One of the great gifts of spiritual knowledge is that it realigns your sense of self to something you may not have even ever imagined was within you. Spirituality says that even if you think you're limited and small, it simply isn't so. You're greater and more powerful than you have ever imagined. A great and divine light exists inside of you. This same light is also in everyone you know and in everyone you will ever know in the future. You may think you're limited to just your physical body and state of affairs — including your gender, race, family, job, and status in life — but spirituality comes in and says "there is more than this."
Notice that spirit sounds similar to words like inspire and expire. This is especially appropriate because when you're filled with spiritual energy, you feel great inspiration, and when the spiritual life force leaves your body, your time on this earth expires. These are two of the main themes of the spiritual journey:
- Allowing yourself to be filled with inspiration, which also translates into love, joy, wisdom, peacefulness, and service.
- Remembering that an inevitable expiration awaits to take you away from the very circumstances you may think are so very important right now.
The study of spirituality goes deeply into the heart of every matter and extends far beyond the physical world of matter. Spirituality connects you with the profoundly powerful and divine force that's present in this universe. Whether you're looking for worldly success, inner peace, or supreme enlightenment, no knowledge can propel you to achieve your goals and provide as effective a plan for living as does spiritual knowledge.
Going beyond the physical world
Perhaps the best way to think about a spiritual approach to the world is to contrast it with a more common materialistic approach.
- The materialistic approach: The materialistic approach relies primarily on empirical evidence provided by the five senses — what can literally be seen, heard, tasted, touched, or smelled. This approach depends on the outer appearances of things to decide how and what to think and feel about them. A materialistic person fixes whatever may be wrong or out of place in his or her world by moving things around and effecting outer changes.
- The spiritual approach: In contrast, the spiritual way is to see beyond mere outer appearances and the five senses to an intuitive perception of the causes behind outer conditions. Someone with a spiritual approach may change and uplift their world by first transforming and improving his or her own vision.
One of the main teachings of spirituality is to look within and find what you seek within yourself. The external world is ephemeral, temporary, and ever changing; in fact, your body will die one day, sweeping all those worldly accoutrements away like a mere pile of dust. Your inner realm, on the other hand, is timeless, eternal, and deeply profound.
Knowing how spirituality differs from religion
Although religion and spirituality are sometimes used interchangeably, they really indicate two different aspects of the human experience. You might say that spirituality is the mystical face of religion.
- Spirituality is the wellspring of divinity that pulsates, dances, and flows as the source and essence of every soul. Spirituality relates more to your personal search, to finding greater meaning and purpose in your existence. Some elements of spirituality include the following:
• Looking beyond outer appearances to the deeper significance and soul of everything
• Love and respect for God
• Love and respect for yourself
• Love and respect for everybody
Religion is most often used to describe an organized group or culture that has generally been sparked by the fire of a spiritual or divine soul. Religions usually act with a mission and intention of presenting specific teachings and doctrines while nurturing and propagating a particular way of life.
Religion and spirituality can blend beautifully
Different religions can look quite unlike one another. Some participants bow to colorful statues of deities, others listen to inspired sermons while dressed in their Sunday finery, and yet others set out their prayer rugs five times a day to bow their heads to the ground. Regardless of these different outer manifestations of worship, the kernel of religion is spirituality, and the essence of spirituality is God or the Supreme Being.
- Beyond all religions yet containing all religions
- Beyond all science yet containing all science
- Beyond all philosophy yet containing all philosophy
As one becomes more spiritual, animalistic aggressions of fighting and trying to control the beliefs of other people can be cast off like an old set of clothes that no longer fits. In fact, many seekers begin to feel that every image of divinity is just one more face of their own, eternally ever-present God.
Loving and respecting all religions and images of God doesn't mean that you have to agree with all their doctrines. In fact, you don't even have to believe and agree with every element and doctrine of your own religion! This goes for any teachings you may encounter along your path. Everybody thinks that what they are doing is right. That's what's so fun about the world. Everybody is doing something different, and each one believes deep in his soul that what he believes is right — some with more contemplation and conviction than others.