What spirituality means to me, the benefits of a spiritual practice, and five ways to start one of your own
What is spirituality…?
Spirituality can mean different things to different people: there are religious connotations to spiritualism – particularly when it comes to Buddhism or Jainism – and, in a more contemporary world, spirituality is a distinctly non-religious experience, associated more with the idea of connecting to a source, your higher self or something even bigger, be it through yoga, meditation, introspection, or time in nature.
For some, spirituality is connected to the mystic or the occult, for others spirituality is a scientific principle. It is perceived as a tool in mindfulness or a vehicle towards enlightenment.
Whatever your understanding of the concept, and however you are choosing to incorporate it into your life, what we can be sure of is that an instinct toward spirituality appears to be deeply ingrained in humans. And whatever our rationale for asking, since the beginning of our existence, it seems we can’t resist seeking the answers to those bigger questions.
In the broadest sense, spirituality can be defined as a connection to something higher than ourselves – bringing meaning to our lives.
What I have learned along my spiritual journey and quest so far, from living with monks in an Indian Ashram to meeting the Baba of the Temples in Nepal and living in Nature in a remote indonesian Island is that spirituality is all about connecting to something bigger than the self, I or me. It is about connecting to something much more soulful and expansive than the superficial, daily dramas and thought patterns that we are all so guilty of being wrapped up in. It’s the separation from ego, self and self-importance, and the identification with a bigger journey, soul work (our dharmas) the lessons that we have been put in this body to learn, accept and heal so that we can better ourselves and others.
The benefits of having a spiritual practice:
Gratitude: Often spirituality encourages people to be positive and gracious, which may be expressed in acknowledging and being thankful for what you have – rather than creating a constant want for more.
This humble and thankful state of being leads to inner peace and contentment; helping to alleviate feelings of sadness, depression and anxiety.
With a healthier and happier mind, you can experience better perspective and personal growth – leading to a more meaningful connection to yourself and others.
All of which keeps you mindful and living in the present moment – the only place where life truly exists.
…And five ways to start your own spiritual practice:
1. Start small: Don’t worry too much about adopting new belief systems or practices that don’t feel authentic – it can be as simple as writing down five things that you’re grateful for each morning.
2. Silence is golden: For 5-10 minutes once or twice a day, simply sit in silence and concentrate on your breath. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that; using the practice to either manage your thoughts, connect to the present moment, or listen in to messages from your higher self.
3. Movement is medicine: Sitting in stillness with yourself can be hugely challenging, which is why we often turn to movement-based practices (such as yoga) first. A healthy body breeds a healthy mind, and while it doesn’t necessarily have to be yoga, try to move the body in some way as an act of self care.
4. Don’t be afraid to change: As Buddha said, ‘change is the only constant’. Embrace the fact that any kind of practice invites change – embrace it, be kind to yourself and be non-judgemental and patient with your spiritual development.
5. Commitment: Commit to your practice, whatever it is. It takes 21 days to create a new habit and break an old one, so give your new practice at least three weeks and see where it takes you.