Being spiritual has become a popular thing these days. We have more spiritual people, teachers, books, events, and even stores, than ever! But what does this all really mean? Is being spiritual better, and if so is our world better due to all these spiritual concentrations?
From as far back in history as we can glimpse, something has driven the human being to search for and connect with that higher, deeper and broader part of itself. From this sense, spirituality is no new fad. At some point the spiritual path became organized, known more traditionally as religion. However, as we’ve seen through the centuries, religion has created more enslavement than liberation of the human spirit. Thus today, as more and more people are awakening, it is no coincidence that they are turning away and leaving organized religion. In doing so, many are coming back to that original spiritual quest. However, just like the word “natural” today has many meanings and misconceptions, so does the term “spiritual”.
My intention for this article therefore, is to help you explore and expand your consciousness about what being spiritual actually means, so that you get the real and tangible benefits of spirituality by cultivating spiritual integrity. After all, if we want depth, we must go below the surface.
Do you think that you are spiritual? What makes you think so? Have you ever considered what it really takes to be spiritual? Is it in being part of a religion, or not being part of a religion? Does one need to study spiritual disciplines or have some accreditation in spirituality to be spiritual? Is it in the books one reads, or events one attends, or rituals they practice? Does being a good person make you spiritual? And what does it mean to be good? Is spirituality found in how we talk, how we act, what we wear, or what jobs we hold? Does being spiritual mean you have to forgo material goods or financial wealth? Is spirituality inherited or is it learned? All of these are important questions to consider for yourself to explore your ideas and beliefs about spirituality because what limits our growth and fullest life expression is not how spiritual we may ever become but how restricted we are by our belief systems. The more rigid and narrow our thinking, the more we miss and dismiss the big picture of it all.
In truth, spirituality isn’t one fixed state, it is dynamic. It is also not easily defined. It is expressed in degrees, along a spectrum that will vary and change throughout out lives. Sure, spirituality can include all, some or none of the things mentioned above. They are all more like the decorations on a holiday tree. What we want to get at, to best understand spirituality and what it truly means to be spiritual, is the core. In the case of our analogy, the tree itself. The core of your being is where we will find the best representation of your spirituality. Let’s explore this further.
Notice that the word spiritual has the word spirit in it. Right off the start this should imply some good understanding of and connection with our spirit, and Spirit in the bigger sense. How well do you know yourself to be more than your body or mind? In truth, we are neither of these things, and the more we grasp and feel and know this, the more we tap into the core of spirituality. There is more to you and more to life than meets the eye, and it is in that internal knowing that we access the deepest states of spirituality and parts of our spiritual nature.
Other than that, the core of Spirit, as we’ve been guided to see, feel and understand through the ages is love. Now of course how we each understand and define love will vary subjectively, just like any other term or concept. At the highest level though, we can say that love is being connected. It is all encompassing, non-discriminating and unconditional. Love respects, nurtures, honors and does not impose or impede upon the will of another. Love is also internal, it starts with us and how we treat ourselves. This then spills out and over to all other things and beings, expressions and experiences. Most importantly, love is a state of being, not a state of doing. We can say and do all sorts of things to appear loving to ourselves or others, but if it is not coming from a state of love at the being level, it is just an imitation of love.
That is it, two simple, yet deeply profound parts that make up the core of spirituality. And to me, this is what it is most about; the more connected one is and the more love one expresses universally, the more spirituality is embodied at its core. There is no need to decorate this, it is pure and whole all on its own. And it is unmistakable, and evident in those who truly experience it.
How do we reach or develop though that spiritual core of our being? Well, this is where those books, or events, or lifestyle changes can help. They won’t necessarily make you spiritual, but they can point the way to develop the core of your being, and strengthen your connection to Spirit and expressions of love. Ultimately, spirituality is always there, within us. We don’t need to do something to get it, we just need to get out of our own way with all of our beliefs and preconceptions to experience it, and allow this natural state of our Divine being to come through.
Externally, spirituality can easily be faked and imitated, and whether consciously or unconsciously, we can fool ourselves and others into thinking all sorts of things about our spirituality. On an internal level, however, spirituality cannot be faked. Either we feel connected or we don’t. Either we are feeling and/or expressing love towards ourselves, others, all living beings and our Earth, or we aren’t. There is no space for excuses here or any kind of justification. This is why, one of the most beautiful and integral parts of being spiritual is having spiritual integrity, which we will discuss in more detail later on in this article.
