By: Jeffrey Craig
Growing up, I didn’t know much about spirituality. I heard the term, but didn’t quite grasp the context. I assumed it was synonymous with religion since that was usually the only time I heard it. Spirituality to me was some outside force beyond our existence. It was God, Allah, Krishna, and all the above. It was something I could not relate to because I couldn’t see it.
As I got older, I began to see spirituality take on other forms. I started noticing this “hippie” culture that claimed that they were not religious, but instead, deeply spiritual. They felt their spiritual connection through nature and meditation. Although this was the first time I had really experienced the concept of spirituality being separated from religion, it still seemed quite off. I still didn’t understand what spirituality was.
I spent several years studying religion and spirituality. I read up on Buddhism, Meditation, Chakras, and the like. I still couldn’t find a precise definition. Spirituality was still a mystery to me.
Then one day, it all made sense. Nothing spectacular happened to cause this epiphany. I simply was walking on the pier in Huntington Beach, California. This is a stop I would regularly make on my runs. I was walking down the pier, looking at everything around me. In that moment, I was incredibly present. I noticed the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, the birds flying above me toward the sunset, couples walking hand in hand exchanging smiles. It was in this moment I felt more aware of my existence than ever before. I felt completely singular, yet completely connected at the same time. I was awakened to the universe existing outside of me.
This was when I realized exactly what spirituality is. Looking back at my life, I recognized experiences I had that were similar to this recent one. Experiences where I felt fully present and aware of my existence. Each experience was different in its own way, however, there was a common thread throughout. Every spiritual experience I had involved connecting with nature, others, or myself.
Spirituality is not about religion or perfection. It is about finding a connection to something larger than ourselves and it is through that connection that we can find purpose, meaning, and fulfillment in our lives. Spirituality touches us all. It is not just for the religious, the holy, or the infallible. It does not require us to light incense or live a certain lifestyle. The hippie in the woods can be just as spiritually enlightened as the millionaire CEO driving a Bentley. That’s the most beautiful part about spiritual living. It can be a part of anyone’s life, we simply have to let it in.
Once I discovered spirituality and what a powerful impact it had on my life, I sought out opportunities to experience more. I wanted to grow spiritually and find ways to incorporate it into my daily life. Below, I have compiled a list of 10 practices that I have found useful in my spiritual growth journey.
Back in the day, it seemed to be that meditation was just for Buddhists, hippies, and gurus. But recent studies have shown that meditation has risen in popularity. Science has been able to provide evidence of numerous health benefits from meditation. When we look deeper into what meditation is, we discover how it can lead to spiritual growth. Meditation focuses on quieting the mind and being present.
One of the things preventing our spiritual growth is that annoying voice inside our head that refuses to shut the hell up. It is hard to be present in our lives if we have something that pulls our mind to a million other things. Meditation focuses on silencing that voice so that we may live in our present experience fully. When our mind is still, we are free to experience what surrounds us.
- Connect with Nature
Yes, the hippies got something right. Nature holds the key to a vast potential for spiritual growth. In modern culture, we are constantly surrounded by tall buildings, shopping malls, and freeways. We have lost touch with good old mother nature. We have forgotten that we are not the only living organisms on this planet. We share our existence with billions of other life forms.
When we spend time in nature, we are given the opportunity to reconnect to a part of our existence we have recently lost. It is through this connection that we derive a greater meaning and purpose to our lives. Plus, have you ever seen a waterfall up close? It’s pretty fucking amazing!
- Find Gratitude and Lose Ego
One of my biggest struggles throughout my personal development journey has been my ego. I have allowed my mind to convince me that I didn’t have enough, that I wasn’t enough, and that everyone else had more than I did. I know now that I am not the only person who has struggled with this feeling.
We are products of our society, and this is simply what we were taught to think. The problem with this is when our ego controls our mind, it blocks us from connecting to our present existence. We focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do have.
Gratitude practices are a great tool for spiritual growth. It pulls us to the present, it fills us with joy, and it connects us to our existence. If we can spend less time focusing on what we are lacking and more time on the blessings as they exist in our lives, we will have a stronger sense of spirituality.
- Ask Difficult Questions
Most conversations today involve something we saw on TV or gossip about people we know. Modern day dialogue is about as shallow as a kiddie pool. In a culture overly concerned about remaining politically correct, we have filtered our conversations down to meaningless drivel. We are afraid to ask the hard questions, not only to others, but even ourselves. We don’t want to offend, we don’t want to make someone uncomfortable, WE don’t want to be uncomfortable. What remains are surface level relationships that lack spiritual connectedness.
Asking difficult questions challenges us to be vulnerable, to open up. It requires us to truly think about important issues and ideas. We may have thought one way about something our whole lives until we sit down and really think about our answers.
By asking others difficult questions, we are opening up a safe space for them to be who they really are instead of what happened on the last episode of Game of Thrones. It allows us to see just how different we are, but also how similar we are to one another. When we connect on this deeper level, it allows us to develop meaning from our relationships. It is when we go below the surface that our spirituality truly thrives.
- Be Authentic
Living in one’s true authentic self is one of most spiritual experiences a person can have. It’s real, raw, and beautiful. But how often are we being truly authentic? I used to think I was always myself. I would wear the clothes I liked, I would take part in activities I enjoyed, and I spent time with people I cared about. It wasn’t until recently I was able to look deeper into myself and see that there were little things I was doing or not doing that did not fall in line with being authentic.
