The only temple that matters can be found within yourself.

The Dalai Lama

If you are wondering what does it mean to be spiritual, you should know that spirituality is a broad concept. It is not entirely separate from religion, neither is it similar. Spirituality can be defined in many ways, but the most important definition is what you give to it. Every individual’s unique and subjective experience in understanding spirituality is the key to uncover its meaning. In today’s world, the concept of spirituality has gained a lot of popularity, especially among millennials. Let’s take a deeper look into what makes a person spiritual and how spirituality is different from religion.

Image source

One definition of spirituality is provided by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary, researchers, and authors of “The Spiritual Brain.”

They had their own explanation of what does it mean to be spiritual. According to them ‘spirituality means any experience that is thought to bring the experiencer into contact with the divine (in other words, not just any experience that feels meaningful).’

Religion on the other hand has a more concrete definition. According to one source, religion is a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices; the service and worship of God or the supernatural.

Although these definitions might give you some idea about spirituality and religion, let’s keep digging.

Who is a Spiritual Person?

Spirituality is a very abstract concept. There isn’t a single definition that can encapsulate the vast meaning of the word spiritual. The basic premise of spirituality is the feeling of universal connectedness. You can be connected to a higher power, to the people and animals around you, and nature. Finding the answers to the purpose and meaning of life is also an important part of the journey.

Another crucial aspect of spirituality is a deep focus on the inner self. It is only through self-love and reflection that we can start to become more aware of the human condition. In this process, we start to develop compassion for all beings.

Spirituality and Religion

Can you be religious and spiritual? Yes. Although many view spirituality as a way of life that is opposed to religion, it is possible for someone religious to be spiritual. Spirituality is something that comes from within. Virtues like empathy, compassion, and love, are what make even a religious person spiritual. Contrary to this, it is not necessary for a person that does yoga and meditates every day to be spiritual.

Image source

Spirituality is for Everyone

In today’s world, people from all walks of life practice spirituality. And the answer to the question what does it mean to be spiritual can can differ from one person to the other. Scientists, atheists, agnostics, and others, often turn to spirituality for a deeper understanding of the meaning of life. Who are we? Why are we here? What is our purpose on this planet? These are some questions that spiritualists try to reflect on through the journey of life. Although science has answered a lot of questions, some of the more philosophically complex ones remain a mystery.

Many environmentalists endorse spirituality because of its focus on the inner self. They believe that economic growth and capitalism have led to serious destruction of our planet. The movement towards internal happiness rather than external gains can help preserve and reduce the damage we’ve done to this planet.

Benefits of Spirituality

Being spiritual comes with many benefits. Other than a deeper understanding of life and compassion towards others, it also has a massive effect on our mental health. The practice of being spiritual gives us the experience of many positive emotions such as contentment and gratitude. It also brings with it the goal of helping you achieve inner peace and oneness with others.

Although spirituality may have been an eastern concept for the longest time, it has now spread globally. Its awareness has sparked a more positive and compassionate way of living.

The Difference Between Religion and Spirituality

Religion is based on the lives and teachings of others. The recorded experiences of beings like Buddha, Muhammad, or Jesus, have been encrypted in ancient scriptures and passed down through generations. Tradition is an integral part of religion. It encompasses a set of rituals and external practices that are crucial to being a member of a religious community. It is organized, structured, and has several rules laid out for its members. Religious books clearly outline and encourage its members to focus on what is right and wrong.

We cannot disagree that religion, especially in ancient times, helped control society and give meaning to life. It gave people hope and something to believe in. With that being said, let’s look at what makes spirituality different from religion.

Spirituality is subjective to a person’s unique experience. Although there are institutions and other individuals that act as guides, the goal is to discover your own truth and meaning. As opposed to rituals and external practices, spirituality focuses on internal healing and reflection. It is formless and unstructured giving room for limitless possibilities. Spirituality is continuously evolving with changing times, allowing space for the development of new ideas and perspectives.

Religion is exclusive to those who are born into it or those who convert. Spirituality is all-inclusive. Anyone from any social class, religion, or race, can practice spirituality.

To be religious, there are a set of behaviors and rituals that you need to practice. Whereas because of its unstructured form, spirituality can be practice by anyone in any way. It can be through meditation and yoga, or through caring for the environment. You can even do absolutely nothing and still care for those around you.

Concluding Note

There are major differences between spirituality and religion. However, it is important to note that they share some common elements. Both religion and spirituality give importance to belief and providing a sense of comfort to their followers. Both focus on ethical ways of living and the belief in a higher power.

In today’s world, it is becoming increasingly important to find a balance within the economic constraints that we live in. Who knows? Maybe spirituality is in some ways a more evolved form of religion.