Misunderstanding Spirituality

Do you consider yourself spiritual? What does being spiritual mean to you, and how does that affect how you live? Unless you’re new here (if you are, welcome!), you know that spirituality is very important to me, and I try to bring a high level of consciousness to how I live. Recently, I got on to thinking about what being spiritual means, and how that may be misunderstood sometimes.

We shouldn’t want money

money

I bet you know someone who believes that being spiritual means giving up all things worldly and that it’s unspiritual to have material desires. However, that isn’t true. Those who’re vested in spiritual awakening know that true happiness comes from within, not from amassing stuff. This recognition may reduce their appetite for seeking gratification from the material world. Yet, there is no crime in living a comfortable life. Enjoying life is part of why our souls took on physical bodies to experience what isn’t possible in the spirit world.

Moreover, the human experience also comes with a very practical side to which all of us must attend, i.e., shelter, food and clothing at the very minimum. Money, like everything, is energy. Paying bills for goods and services rendered is one form of energy exchange. It can be done with the highest consciousness. I like the advice by Rhonda Byrne in The Magic, to bless our bills and to express gratitude for the money we have to pay for what we need and want. Money is anything but evil; only our judgment makes it so.

We don’t need to plan or take action

It’s easy to misinterpret what surrendering and listening for Divine Guidance means and to take it too far to mean no action needs to be taken. I learned this lesson the hard way myself. Yes, surrender the need for controlling events and people, because control emanates from fear. Besides, there’s precious little in life we can truly control anyway. And, yes also to seeking guidance from the highest part of ourselves that’s connected to cosmic wisdom. Depending on your specific orientation, you may know this wisdom as God or simply your inner wisdom.

museum

Ultimately, it isn’t a random coincidence we each have a powerful mind. It’s for the purpose of taking the higher guidance we receive and turning it into meaningful action. The key is not to let the mind drive but to leverage its power to carry out what’s for the highest good of all involved—ourselves and those we were born to serve. I see it as collaboration with God, a process of constant checking in, listening, turning guidance into plans and action, asking, listening some more, and course-correcting, if necessary.

We don’t need to learn or grow

Self-acceptance is a key lesson in spiritual awakening. We’re told we’re whole, perfect and complete, and we needn’t change a thing to be loved, because we’re inherently lovable. Also, unless we can come to unconditional acceptance of ourselves, we can’t truly accept others either. Instead, all we can see are their flaws and shortcomings.

I don’t know many people who have actually come to complete self-acceptance. Personally, I’ve come a long way in this department, but am still very aware of insecurities and ways in which feelings of not good enough can easily be resurrected. I recognize that these struggles with being human are all part of the growth and evolution my soul came into this life to experience. As a further personal note, I also know that it’s my job to be willing to share these lessons as I learn them on my own journey of spiritual evolution.

Accepting ourselves doesn’t mean we stagnate and don’t learn or grow. It just means we truly understand that the lessons and growth don’t come from trying to improve ourselves in order to be deserving. Rather, the learning and growing stems from the struggles with humanness we experience such that our spirit can evolve.

wrong

We’re never wrong

If we’re fully living from our highest self and connected to cosmic wisdom, we’d never get anything wrong, right? Not. Right vs. wrong is a human judgment. Above human consciousness and interpretation, things just are. Good vs. bad, favorable vs. unfavorable in any way are all makings of our human mind, not our higher self. I’ve learned that, as long as I can remember that everything I experience is for the benefit of my spiritual evolution, it isn’t detrimental that I’m wrong in the human sense, even as ego is right there to cloud my consciousness with gripping shame and guilt. Related to the above point about learning and growing, not worrying about being wrong is all part of spiritual growth.

We’re never afraid

This, for me, was probably the biggest of the biggies for quite some time. Who wants to face fear? Not me! More than five years ago, when I began my quest to awaken spiritually, I was naïve enough to believe that once I “got there,” I’d never feel afraid again. I believed I’d be so evolved and so super-charged with faith that fear would cease to exist. Boy, talk about being wrong!