Being authentic is more than just related to our interests, it is related to our behavior and how we interact with our environment. Speaking up when we believe something is wrong, communicating our true emotions instead of acting out in anger, and unconditionally accepting our flaws instead of ignoring them are all ways of being more authentic. It is when we can be our true, honest, unfiltered self that we grow spiritually. When we are authentic, we gain a stronger understanding as to the context of our existence.
- Change Your Perspective
It is quite common for us as humans to see things in a one dimensional way. When we have a view or opinion on something, it is near impossible to change it. Well it is hard to connect spiritually if we are stuck in a one dimensional world. Although it is not easy, taking a step back and looking at the big picture of a situation can have a drastic impact on our spirituality.
When we view things from a different perspective, doors are opened. We see things that we have seen one way our whole lives in a brand new light. It allows the opportunity to change course in our lives. It enables awareness of not only ourselves, but our entire worldview.
- Find Your Purpose
Many of us roam through life on autopilot. We wake up, go work a meaningless job, come home, and go to bed, only to repeat this process the next day. Many of us work jobs that bring us no sense of purpose or fulfillment. They simply pay the bills. It is because of this that many of us lack a spiritual connection.
The need to provide value to our existence is built into our DNA. If we are not living a life of meaning, then it makes it very difficult to grow spiritually. This does not mean we need to have a different job, a higher paying job, or hold a position of authority. It means that the present is the only time we have and if we are not pulling meaning and fulfillment from what we are doing, something needs to change. The important thing is to find meaning and value in the work we do NOW.
We all have a gift to share with this world. The challenge is to find it, live it, and share it with others. When we live our purpose, our life holds meaning. Our existence holds value.
- Do What Sets Your Soul on Fire
Have you ever seen someone living in their passion? I can remember one such moment quite vividly. I was on a beach in Kauai with some new friends I had made. One of the locals had brought his ukulele to the bonfire and began playing some of his favorite songs. He wasn’t there to perform or impress anyone. He was simply sharing something that he loves with those around him. As he played, I could feel this force surround us. He was living in his passion and it was through this that he created a spiritual experience for all of us.
We often spend so much time working or catering to others, that we lose sight of our passions. The amazing thing is a passion can be different for everyone. For one person it can be painting, for another it can be surfing, and for someone else, it can be dancing. There are no rules when it comes to having something we are passionate about. The challenge is finding what that is and making it a part of our daily life.
The best way to find our passion is to try new things. We must break out of our comfort bubble and try new experiences that challenge us to learn something outside our norm. Once we find something that sets our soul on fire, the next challenge is living it. By incorporating our passions into our lives, we will grow spiritually. It gives us a reason to breathe. It reminds us that although life can often times be quite shitty, at least there is this one thing that we can do that makes it all melt away.
- Rights of Passage
For those who are unaware of what this means, or the context in which I am using it, a right of passage is an event signifying a transition of one stage in a person’s life to another. This term is often used in relation to the transition of boyhood to manhood, however, it can be used at numerous points in any individual’s life. Rights of passage are amazing opportunities to grow spiritually.
A couple years ago, some friends and I took a camping trip in the Sequoias. It had been my first time camping in several years and my first time ever camping “off the grid.” I took this trip because I felt city life had made me soft and I needed to challenge myself. This trip was FILLED with challenges, but the experience made me so much stronger than I was. It was a true right of passage. It was in that experience, I was reminded of my own mortality, fragility, and strength. I was forced to look at my existence and acknowledge that despite my own weaknesses, I had a resilience in me that was undeniable.
These moments of clarity and self realization play a significant role in spiritual growth. It reminds us of who we are and why we are here.
- Loving Kindness
Love is one of the greatest aspects of the spiritual experience. Love is the common thread found among all religions. It costs nothing and cannot run out. Despite this, it seems our world is suffering from a dramatic lack of love. Today, our minds are ruled by fear and loneliness. At some point, we forgot how to love. But it is never too late.
We all want love in our lives. Some of us resort to desperate measures to find it. But love is not something that we receive. Love is not a material object. Love is a way of living. It is a force that comes from within and spreads to those that surround us.
Love is essential for spiritual growth. Love connects all things and transcends our physical existence. The best way to experience love is to live it through our actions. Loving kindness is not limited to just those we know, it extends to everyone we meet. Simply saying a kind word to a stranger can make a drastic impact on their life and yours.
Loving kindness connects us to one another. It reminds us that we are all in this together. We all hurt, we all struggle, we all make mistakes. Love reminds us that despite all the bad in the world, there is just as much potential for good. I dare you to go hug a stranger today and tell me it doesn’t make you feel amazing and spiritually connected.
Spirituality is something that separates us from the world around us, yet connects everything together simultaneously. It is not something that can’t be seen, touched, or heard. It must be felt. By growing spiritually, we gain understanding of our existence. Spiritual growth allows us to find meaning in why we are here and what to do with time we have. Spirituality allows for stronger, deeper, more meaningful relationships with those around us. It brings purpose and fulfillment to our lives.
It took a long time for me to understand spirituality, and I still have a lot to learn. Living spiritually isn’t easy. Some may think you’re weird, some may think you’re crazy, but it is through the steps above that I have been able bring more meaning and joy into my life than ever before. Call me a hippy all you want; I’d rather