You'll likely have heard people frequently distinguishing spirituality from the religion, suggesting that it's entirely possible to be spiritual without endorsing any particular religion.
But what exactly does this mean? What does it mean to explore your spirituality, and should you spend time doing so?
And does being spiritual require denying science and common sense? If you think of yourself as a grounded, practical person who follows the evidence, you might just dismiss spirituality- but, as it turns out, this may mean missing out on important chances for personal development.
In this article we will explore spirituality, we'll answer the above questions and more.
We'll explore the nature of spirituality, examine the important connections between the scientific and the spiritual, and consider the relationship between religion and spirituality.
Most importantly, we'll give you some straightforward techniques that you can use to get in touch with your spiritual side.
Your spirituality is the aspect of you that is tuned into the idea of there being something beyond you.
In particular, being spiritual is about recognizing that our human senses don't tell the whole story about the universe. That there is more to us than our bodies and brains.
Spirituality might involve endorsing a higher form of life or attributing some kind of conscious awareness to the universe.
Spirituality can vary dramatically, but most say that this is what gives their lives a sense of meaning and coherence.
If you're a spiritual person, then you hold something like one of the broad beliefs discussed above.
This is the centerpiece of spirituality, and these beliefs inform how you think about your life choices, your soul, and the possibility of life after death.
Spiritual people also tend to have particular spiritual practices that they adhere too.
They may be daily behaviors like meditating, practicing mindfulness, reciting affirmations and reading material related to spiritual beliefs.
It's also common for spiritual people to have a code of ethics that reflects their spiritual commitments – for example, you might believe in spreading positivity or kindness, or in donating a certain amount of money to charity.
There are dozens of different reasons why you might need a spiritual dimension to your life.
For many people, spirituality is about having a sense of purpose and direction in life.
It's about a search for our life's significance and allows us to feel part of something.
For others, there's a related sense of love and connection that comes from spirituality.
It can provide an awareness of community and completeness, of compassion and oneness.
Yet more people feel that their spiritual side encourages them to question and reflect on everything.
It can push you to grow and change both intellectually and emotionally.
Some spiritual people even describe their spirituality as a quest for enlightenment.
You might also be searching for peace, or a way to contextualize suffering – spirituality can give us the resources to make meaning out of difficult experiences.
As noted at the outset, you might be hesitant to develop your spirituality if you think the spiritual is at odds with the scientific.
Historically, you have probably seen spirituality variously described as irrationally, as poorly supported by evidence, or as reflecting “wishful thinking” in those who have spiritual beliefs.
However, as it turns out, there are many more points of commonality than you might first think, and these points of agreement are only on the increase.
Let's look at four of the most significant spiritual beliefs that are now increasingly endorsed by the scientific community.
Buddhists have long believed that we should reject the distinction between the present, past and future.
Rather, they tell us that our sense of passing time is an illusion. Einstein agrees as it happens – he famously demonstrated that time is relative.
In fact, if we were traveling at the speed of light (e.g., in a fast spaceship), we would go through a few days while someone else experiences just a couple of hours.
To grasp this, think about how when we look at the stars, we're actually seeing the past – we're seeing the light that has traveled for billions of years from stars that may now no longer exist.
Ancient spiritual leaders and modern new-age thinkers agree that our thoughts influence our reality.
This is the belief at the heart of The Law of Attraction – that we have the power to shape our futures just by changing how we think and feel.
But does science back this up?
Yes! Most notably, quantum physics shows us how merely observing a particle completely changes it.
And if this happens at the level of particles, it's plausible that it happens on a wider scale.
Increasingly, then, scientists agree with the Law of Attraction practitioners that we can change the world with our minds.
In our everyday lives, we take for granted that the objects we encounter are solid. We perceive them as real, and as present.
However, Indian spiritual traditions have long taught that there is a certain unreality about the world, and these days scientists agree.
Indeed, everything around us is made up of electromagnetic waves.
So, in an important sense, all we ever perceive is energy, even when it looks entirely solid to us.
This can help us further understand the point above about our thoughts impacting on our reality – if everything (including us) is energy, it makes sense that there is a mutual impact.
There's a good reason (both spiritual and scientific) to believe that your words can transform reality as well.
The power of words is significant and can change the way you think, feel and vibrate.
Studies on the impact of pictures, phrases, and music on the state of water have shown us that frozen water takes different forms depending on whether it was previously exposed to positivity or negativity.
This represents a large step forward in terms of providing scientific evidence for previously established spiritual beliefs.
And if this is true of water, consider just how much of an impact your word choice can have on people, as well as on your own thoughts, feelings, and potential.
So, what exactly is the relationship between religion and spirituality?
One important point to make is that it is possible to be spiritual without being religious, but being religious arguably requires being spiritual.
With that in mind, what is spirituality in religion?
And what kind of role does spirituality play for you if you're not religious?
One helpful contrast between spirituality and religion draws attention to the role of experience.
More specifically, your spirituality involves connecting to something beyond yourself through your own unique experiences.
You can find, explore and grow to understand an important aspect of yourself, and how you relate to the universe.
In contrast, being religious involves connecting to something beyond yourself (typically a divine entity) through the experiences of others.
You adhere to a specific code set out for believers, you follow rules, and you endorse a set of connected beliefs.