Over time, I’ve written about honoring our emotions, including the profound experience I had last year from listening to difficult emotions and embracing vulnerability earlier this year. Fear is nothing more than a messenger to tell us we’re about to break through in a major way—and sometimes to tell us that we are indeed in danger and need to seek safer grounds. Courage is on the other side of the same coin as fear. Fear is a reminder that, on our spiritual journey in human form, we have a choice to flip the coin to the other side.

Being spiritual doesn’t mean that unwanted emotions will never be felt again or that we can avoid them altogether. Rather, by deepening our consciousness, we cultivate our readiness to recognize the purpose served by feeling afraid—and other difficult emotions.

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We are all spiritual beings having a human experience. While recognizing that we are more than our bodies, being spiritual doesn’t require us to reject being human. On the contrary, it’s about cultivating the perspective to honor the human experience just as it is without judgment.

Now, over to you: What does being spiritual mean to you? What may be some of the things you thought being spiritual meant but have since developed a different understanding? Would you kindly share your insights?

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About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

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18 comments
vtugaleva
vtugaleva

Thank you, Alice, for bringing this simple wisdom into the light. I find that, ironically, people who call themselves spiritual can be as spiritually anorexic as those who call themselves atheists. It is not really about the words we use, but rather the way we perceive ourselves. Our relationship with ourselves multiplies all over our relation to everything else. Misunderstanding of spirituality is, in most cases, just a misunderstanding of the self. Most people in western society have no idea how powerful or beautiful they are.

Deone_Higgs
Deone_Higgs

Personally, I think you've done an awesome job here defining what spirituality means, Alice. Having grown up with a very strict Pentecostal upbringing, I was lead to believe many of the fallacies you've mentioned in this beautifully stated piece. I am indeed glad at this stage in my life that I was exposed to various spiritual teachings in my short career in the Navy. It caused me to be open to life, to the Infinite, and to be more forgiving and accepting of myself. Spirituality, to me, is the acknowledgement of one Source and the many paths that lead us back to that Source. Wonderful read, beloved. I thoroughly enjoyed every word of it. Thank you for sharing it so clearly. Blessings.

AdrienneL
AdrienneL

Since we're all spiritual beings whether we are aware of it or not, I see being spiritual as simply being conscious of what I Am. When I live in tune with my authentic self, I Am happiest.

-Adrienne


And3
And3

As we are visible in the physical plane, we ARE invisible in the spiritual one, both of them DO exist. Therefore, being aware of both of them and realizing  the power of the 'invisible side' has on everything in our lives...for me being spiritual is fusing those two sides of the existence and creating what we really want in life, tranforming the invisible into visible, enjoying in peace every minute in the process...

Thanks....

Andrés. 

cboze1952
cboze1952

Beautiful!!  "....And in the end...."  We can't screw this up!!  Loving you sweet friend!! :) <3 

ThinDifference
ThinDifference

Alice,

Insightful and well thought through. This quote is key: "The key is not to let the mind drive but to leverage its power to carry out what’s for the highest good of all involved—ourselves and those we were born to serve." 

Being spiritual, to me, is about understanding our purpose and then aligning our self to serve this out within the community. We are centered within but putting our purpose into practice. There is a higher cause to what we are doing. As you pointed out, serving is a key element.

This is a topic to think about more, as it helps us to ensure we are living the way we intend to and, maybe more important, the way we were created to.

Thanks!

Jon


karenjolly
karenjolly

Alice,

Beautiful post. Spirituality to me is simply knowing that I am spirit and I am human and to truly be happy in this experience I must embrace it all. For me, its not about perfection or being "better", its all about experiencing. On my spiritual journey I have learned that my humanity is just as important as my spirituality. It is taking the spiritual understanding and expressing it, acting on it, moving with it in my physical experience. And it is quite the dance when I allow it. :)

 I deeply appreciate your sharing these misunderstandings about spirituality. I see many on a spiritual path who stop taking action in their lives. I understand it, because I remember first learning to let go into meditation and the joy was so incredible that's all I wanted to do. But as you get further along your journey you begin to realize that its not just about reconnecting - its about taking action with that inspiration. When inspiration and action combine, the spiritual journey gets so exciting its almost unspeakable. :)

 Thank you again Alice for another wonderful post. You really gave me a pick-me-up this afternoon! xo

Hiten Vyas
Hiten Vyas

Hi Alice,


This was a wonderful post, my friend.


