With the holiday season in the rearview mirror, some people might not only be questioning how much they ate, but also the meaning of spirituality. A local author has recently penned a book that attempts to answer some of those questions on the subject.
Roger Gottlieb, a philosophy professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, has written the book “Spirituality: What It is and Why It Matters.” Gottlieb said the idea of spirituality can be religious and non-religious, ancient and contemporary.
“The book talks about these ideas and my own concept of spirituality and what it means to practice it,” said Gottlieb, who has been a Jamaica Plain resident since 1974.
Religion is a traditional expression of spirituality, but in Gottlieb’s understanding, modern spirituality is more metaphorical. He said he sees three aspects of modern spirituality: healing, such as yoga and meditation; nature and the environment, such as jogging around Jamaica Pond to clear the mind; and politics, such as Gandhi, a pacifist who worked against British rule in India.
Gottlieb, who has penned 16 other books, including “A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and Our Planet’s Future” and “Spirituality of Resistance: Finding a Peaceful Heart and Protecting the Earth,” said he had two major spiritual events happen to him.
The first event happened when he was a senior in high school and was focused on success. When he didn’t make the varsity wrestling team, he was devastated. But Gottlieb read Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” and began to focus on more important matters, such as acceptance, gratitude and compassion.
The second event happened 20 years later. His 2-month-old son died in Gottlieb’s and his wife’s arms in the hospital. Gottlieb said outside he watched everyone else with babies walking down the street with strollers. He said he had feelings of failure, pain, loss, bitterness and jealousy.
But through spirituality, he was able to give up the attachment to the notion that everything had to be his way and look on the positive side, such as the fact that he had eyes to be able to see people with strollers and had the ability to love.
“Spirituality is extremely demanding,” said Gottlieb. “Being compassionate is not easy.”
He said instead of fighting with a partner or complaining about a problem with the car, a person should be grateful, a basic spiritual value that makes a person feel better. But, said Gottlieb, it is very hard option to choose and some people just choose to be unhappy and stay attached with envy and bitterness.
“It’s a task for a lifetime,” Gottlieb said about practicing spirituality. “You can’t graduate early.”
For more information about Gottlieb, visit wpi.edu/academics/facultydir/rgs.html. His books are available at online retailers.