizza in the middle of north India. There’s irony in that.

Rant over. Happy New Year.

[1] Not to be confused with the Dalai Llama that our Yankee friends keep writing about. I’d like to think there’s an actual llama, dressed as a monk, wandering about New York collecting alms.
[2] Dual pizza-buddhist pun – don’t act like you’re not impressed.

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