Spirituality - How to be spiritual without being religious?
This story was first posted on the happiness blog.
What is spirituality and what is its relation with religion or science? Does it even have any relation with any of those subjects? Those are the questions we are going to address in this post.
So, if that interests you, please continue to read. The purpose of this blog is to help you find your happiness and live life at a deeper level than you currently do. That’s what I am trying to do. My obsession with happiness is far from over, and I want to continue to understand what makes us happier as human beings.
The subject of spirituality is quite complex and it has been obfuscated by religion. We are trying to simplify it here. I am not a religious guru. More importantly, I am an atheist in the context of religion and God. I do not believe there is a physical God who we can pray to, who is listening to the prayers.
If there is a God, he or she is clearly not benevolent. Over 4 million people have died because of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) between 2020 and 2021 for no fault of theirs. They were living normal lives and they died because of a disease that erupted in the world because someone eating a bat or a virus escaping from a lab among other speculations, we don’t know. If God was benevolent, this wouldn’t have happened. There would have been no world wars, or diseases like AIDS, cancer etc. which do not even have a medical solution in many cases.
Therefore, this is not about religion. It is about spirituality. We are trying to understand how to be spiritual during the course of our lives, without the access or need of organized religion.
As usual, we will start with the basics.
What is spirituality?
Spirituality is the quality of being spiritual.
What does it mean to be spiritual?
To be spiritual means to be in conscious touch with your spirit.
What is the relationship between religion and spirituality?
Nothing. There is no relationship with between religion and spirituality. They are independent of each other.
Religion is an invention of the mankind. Some people like us have invented religion so that they can tell others that this the way to find God. May be for them, it helps, although some investigation would show that organized religion doesn’t stand any logical scrutiny.
If there is a God, he or she is everywhere. It is in the nature. It is in the mountains. You, I, and all human beings are creations of nature. Isn’t the reproduction process in humans, animals and plants an invention of nature?
Therefore, nature is all powerful. People who think they can arbiter with nature have formed organized religions of different forms. Some of their motives may be positive, but not all of them are.
Organized religion has done more harm to the society than good. It has divided the world into several different religions, whereas there is only one God.
On the other hand, spirituality is a positive force. Spirituality should be imbibed and practiced by all of us in order to live conscious, healthier and meaningful lives. My endeavor in writing this piece is to solve the puzzle of spirituality for once so that you can use it to live a spiritual life.
What are the differences between religion and spirituality?
1. Religion is man-made. Spirituality exists in human life because while we live, there is a spirit that lives within us.
2. Religion is a route to connect with God for people who follow it. Spirituality is a way to connect with your own spirit through a sense of meaning and purpose.
3. All living human beings practice spirituality consciously or sub-consciously. Everyone does not follow a religion.
4. Religion has a distinct purpose and so has spirituality, and therefore, they are not the same.
What is spiritual health?
Spiritual health is the health of your spirit.
Do you feel spirited about life, or you think that life is meaningless? If you think that life is meaningless, then you may be struggling with your spiritual health.
The problem with the current state of human life is that most of us are living an unconscious life. An unconscious life is not spiritually healthy. If you want to be spiritually healthy, you need to feel that you are living a life which is in line with your values, and your spirit as a person. You are a unique individual and you can only feel spiritually healthy if you are able to live a life in consonance with your unique individuality.
The goal is to be in touch with your spirit or you may call it, the soul.
Do we have a soul as human beings?
Yes, there is a soul or the spirit. Clearly, when we die, that spirit dies with us. Unlike what movies would have you believe, there is no soul randomly wandering around the world after people die.
The spirit lives with you. The spirit dies with you. It is a part of the physical body, and not anywhere else. So, spirituality has to do with maintaining a healthy spirit.
What is the difference between soul and spirit?
The soul or the spirit is the same thing. There is no difference. The believers in God may have you believe otherwise for whatever motives they have. But, there is no distinction between spirit and soul. The soul is the spirit. The spirit is the soul.
Now, our job as human beings is to live lives so that we feel spirited or soulful. That’s what spirituality entails. We would feel spirited or soulful when we live a life in line with nature. Nature has given us certain gifts and our job is to realize those gifts and create a life on the basis of those gifts.
There is no other direction to spirituality, or to happiness. To be truly happy is to be truly spiritual. It is hard.
Why is spirituality important?
Spirituality is important because it is important to our sense of wellbeing and happiness. This is the happiness blog and the only reason a post exists on this blog is because it answers an important question about human happiness. Spirituality and its importance to happiness an important subject to explore.
