The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has 14 definitions of the word Spirit. At the risk of seeming tedious, I shall list them here:
- an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms
- a supernatural being or essence
- temper or disposition of mind or outlook especially when vigorous or animated
- the immaterial intelligent or sentient part of a person
- a: the activating or essential principle influencing a person; b: an inclination, impulse, or tendency of a specified kind: mood
- a: a special attitude or frame of mind; b: the feeling, quality, or disposition characterizing something
- a lively or brisk quality in a person or a person’s actions
- a person having a character or disposition of a specified nature
- a mental disposition characterized by firmness or assertiveness
- a: distillate b: a usually volatile organic solvent (as an alcohol, ester, or hydrocarbon)
- a: prevailing tone or tendency; b: general intent or real meaning
- an alcoholic solution of a volatile substance
- enthusiastic loyalty
- capitalized Christian Science: god
Spirit invokes something abstract and hard to pin down in my mind’s eye, something rather nebulous. It’s in the breath, mulling about the brain, oozing in and out of the pores in every part of the body. It’s in salty tears, bloody noses, and blisters. It’s in sneezes, cuts and bruises, and the stiches of surgical scars. It’s what mends us.
Spirit is what I see in my dogs’ dewy eyes and soft faces. Do they have souls? Maybe. What really makes their tales wag? Do they love me? They sure do have Spirit!
The Holy Spirit was discussed a lot in the Catholic schools where I was educated, but I never felt that the nuns explained it very well. The problem was, I would raise my hand and ask questions about the Holy Spirit, and was told to “Just believe.” That answer was never very satisfying. But I knew Spirit meant something. It’s more of a feeling than something very easily defined.
When the Spirit moves me, I can write essays, clean the house, do my yoga tape, work on a painting or two, or take the dogs for a walk. Air, breath, and music are things that might accompany these activities, but Spirit is the thing that moves me. Maybe Spirit is something that’s generated from deep inside our bodies, a spark of life that gets set off. But Spirit also seems like something that could come from outside as well. Heavy, huh? George Harrison’s song Within You and Without You comes to mind. Guru stuff.
In her wonderful book Anatomy of the Spirit, author Caroline Myss teaches, “Achieving health, happiness, and an energy balance comes down to deciding to focus more on the positive than on the negative and to live in a manner spiritually congruent with what we know is the truth.” Myss believes that much illness and suffering in life has to do with spirituality imbalances. Human beings have the power to heal their bodies by focusing on Spirit.
This is an excerpt from Native American author, poet, musician, activist John Trudell’s book, Stickman:
We are a Spirit, we are a natural part of the earth, and all of our ancestors, all of our relations who have gone to the Spirit world, they are here with us. That’s power. They will help us. They will help us to see if we are willing to look. We are not separated from them because there’s no place to go – we stay here. This is our place: the earth. This is our mother: we will not go away from our mother.
I have felt the closest to my own Spirit when I’ve been on yoga retreats in lovely rustic wooded resorts. To quiet down for a couple of days in nature and purposely focus on breath and movement truly has put me in the present moment. I used to laugh at that term present moment and scoffed at all things New Agey. But I have come to understand that yoga is far more than just exercise. Yoga has really given me a sense of spirituality. Perhaps I have not achieved total enlightenment or nirvana, but no holy wafers at communion ever gave me the feeling of spirituality at Sunday Mass.
I believe Spirit is God (or Goddess), and God is Spirit. Spirit is also life and love. Spirit is something to be nourished and enriched every day, and never dampened.
When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best
When I lay me down to die
Goin up to the Spirit in the sky
 Anatomy of the Spirit, The Seven Stages of Power and Healing, Carolyn Myss, Ph.D., Three Rivers Press, New York pp. 61-62
 Stickman, John Trudell (ISBN 0-9625119-8-6)