It’s easy to lose yourself and your purpose in this seemingly chaotic reality. That’s why many turn to spirituality to sail themselves in the currents of life and never lose their way to the shore.
Spirituality is a personal experience where you create a system of personal belief while searching for your life’s purpose. It gives you something greater than the material world can offer.
The way the spiritual path unravels itself is unique to each person. What spirituality is to you may be different for another. Hence, a deeper understanding of spirituality is crucial before beginning your spiritual journey.
What Is Spirituality?
According to Louise Delagran, spirituality is a wide concept with room for many perspectives. Generally, it includes connecting to something bigger than yourself and searching for meaning in life.
It is a universal human experience that all of us undergo. We can have different definitions of spirituality. Some may describe it as transcendent or sacred. For some, spirituality is a deep sense of interconnectedness and aliveness.
On the other hand, Elizabeth Scott from VeryWell Mind explains that spirituality can involve religious traditions revolving around the belief in a higher power. It can also focus on an individual’s connection to others and the world.
Spirituality has been a source of many people’s relief and comfort from negative emotions and challenges.
The Etymology of Spirituality
According to Dr. John Dyben, spirituality originates from the Latin word spiritus, which means breath. It signifies life, reminding us that the most important thing we have is the gift of life.
Through the gift of life, we can explore ourselves and live according to our purpose. In simple terms, spirituality is the way of life.
Spirituality According to Experts
- Christina Puchalski, the director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, explains that spirituality is the human aspect that pertains to how we seek and express purpose and meaning in life.
- It is also how we experience our connectedness to the moment, self, nature, others, and the sacred.
- Denyse O’Leary and Mario Beauregard, authors of The Spiritual Brain, contend that spirituality is an experience that brings the person into contact with the Divine.
- For Nurses Judith Proctor Zenter and Ruth Beckmann Murray, spirituality is defined by how the spiritual dimension tries to be in harmony with the universe. It also seeks answers about the infinite and comes into focus when the person undergoes emotional stress, physical illness, and death.
Signs of Spirituality
Spirituality is not a single path. There are various ways to experience it and attain the benefits of its experience.
Each individual’s view of spirituality will vary. For some, spirituality pertains to specific religious practices; for others, it’s a sense of connection to one’s higher consciousness, nature, and the rest of humanity. Here are signs that you’re entering spirituality:
- You’re asking deep questions such as the meaning of life, why we suffer, and what happens after death.
- You form deeper connections with people.
- You develop compassion and empathy for others.
- You are amazed by life’s beauty.
- You are seeking happiness beyond material possessions and external rewards.
- You want to make the world a better place.
It’s important to remember that not everyone will experience spirituality similarly. Some may seek spiritual experiences in certain conditions or locations, while others want to experience them in every aspect of their lives.
For instance, some people may experience spirituality through religious practices, while others will have a spiritual experience in nature.
The Seven Stages of Spiritual Development
According to Robert Gabriel, as a spiritual being, you have the full potential to embrace your spirituality. However, embarking on your spiritual journey is a choice. Your choices can appear anytime; staying alert and listening to your heart’s wisdom is crucial.
Stage 1: Innocence
You are born in the physical world, where your lower chakras dominate your life. The lower chakras are associated with mundane matters such as sex, power, and survival.
You entered the world in a state of innocence, and as long as you’re in your family’s care, you live in a world of bliss.
Stage 2: Ego and Fear
As you grow, the ego emerges, and soon, you realize that you are completely at the mercy of the world around you.
The pure love you have experienced until now is beginning to be overshadowed by fear and its corresponding emotions. You found that to be accepted, you must shape yourself by reality’s standards.
Stage 3: Power
In your desire to overcome fear, you slowly create success. You educate yourself, form connections, and establish your career. You accumulate possessions to have a sense of security.
Stage 4: Giving
In this stage, you find that there is more to life than power and material possessions. You now ask yourself how to help others and serve the world around you.
Stage 5: The Seeker
Now, you begin your spiritual practices. You desire enlightenment more than anything. Your decisions mostly come from your fourth chakra or the center.
Stage 6: The Sage
Cosmic awakening dawns. Your mind reaches full consciousness. You become the witness of your decisions and realize that you are the main actor in the different roles you play here in the world.
Stage 7: Spirit
Your heart is now fully awake. You experience unity and Divine consciousness.
Types of Spirituality
The goal of spirituality is defined differently in various paths. Here are some of them, according to Live and Dare.
|Buddhism||Attain the end of suffering (nirvana), uproot mental degradation, and see reality for what it is.|
|Yoga||Purify the mind to attain liberation (moksha), unite the individual soul to the universal soul, and is true to oneself.|
|Vedanta||Realizes the true self and breaks free from the knot of the ego, which limits pure consciousness.|
|Sufism||Experience Divine revelation, serve God, and surrender oneself to God.|
|Christianity||Experience union with God and feel the love of the Creator.|
|Daoism||Live in harmony with the Dao (the way) and cultivate the body, mind, and spirit.|
|Kabbalah||Learn the law of the universe, know the Creator and oneself, and live accordingly.|
|Jainism||Karmic purification, salvation, becoming a perfect being (Siddha), and purification.|
|Shamanism||Live in harmony and connection with nature, develop wisdom and power to work with supernatural forces, and serve the community’s spiritual welfare.|
Different Spiritual Paths
A question often asked by people embarking on a spiritual journey is, should I follow one particular tradition or learn from many?
