Spirituality is one of those words and concepts that is interpreted differently by many of us. In fact, even defining the word can be daunting. Someone did a search on Google not too long ago and found over 11 million entries for the term spiritual meaning. To some it says organized religion. To others spirituality is a belief that everything in the world is somehow tied together. Still others see a spiritual person as one engaged on a very private quest for answers of purpose and energy. Some think of meditation or contemplation as the path to increased spirituality. There is a whole community, based in Sedona, Ariz., that looks to energy vortexes and crystals as the way to heighten one's awareness.
For our purposes let's use this definition I found on a blog post from a few years ago: "It is a term which encompasses everything that we cannot see directly with our eyes, directly perceive by the other senses and know by our mere reason. That is spirituality in its basic meaning."
I did some research to find out what others were saying about the link between spirituality and a satisfying retirement. Is there a connection? Though I couldn't find specific statistics, there does seem to be a belief that as we age we do tend to become more spiritual. That may mean more religious in the commonly accepted sense, or a feeling of connectivity to nature and the universe in a more individual sense.
The reasons are varied, but mostly revolve around the awareness of one's own mortality. We see our body decline, understand there is a loss of mental sharpness as we age, watch friends and relatives die, or lose frequent contact with our grown children who may live far away. These factors naturally lead us to consider what our life has meant. We also may be looking for something to help us cope with the unimaginable: The end of our time on earth. "Me, gone? No!"
There is a body of study I found that says religious retirees are happier, not only because of their beliefs, but for the social aspects of being with like-minded people. Research conducted over the years has found those who are Mormons or Amish have much lower mortality rates than others. Could some of that be lifestyle-driven? Sure, but the shared experiences and tight-knit communities are likely factors, too.
Last fall I wrote a post, "The Hidden Piece of The Puzzle," which provided a glimpse into the growth of my spirituality during my retirement. I made the statement that my life had caught on fire when I explored that side of myself and became more serious about its development. I found my comfort from organized religion but am very much aware that my way may not be your way.
Like finding one's passion or intense interest, developing and deepening relationships with others, or learning to live and thrive in situations that you didn't plan for or anticipate, it seems logical to me that we begin to take the time to ask the bigger questions of life. The routine of a commute, a day spent at a desk or retail establishment, on a factory floor, or in front of a computer gives way to more free time to listen to your mind and emotions. I think it is entirely reasonable to begin to wonder about how everything fits together.
So, what should be your take away on this be? I don't know what is going on with you, though I'd love for you to leave some thoughts. I can only speak for me. As I age, whatever it is that is inside of me that you may call a soul or a part of an urge for a universal connection has been getting stronger and a more important part of my satisfying retirement.
I may be deceiving myself, attempting to make sense in a world where nothing makes sense. I may be looking to give meaning to a life that, ultimately, has no meaning beyond the here and now. But, I guess I would argue that if I my beliefs and faith are right I have an eternity of joy ahead of me. If I'm wrong, I will be dead and won't know the difference.
I'm going with the faith approach. It makes my life so much richer today.