Where religion emphasizes knowledge, spirituality is more concerned with gaining wisdom.
And where religion places a strong emphasis on obey rules and being “saved” in a life after death, spirituality's core values are more typically aligned with love and freedom.
Spirituality also has more of a relationship to feelings, and to living in (and experiencing) the present moment. In contrast, religion typically teaches us to invest in the future, so that we can go to heaven (or some comparable afterlife).
There are clear points of compatibility between religion and spirituality – they can be complementary.
However, it's clear that you can be deeply spiritual without being religions – and that this spirituality is a deeply personal, gratifying way to increase your self-knowledge and develop your potential.
Now that you have a clearer sense of what spirituality involves and the kind of role that it can play in your life, it's worth thinking about what it means to have a spiritual awakening – and about the signs that you may currently be experiencing one.
A spiritual awakening is, in essence, a journey towards greater awareness.
It involves opening your eyes to the fact there may be more than what you've been told and what your senses have told you.
During a spiritual awakening, your thoughts and feelings begin to change, and you start to revise all you've believed. It can be overwhelming, but it is also a gateway to greater understanding and potential.
A spiritual awakening can look different for everyone, but it tends to follow a few specific stages.
There is a period of grief, where you effectively mourn the life you used to have and forgive yourself (and others) for wronging. In addition, there is a period of setting intentions, and a phase of letting go.
These periods precede a phase of unity, where you experience oneness with the universe and the world around you.
Although a spiritual awakening is exciting and wonderful in certain ways, it usually flows from a great sense of dissatisfaction in your life.
For example, you may be confused about your purpose, or feeling disconnected when you start to experience a spiritual awakening.
However, with careful work, inner exploration and possibly creating an intention statement, you can begin to reconnect with yourself and the world around you. Indeed, after a spiritual awakening, you should feel more connected than ever before.
It's important that you remember this isn't a linear process – it's a complex journey, and you should expect to move back and forward between the different stages described above.
If you're ready to engage with your own spiritual awakening, what can you do in order to kickstart this process?
Alternatively, perhaps you feel you've already entered this new phase of your life, but you're not sure how to pursue it in a productive way.
An important thing you can do is to tune into and learn to listen to your inner voice.
This is the intuitively, wise part of yourself that is most spirituality aware.
To connect with this part of you, try adding a daily meditation practice to your life.
Spend at least ten minutes focusing on your breathing, allowing irrelevant thought to drift past your awareness.
This gives you vital experience in filtering out extraneous, external distractions, making it easier to hear your inner voice.
In addition, try to set a clear intention. What do you want to get out of your spiritual journey? What kind of things do you want to learn, and what sort of person do you wish to become?
Find a simple way to formulate your intention in one or two sentences and reflect on these sentences every day. This will be the phrase that guides you throughout your spiritual journey.
To start practicing spirituality today, it's important to first work on learning and absorbing. What this means in practice listening to talks and reading about spirituality, taking in as much as you can.
Not all of it will resonate with you, but broaden your understanding and find concepts that do click with you.
Keep a log of the things you learn, either on paper or on your computer, and start to organize it into an account of spirituality that makes sense to you.
In addition, there are straightforward but powerful habits that you can begin to develop at home.
We'll look at two types of techniques – one focused on somatic exercises, and one that centers around substantial inner work.
Somatic techniques focus on the physical, and on developing the aspects of your senses that are most intimately related to your spiritual dimension.
There are also many different exercises focusing on inner work that develops your spirituality.
Mindfulness counts as both a somatic and an inner work technique, for one thing.
Further examples include the following:
Law of Attraction work can be incredibly useful when you're looking to develop your spiritual side. Importantly, the Law of Attraction is one of the fundamental laws of the universe!
In its simplest form, it tells us that like attracts like. So, we can manifest the things we desire by becoming more positively attuned to them.
Broadly speaking, the better we are to others and the happier and more grateful we choose to be, the more we'll find those good things work their way into our lives.
Here are three Law of Attraction techniques that can enhance and speed up your spiritual enlightenment.
Creative Visualization builds on the skills you've developed by learning to meditate.
It requires you first to regulate your breathing and enter a calm, focused state.
Next, you build up an image of the life you want to live, including as much detail as possible.
You can visualize any goal you have that strongly associate with your true purpose.
You can also use visualization to simple see what occurs to you –
when you're in a phase of deep spiritual development, what you learn about yourself during visualization exercises can be profound.
Raising your frequency is a key part of manifesting with the Law of Attraction.
In layperson's terms, it means becoming more attuned with positive energy, associating yourself with abundance rather than lack and negativity. There are lots of ways to do this.
One is by using positive daily affirmations – phrases that you repeat in order to promote self-development.
You can design affirmations that focus specifically on your spirituality (e.g., “I am becoming more spirituality evolved every day”), and you can also use affirmations that more generally help you to develop as a person.
For example, what you learn about yourself during shadow work can be key to removing limiting beliefs through affirmations.
We've already explored how writing in a gratitude journal every day can help you to become more spiritually evolved, as well as happier.
However, there are also other ways to practice gratitude.
For example, you might try to express your gratitude to a loved one every day – challenge yourself to think of something appreciative to identify and communicate it to that person.
In addition, think about how you can spread gratitude even further.
How can you give back your time, energy or abundance to the world around you?
All of these practices support spiritual development.