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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? 

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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. This was not encouraged by my family who was fiercely atheists.

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.

In my 20s I sought to join the Christian church but was told that as long as I believed in reincarnation I would not be allowed to join.

In my thirties I met Buddhism which became my spiritual home over a decade. Eventually I was told by my guardian angels that it was time to forge my own path and stop following other people. 

So I went on a year long pilgrimage to the spiritual sites around the world and I learned to be all faith(s). 

My strongest experiences during that time have been with Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. I now live in a Hindu country.

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, 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. 

Decide on a term that triggers an intuitive feeling in you. It may be a longing. Or a sense of inner knowing. Like a hazy memory. 
 
(And let other people be who choose differently.)
We all came from source, God, the divine, oneness, the eternal. And we are all on a journey back there.
 
The part in us that knows the way is our spirituality.
 
Parts of our spirit are still one with the divine to this day. And any practices that get us closer to home are spiritual. 
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 homework, 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

Spirituality is not mumbo jumbo or a fantasy. Or voodoo.  
 
And it isn’t just accessible to some of us who have a “special gift”. We all have it.  
 
Spirituality is not vague nonsense, it is a very tangible and meaningful force that we all have access to.
  
When we use our spirituality it makes our life richer, more purposeful, we become more understanding, kinder, wiser, and thereby do our bit to make the world a better place by being in it.

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.

How do you practice Spirituality

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How To Practice Spirituality - in two steps

What takes you on your journey home can take a myriad forms. Wherever you’re at, your practice should make you wiser and kinder. This is a good gauge for how your practice is going.  
 
In general, spiritual practices take two forms: building a relationship with ourself and building a relationship with the divine. Both can be practiced together. 

Step 1: Building a relationship with your true self

This aspect of spirituality looks a lot like personal development.
 
We explore our own personality, belief systems, assumptions, triggers, character traits.
 
We really get to know our own psyche, what drives us, what we need, who we are, our flaws, our strengths.
 
How do we react to change, what are our underlying beliefs about relationships, what are our money blocks, what are our deepest fears?
 
We face ourselves with courage and total honesty and reduce selfishness and ego.
 
This is tough!
 
In a sense we have to face our shadow side if we want to turn to the divine light in ourselves.
 
It’s best to get help with this, in the form of a support group, a teacher, a therapist or counselor, courses, workshops, seminars… Partly for support and partly so we stay on track and aren’t deluding ourselves while doing this work.
 
It is vital that we face some difficult truths about ourselves. Personal development is the foundation of spiritual growth and awakening.
 
If we are ignorant of our true selves we keep living life on autopilot without awareness and all our spiritual practices will merely be a form of escapism. 

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 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

In practical terms this means we cultivate our intuition and ways to communicate with source, with the universe, with God.

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, because we don’t have to face any ugly truths about ourselves. 

The truth is, if we haven’t been able to overcome some of our shortcomings, triggers, selfishness and ego and we don’t have a relationship with our true self then building a relationship with the divine will be a mere illusion. 

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. We can ask for courage to change our thoughts and actions to what authentically benefit us.  

It takes strength to step outside of norms and conventions and take responsibility for what we let into our mind. (But does knowing what each of the Kardashians are up to really benefit you?) 

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. 

How to find your Spirituality

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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. 

Maybe they are things that have been in the back of your mind for a while, or something you’ve been meaning to try. Pay attention to these feelings. They are your sign that says, start there. They are your next step what and how to practice.

The Next Step

We only ever need to 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.

Remember you have free will. You are not running on train tracks. You are not just free to start and stop on your journey, you can also change direction at any time. 

Your path is yours to forge. 

Don’t concern yourself with other people’s paths

We all have a tendency to see flaws in others rather than ourselves.
 
We think we can see exactly what it is that they need to learn but we have a great big blind spot for ourselves.
 
Here’s the thing: let others choose their own path and concentrate on your own growth.
 
Usually, the issues that annoy and trigger us in others are flaws in ourselves that we need to address. You might think someone else’s behaviour will trigger everyone, they just ARE annoying and it is *them* not you.
 
But compare your reaction to everyone else’s and you will see that not everyone is triggered in the same way you are. So this is something much more to do with you than them.
 
Whenever we point the finger at someone there are always three fingers pointing back at us…
 
If you see someone else being arrogant, or the centre of attention, or behaves like they’re entitled – is there a secret part of you that wishes you could be so confident, or do you feel it should really be you who deserves to be the centre of attention?
 
These sort of questions require some soul searching with complete honesty.

They can unearth painful realisations but if we don’t face them we go through life being triggered and simply reacting blindly.
 
However, once we realise our own triggers and fears we can work on them rather than blaming others, talking badly behind their back, and justifying ourselves –  all of which is so time consuming, feels exhausting, and makes us unpleasant to be around.  
 
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 as long as our happiness depends on other people the less stable our happiness will be. 

The less other people trigger us the more we are making progress on our path. 

Destiny or Free Will?

Our destiny is to fully awaken, to find our way back to source, to be one with God. 
 
But what is called “destiny” is not fixed. It is simply our ideal or ultimate destination. 
 
We have free will. That means it is up to us what road we choose towards that destination – or if we choose to go at all. 
 

We are not puppets on a string and our life doesn’t run on train tracks. We are the masters of our own destiny. 

What God and our guardian angles and all other benevolent forces want for us is to make choices that help and benefit us and doesn’t harm others. (What harms others never helps us in the long term so these two are really the same thing.) 
 
The greatest and most skilful way of helping ourselves is to awaken. 

We can choose to ignore or 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. 

