Spirituality is anything that uplifts us.”Swami Kriyananda
Taking this definition into our hearts, we can look at spirituality as whatever makes us a better person, helps us live in more joy and laughter, or raises our consciousness.
Practical spirituality is about applying our spirituality to our daily lives.
It’s about how you can experience more joy and peace of mind, access your individual center of creativity, lead a healthier, more balanced life, and be of greater service to our human family through self-discovery and positive growth.
Spirituality Is Different for Each One of Us
Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives.
Some people’s spiritual life revolves around their association with a church, temple, mosque, or synagogue.
For others, it’s more personal and inward. They get in touch with their spiritual side through private prayer, yoga, meditation, quiet reflection, art, creativity, or long walks in nature.
People may describe a spiritual experience as sacred or transcendent or simply a deep sense of aliveness and interconnectedness.
Like your sense of purpose, your personal definition of spirituality may change throughout your life, adapting to your own experiences and relationships.
Religion is belief in someone’s experience; Spirituality is having your own experience.”
Spirituality Is About Connection
In general, spirituality includes a sense of connection to something beyond, higher, bigger than our little egoic selves. It’s the way we experience our connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.
We live surrounded by an ocean of spiritual energy.
Our life, our body, our breath are animated by this energy which is also called life force, prana, or qi.
Each one of us has a spiritual nature—just as we all have an intellectual, emotional, and will nature. To experience our connection with spirit is a universal human need—something that touches us all.
It’s about your own relationship to the highest reality in the universe, and to your own bliss-nature.
You don’t even have to believe in a higher power.
You could just say it’s about connecting with your own higher self.
Spirituality Is About Meaning And Purpose
Spirituality typically involves a search for meaning and purpose in life. We start to examine ourselves and our way of life. We ask questions such as:
- Who am I?
- Why am I suffering?
- Where does my happiness come from?
- Why am I here?
- What is the meaning of life?
- What is real?
- What am I going to do in this life?
- How can I live my life in the best way possible?
- Who created the universe?
- Do things happen for a reason?
- What happens after death?
And then we start our search for the truth about ourselves and the universe.
We may turn to our childhood faith, organized religion, or the ancient teachings of the East to find answers to these universal, age-old questions.
Spiritual Life Magazine will help you in your search by selecting the best of the ancient teachings of East and West—adapted for us living in this modern age—and by offering a practical approach to spirituality that you can put to immediate use to improve your life and well-being.
What Are We Connecting With?
Now we’ve been talking about connecting with something beyond ourselves.
But what does that mean? To whom (or what) are we really relating?
So we come to this word, “God.”
God is an exceedingly unfortunate word in English because it has absolutely no specific meaning. In addition, many people have childhood associations with God as a judge, punishment, hell and eternal damnation.
They reject the whole concept because the only explanation of God that’s ever been given to them is so profoundly unattractive or so illogical or so just narrow, that no thinking person would want it.
But that doesn’t mean that that’s what God is. That’s just how people define it.
I prefer the Sanskrit word, “satchidananda.”
Sat-chid-ananda means ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new joy.
Now let’s think about that from the point of view of what do I want in my life.
We don't want to be snuffed out. We have this terrible fear of everything being taken away from us, don't we? Of just becoming nothing, of entering a dark void. This is where our fear of dying comes from.
So we want ever-existing, eternal life.
But what’s the good of existing, if we’re not aware of our existence? And what’s the good of being aware of our existence, if it’s miserable?
So we all want ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new joy.
Well, who would not desire that?
We might not believe it’s possible, but certainly it’s something worth aspiring to, isn't it?
So we want an experience of satchidananda.
But the problem with using the word “satchidananda” is that it’s long, hard to spell, and in a language that most of us don’t know—Sanskrit.
So I’m going to just use the word “God”—knowing that it really means satchidananda—because it’s simpler and more convenient.
In addition, we don’t want to get hung up on terms like “soul,” “God,” or “spirit”—we are happy with any terminology you feel comfortable with.
Too much wrangling over God has clouded the fact that the spiritual dimension of life is natural.
It exists within everyone, as the deepest level of the self and emerges spontaneously in moments of joy, love, and creativity; in reverence for natural beauty; and awe before the infinite expanse of the universe.
Spirituality and Emotions
Spirituality is about a meaningful connection with something larger than yourself, and that connection results in positive emotions, such as peace, awe, contentment, gratitude, and acceptance.
And then, cultivating this positive state of mind expands your outlook and helps you recognize and integrate this connection.
On the other hand, it’s hard to find meaning and connection in life if you are ruminating over negative emotions.
