This is a question that I get asked a lot and admittedly, it’s a difficult question to answer. I think that the difficulty lies in the fact that there are so many possible answers out there depending upon whom you ask. A Tibetan Monk is likely to provide a very different answer than a Catholic Priest would. A Wiccan Priestess will no doubt define spirituality much differently than would a Jewish Rabbi or Muslim Imam.
Does this mean that there is no correct way to answer the question “what is spirituality?” I don’t believe so. Instead, I believe that this simply means that spirituality should only be defined by one’s own personal experience of it. Connecting to our spirit is a highly individualized practice and yet it is one of the quickest ways that we can truly embrace, honor and radiate the FabYOUlousness inside of us.
Research has long shown that spirituality (which can be either religious or non-religious) is an important contributing factor in an individual’s level of happiness and well-being. It can provide us with a sense of connection to others as well as to something “bigger” that guides our lives. It can bring a sense of meaning to our lives and an inner peace that often contradicts the chaos surrounding us.
How then do we begin to cultivate a spiritual practice that is right for us?
For some, spirituality might be synonymous with their religious faith. Others may consider themselves to be spiritual but not necessarily religious. Many experience spirituality while they are engaged in worship while others find spiritual connection while in nature or listening to music. There is no cookie-cutter “one size fits all” when it comes to spirituality–it is something that is deeply personal and highly individualized.
Though studies have shown that individuals with a regular spiritual practice receive numerous quantifiable benefits in the areas of physical and emotional well-being; not everyone knows where to begin when seeking to develop their spirituality. According to Ken Pargament, a leading expert in the field of the psychology of religion and spirituality, developing spiritually is a dynamic process involving three separate stages:
1.) Discovery–finding a form of spirituality that we feel drawn to
2.) Active Practice–can include attendance at religious services, meditation, chanting etc.
3.) Struggle–a time when life events cause us to question our beliefs
Often, the best way to discover the most personally meaningful way to connect with spirit is to begin with contemplation. Simply spending some quiet time alone to ponder the answers to the following questions can set you on the right path towards your own experience of spirituality. Find a quiet place and spend some time feeling out your answers to these questions…
What role does spirituality currently play in your life?
What role would you like for it to play?
What or whom do you call on or turn to in times of difficulty?
What do you hold to be sacred in your life?
When do you feel the presence of the sacred most strongly in your life?
Are there spiritually significant items, symbols or practices that you feel naturally drawn to?
What or who has influenced your sense of spirituality?
Where are you when you experience the most inner peace? What are you doing?
Are there spiritual practices that you believe to be wrong for you?
How have you tried to develop your spirituality in the past? What roadblocks/struggles have you encountered?
How has your family and religious upbringing shaped your attitude towards spirituality?
How have key events from your life influenced your sense of the spiritual?
In what direction do you feel that your intuition or inner guide is leading you?
What do you feel that your purpose on earth is?
What kind of spiritual transformation/revival have you experienced in the past?
What judgments/negative perceptions towards spirituality do you harbor?
Why do you long to create and cultivate a personal, spiritual practice?
What are some doable next steps that you can incorporate into your spiritual journey?
These questions aren’t easy and you may not have immediate answers to many of them. That’s okay. Revisit the questions often and spend time over a few days, weeks or months reflecting on your answers. Allow yourself to follow your spirit’s lead as this is a process that needs to be felt as well as thought about. This process is also not a static, one-time deal. It is an ongoing, ever changing process that will likely lead you to different discoveries at different times in your life. This is all good and normal and if you allow it, this awakening of your true spiritual essence will guide you to a meaningful spiritual practice that will bring more peace, fulfillment, connection and FabYOUlousness into your life.
*Based on questions by Ken Pargament