(I’m choosing the term awaken but in reality there are no words that can adequately describe our ultimate destination. It is beyond any expressible or thinkable concepts. All words are just placeholders – choose one that resonates with you. And let other people be who choose differently. Our choice of words should never divide us.)
What is my purpose in life

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What is My Purpose in Life?

We come into this life with a “soul contract”.
 
This means goals we set for ourselves before this life started. Things we came here to learn. Things we want to resolve with others – people we owe or who owe us. People we may have mistreated or who have mistreated us. 
 
When we come into a body we tend to forget these, just like we forget a dream on waking up, however vivid it was a moment ago. But the people around us, our parents, family, and friends are no accident. We chose them. To learn something or to resolve something.
 
This may be hard to believe when we have very difficult relationships say with our family.
 
But whatever we set ourselves to learn – this could be forgiveness, or overcoming fear, or finding our voice and speaking up for example – will come around in the form of challenges again and again and again. We will come up against the same problems, just in different constellations.
 
Have you ever come out of a relationship and maybe entered another thinking, “This partner is the exact opposite of my old partner. He or she is everything I’ve ever wanted”. Only to find a few months later that they actually behave exactly the same as our old partner.
 
This is because we still have the same things to learn as in our last relationship. It may be standing up for ourselves, or becoming less selfish. It may be becoming whole in ourselves rather than wanting someone else to “complete us”. Or it may be learning not to lose ourselves in another.
 
It is the same with all life experiences. They will give us the opportunity to learn what we came here to learn again and again until we’ve learned it.  

Spirituality vs Religion

What is the difference between spirituality and 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 up 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, 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 also be exactly what we need at this moment. Sometimes good advice by someone who is wise and kind and without agenda will 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?

Yes, absolutely.
 
All genuine religions are paths that lead to awakening. They may not be YOUR path. But on the other hand, they may well be. 
 
Or they may be your path for a while and then your journey may take a turn that is not foreseen and not “allowed” in your religion.
 
In which case it is fine to honor all the value, insights, wisdom, joy and inspiration your religion has given you and move on.
 
Honor it with love and respect – there is no need to fall out or bad mouth your former path. But do give yourself permission to move on if you’re called to. 
 
The purpose of all religions…

… is to make us kinder and wiser. More loving and better able to understand life. Remain calm, strong, and centred 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.

History has shown over and over how religion can make easy pray out of blind followers. Don’t be that person! 

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. 

Collective Awakening

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 a 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. 

 

Higher Self

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.

The ego…

…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 reasons which are easy to use as an excuse.

A genuine teacher will help us break bad habits, laziness, selfishness, wrong views, and a lot of other deeply ingrained habits that are unpleasant to face.

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. 

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.

How to listen to the higher self

It may look like it is difficult to differentiate between the voice of the ego and the voice of our higher self.
 
But in reality it is not.
 
It simply involves 100% total honesty with ourselves. And a determination not to be swayed by fear (or anger, or laziness or whatever your particular tendency might be).
 
A good way to do this is to take the pressure off yourself and stop thinking that it is you who has to make the decision. Ask for help and surrender to the very best advice from your higher self, God, or the universe without any agenda, preference, or hope for a particular outcome.
 
Sit in quietude, ask your (higher) self the question, and let a knowing come to you.
 
The right decision will become quite clear – even if it is not what you wanted to hear.

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.

When you know hold onto that knowing without questioning or arguing. Let that clear knowing seep deep down into your being and resolve to honor it, no matter what your ego, or your friends and family might say later.
 
Be brave. Trust yourself.
how to go on your spiritual journey

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The Spiritual Journey

God, the divine, the universe is always ready to help and support us. 
 
But we have free will so we have to ask for help. 
 
Without our request they cannot simply wade in and change the course of our lives.
 
However, nothing makes them happier than when we ask for their help and they can work with us.
 
And nothing is too much to ask.
 
We never have to worry that we may be troubling God or asking more than our fair share. The more often we ask the more we get in sync with the universe. The more we tune into their help the more we align ourselves with the divine. So the more we ask the better. 
 
But once we ask we must learn to listen to the answers we receive.

Spiritual Messages

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. 

 
But these are hints. First glimpses. Partial answers.
 
Pay attention to these ideas and feelings. They are your “spiritual support crew” offering suggestions and solutions in different ways, trying to get through to you.  They will feel right, even if they don’t make sense. 

Working with your spiritual support crew

Working with the divine, the universe, angels or other messengers is a two way learning process. We have to learn to recognize their messages.
 
And from their side, they’re also learning what kind of messages are getting through to us. 
 
We might for example notice we keep seeing the numbers 444. We take the “trouble” to learn that this is called an angel number and a way for them to tell us we’re on the right path. We’ve opened a path of communication and they will now send more messages in this way. More numbers, different combinations. In a “lucky coincidence”, we will then come across a book that teaches us to decipher the meaning of different number combinations.

We may start to see more signs, more of these synchronicities. If we realise these are ways for our spiritual support crew to reach out and help us they will send more messages in this manner.
 
And if we start paying attention to our gut feelings and place our trust in doing what our intuition tells us they will work with us more and more in this way. We will learn what the subtle pull of our intuition feels like. We will start to recognize whenever we’re given a subtle push of encouragement.  

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 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

If my writing resonates with you I’m available for personal advice and meditation sessions, 

 on a one-to-one, face to face basis (via skype/zoom/webex).
 
These 1 hour private sessions will be unique to you. I initially suggest the following format: 
 
  • a 20 min chat to 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.

Price: $22

Price: Pay what you wish

(I believe that meditation, prayer, and spiritual support are essentials. And I want to live in a world where everybody has access to the essentials.)

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