Likewise, it can be difficult to cultivate positive emotions, such as gratitude and compassion, if you don’t recognize a larger perspective or sense of interconnectedness in the world.
Thus, many spiritual practices deal with improving our emotional well-being.
But there’s a deeper, more esoteric connection between our spirituality and our emotions.
The experience of God comes through our feeling nature.
The Indian scriptures say that God comes to us through eight aspects: love, joy, peace, calmness, light, sound, power, wisdom.
Notice that the first four aspects are feelings because, as we said above, God is joy, bliss. The quality of bliss is the feeling quality. And when we experience the divine within us, it comes to us as a feeling quality.
It’s not just some sort of dry idea.
And even the other four carry with them feelings of the first four. So, for example, wisdom requires deep calmness. You can see this even in your own life—how hard it is to think clearly or make wise decisions when your emotions are agitated.
This is why the first step in meditation is to calm the mind and heart.
And the first benefit many people notice from their practice is peace.
Thus, our spiritual and emotional well-being are connected, deeply integrated with each
other. They influence one another and overlap.
An Authentic Spiritual Life
To be truly spiritual we have to stop pretending to be something different than we are.
Some people have a false notion of what it means to be spiritual and try to put it on like a costume for a party. They imagine that spirituality is something we can wear from the outside.
This simply doesn’t work.
God already knows who you are and loves you just the way you are.
When you approach the divine in a false way, pretending to be some sort of ultra-spiritual holy person, he withdraws from you because you are not being sincere with yourself and the divinity within.
We Start Where We Are
Following a spiritual path is like undertaking any other journey. We can't get to our ultimate spiritual goal from any place in the universe except right where we’re standing.
It’s not like we go shopping and pick out all these nice characteristics: I would like to be more quiet and inward; I would like to talk less; I would like to be more organized and focused.
We can’t just buy them and paste them on whatever kind of a person we are now. Instead, we have to develop our own qualities and inclinations on higher and higher levels. We can’t just suppress them and become someone else.
And all of the roiling, confused feelings within us have to be lifted, focused, refined until they become that perfect love for God.
It does not benefit you to be at war with your self.
We think sometimes that the way to transmute the qualities in us that we would like to be more elevated is to consider them our enemies. But they're really not our enemies because they are the very clay from which the new self is going to be built.
They may need to be coaxed into another reality, but if we’re divided against ourselves, we just make our inner atmosphere tense and unhappy.
It eventually brings more and more conflict instead of more and more resolution.
Being Ourselves and Changing Too
Now that’s not to say that we can just sort of drift like a leaf on a calm stream into Self-realization.
But that we start from where we are with self-acceptance, honesty and courage.
An enormous amount of introspection, of ever more sophisticated self-understanding—of redirecting of our energy is absolutely required.
But you’re not at war with yourself.
We are simply working together with God to take the raw material of who I am and bring it up to what I really want it to be.
It’s more a process of removing the obstacles that obscure our true nature. Then our soul, our inner light can shine through.
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”Albert Einstein
Practical Approach to Spirituality
For me, spirituality must be practical. That is, I want to see definite results and benefits in my life.
What we practice is what transforms our lives. And what you practice constitutes your personal spirituality—not what you merely believe in, but what you practice.
What you practice, you ultimately embody, paving the way for breakthroughs, insights, fresh realizations, and the evolution of consciousness.
Now the beauty and power of this is that there’s no aspect of life that you can’t participate in.
So we practice with the tiniest things: I want new windows for my house because it’ll make it a warmer, more loving place for the family.v
We can make whatever it is we’re doing—building a house, making lunch, raising our child, teaching in the school, creating something beautiful—a true emanation of that inner feeling of the divine that is in us.
Spirituality For Modern Life
As our planet moves away from the dark age of form and matter, and into a new age of energy, spirituality becomes less about authority and more about our own experience.
It’s about Self-realization and not about which church you go to.
To seek happiness outside ourselves is like trying to lasso a cloud. Happiness is not a thing: It is a state of mind. It must be lived.”Paramhansa Yogananda
Ultimately, the responsibly for our spiritual life can only be in our own hands.
No one can make us love God. We have to choose to love him. We have to choose to be happy. And no one can save us from our own delusions unless we want to be saved.
Simple—not always easy.
But I know you can do it!
Let’s lead a more practical spiritual life and transform ourselves and our lives for the better.
Let’s be open to new ideas, so that we may experience for ourselves how this can truly take place, step by step.
The article, “What Is Practical Spirituality,” originally appeared in the inaugural issue of Spiritual Life Magazine. You can read the rest of this issue and discover more about this and related subjects by signing up below.