Below are a 4 reasons why spirituality is important in our lives. These reasons would help in understanding the benefits of spirituality. Why is practicing spirituality a useful idea?
1. Spirituality helps us connect us with our deeper self
If you pursue and invest in your spiritual self, you would understand yourself at a deeper level than you do. You would be able to live life intensely, and not merely on the surface. Therefore, trying to find meaning and purpose in your life is important because it connects with yourself and your life spirit.
2. Spiritual people have depth
When you think about the important questions of life at a deep level, through the medium of self-awareness and purpose, you develop depth in your spirit or your soul. Developing depth takes courage because most people don’t have depth and they live life at a superficial level. If you want to build depth in your personality, explore your spirituality.
3. Spirituality helps give meaning to life
So many people search for the meaning of life, when it is upon us to give our lives meaning. If you explore your spirituality, you would be able to give direction and meaning to your life. Your actions would have an underlying purpose, and your life would have meaning.
4. Spiritual people experience inner happiness
Who doesn’t want inner happiness? If you want to happy, you want to be so happy inside that your desires are not dependent on external variables like materialistic goods, or impressing other people. You understand at a deep spiritual level what drives you, and that leads to happiness inside. If you want to experience inner happiness, it is important that you invest in spirituality or in your spiritual health.
What is the spiritual journey?
The spiritual journey is the journey inside you. So far, we have looked at the definition of spirituality, benefits of spirituality, the meaning of spiritual health and the differences between spirituality and religion. The idea was to set up a context where we understand that being spiritual in life is important.
So many of us live life unconsciously. I know it, because I did it for most of my life. I didn’t know why I studied a few courses in my school, undergraduate and graduate studies. I don’t why I pursued a certain kind of a career, till I didn’t anymore. The only answer I really have is because it looked important in the eyes of the world. An unconscious life is a spiritually vacant life.
I only started understanding myself and asking deep questions from myself in my mid-thirties. I recently hit 40 and I think my journey inside is only about 5 years old. I have learnt more about myself in the last few years than I did in more than three decades of my life.
The spiritual journey is your journey inside of you. Unfortunately most people die without having ever undertaken this journey. This reason I write this blog is because I want to make the world a happier place. That is what my spirituality tells me. I do this through my writing.
My journey has only begun. How about yours?
How to be spiritual or how to practice spirituality?
You don’t need religion to be spiritual. Spirituality is the quality of being spiritual, as we have said. In order to be spiritual, you need to be in conscious touch with your life spirit, and that is how you experience spirituality on a daily basis.
Here are 12 ways to be spiritual without being religious:
1. Spend time understanding yourself
I have said this over and over on this blog that self-awareness is the most important practice about our lives, if we want to be happy. Self-awareness is the most important thing if you want to practice spirituality and maintain your spiritual health. You want to create a life that is in line with your spirit.
Have you heard the phrase, ‘lift your spirits?’
What does that mean? If means to lift how you feel. Every time you make an effort to lift your spirit, it is an exercise in spirituality and you cannot do it without self-awareness. Self-awareness will also lead you to a purpose that would guide your life and help you grow spiritually.
2. Meditate everyday
Meditation is observing life. When you sit down in a quiet place, focus on your breathing and observe your thoughts, you begin to understand yourself. When you begin to understand yourself and your motivations, you begin on the road to spirituality.
Make some time for meditation every day. It has multiple benefits. It would make you a less stressful and a calm person.
Spirituality begins with silence.
3. Make time to think
Thinking is not a waste of time. If you want to understand what is spirituality and its importance in life, think about how you feel at different times of the day. Think about how you feel when you eat, work, kiss, dance or do anything else. Think about everything and try to understand when you are in the best of spirits. It is quite likely that you would discover things about yourself that you had never known.
4. Practice mindfulness
This may be one of the most important points on the meaning of spirituality and how to practice spirituality. Mindfulness is the ability to be present in the moment physically, mentally, emotionally.
Turn your life into an exercise in mindfulness and meditation. When we meditate, we observe ourselves, our thoughts and how we feel. Be present 100% wherever you are, so that you don’t do anything unconsciously.
Eat mindfully, work mindfully, and live mindfully. The process of applying mindfulness would connect you to your spirit and enhance your spirituality.
5. Practice solitude to practice spirituality
Solitude is chosen loneliness. Since it is chosen, you wanted it and it doesn’t hurt. Practice spending some time in your own company every day. It will allow you to consider your life, and your reasons for doing things. It would also allow you to observe how you feel at different times of the day.