Where Does God Fit In?
Of course a major consideration when discussing the realm of spirituality is God. I’ve often been asked about the importance or significance of this connection, and whether one has to believe in God in order to be spiritual. I’ve addressed that in this video, Can We Be Spiritual Without a Belief in God?, and the quick answer is ‘yes’.
Just like with the term spiritual, the first thing to consider is what we believe or understand God to be. I think it is clear to most of us these days that we do not all perceive God or agree on who or what “God” is in the same way. As our consciousness expands and our understanding broadens, so does our concept of God. From a stern, male figure in the clouds, we’ve seen the evolution of God itself to a more loving and gender-neutral entity over time. Said in another way, God evolves as we evolve. The more connected we become and the more we are able to conceive higher realms of existence, the more sophisticated our model of God becomes. It is naive after all, to think that we can grasp ‘God’ with our limited and narrowly tuned consciousness of this reality. While you are a whole and complete being, I think it is safe to say that none of us are “the Whole” of it all. And so how can a part properly and fully understand the Whole? It can grasp some aspect of the Whole, but unless and until it fully becomes or merges with the Whole it can only depict parts of the Whole and assign its own characteristics to it. This is all too evident throughout our society. The more whole you know yourself to be, the more fully you can grasp the wholeness of God.
Given our varying definitions of terms like spiritual and love, applied to our varying definitions of God, I trust you can see by now that it is no easy feat to classify everyone in the same way. This is just another reason why there are many spiritual people who do not consider themselves spiritual, yet are, and there are many people who consider themselves spiritual or who we may label as spiritual, who do not actually embody the core of spirituality. We can conclude the same here about God. What God means varies drastically amongst people, and believing in God and being spiritual can be two very exclusive things.
Where Do Rituals Fit In?
Another important area for consideration under the umbrella of spirituality, which creates a lot of confusion and misrepresentation, is that of rituals. With the expansion of and popularity of all things spiritual, many rituals have arisen on top of the many already existing ones. Since we’ve become a highly materialistic and productivity focused society, it is no coincidence that today many people are more attracted to doing spiritual things and having spiritual things, than actually being spiritual.
Recall that spirituality is all about being connected to Spirit and expressing the highest state of love. It is not found in cards or crystals, mantras or affirmations, or any kind of worship. If you rely on or use any “spiritual rituals” I invite you to examine your rituals, what you do and most importantly why you do it. Many rituals can be nice and helpful, but the intention behind their use is what matters most. For example, if you are doing anything out of fear, then you’ve blocked your connection to Source and love. For example, some people use specific rituals to “protect” themselves from “negative energies”. This is an example of doing something out of fear. In truth, you have nothing to protect yourself from, nothing to fear and no “negative energies” can impact you if YOU are connected and vibrating at a high frequency of love. (Low frequency energies can only attract and impact similar low frequency energies.)
All too often, unfortunately, rituals are unconsciously used to prop up the spiritual identity of the Ego. By doing something spiritual, we then mistaken ourselves for being spiritual, but the two are by no means equivalent. So if there is some act or tool that you would like to use or engage with, it can be just fine as long as you are doing it for the love of doing, not because you think you have to or think you should. Keep the thinking out it in fact, to avoid fueling your Ego’s spiritual identity. Follow the wisdom of your heart instead. This is perhaps the best and most important “ritual”, if you’d like to cal it that, that anyone can ever practice.
Ultimately, nothing spiritual needs to be done to be spiritual. A ritual can point the way, but it is not the way. Yes, some tools, props or rituals can be valuable, but they are not required. You don’t need to chant, or read angel cards, or sleep with crystals under your pillow. You can if you like and if that brings you joy, but you don’t have to. Intention is where it is all at. This is the power and potential of our Divine human nature: we can create through intention.
