Are you a “soulrider”?
That term appears in an article called “Holy Slopes” which features in the latest hard copy edition of the student-produced Kingston University newspaper called The River. (This article is not yet online.) The article focuses on a thesis on spirituality and snowboarding by Reverend Neil Elliot, an Anglican.
Theses don’t often make it into The River! It carries a lively mixture of articles on newsworthy events related to the multi-cultural University plus features on the kind of music/fashion/events stuff most self-respecting – or at least self-entertaining! – students need to know. So it is good to see a study on spirituality making the grade as newsworthy.
Of course, that might be down to the snowboarding angle…
Which is not to be cynical. That cuts right to the core of the thesis itself: that many snowboarders discover that snowboarding is their spirituality. According to an interview with Rev Elliot in another local paper, the Kingston Guardian, 95% of the snowboarders in his research findings “had experienced soulriding, which can include feelings of freedom, finding peace with the world or themselves, and transcendence.”
While the snowboarding angle is a colourful one, its serious significance is that it is just one specific example of how a wide movement of those wanting to feel spiritually attuned have veered away from institutional religion into alternatives which they feel better meet their sincere yearning for a spiritual sense of life. One of the early working papers on the way to Reverend Elliot’s recent completion of this doctorate explains what he was investigating in the following way:
The questions being considered here have wider echoes than just snowboarding and they are particularly pertinent in the cultural context of contemporary religion and spirituality. Religion, particularly Christianity, is in numerical decline throughout the western world. This is more advanced in Europe than in the United States, but it is a common factor. This may be connected with a number of sociological factors commonly associated with “post modernity” – ie. suspicion of metanarratives, suspicion of institutions and of authorities of any kind. However, it is widely accepted by sociologists that assumptions of a secularisation of society were misplaced. Whilst church and other religious adherence is shrinking, there is a continuing, if not growing, interest in spirituality. People may not want church, but they are not content with a purely materialist view of life – they want to believe in something more, even if they do not know – or want to know – what that something is.
So for those hoping to identify and address the needs of those who value and want to expand their grasp on spirituality the answer is probably not to build a snowboarding course in the grounds of a church, a synagogue, a mosque, a temple or a gurdwara to attract these soulriders. Because if a soulrider is one snowboarder, the photo below would probably represent their church!
The question I have is do such sincere soulriders recognise that what they love is always freely accessible? Perhaps some do.
Because it is certainly wonderful if people can find transcendence in sport, in nature, in music – or even in that church, synagogue, mosque, temple or gurdwara! Yet it is as wonderful, if not more so, to be able to transcend the mundane and material in the every day moments of life too, without needing to wait for a special time or place in order to have that sense of spiritual peace and freedom. And just as the soulriders can feel peace and freedom mentally through physical activity, so physical peace and freedom can come through spiritual activity.
You could say that’s the grace note of a sensible grasp of a God that is omnipresent – all-presence – and knowing divine Soul is the kind of Soul-riding we can do anywhere, at any time.
But hold on tight, because it is can be an exhilarating adventure!