Few things in life are beyond explanations. The concept of spirituality may very well be one of them. It is one of those abstract concepts that countless people have experienced firsthand and yet it is hard to fit into the confines of a fixed definition.
Not to say that it cannot be defined, but the definition would invariably be different to each individual.
In a very broad sense, spirituality is the experience of a deeper dimension of reality, life, and your ‘self’, which is highly subjective. It incorporates everything that you may consider as being intangible.
This also includes your values, principles, attitude, etc. In the modern context, spirituality is used as an umbrella concept that incorporates concepts from religious experiences, personal development, and the investigation of the true nature of reality.
Naturally, it can seem like a tough nut to crack. However, there is a growing interest in spirituality today. And it might have to do with the messy human life we have designed for ourselves.
Our civilization took a wrong turn in history somewhere, and while it should have been focused on human welfare and happiness, it did quite the opposite.
The result is pretty apparent. The average human life is under more stress than ever, to the point that it has become almost robotic. The human experience has become limited to worldly pleasures.
Spirituality, naturally, seems like the perfect solution. More and more people are adopting spiritual practices in their lives to be happier and more fulfilled. However, there are a lot of things that people generally get wrong about this enlightening concept.
That is not surprising considering that it is only now that the world is paying attention to it. Fortunately, if you spend just a little time venturing into this subject without any prejudice, the way forward will automatically be revealed.
Are Religion And Spirituality The Same Thing?
This is the number one question people usually have when they want to learn about spirituality. And it is understandable. After all, religion and spirituality share some key concepts.
Historically too, there hasn’t been a clear distinction between the two, culturally or otherwise. But as we are venturing further into the 21st century, we are slowly beginning to realize just how different the two are.
Most simplistically, it can be said that while spirituality is based on a personal journey of investigation, religion is based on belief. To understand it better, you can look at the two as different paths to the same destination.
Spirituality is about connecting with the divine through your own experiences, while religion is about connecting with the divine through someone else’s experiences. Which of these works for you depends on you.
In the modern-day, where facts and the need for self-discovery are getting stronger, it is no surprise that spirituality is taking root.
The journey to your inner self that ultimately reveals the greater truth is a beautiful and most ecstatic experience. Not to say that people don’t get to experience this with religion, but in spirituality, that is the path you have to take.
Why Is Spirituality Important?
Since spirituality can be different for different people, its importance depends on the individual too. However, there are some common ones that everyone can relate to.
These are life-changing benefits that can bring forth happiness, fulfillment, pleasantness, and anything else you could wish for. Below are just some of those benefits:
1. It Provides Happiness
Whatever you do in life, you do it to make yourself feel good. We are all looking for happiness and doing countless things every day to feel happy. But these efforts are not delivering the desired results. Well, not sustainably at least. This is where spirituality comes in.
Spirituality teaches you to stop looking for happiness in external sources. It teaches you to look within and generate your happiness. Once you can tap into that internal reservoir of ‘self’, you will create sustainable happiness in your life.
2. It Helps You With Your Purpose
No matter who you are, you need a purpose in your life. The daily routine can only take you so far. You need to know where your life is headed and the type of life you want to build a happy future.
Although everyone wants this grand vision of what life should be like, it is hard for many to come up with it.
Spirituality helps you organize your thoughts and feelings and makes you introspect. It makes you realize what you want. It might take some time, but the peace that spiritual practices provide goes a long way in helping you figure things out.
3. It Provides Answers
We all have questions. Some small ones, some large ones, and some that are simply unanswerable. Finding answers that already exist is quite easy. You can look them up online. But finding answers that simply don’t exist is another thing.
You might have questions that have never even been asked before!
Spirituality is this almost mystical thing that helps you get answers. If you invest in it mindfully and with intense determination, you can get any answer you seek. Be it about life, the nature of reality, your purpose, or anything else.
There is a reason why people seek monks and spiritual gurus.
4. Path To Transcendence
Transcendence is talked about a lot whenever spirituality is being discussed. In fact, according to many, transcendence is the final destination of spirituality.
Many eastern gurus and yogis have long talked about a higher state of consciousness. It has also been mentioned in ancient Hindu and Buddhist texts.
Transcendence is a state of higher consciousness that is usually said to be achieved by meditation. In that state, you rise above the human condition and can perceive things that you couldn’t before. It is also said to be a state of ultimate bliss and peace.
5. Sense of Oneness And Love
There is one concept that is ever-present in spirituality. It is that “everything is one” and that you need to be “one with everything”. You may have heard the Dalai Lama say this before.
What this means is that everything, whether it is living or non-living, is made up of the same stuff. The distinction between “me and them” or “me and that” is an illusion.
If you embrace spirituality, you also embrace this concept. You attain a sense of oneness and love for everything and everyone. If everyone on the planet did the same, it would help achieve world peace in no time at all.
What Are The Different Spiritual Paths?
