Finding Your Spirituality
This post is part of The Awakened Heart Project
Week 39: Finding Your Spirituality
“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
What is Spirituality Anyway?
What does spirituality mean to you? Do you even know? Is it synonymous with religion? Is it something that you practice? Something you believe in? Or is it deeper than that?
Spirituality is vaguely defined, and is unique to each individual person. Conscious Bridge: Evolving to Oneness writes, “[Spirituality] is one of those terms that we use thinking that we all have a common understanding as to what we are talking about, what the truth is; we don’t. It’s like the word “God” – it means different things to different people depending upon their worldview.”
Social scientists define spirituality as “the search for the sacred”, where the “sacred” refers to God, higher powers, and also other aspects of life that are perceived to manifest from the divine or exhibit divine like qualities which are transcendent and boundless. This can be experienced through beliefs, practices, experiences, relationships, motivations, art, nature, war – virtually any part of life, positive or negative, can be endowed with sacred status (Pargament, Mahoney, Exline, Jones, & Shafranske).
The term “search” refers to the continuous personal journey of discovery of the sacred. This is followed by maintain this awareness and relationship with sacred experiences or perceptions and continuing to follow the “pathways” towards the scared, whatever they may be. Each perception of what scared is will dictate the path each person follows. For example, the path to God through Christianity may include weekly participation in church.
Based on this, it is clear that what is means to be spiritual can easily vary from person to person. Interestingly, recent studies have found that most people consider themselves to be both religious and spiritual:
- 65% of Americans label themselves “religious and spiritual”
- 15 to 20% of Americans call themselves “spiritual but not religious”
- 5 to 10% of Americans say they are “religious but not spiritual”
- 5 to 10% of Americans say that are “neither religious nor spiritual” (Marler & Hadaway, 2002)
It should be not surprising then, that spirituality of some sort is important. Although most people do fine religion and spirituality to be an integrated part of their lives, here we will only discuss spirituality. This is because spirituality does not need to exsist in tandem with religion.
“Spirituality means to give meaning to life.”
– Tariq Ramadan
In fact, one may even argue that spirituality has the potention to reach farther into our heart, mind, life, and soul as it does not require religion at all. A simple walk alone in the woods can be a spiritual experience without religion needing to be present.
The Importance of a Spiritual Practice
In this post, we will work on developing a strong sense of spirituality and defining it individually. It may be broad and detailed for you or it may be simple. Whatever it may be, spirituality can have a positive effect on your life as spirituality draws you deeper into your own awareness and help you connect with your divine self. Not only that, but it can improve self-care practices, reduce stress, and improve overall mental and physical health. The key is practicing daily.
Maggie Lyon, author of The Top 10 Benefits of Spiritual Practice writes,
1. It provides clarity in the midst of your overflowing and demanding days. Practice wipes the fog from the lens of your mind and makes you blessedly sharper.
2. It cultivates the attention required to complete your tasks. Precision and awareness become elevated in whatever it is you apply yourself to.
3. It lifts your mood. Joy and uplift come much more readily. Who doesn’t want that?
4. It creates a sense of steadiness and grounding in change. No matter what unforeseen stuff is thrown at you, your sense of calm center is not so easily thrown off.
5. It keeps you afloat and even-keeled in even the most riotous emotional storms. When crazy feelings threaten to take you down, practice keeps you from capsizing.
6. It helps you see your life on a macro level. You come to rely on practice as a tool for stepping back and getting perspective on the broader picture.
7. It helps you understand your life on a micro level. Practice opens the door to a much quieter and deeper relationship with the internal you.
8. It draws you into the simplicity of the moment. Nothing like regular practice to bring you into the now, and to keep you from getting lost in the past or mired in fears of the future.
9. It touches you so intimately that without it you would feel lost or downright not right. You come to smile inwardly most all of the time with the assurance of practice being there for you at all times.
10. It connects you to and reveals true spirit. Practice is where you download profound intuitive messages by opening to your own divine spark.
What Does Your Spirituality Look Like?
The key to developing a spiritual practice is to define what spirituality means to you, and then decide how you will practice and pathways will lead you to the sacred.
Here are some questions to help you define your spirituality:
- When do I feel most calm and relaxed?
- When do /have I feel/felt a sense of quite in my mind where nothing seems to bother me?
- When I’m stressed, what activitity do I seek to relax?
- When I’m sad, where I seek comfort? What actions do I take to make myself feel better?
- When do I feel most myself?
- When do I feel most connected to nonmaterial things?
- What are my favorite activities?
- What are activities I do daily?
- When I think about spirituality, these thoughts and feelings come to mind:
- What I think about my connection to myself and others, these things/beliefs/actions/experiences are what ultimately connect us?
These are just some questions to help you. These questions are designed to help you become aware of the activities that being you peace and calm. For instance, I feel a great sense of quiet in my mind when I am by the ocean, swimming, or rollerblading through a wooded path along my local lake. Music is an activity that allows me to disconnect from nonmaterial things and really feel. Lyrics that touch me give me a deeper feeling of connection to myself and can often elicit an emotion response from me. Playing the piano also does the same thing for me.
“Are you looking for me?
I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is against yours.
you will not find me in the stupas,
not in Indian shrine rooms,
nor in synagogues,
not in masses,nor in cathedrals:
not in legs winding around your own neck,
nor in eating nothing but vegetables.
When you really look for me,
you will see me instantly —
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.”
For me, these are spiritual experiences. Perhaps yours are the same. Perhaps your include reading, cooking, sharing time with others, laughing, looking at the stars, writing, spending time helping those in need, taking a quite bath, meditation, doing yoga, jogging, etc. There are endless ways to define what spirituality is to you. It’s easiest to start with activities or thoughts rather than jumping into a concrete definition. However you define it, at its core, it should give you a sense of calm, peace, and connect, and it should give meaning to your life.
How Will I Practice?
After you have come up with a stronger idea of what spirituality means to you, it is easier to decide how you will implement this practice. I live in a cold climate where I cannot swim in the winter, or rollerblade and unfortunately, I really do not enjoy the cold, or the snow. Finding a way to practice my pathway to spirituality in the winter months takes some tweeking. You may find yourself in the same place. But don’t fret, take it one day at a time. It takes time to built a practice.
Make a list of ways you can practice daily. Keep it simple. It should be attainable. Perhaps in sitting in silence for five minutes, perhaps it’s reading before bed, or stretching. After this, come up with things that may require a little more time, and include these at least weekly. You may feel you do not have the time, but there is always time to do things that will improve your life.
After you make your list, look at it often. Maintain an awareness of things that make you feel connected and things that bring meaning to your life. Becoming aware of these practices and feelings will make them even more beneficial. Awareness is always the key here. Practice with awareness.
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Pargament, K. I., Mahoney, A., Exline, J. J., Jones, J., & Shafranske, E. (in press). Envisioning an integrative paradigm for the psychology of religion and spirituality. In K. I. Pargament (Ed.-in-Chief), J. Exline & J. Jones (Assoc. Eds.), APA handbooks in psychology: APA handbook of psychology, religion, and spirituality: Vol 1. (pp. xxx-xxx). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Marler, P. L.,, Hadaway,, C. K. (2002). “Being Religious” or “Being Spiritual” in America: A Zero-Sum Proposition? Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41,(2), 289–300 DOI: 10.1111/1468-5906.00117