What Is Spirituality?
Many of us feel like there’s some form of higher power in the universe. A sense of something beyond the surface level of the material world. And we’re comforted by the notion that there’s greater wisdom to the experience of being human than we’ll ever know. Some come to this belief through organized religious frameworks or scholarship in spiritual philosophy, while for others it is more personal and intuitive. To be spiritual is to acknowledge this higher power, surrender a certain amount of control to it, and seek deeper connection. It’s a personal dedication to understanding and honoring this unseen force. For some, it is subtle and energetic, simply known as “Spirit”. For others, it is personified into an array of gods and demons. And for some, it is found in the mysteries and miracles of nature. But because spirituality is about our own individual connection to this cosmic presence, there are as many ways to be spiritual as there are people in the world.
For many people, being spiritual involves some sort of spiritual practice, often in the form of ritual, prayer, meditation, singing, dancing, or offering. These practices are common to many different belief systems, but can vary greatly in nature. The earliest signs of human spirituality point to nature-based worship and practices honoring natural elements like the moon and sun, earth, air, water, and fire. As human culture developed, these were given human-like identities, complex mythologies, and many spiritual philosophies today involve an array of deities or one omniscient God. Religions are built on these belief systems, and to be religious is to follow set rules surrounding them – while spirituality is more about individual interpretation. Some people like to incorporate these different ideas into their beliefs and practices, while others find spiritual connection in other ways, such as watching sport or creating art.
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Human nature, human nurture
Through these practices, we seek to feel more connected and less alone. Research shows that having some form of spiritual belief improves quality of life, while providing a sense of purpose, meaning, and rhythm to the unpredictability of being human. Spiritual beliefs relieve us from attachment to the ego and the material world – which is ultimately transient – and nurture an appreciation for the experience of life in its full spectrum. Being spiritual can also lead us towards more love for ourselves and each other, on the understanding that every human is a divine expression of the same cosmic energy. It is in our nature to believe in something, and spirituality can offer many people more satisfying answers to the biggest questions about life and death than modern science is currently able to.
Spirituality is about gaining access to a greater source of wisdom. This cosmic knowledge resides both within us and beyond us, transcending time and space. Prayer is one of the most common forms of communication with the divine, but different cultures also have different methods for accessing higher knowledge. In Eastern traditions like Hinduism and Buddhism, meditation is the route to spiritual enlightenment through deeper states of consciousness, for instance. Some indigenous practices use plant medicine to do this, while others use divination methods such as astrology or crystal-gazing. Ultimately we are all trying to feel better, know and understand ourselves better, and be reassured on our human journey. The most ancient life sciences that exist today, such as Indian Ayurveda or Traditional Chinese Medicine, see the physical body as one realm of a wider, subjective and energetic experience. Similarly, in indigenous medicine, this subtle realm is just as important to vitality and well-being as anything going on physiologically, and is treated as such, which is a key reason why spirituality is so synonymous with wellness.
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Spirituality for a new age
Modern Western medicine and scientific knowledge systems have mostly neglected the subtle body. As rates of disease and mental illness rise, more and more people are seeking alternative knowledge about health and well-being, alongside looking for more meaning in life. Modern spiritual seekers are able to access and adopt a huge variety of ideas, philosophies, and beliefs. Spiritual belief systems don’t necessarily belong to anyone, but we do need to take care to be culturally sensitive when exploring those that are new to us. Finding the rituals and tools that feel beneficial is highly personal, and embracing spirituality can be incredibly empowering and comforting, and bring about a deeper connection to the soul – which is something we all need to feel truly well.
All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals that influenced this article: Studies Of The Inner Life: The Impact Of Spirituality On Quality Of Life; Spirituality Research: Measuring The Immeasurable?; Amazonian Medicine And The Psychedelic Revival: Considering The “Dieta”; The Role Of Spirituality In Health Care.
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