Spirituality Without the Stereotypes
Why Your 'Spiritual' May Not Be The Same As Mine
Begin to Accept Others Beyond Critique, Prejudice, or Condemnation and Appreciate the Differences in How We Define and Find Comfort, Value, and Meaning in Our Lives
Due to the thousands of religious beliefs all around the world, it is almost impossible to place a simple definition on what spirituality means. Since the beginning of recorded history, spirituality has been defined by different groups and peoples in different ways. For most beliefs, spirituality encompasses a person’s entire way of life. It reflects in every single action they perform from when they wake up in the morning till they close their eyes to sleep at night (for some, it even carries on through the night while they sleep). When you decide to go deep into what spirituality truly entails, you are likely to find different perspectives, due to the broadness of the concept. However, spirituality is in essence, a sense of connection to something bigger than us as humans, giving our lives a sense of purpose, and guiding every single one of our activities throughout our lives.
Spirituality and Religion
Without a doubt, religion is one of the most interchanged concepts with spirituality. But this is not to say that both concepts are completely different. Religion forms a good part of spirituality, but spirituality is in itself a much broader concept than religion. For most people it will be quite difficult to view a person with no religion as a spiritual person. But this is entirely possible. While certain elements existing in most religions also exist in spirituality, religion does not constitute the entire concept of being spiritual. They exist separately but have certain overlapping elements. They both involve the concepts of belief, ethics and faith. However, at their core, spirituality and religion ask different questions. For religion the individual is expected to always ask himself “what is right and what is wrong?” But spirituality encourages us to ask “how do I personally find value, connection, and meaning?” The fundamental difference in these two questions are what mark the distinction between spirituality and religion. And if, as a person, your religion also answers your spiritual questions, then that’s just great!
They may only be a few, but spirituality has its own stereotypes, quite different from your religion. While stereotypes that have to do with violence and discrimination are often ascribed to religion, spirituality has a few stereotypes of it own.
One of the stereotypes ascribed to spirituality is the notion of silence. Once the word spiritual comes into play, what many people imagine is a Buddhist monk who spends most of his days meditating and only ever speaking on an average of 10 times in one day. This is very inaccurate. While it may be true that the spirituality of certain people encourages them to talk less and listen more, a person in tune with their spirituality can be as vocal as possible, as long as they do not deviate from their personal spiritual belief. On a general note, spirituality has nothing to do with prolonged silence, except when specifically required.
Another common stereotype attached to being spiritual is being medieval and ancient in one’s dealings. Again, some spiritual teachings may encourage us to be less materialistic is our way of life, but this does not prevent us in any way from utilizing technological devices and equipment all in the name of being spiritual. For the past few decades, present technological advancements have become increasingly integrated with our daily lives, and avoiding them will simply be an unnecessary self infliction of hardship.
Generally, self-inflicted hardship is a stereotype associated with being spiritual. This is attached to spirituality and different ways, including the lack of technology mentioned earlier. We often hear people saying “Oh you do that too? I didn’t know your beliefs permit you to”. Religion also suffers the same negative stereotype. What matters in living a spiritual life is finding value connection and meaning in our lives. We can achieve all these without attaching hardships to our general living.
But how do we measure our level of spirituality? What are the markers that we need to look out for, in order to keep our spirituality on a level that keeps us connected?
Generally, there are some components of the general notion of spirituality; specific traits and qualities that we can look out for him ourselves and consciously work on, in order to remain spiritual. We highlight some of them below:
Asking deep questions on issues such as suffering and its purpose, and to the possibility of death and what happens after it.
Consciously trying to deepen our connection with other people.
Being empathetic and compassionate towards others.
Seeking internal happiness, beyond material possessions and external attachments.
Making efforts in improving the world around you and the world at large.
Living a spiritual life is generally supposed to help us find purpose and meaning in our lives. However, there are specific benefits that collectively lead up to giving our lives purpose and meaning, allowing us navigate through life with clarity. Some of these benefits include the following:
Finding Support and a Sense of Community
A major part of being spiritual is all about collectiveness, community, and supporting the people around you. By being in a community of spiritual people, you are also bound to receive support from those around you, which breeds a strong sense of community over time.
Restoring Hope and Optimism
Being spiritual often involves accepting that certain things are beyond our control. It also involved in maintaining a positive mind-set while keeping an open mind four different outcomes. Having such healthy expectations from life has been noticed to be on the benefits enjoyed by maintaining a spiritual life.
Coping with Feelings of Stress and Anxiety
Being anxious and stressed about things we have experienced and those we are yet to experience is among one of the most natural mental situations we can find ourselves as humans. Some experiences can be simply overwhelming and too much to handle for an average person. But when we maintain a constant spiritual state of mind, they begin to accept that these feelings are natural and sometimes unavoidable. This simply help us cope with them better and gives them less hold over us.
Spirituality has different components and elements and is often compared with other aspects of living such as being religious as well as emotional well-being. But spirituality as a whole transcends all of that. It gives our life on earth purpose for as long as we live and prepares us to become one and the same with the universe after we are gone. We must respect how others define their spirituality and not seek to categorize them or compare them. We are all students embarking on the same quest—to understand ourselves, our world, and our place within it. So, let’s kind and accepting of all our brothers and sisters on the same journey!