I can’t imagine that a person who practices solitude everyday doesn’t feel spiritual about himself or herself. There are people who like company for the sake of company because they cannot handle themselves alone. These people suffer from insecurity, low self-esteem and an inferiority complex.
If you wish to become a spiritual person and improve your spiritual health, make some time for yourself regularly. In fact, I would highly recommend traveling solo once in a while.
6. Realize that we are a part of a great whole
The universe is a giant whole. You and I are a part of it. You may be religious or you may not be. However, the fact that there is this massive natural framework that we are a part of, should guide us to be humble. Quite often, we start thinking that we are bigger than nature, especially when things are going well.
The fact that we are a small part of a massive system makes a case for humility and gratitude.
7. Spend time in nature
Imagine you are, right now, sitting in front of a beach and there are waves charging at you. Or you are sitting in front of a huge valley of mountains. When we are in nature, we tend to have a connection with our life, its important variables, and our mortality.
Nature is alive, so are we, till we are. Isn’t that a spiritual connection?
8. Think about death to experience your spirituality
Do you think about death? I do. I don’t know why, but I always have. Thinking about death is one of the best ways to realize that you are alive. Oh, hell, it is the only way to realize that you are alive.
One day, you and I will be dead, and they would bury us, or burn us depending on whatever the cultural customs are. Our spirit would also be dead with us. I am writing this right now, and you are reading this because we have a living spirit, or a soul that allows us to do what we do.
When we are dead, that spirit leaves our body and the body is rendered lifeless. Our spirituality dies with us, with the death of our spirit. Therefore, death is not the end of our bodies, but that of our spirit.
9. Lead a conscious life
Like I said, I lived a robotic life for most of my life so far. I don’t want you to do that. No matter how old you are, make a decision to not let yourself do things unconsciously. Make an effort to understand yourself and your motivations, and let them guide your life.
A conscious life is a spiritual life.
10. Do not let your spirit die while you live
Benjamin Franklin said famously,
Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75. — Benjamin Franklin
Have you wondered why some people feel more alive in their 70’s and why others behave as if they are dead in their 20’s? Benjamin Franklin was right. People who are spiritual and do things which make their spirit come alive, are far happier and excited about life than people who go through their lives doing things that most people do, without applying their own minds.
Spirituality is a higher order desire. It belongs to the actualization phase of Maslow’s hierarchy and only a few people seek it. Those who do, lead far more meaningful lives than those who don’t, even if those lives are shorter.
11. Do stuff that brings you alive
I am smiling as I write this because I love writing and it brings me alive. I love it how I can convey deep and meaningful emotions through my writing. That makes writing a spiritual exercise for me because when I write, time flies and I am happy.
If you want to truly experience your spirit alive, do what makes you come alive.
12. be grateful for life itself
Cultivate and practice gratitude every day. Realize that life is a gift and we didn’t earn it. It was given to us free of cost as a part of the natural evolution process where your parents had sex and you were born, as an outcome. When you learn how to feel grateful for life, you would also learn how to experience your spirit, and thereby, your spirituality.
These are a few suggestions on the practice of spirituality sans religion. Most of the literature around spirituality revolves around religion and the concept of God. My submission here is that you can be spiritual without being religious, that is if you are so inclined.
I am on the same journey as you are. I am just learning to live more mindfully and consciously. This is the journey of spiritual growth, and it is a part of personal growth.
What is spiritual growth?
Spiritual growth is the growth of your spirit. This means that when you begin to live mindfully, understand yourself better, have a purpose to your life, you would experience a higher state of existence. This higher state of existence is spiritual growth.
This by no means is easy. Most people do not even try to explore themselves inside and understand their reasons for doing what they do. Spiritual and personal growth is a hard process and it is meant for the courageous. Will you succeed? I don’t know. Will I succeed? I don’t know. Should we try to grow spiritually? The answer is absolutely yes.
In Conclusion- What is spirituality?
Spirituality is the conscious realization of the life spirit inside of you. Spiritual health is the health of your spirit. To practice spirituality means to be conscious of your spirit or soul, and live a life that reflects a living spirit. You know, when they say, that you die when your spirit dies. They are right. When you live an unconscious life disconnected with your essence, and who you are as a person, you feel devoid of joy or spirituality. To embrace spirituality and be spiritual, embrace self-awareness, mindfulness, meaning and purpose.
This is where you start. This is where I start, as well.
Thank you for reading. If you liked what you read, do clap for me and my spirituality :)