Spirituality is not a step-by-step guidebook that you can follow and achieve a set target. There are so many paths that you can follow. You can even follow the same path in several ways. This is distinctly different from religions, which can be more direct in their teachings.
Spirituality is focused on the individual and what they want. Therefore, you should explore the different spiritual principles, teachings, traditions, and come up with a tailor-made path for your tailor-made goals.
Also, doing so will make you knowledgeable about a variety of different paths and concepts that will provide you with a broader understanding of spirituality. Below are some of the spiritual paths that might be important for you.
1. The Path of Service
This path entails a path of selflessness. Many people in the world want to spend their lives in the service of others. They don’t care about worldly desires or pleasures and just want to spread happiness and love in their community and society at large.
There are many community leaders or members that work tirelessly to improve the lives of those who need help the most. In the service of others, you get in touch with your innermost self.
2. The Path of Knowledge
Then some want to “know”. It is something that forms the basis of human nature. We are all curious beings, and in a way, we are all born scientists. We want to know about everything we can perceive and even beyond that.
In Hinduism, it is known as Jnana Yoga. In this path, you become a seeker. A seeker of truth. By staying on this path, you can ultimately get a glimpse of the true nature of reality.
3. The Path of Devotion
This is very similar to the path that religious people usually take. As a devotee, you put all your energy, focus, and belief into a higher power.
Your actions are guided by what you think the higher power has deemed right for you. This path includes prayers, chanting mantras, spreading the word of god, believing in something much higher than yourself, etc.
4. The Path of Liberation
Liberation is a concept that is most talked about in ancient Hinduism. It is a concept where you are liberated from the cycle of births and deaths. Hindus believe that once you are dead, you are reborn as another organism, and this cycle continues endlessly.
It is also believed that life entails a lot of suffering. Therefore, to end this suffering, spirituality is invoked to end the cycle of birth and death itself. This is mainly achieved by intense meditation for long periods.
5. The Path of Tantra
There are many misconceptions about tantras in the western world. This has mainly to do with incorrect translations or interpretations of Hindu or Buddhist texts.
Tantra has to do with energy. It can be defined as a spiritual practice that allows you to direct the universal energies into you. As a result, your body, mind, and psyche are all purified and you attain a higher state of being.
The Different Types of Spiritual Practices
Now let’s dive into how you can instill spirituality into your everyday life. As stated above, spirituality is all about the individual and their journey. It totally depends on who they are, what they want, what they can and can’t do, and so on.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to spirituality. In a way, you have to find your own way. Fortunately, there are a lot of spiritual practices that help you build your path. Below are just a few of those.
Meditation is one of the most common and popular practices that most people already know about. Spiritual gurus have talked about its importance for the longest time.
There are different types of meditation and depending on what you want, you can choose any or all of them. But the point of it all is to gain control over your mind and thereby your thoughts and emotions.
Once you are stable from within, you can achieve virtually anything you want. When you become accustomed to meditation, you can even indulge in deeper and intense forms of meditation that can enhance your spiritual perception.
2. Chanting Mantras
Sound plays an important role in spirituality. Naturally, there has been a heavy emphasis on sacred sounds that are meant to be spoken and heard. Ancient texts have all mentioned something called “mantras” which are words or phrases that are repeated over and over again. These are believed to be sacred.
Some mantras are chanted as prayers, some for focusing the mind in preparation for meditation, some to purify your surroundings, and some are even chanted to develop feelings of surrender and devotion. Ancient Buddhist and Hindu scriptures are filled with stories depicting the use of mantras for supernatural activities.
We all have the rituals that we follow every day. However, spiritual rituals have a deep significance and are made for specific purposes.
Even in some religious practices, rituals play an important role. Rituals shouldn’t be looked at as actions that stray away from practicality. Even the smallest of rituals can be practical and have a huge overall impact.
For instance, some monks like to light earthen lamps and put them in their place of meditation. They serve as objects of focus as well as the source of positive energy in their space.
4. Community Service
Spiritual practices are not limited to isolated exercises. Many people experience deep spiritual feelings when they help other people. It is often said that a human is at their best when they serve others.
There is something about “giving” that incites intense feelings of happiness and gratitude from within, and that is rarely matched by anything else.
There are many ways in which you can contribute to your community or society. You can feed the poor, contribute to orphanages, take part in social reforms and so much more. You can even inspire other people to do so and start a chain reaction that can transform countless lives.
5. Learning & Pondering
The first thing that you do when you enter any new field is to learn about it as much as possible. The same applies to spirituality. There are so many resources, videos, audio clips, books, and articles online that you can study to gain a comprehensive understanding of what it entails.
The more you spend time, the more you learn.
Once you feel you have learned enough, you can seek spiritual gurus in real life and start pondering about complex problems and questions. This path of knowledge-seeking is sure to land you to a place where you finally have some answers.
