What Is Spirituality? A Practical Guide For Beginners
What does it mean to be spiritual? How do you practice spirituality? What is the difference between spirituality and religion? Here is some practical guidance.
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Are you drawn to the idea of becoming more spiritual but don’t quite know what it means or how to practice?
I know exactly where you’re coming from. I have been drawn to spirituality longer than I’ve known the word.
Like many children, I could see angels and energies when I was small. But this was not at all encouraged by my family who was fiercely atheist.
Fortunately, I met my best friend in my teens and for her, talking about angels and God was as natural and real as talking about school and homework.
I’ve never looked back.
Over the decades I’ve followed many teachers but a couple of years ago I was told very clearly by my spirit guides that from now on, I was to forge my own path.
This has been daunting (and still is at times!) but from a feeling of being lost what has emerged is my own authentic insights and personal inner practice.
Here is what I’ve learned about the meaning and practice of spirituality.
How Do You Define Spirituality?
Spirituality is the divine in us.
In other words, that aspect in us that transcends time, place, and circumstance and is one with source, God, presence, the all, the universe, the eternal, the ultimate truth.
Choose whichever word feels most comfortable to you. They are all just placeholders, approximations – something for which there is no word.
At the moment…
…we are all people with a long to-do list.
We have a liking for ice cream or chocolate, things that light us up and others that bore us. We worry about our wife, husband, kids, dogs, health, money, boss. About being late, about our car, our appearance, our work. We look forward to a movie, to the weekend, seeing our friends, going on holiday.
This is what it means to be caught in time, place, and circumstance.
There is nothing wrong with that! We need to be in the here and now. Life is a precious gift, we need to live it.
But that is not all there is to life.
There are thoughts and feelings that make us transcend time place and circumstance and think about our purpose, how we can grow, be happier, if this is all there is to life, if there are angels, how something we wished for came true a day later, and how we knew what someone was thinking before they said it…
This is the first dawn of spiritual thoughts and feelings. And any practices that unearth more of those feelings and strengthen them are spiritual practices.
Like with everything else, there are different stages. It’s a journey – a journey that leads to awakening. And those thoughts and feelings is how the journey starts.
What spirituality is NOT
What Is The Goal Of Spirituality?
The goal of spirituality is to advance on the path back home, to oneness, to source. Ultimately, the purpose of spirituality is to awaken.
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How To Practice Spirituality - in two steps
Step 1: Building a relationship with your true self
Practices that build a better relationship with ourselves (and others)
Benefits of Personal Development
Some of the rewards of this hard work are that we heal. We start to have fewer “issues” with life and with other people. We become more authentic. We embody who we are with more confidence and calmness. We get triggered less and experience less anger, less jealousy, less fear. We have less ego and take things less personally. We start to know our needs and have more tolerance and love for both ourselves and others.
Step 2: Building a Relationship with the Divine
Practices that Build a Relationship with the Divine
Benefits of Spiritual Practices
As we surrender we are more and more led by the divine. Things start to go right for us and when we do hit difficulties we know them to be situations to learn from. We worry less. We’re more present. We are able to manifest what we want more easily. We’re able to perceive miracles. We become more serene, peaceful, and happy in ourselves, independent of outside circumstances.
Don’t be tempted…
…to jump straight to these kinds of practice which may seem more spiritual or easier.
The truth is, if we haven’t been able to overcome some of our shortcomings, triggers, wounds and we don’t have a relationship with our true self then building a relationship with the divine will be mere “spiritual bypassing”.
So in a sense knowing ourselves comes first.
However, we can use our relationship with the divine to help us build a relationship with ourselves!
We can ask the universe for support and healing when we uncover trauma or harmful patterns and the universe will gladly give it.
We can ask for guidance to discern beliefs and cultural habits prevalent in our society that no longer serve us.
And we can ask for courage to change our thoughts and actions to what authentically benefit us.
Ultimate Benefits of Spiritual Development
If we continue to practice building a relationship with our true selves and the divine we will eventually see extraordinary results. We will feel close to God and live in a state of grace, able to perceive and understand divine signs and messages with ease and confidence. Our clairvoyance increases, we are able to read other people’s minds, communicate with animals and spirits of nature, remember our past lives. We can heal by touch and use the power of crystals, herbs, and incantations. We will become completely unbound from anything that has obstructed our mind, soul, and spirit. We are awake.