According to Giovanni, you can learn as many spiritual paths as you want and choose one as your main approach once you mature.
Although there are countless spiritual paths, there are 5 main paths that can give you a head start in what path to choose.
|Spiritual Path||Core Practices||Liberation||Examples|
|Path of Devotion||Prayer, chanting, belief, ritual, and mantras.||Liberation happens by surrendering our ego to God/ Higher Power/ Higher Consciousness.||Christianity, Sufism, Yoga, and Bhakti.|
|Path of Service||Ethics, prayer, community, and service.||Liberation happens through active selflessness and eliminating impurities.||Karma yoga, Christianity, and Some approach of some Buddhist lineages.|
|Path of Knowledge||Study, contemplation, and meditation.||Liberation happens through insight and wisdom.||Jnana yoga, Vedanta, Buddhism, Kabbalah, and Samkhya.|
|Path of Energy||Meditation, somatic techniques, asceticism, and breathwork.||Liberation happens by purification and sublimation of your mind, body, and soul.||Daoism, Shamanism, Laya yoga, and Vajrayana Buddhism.|
|Path of Meditation||Teacher relationship, meditation, asceticism, and breathwork.||Liberation happens by meditative absorption and stillness.||Buddhism, Nada yoga, and Jainism.|
Benefits of Spirituality
There are different reasons why people turn to spirituality. According to Chopra and VeryWell Mind, some of the benefits of spirituality are
- You’ll learn to live with purpose.
Exploring spirituality can help you find answers to philosophical questions regarding life and your purpose.
- You’ll understand loneliness.
Spirituality helps you to connect with your subconscious and understand suppressed emotions that weigh you down.
Through spiritual practice, you’ll learn and have a deeper understanding of your feelings, such as loneliness and grief.
You’ll learn their causes, their impact on you, and how you can live with them and overcome them.
- You’ll learn to live in the present.
By living in the present, you can cope with feelings of stress, anxiety, and negative emotions.
Spiritual experiences will help you cope with the stresses of life. They will encourage you to explore your inner world and connect on a deeper level with yourself.
Spiritual Practices can help build strength and alleviate the effects of mental health issues, which can affect your physical well-being.
- You’ll learn to live happily.
Spirituality will help you develop a more optimistic outlook on life. Through spiritual practice, you will see the beauty of life and witness everything from the perspective of your heart.
- You’ll achieve your higher consciousness.
Attaining the first four benefits of spirituality is key to achieving your higher consciousness, where you have a deeper understanding of yourself and reality.
Through spirituality, you’ll discover your highest potential, connect with your higher self, and learn how to surrender to life and trust your fate.
- Spiritual careers await you.
As someone who has embarked on a spiritual journey, a job that gives you a sense of purpose might be ideal for you. Choosing a career path you are passionate about can improve your life’s quality and happiness.
If it’s your purpose to serve others and help them connect to their higher self, or if you want to make the world a better place, a spiritual career path might be the one for you.
A spiritual career is any profession that incorporates Divine instructions, spiritual guidance, and religious beliefs to help people live meaningful lives.
Our overall wellness doesn’t just include our physical and mental health. Just like the two, we also have to emphasize the importance of our spiritual health.
Spiritual health is significant in numerous ways for a deeper sense of inner peace. Our mind keeps on buzzing with responsibilities and thoughts. We need to understand what it means to be spiritually healthy.
We get exhausted and less passionate when we move from one task to another. We don’t have a clear direction and start feeling hopeless.
Spiritual health helps to search for the inner meaning of life. When we are spiritually healthy, we feel connected well with the environment. Our actions will be more consistent with values and have more clarity in choosing the right path.
Healthy spiritual people have a clear identity about their life and clarity about events in life. They can clearly define the ideas and act accordingly.
Some people pursue religious practices, while others follow a general sense of self-awareness and harmony. They display a positive attitude, clear values, commitment, self-acceptance, hope, and peace.
How to Lead a Spiritual Life
When people discover spirituality, they feel they have been ignited to live their life with a purpose. They see the direction that their life is going in and work to meet goals.
Along the way, people claim that spirituality helps them to grow as human beings. Leading a spiritual life allows one to explore a transcendental existence in a material world.
When a person leads a spiritual life, they experience and feel it. So, a spiritual person does not live by subscribed beliefs handed down to them. Rather, a spiritual person has an instant feeling of some Divine force and energy inexplicable by logic.
A life with a clearly defined purpose also requires you to be patient, delay your gratification, and think ahead into the future.