In answer to your question, being spiritual means a number of things to me, personally. It means cultivating good habits that will bring me closer to God, such as fasting at appropriate times in line with the Hindu calender. It means showing love and compassion to all beings, and spreading love to others. It also means learning to understand the human experience, and how the mind works and learning to differentiate and further develop the true Self that is always there, but gets clouded by the ego.

Thank you.

AlliPolin
AlliPolin

Alice, 

I love that spirituality means deepening our consciousness.  I was just having an exchange with someone this week about our spiritual quotient and what that means for our success.  While spirituality is certainly grounded in religion, being spiritually conscious does not mean that we're deeply religious but in a state of being with ourselves with a deep awareness of who we are and our limitations as human beings.  

Will read this post again as I continue to assimilate all that you've shared here and also put it in the context of my last exchange.  Feels crazy how timely this post is but somehow I know it is simply a message that I'm ready to hear and deepen in my own way.  Thank you!

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@vtugaleva Many thanks for finding your way to my blog and for posting your thoughts on this particular topic. Yes, spirituality is very often misunderstood, and I agree with you that spirituality is ultimately about returning to our true Self, not the little self that's ego. Thank you again for sharing.

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DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@Deone_Higgs Many thanks for your very kind words, Deone! As a reformed, converted Catholic, I learned that organized religion as practiced often had little to do with spirituality, especially when the teachings have been based fear and intimidation, that there's a judging, punishing God keeping score of our behavior. Like you, I'm happy to have learned that we all came from the same Source, no matter what we call It/Her/Him. Good to see you here again, my brother!

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@AdrienneL Well said, Adrienne. It really is about living from our authentic self. Thank you for your comment.

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@And3 Thank you for sharing, Andres. This life is very much about remembering who we really are, i.e., infinite beings having a human experience. So, yes, it's very much about straddling the two worlds, always remembering that what we experience as human beings is illusory but not discounting it because we took on this physical body--in the visible plane, as you put it--to experience what we can't in the spirit world. Thanks again.

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@cboze1952 Indeed, we canNOT screw this life up, even if we tried! Love you, too, my friend!

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@ThinDifference Many thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jon. Spirituality is a way of life and a lifelong commitment to living from our highest self. I'm with you in terms of understanding our purpose and putting it in practice to serve. We were indeed created to live a life that's meant to serve a higher purpose. Always great to have you join the conversation.

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@karenjolly Great wisdom and truth you shared here, Karen, thank you! Indeed, we are more than our human self and yet part of being spiritual is to honor our humanity. I love what you said about the combination of inspiration and action leading to an unspeakably exciting spiritual journey. So glad our spiritual paths have crossed, Karen, if only via our blogs at this point. Thank you for sharing your wisdom here!

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@Hiten Vyas Thank you, Hiten, for sharing what spirituality means to you. Personally, I especially love the point about showing love and compassion. Love is who and what we all are. When we love, we live from our ultimate core essence. Always good to read your feedback, my friend!

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@AlliPolin Many thanks for your kind words and reflection, Alli. As a reformed, converted Catholic (!) of more than 10 years, I'd say that organized religion as practiced often has little to do with spirituality. The ironic part is that my pure connection to and experience with Christ when I was 5 years old that ultimately led me to converting to Catholicism was the real thing. It was the feeling of being accepted and loved for who I was without needing to change a thing about myself (which wasn't the message I was getting around me in my young life then). Spirituality really is a conscious remembering of who we really are. Thank you again for your feedback and sharing!

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