First published in elephant journal
“Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep.” ~ Anthony de Mello.
There’s a lot of stuff and nonsense bandied about around what it entails to be “spiritual.”
Here’s my take on it: when it comes to spirituality, there are no rules—that’s the realm of religion.
By my definition, “spirituality” is about our relationship with our own selves—both “higher self” and “lower self.”
I see spirituality as the art of getting to know ourselves better and making friends with all of ourselves—the bits we like as well as the bits we’re not so fond of. And becoming more aligned with the best of ourselves so that aspect shines through more than the destructive elements.
Because there is light and shadow in each of us. And the qualities that develop greater prevalence are the ones we feed the most.
So a spiritual practice would be one that supports us in developing a relationship with our higher Selves, so that we can more effortlessly integrate her qualities with our more fear-driven self. As Anthony de Mello would say, it’s a decision to wake up; to stop sleepwalking through life; to examine ourselves—our thought patterns, our emotional triggers, our true desires.
But how do we do that?
Well, because this is a highly personal relationship, we get to choose our own practice. There are no rules.
There are many practices we can engage in to help us develop this greater self awareness and self knowledge—and they don’t all have to be traditionally recognized as “spiritual”. We can turn many activities into a spiritual practice by just bringing conscious awareness to the act.
So, there’s no need to agonize too much over what’s right and what’s not. Once we make the decision to wake up and live our lives with conscious awareness, opportunities will begin coming our way. And while they may come in the form of a yoga or meditation class opening up at a time that suits us, it may equally come in the form of writing, dancing, singing, an urge to start running or a 12 step program.
What makes it “spiritual” as opposed to sleepwalking? The conscious benefits we derive from it.
When we find our thoughts clearing, our self knowledge improving and our body and minds rejoicing, we know that we’re onto something meaningful.
With spirituality, there is no one-size-fits-all formula. It’s up to each of us to experiment and find our own way. In time, as we find ourselves growing in self awareness, we will recognize what has evolved into our own spiritual practice. And we will feel drawn to keep doing it because it nourishes us.
To invite the discovery of what it might be, we just need to decide to wake up. Then, dabble with whatever comes our way and sparks our interest. The secret is not to force ourselves into a discipline that becomes a chore, but rather to just allow it to become—through time, experimentation and attention.
Photo: Alexi Kostibas/Flickr