Hence, leading a life of spirituality is certainly more challenging than you imagine. But it is not impossible too! If you are committed and have a strong will to grow personally and spiritually, leading a meaningful life comes naturally to you.
Each spiritual practice should have a purpose, according to what drives you spiritually and according to your goal.
It’s not about continuing a tradition or doing something out of conformity, but rather, exploring your inner world based on your own accord.
Whether you are rediscovering a long-forgotten spiritual path, wanting to learn more about spirituality, or just starting on your journey, there are various ways to start navigating your spiritual side and help improve your well-being.
To start practicing spirituality, you can do the following:
- Practice personal cultivation, sublimation, and exploration.
- Practice learning, understanding, and absorbing.
- Practice external action.
Cultivation and Sublimation
Meditation is an exercise of controlling your attention. Meditation is especially emphasized in spiritual traditions that originated in India (Buddhism, Yoga, Jainism, etc.).
Prayer is present in all theistic paths. It is an exercise that directs your mind to the Divine with devotion and surrender.
It is used as a means of prayer, study, and preparation for meditation. It is used for developing feelings of surrender and devotion in devotional paths.
Energy and Breath Work
These are specific ways of breathing and focusing your attention on the body. Repetitions and visualizations of sacred sounds or mantras often accompany them.
Concerning breathwork, some spiritual traditions integrate body postures and movements for developing health and freeing energy flow. Examples of somatic techniques are Buddhist mudras, exercises from Daoist traditions, and asanas of Yoga.
Qualities of Mind and Heart
This involves humility, detachment, kindness, devotion, trust, discipline, and many more, which are ideal qualities of the heart and mind. They are achieved through reflection, study, and meditation.
This is a period of intense self-discipline, deviation from self-indulgence, and simplicity. These include fastings, intensive retreats, long hours of meditation, and abstinence.
Learning and Absorbing
Study and Contemplation
The purpose of learning is to gain insight, understanding, and wisdom. On the other hand, contemplation is thinking about how you can apply the wisdom you got from spiritual practices to your life.
Teacher and Community Relationship
The connection with the teacher and spending time in a community of practitioners is a fundamental way to learn about the tradition and absorb its gist.
You can get support and motivation from the community and attain answers and guidance regarding your spiritual practice.
As for other traditions, a connection with the spiritual teacher or guru is highly important. Some emphasize a heart–to–heart transmission that happens in the conversation between the guru and students.
In some spiritual traditions, faith in certain basic tenets is the primary door to the practice. Naturally, you gain more experience in the path as you gain more confidence in the wisdom you get from the teachings.
Most traditions have a set of instructions that one’s needs to follow.
Following a spiritual path’s set of ethics is also one of the ways of spiritual practice. They are deeper than what they appear on the surface and exist so that our actions, speech, and mind support and reflect the truth we seek.
A ritual is a set of solemn ceremonies and actions with the ultimate goal of developing certain feelings and states of mind for the practitioner.
Serving the community can also be a way of expressing your spiritual commitment. You can volunteer at public kitchens, support online communities, and become an advocate.
Anything that will be beneficial for the community will do. What’s important is your intention, heart, and attitude toward it.
Common Mistakes to Avoid in Spiritual Practice
Like any student, mistakes are inevitable during your spiritual journey. According to Franciska Dewi, there are common mistakes to avoid in spiritual practice.
Constantly seeking answers externally.
You’ll be tempted to seek meanings and explanations from external sources during your spiritual journey.
You’ll never notice how you connect 11:11 to the course of your day, how you seek an answer from a four-leaf clover, your results from the black cat you encountered, or demand answers from the universe.
Peace is not formed within you; but outside of you. And this peace is not permanent. This peace is easy to break, thus affecting your faith.
Do not forget that the answer you’re seeking is within you. Sit down, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and focus on your mind. You’ll notice how the answers will manifest themselves without you forcing them to come out.
Thinking you’re superior to the unenlightened.
Wisdom can often lead to arrogance. As a spiritual practitioner, keeping your feet on the ground and staying humble is important.
Be willing to learn from anyone— whether from the enlightened or not.
Because sometimes the true essence of spirituality is possessed by those who still haven’t walked the spiritual path. You’ll notice that true spirituality is not in sacred texts or rituals but in the actions and intentions of people.
Attachment to your practice.
Yes, discipline in your spiritual journey, but focusing too much on it is not ideal. You have to take breaks and explore other things aside from it. You have much to learn from the world that you can incorporate into your spiritual practice.
Doing good things to feel significant.
When helping others, it’s important to have real intentions. Don’t expect others to return the favor when you help them, as your help will appear insincere. The key to good deeds is to remember that you’re doing it for others, not yourself.
Thinking of spirituality as a destination.
Spirituality is a long, never-ending journey. It means that it can take you years or even a lifetime before you reach the pinnacle of your journey, and it will not end there. After reaching a mountain peak, you’ll move to another mountain to climb.
Your journey could be continuous, or it could be one where you’ll undergo many challenges. Th