Asceticism is not something you hear about every day. That is because it is a hardcore spiritual practice that few people take part in. Asceticism involves periods of intense self-discipline where you don’t indulge in worldly pleasures or human connections.
You remain as a body and soul to attain the highest level of purity you possibly can.
Prayers are the simplest spiritual practice you can do. We all pray from time to time as life puts us through rough situations. This exercise of directing your mind and heart towards the divine is quite special.
At that moment, you are virtually surrendering yourself to a higher being which does away with all forms of ego, leaving behind only the true self.
Common Misconceptions About Spirituality
Since spirituality is a relatively new concept (at least for the western world) and since it is a complex concept, it is no surprise that there are lots of misconceptions about it.
However, you should do your part to do away with any you might have about it and help other people do the same. Below are some of the main misconceptions that are usually talked about.
1. If You Are Spiritual You Will Never Be Sad
This is one of the first things that skeptics say about spirituality. They assume that spirituality entails eternal and unending happiness. This is simply not the case.
Spirituality can improve your life for sure, but it doesn’t stop life’s obstacles from materializing, which might make you sad. But here’s the thing. You will be better equipped to deal with any obstacles.
2. You Can’t Enjoy Worldly Pleasures
This is another misconception that keeps many people from practicing spirituality. They think if they walk this path, they will have to give up all earthly pleasures.
This isn’t true. You can enjoy all the flavors of life. It can be argued that spirituality can help you enjoy them at an even higher level of consciousness and mindfulness.
3. Spiritual Practices Are Not Practical
People are quick to form opinions about something that they haven’t even tried. If only they could indulge a little, they would know how immensely practical, useful, and transformative these practices are.
Meditation, for instance, has been studied scientifically and its many, many benefits are well known. Also, there might be some things that science hasn’t understood yet, which doesn’t mean that they don’t exist in the first place!
4. Spirituality And Religion Are The Same
As explained above, they are not the same. Sure, they have similar concepts, but they are quite distinct. Spirituality is an individual journey. It forces you to look inwards, to understand the outward reality.
It is about establishing a connection with the divine by feeling that source of creation within you. Religion is based on belief, and it is its path to the divine.
5. Spirituality Is The Rejection of Science
Some people think embracing spirituality means rejecting science and everything it stands for. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. Spirituality is not a cult. It is based on actual science.
There can be some practices that are not yet understood by science, but that doesn’t disprove them. But that is beside the point. Spirituality is meant to enhance your life, and it doesn’t require you to reject science in any way.
Can Spirituality Improve Your Life?
Spirituality is meant to transform your life. It is meant to lift you to a higher level of living so you can enjoy everything you should as a human being.
Spirituality opens up your perception of the hidden aspects and dimensions of reality and provides you with a greater understanding of your place in all of it. It is a transformative experience, and every person owes it to themselves to give it a try, in the least.
This transformation can elevate every aspect of your life. Your health, relationships, well-being, goals, and everything else are filled to the brim with positive energy.
This is especially important for those people who might be struggling with their lives. Some people experience a prolonged period of rough patches, and it is in their lives that spirituality can have the deepest and most prominent impact.
There are many inspirational stories of people who managed to turn their lives around completely. Some of these are nothing short of miracles. All they had to do was shift their perception a bit and allow spiritual practices to do their magic.
Things like this have a chain effect. Seeing those people, many people might have been inspired to do the same. In the age of the internet, it is easier than ever for people to learn about other people’s stories and transform their lives as well.
How Long Does “Spiritual Awakening” Take?
There is a great saying, “patience is a virtue”. Spiritual practices do a great job of instilling this virtue in you. Anything worthwhile takes some time to take shape in life.
The same applies to any positive changes brought about by spirituality. It can be a long while before you begin to even notice any changes. It requires a lot of effort and determination to stay on this path.
Rest assured though, your journey will be quite exciting and you will get to learn about things and think about concepts that you can’t even imagine. You get to explore your inner self and understand the larger reality. You get to understand the concept of oneness and unconditional love.
All of this, of course, takes time. It requires you to let go of some of your old and limiting beliefs and adopt new ones.
For some it will be a long journey, for others, it may take no time at all. But if you just continue on your path, you are guaranteed to bring about lasting change in your life.
It is a great thing that spirituality is becoming so popular in the world today. It seems like recently, more and more eastern philosophies and teachings are making their way into the mainstream.
People are becoming more open to new ideas, and that is such a beautiful thing. As a human, it is in your nature to be curious about new things and ideas. Doing so is what has led us this far, and it is that which will continue to lead us in the future.
Spirituality has tremendous potential to change human life for the better. These concepts have lasted the test of time and are still adopted in many parts of the world. It only makes sense to at least try and see what it is all about.
While religion plays such an important part in some lives and should be practiced, spirituality opens up new possibilities and sets you on a path of self-discovery. The onus is on you to take that first step and experience for yourself the truly magical world of spirituality.