One of the biggest areas therefore to understand true spirituality is to know that there is a big difference between “thinking it” and “being it”. I can read all the spiritual books and attend all the spiritual programs, and even get myself a spiritual Guru to learn from, but this is no guarantee of me having spiritual integrity. Sure to onlookers, my efforts may appear very noble, but so do those of the people who walk into churches each Sunday week after week, year after year. Do you see the connection? On the surface it all appears lovely, but beneath the surface it lacks substance. With such an approach no wonder we can’t seem to get anywhere, personally and collectively on Earth. How many Sundays in church or hours of meditation will it take for us to stop acts of violence against other humans or animals? Many people I come across, for example, complain that they mediate and it doesn’t help much, or that they study the work of various spiritual teachers or texts and nothing really changes. And it won’t, until you choose to change!
Spirituality is neither instant magic, nor a laborious quest. It is, as with all things, what we choose to make of it. This includes what we allow ourselves to express and what we are ready to experience. Some people meditate for years and their life and sense of inner peace is no better than some of those who never try meditation. Others may have one profound experience in nature and have their lives completely transformed. There is no pattern, no formula, no guarantee. It all and always comes down to what you make of it.
We can hide behind spiritual talk, wear spiritual clothes, or attend spiritual programs, but more often than not, these just create a lovely new identity for the Ego to uphold, as shared in the ritual section above. True spirituality is lived and embodied, and ultimately needs none of those things. Why? Because we are spirit at the core of our being. We are always connected. What we do, however, in this life experience is block that connection with the many illusions and limits that we put upon ourselves or buy into. Then yes, it seems necessary to take “the spiritual journey” to unblock all that, but the truth is that liberation is a choice that takes a moment. You don’t need practices, rituals, or lifetimes. You only need this moment. What do you choose? Love, or not? Peace, or not? Do you choose heart-centered thoughts, words and actions, or do you choose behavior that is out of alignment with the highest expressions of love and peace?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines integrity as “the quality of being honest and fair”, and “the state of being complete or whole”. While it is essential to be honest with ourselves in any spiritual undertakings, I believe it is in that latter or second definition that we get the most benefit for understanding what spiritual integrity is all about. Think about it, if we are complete or whole we don’t compete for attention or affection with others, or compete for anything in fact. If we are complete and whole, we don’t need anything from the outside to make us feel complete and whole. If we are complete and whole, we recognize our incredible potential. If we are complete and whole, we don’t act from fear. I hope you see how profound these implications are when it comes to understanding what it really means to be spiritual, and how they can be applied to every area of your life; every thought, word and action you have or make. From your relationships to your work, from your food to your lifestyle choices, it all counts!
Does such spiritual integrity raise the bar too high? I don’t think so. I think it is time for us to stop playing small, stop deluding ourselves, and step up to the plate of our human and divine potential. There is a time and place for games, but this is not it. If we want to understand ourselves, our origin, our purpose, and our reality, we need to stop sabotaging ourselves. If you want an authentic life, if you want to transcend human drama and suffering, if you want to have a positive impact on others, if you want to know the highest potential of your being, then this is it: Embrace and embody spiritual integrity.
As I shared with you in the introduction, if we want depth, we must go below the surface. This is the crux of it all. Labelling ourselves or any other person as spiritual is no reflection of the truth, it is just a label, a surface perception. True spirituality is lived and embodied in how we act and respond to ourselves, others, nature and all life. And we should never be concerned with how spiritual or not spiritual others are, but focus on us, ourselves. This is where the rubber meets the road, because unless and until we attain some profound level of telepathic communication we will never really know what is in the mind and heart of any other. Besides, this is your journey, so focus on who YOU are.
And if you want the many beautiful and transformational benefits that come from true spirituality, you must be willing to dive beneath the surface. The deeper you go, the more perspective you gain, and the more connected you become. And the more you strengthen your connection, the more complete and whole you know yourself to be, and the more your life becomes a living testament of love, joy and peace.
Evita Ochel is a consciousness expansion teacher, whose diverse passions and expertise span all areas of the mind, body, and spirit. She is a writer, speaker, holistic nutritionist, yoga and meditation teacher, web TV host, and author of Healing & Prevention Through Nutrition. Evita is the creator of several online publications that feature hundreds of articles and videos, as well as classes and courses to empower individuals to consciously create their life and be the change they wish to see. For more information about her work, visit: www.evitaochel.com