What does it mean to be spiritual?
Spirituality refers to a sense of belonging to something bigger than just ourselves. It is about searching for a deeper meaning in life and about finding and living by our deeper values. For some people, it is about self-awareness.
It is often connected to religious beliefs, but it is not about religion or dogma. It is about attitudes, practices, values and how you are motivated to think and behave. Personal concepts of spirituality may change over time.
Why is spirituality important?
To be happy all facets of our lives must be balanced. Mind, body and spirit must be in total harmony. Everybody experiences spiritual moments from time to time. When you walk through beautiful landscapes you may feel a connection at a spiritual level. When you work with others to meet a common altruistic goal you may feel spiritually fulfilled.
Spiritual and emotional well-being are closely related and one will influence the other. A person who has reached a deep level of spirituality will also have a sense of emotional wellbeing. They’ll be happy, and at peace with themselves. Spirituality gives people a sense of peace and purpose. It makes them grateful for life’s blessings rather than regretful and alone.
Spiritual strength helps people to overcome hardships such war and imprisonment. It can help people to find meaning in life’s most difficult circumstances.
Becoming more spiritual
Spiritual growth is not something that will happen overnight. It is a gradual process that takes time and patience. It starts by changing habits, developing new healthier ways of life.
Take time out
Spend time in nature. Become aware of the beauty that surrounds you. Notice the little things. Many of us become so immersed in our everyday activities we no longer notice the things that surround us. Become present in the moment.
Spiritual breaks large and small can help to build your spirituality over time. Start each day with a few minutes of meditation. Find an hour to read a spiritually affirming book.
Meditation quietens the mind. Along with mindfulness, it helps to create spiritual enrichment. It offers excellent stress relief. Meditation will help you to connect to who you really are to understand yourself and to love yourself. Only when you love yourself can you love others deeply and truly.
Help the needy
Find ways to serve your community. Be kind to others. Compassion will lead you to deeper spirituality. Understand that all human beings have the same thoughts and emotions. Life for some is very difficult. Many interpersonal problems can be eliminated when you add compassion to your daily dealings. You must accept that most people do the best that they can on the spiritual level to which they have developed.
Even difficult people deserve the same level of love and acceptance that you yourself expect. Deal with others as you would like others to deal with you. Compassionate people do not put themselves at the centre of the universe.
Your life is more than just about you. It is about the way you touch others. It is how you make others feel and how you impact their lives.
Be thankful for the blessings in life. Take the time to identify your daily blessings and express gratitude. This is an excellent way to experience spirituality. When we’re grateful there is no space for ego. Gratitude brings your consciousness into the present.
Meditation and Mindfulness
When we’re mindful we are fully aware of what we are doing. Our minds are fully present. Our thoughts are not wandering into the past or worrying about the future. You can achieve mindfulness through meditation. Mindfulness has proven physical and mental benefits, including relief from anxiety and depression.
Speak words of encouragement, happiness and support. Keep your conversation free of negativity, complaints and criticism.
Practice the power of positive thinking. Consciously replacing negative thoughts with positive. When you train yourself in positive thoughts, positive actions follow. Rid yourself of self-doubt. We must accept who we are and love ourselves to show the world our best side.
Developing positive thoughts helps us to develop positive attitudes. This, in turn, helps to improve our relationships with others. This is an important step on the road to spirituality. Consciously change your thoughts as soon as you realise that they are uncharitable. Hope only for the best outcomes for everyone.
Spirituality in Buddhism
The Buddha taught that spiritual development is more important than material possessions.
Buddha taught his followers “Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.” — Buddha
Spirituality in Buddhism is concerned with the elimination of suffering through understanding and enlightenment. It is centred around the pursuit of wisdom and compassion. Buddhists believe that wisdom and compassion are intrinsically connected. When we realise that we are not the centre of all things we become wiser. As we grow wiser, we become capable of deeper compassion. So, the two grow together, each feeding the other.
Buddhists believe that we are naturally endowed with wisdom and compassion, but we have learnt to become selfish. To find true spirituality, we must rid ourselves of this selfish behaviour. This will not occur overnight but requires work. Acting in compassionate ways will help us to improve our behaviour and become more accepting of our fellow human beings.
Selfishness is so deeply ingrained in us that the path to wisdom and compassion is slow and tortuous. Buddhist practice includes training and practice to develop to the level of morality and spirituality required. As we develop compassion and wisdom, we realise that the world does not revolve around us.
The Noble Path leads us to spirituality
The Noble Path gives some guidance on the way back to wisdom and compassion in the Eightfold Path. Also, The Noble Path was explained by Buddha in his first sermon following his enlightenment. Today it forms the foundation of all Buddhist beliefs.
The principles of the Noble Path include
- right action
- right speech
- right livelihood
- right effort
- right concentration
- right mindfulness
- right thinking
- right understanding.
The first four relate to compassion, the last four to wisdom. The last four help to restrain the mind so that we can harness its powers for the benefit of ourselves and others. Only daily mindfulness and action will take us on the path to spirituality.
The five base precepts of the Noble Path are vows that all Buddhists take at an early age. They relate to not harming others. Failure to live up to the precepts is not punished. It is acknowledged. The Buddhists who have failed to make the grade promise to try harder in the future. As they progress toward greater spirituality Buddhists will find it easier to adhere to these precepts.
There is no need in Buddhism to believe in a god or to relinquish the god of your faith. The only requirement is to live life according to the morals and practices as taught by Buddha. Buddhism has its attractions in the rushed modern lifestyle. This is because it advocates quiet peacefulness, contemplation and self-awareness.
Buddhism has over the last few years spread to the west, as people yearn for the spiritual growth that it has advocated for 2500 years.
Help from others
The quest for spiritual growth is a long road. There may be times when it feels that you are making little progress. You may even feel that you have gone backwards. In times like these, it helps to have some support.
Find a group of like-minded people. It is easier to get through the tough times with a group of people that are also actively seeking spiritually than to try to do it alone. Other people along the path can help to support you and affirm your strengths. You can similarly support them when they require help and affirmation.
In seeking spirituality, seek the assistance of those who are further along the path to spirituality. They can help you with advice and support.
A life more spiritual
We live in a world where the acquisition of possessions obsesses many of us. We live hectic busy lives and we are often oblivious to the needs of others. This lifestyle has led to a growing need for meditation and mindfulness, an interest in spirituality and a quest for tranquillity. Meditation and mindfulness are widely acknowledged as beneficial to both physical and mental health. Mindfulness is one of the keys to spirituality.
Becoming self-aware and putting others before ourselves, counting our blessings and enjoying the benefits of being present in the moment are all essential to the attainment of the true happiness that will come with life more spiritual.