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How to Find Your Spirituality
Spiritual practice should feel joyous and “right”. Like you are not merely moving ahead by yourself alone but are joining a slip stream, or a travelator – you’re walking but there are other forces that help you along. You’re swimming with the tide. You’re in the flow.
When reading the lists above there are probably one or two that are an instant “yes” for you. They excite you and draw you to them. They feel like you really want to try them – they “sit” well with you.
Pay attention to these feelings. They are your sign that says, start there. They are the first steps on your path.
Even though the book or teacher or course or even the movie that attracts you may not hold *all* the answers or be a full and complete path all the way to enlightenment.
But they are your next step. And feeling drawn to them is your guidance where to start – right now.
The Next Step
We usually only ever see the next few steps ahead.
Very rarely can we see the whole journey.
Don’t let this put you off and don’t let this stop you from starting on the path! There will be many surprises on the way.
Do you ever look back say 10 years ago and think to yourself, “if anyone had told me I’d be *here* doing *this* I would never have believed them”? Seeing one or two steps ahead is enough. Enough to get started.
We can always see as much as we need: the next step to take. So take it!
Don’t wait until you think you can see the whole path.
Don’t concern yourself with other people’s paths
These sort of questions require some soul searching with complete honesty.
The reward for working on our own issues is that other people trigger us less and less and we are able to remain calmer and happier. We’re all looking for happiness in life but how stable and long lasting will our happiness be if we depend on other people not triggering us or not doing the “wrong thing”?
Destiny or Free Will?
We are not puppets on a string and our life doesn’t run on train tracks. We are the masters of our own destiny.
The greatest and most skilful way of helping ourselves is to awaken.
We can choose to ignore our destination. Or we can head in the general direction but take many detours. We can take breaks, slow down, go backwards, speed up, fly or crawl. It’s completely up to us.
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What is My Purpose in Life?
To become our true selves which is one with source, with everything.
Our individual purpose depends on our “soul contract”.
Renegotiate your soul contract
If we can it is best to see the teaching in every challenge we face and try to grow from it.
However, if we find we have set ourselves a very ambitious soul contact with more issues than we can handle then it is perfectly alright to renegotiate this contract. Nobody will judge you.
It can be done by sincere prayer telling God, the divine, the universe that your life is presenting you with more challenges than you can handle right now and to please turn down the heat and make things easier for you.
Make sure when you’re given a break and presented with an easy solution you recognize it – and allow yourself to take it!
Spirituality vs Religion
Religion is a fixed set of beliefs and rules that you’re required to follow.
At best, the rules are originally set by someone who has great spiritual insights and has become deeply admired by others for their clarity, peace, wisdom, and closeness to God.
The spiritual leader was then asked by others what they should do to also experience the same level of divinity. Thus a set of beliefs and rules came about.
(I said “at best” – because the past has shown that often the rules were set by someone without spiritual insights merely with the aim of controlling others.)
By following religion blindly you are giving away your own power.
You are in effect trying to recreate someone else’s spiritual experience by imitating their path.
We are all individuals so our way home is our own unique journey and we must find our own path.
Say your friend is in a very loving marriage. Something you admire and want for yourself. Will you imitate them, their choice of partner – height, hair colour, degree of education? Will you emulate their way of loving each other – their way of teasing and flirting, holding and kissing?
Of course not. It’s far too personal.
You may ask their advice, sure, but ultimately you must find your own partner and your own way of loving them and building a relationship.
Our spiritual journey is even more personal.
It’s just that many of us have momentarily forgotten how to gauge what is right for us on our own spiritual path.
We have forgotten that we instinctively know the way. It is like feeling the warmth of the sun on your face. Even with your eyes closed you know which way to turn.
Forging our own path
Forging our own path is of course much harder than just being told what to do. Forging our own path means we must rely on our own intuition, our inner guidance, and deepen our insights, wisdom and understanding.
This doesn’t mean we’re alone. We are in fact all on this path together, every single one of us. And because it isn’t a straight line but a spiral we constantly see people ahead, to the sides, above and below (so to speak), who are also on their path.
We can ask how they are mastering the obstacles on the way and listen to their insights. We can obtain teachings from the elders, gurus, and masters, we can read, immerse ourselves in retreats. We can visit spiritual sites, monasteries and nunneries, consult tarot decks and the I Ching.
We will come away with many ideas, insights and inspirations.
But ultimately, we have to check if these are right for us or not. They may need adaptation or altering.
Or, they may be exactly what we need at this moment. Sometimes good advice by someone who is wise and kind and without agenda can hep us greatly. This could well be your local minister or priest or iman or rabbi or the pope or the Dalai Lama.
