Photo credit: Silence© by AlicePopkorn
What comes to mind when you think of the word spirituality?
Do you have visions of monastic ascetics sitting cross-legged in mountain caves? Or maybe you think of robed priests swinging incense burners in candle-lit cathedrals?
If you are new to spirituality then you would be forgiven for thinking that spirituality has to involve some strange, possibly religious, practices that have no place in your usual day-to-day life.
Well I’m here to tell you that this is not so.
If you’ve been following any of my other posts you’ll already know that I’ve spent just about all my life exploring spirituality. I started my searching as a young child, and as a young adult ended up becoming a monk for 11 years in a multi-faith monastery. In fact I have indeed lived that image described above! And while those things were certainly some of the most amazing experiences of my life I can tell you with complete confidence that spirituality doesn’t have to be like that. Since I left the monastery I’ve found that spirituality can, and is in it’s purest form, incredibly practical. In fact I would go so far as to say that if it’s not practical it’s not spirituality.
Spirituality is an extremely broad concept that covers just about everything pertaining to things of the spirit.
This includes anything which gives rise to feelings of inspiration, inner peace, a sense of purpose, a connection to others, a connection to something bigger. It could be through organised religion, or equally it could be through practicing yoga, doing sports, listening to music, appreciating art, or enjoying nature. Spirituality can even be found in science.
“Science is not only compatible with spirituality, it is a profound source of spirituality.” – Carl Sagan
So if you have been feeling that sense of wanting some spirituality in your life but couldn’t imagine yourself going off to India and meditating in freezing mountain caves, then don’t worry! Spirituality can be much simpler than that and you can do it right here where you are now, in the midst of your busy worldly life.
The great thing about spirituality is that it is totally individual and personal. This means that you can develop your very own unique way of living a spiritual life. You don’t have to follow any dogmatic rules that you don’t believe in. In fact to do so would be to go against the concept of spirituality, as that would leave you feeling frustrated and constricted in your personal growth.
The key to a successful spiritual life lies in being able to select only those elements which resonate with you.
You need to have the capacity to let go of practices or teachings which don’t uplift and inspire you. Remember that it is completely individual, so while some things may be perfect for one person they may be completely wrong for you. Without judging you should let them go and instead open your heart to that which speaks to your soul.
So where do you start in living a more spiritual life?
Well the fact that you feel the need for more spirituality means that you have already started! You’ve already taken the first and most important step. Now all you need to do is carry on following your inner feeling. Trust your intuition and let yourself be guided by it. You will find exactly the things your soul needs.
Here are some general guidelines to help you in discovering your own unique spirituality.
1. Accept only those things which appeal to you. This is the most important guideline in developing your spiritual life. You should only adopt something if it really resonates with you, or if you feel it could be helpful. If you don’t like the idea of something or it makes you feel uncomfortable, then just let it go without judgement. It’s quite possible that at some point in the future you may come back to it feeling more ready to accept it. Apply this guideline to everything, including these steps which I’m describing here!
2. Do some serious soul searching. Try to find some quiet moments alone with yourself. Reflect on your life. What has gone before, where you are now, where you seem to be going, and where you really want to go. These quiet moments are as precious as gold in your spiritual search. If you want to listen to your soul you have to create some silence around you. Close yourself in your room for 30 minutes. Or go out for a walk in nature. Or go for a run with your favourite music on your iPod. It is essential that you give yourself some time for reflection.
3. Read as much as you can about spirituality and anything that inspires you. There are so many great books and websites out there covering just about every possible strain of spirituality. The initial stage of spiritual growth is typically characterised by reading, and is necessary to educate your mind and equip yourself with the tools best suited to your individuality.
4. Spend time with other people who are interested in spirituality. Engage in spiritual conversations. This will serve you in several ways: Learning more information; finding solutions to difficulties or problems; feeling a sense of community. The spiritual life can sometimes feel lonely… it helps when you find other people who are going through similar processes of growth. You don’t feel so isolated and crazy… or at least you feel better when you find other “crazy” people!
5. Find your spiritual roots. What teachings or traditions do you relate to most?
- Try re-visiting your childhood spiritual tradition. In spite of bad experiences from your upbringing you can sometimes find great release in forgiving the ignorance of others. Look past all the crap and you will likely find some clues to your true spiritual essence.
- You can also find your spiritual roots in places you have visited around the world… did you get a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart when you visited that wonderful mosque when you were on holiday?
- Even from films you may have seen… did you feel uplifted when you watched Dances With Wolves? Did you just love the way of life of the American Indian tribe? Well there’s another clue to your spiritual roots.
- Listen to different types of world music. Have you ever felt a chill of excitement down your spine when you listened to some mystical Irish bagpipe music? Again another clue… maybe the ancient Celtic spiritual traditions would appeal to you.
A spiritual life can be simple and practical to incorporate into your busy daily life.
Remember that you don’t have to run off and become a monk or nun to live a spiritual life! True spirituality is about embracing the world in which you live, not running away from it. Spirituality has to be practical if you are to grow. It’s perfectly possible for you to make small changes to your life in order to be able to live the spirituality that your soul is craving for.
Once you know what your spiritual roots are you can then find how to adapt it to your own personal needs. If you are already ready for that step you may want to check out my post on establishing your regular spiritual practice.
If you are still searching then don’t be disheartened… the journey is always changing, and you are always exactly where you need to be. You have to let your soul go at the pace it needs to… you can’t ripen an apple with a blow torch. Trust your instincts and your intuition. Follow whichever path calls to you at the time, and don’t be afraid to hop around the paths. And most importantly have fun while you trying out different things!