But even then, we are responsible for our own spiritual awakening. Nobody can do it for us. We hold the power – and the responsibility. Don’t give either of these away.
Can you be spiritual and religious?
The purpose of all religions…
… is to make us kinder and wiser. More loving and better able to understand life. Remain calm, strong, and centered in the face of adversity. However, religion has often been highjacked to serve the purpose of power-hungry manipulators who have seen how many people behave like sheep and simply follow instructions.
Whenever religion is used as an excuse or “justification” for war, killing, cruelty, hatred or intolerance it is being corrupted and perverted, used for the very opposite of its original purpose.
This is what gives religion its bad name.
This doesn’t mean that all religions and its followers are bad.
On the contrary, all religions are full of genuine people who are kind and wise, have attained great spiritual mastery due to following their religion’s teachings, and who can to help us with their advice. Many can benefit us on our journey.
So we must be discerning.
We should not follow blindly but at the same time, we should not reject blindly either.
Since we are part of humanity, living on this planet, we are also part of the collective consciousness which is learning and evolving all the time.
While it has been more appropriate in the past to be guided by religion the time is now approaching for us as a collective to become self-governed and take back our power. It is a sign of the times.
You may be feeling the pull to take more responsibility for your on growth and awakening but you may also feel guilty leaving you old community and teachers “behind”. I have experienced this myself and would recommend a very gentle, gradual change. Let your friends and religious guides know gradually and with great love and respect.
But know that you do not need anyone’s permission – this is your decision and yours alone.
The aim is to become awake. While on this journey we must become self-governed. Sovereign. It is part of the very definition of becoming awake.
If we want to make any genuine progress on the path to awakening it is imperative that we don’t follow the advice of our ego but only follow the calling of our higher self, God, the divine, source.
…deceives us by telling us that it has our best interest at heart, but the reasons are ultimately selfish and deep down based on fear. However, the ego usually gives very convincing arguments which are easy to use as an excuse.
If we follow the guidance of our ego there will be a small niggling in the back of our mind. Our decision will not feel quite right. And there will be a tendency to justify our decision over and over, to ourself and others.
This is our higher self or God or the universe trying to get through to us, telling us that we know better.
Just because we’re going through a hard time does not mean we’re on the wrong path! It is extremely important not to be deceived by our own ego and run away from tough transformations.
How to listen to the higher self
When you get this kind of advice it is important to follow it.
Not to doubt or second guess yourself.
Hesitation destroys confidence in your higher self and muddles the channel of communication with your inner guidance.
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The Spiritual Journey
So the more we ask the better!
Spiritual messages are initially often those thoughts, feelings, ideas, and images that arise quite spontaneously right after we ask for help.
Often we dismiss these as nonsense, illogical, wrong, or unimportant. Or we don’t even notice them at all.
Working with your spiritual support crew
Why spiritual awakening can be painful
At the beginning you will probably find that your whole life is getting more difficult when you follow a spiritual path.
At the beginning of my own journey, my long term relationship broke up, people thought me very strange (or worse…!) and I lost a lot of my old friends.
I knew my own inner truth so it was almost like I had no choice but to continue on my new found path. People from my old life were simply no longer aligned to the new self that was emerging. There really was no option to go back to being someone I no longer was.
But I was new to spirituality so I didn’t go about this change in a very skilful way. I was judgemental and hasty – not exactly spiritual qualities!
Looking back I could have handled everything with a lot more kindness and wisdom. But it was only the spiritual path that really taught me kindness and wisdom…
So my advice is to be gentle with yourself and others. Make any changes gradually and with great kindness.
If we want to grow and reach new shores we must let go of the old ones. This takes courage because it means that for a time we will be at sea.
Feeling lost is part of this change. You may feel lonely and confused for a while but once you reach new lands there will be a tribe of likeminded souls who are more aligned to who you truly are. This is part of the journey home and that is the essence of the spiritual journey.
How to get support from me
While we’re going through these extraordinary, turbulent times I have been guided to show up and offer
one-to-one personal advice and meditation sessions,
face to face basis (via skype/zoom/webex), to anyone who needs them.
- a 20 min chat to connect, get to know each other and find out what you’d like help with
- a 20 min guided meditation, tuning in to your spiritual guides
- and 20 min for questions and comparing insights that we’ve both received during the meditation.
For a limited time: Pay what you wish
For the time being I offer these sessions by donation to make them accessible to all.
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