Have you ever been around a person who wields their ‘spirituality’ as if it is a deadly weapon? They project a sublime attitude, whilst all the while wanting to beat you over the head with it because they see themselves as superior… and it’s your job to recognise the fact! I have, many times, been lectured about spirituality by flaky twenty-somethings, and passive-aggressively put in my place by intense, middle-aged obsessives… and it’s always incredibly annoying. But, heaven help me if I dare to show that annoyance – it just proves my lack of spiritual awareness! In the past, there have been occasions on which I would respond to a critical email with assertiveness, only to receive a reply along the lines of “Huh, well you aren’t very spiritual!” Okay, you’ve got me there, you’re right – I’m not… if, that is, your version of spirituality is the one that I am supposed to be aspiring to.
So, what does being spiritual actually mean? Well, it can mean anything, as there are probably a thousand different interpretations to pick from! I myself have always believed that spirituality is something that we are rather than something we do. Or, to explain it in a better way, I believe that we are all spiritual by nature, regardless of the beliefs and attitudes we adopt in life. Even the most hardened cynic is still spiritual by nature, even if they aren’t engaging in what are considered to be spiritual activities. Which leads me to another thought: does spirituality need to be seen in order to be real? Does it have to be announced to the world? I think that, at least where some are concerned, the answer to those questions would be yes – because it is important to them to be recognised as being spiritual. And probably not for negative reasons; it could just be that it provides them with a sense of identity.
Modern spirituality (as opposed to religious spirituality) has grown from the ashes of the new-age movement that began life in the seventies, following the hippy flower-power of the sixties. It is now a complete pick-and-mix, tailor-made to suit the individual. And we can dip our toe into it, or dive in and completely immerse ourselves. However, one thing that we shouldn’t do is to use it to elevate ourselves, or adopt a sense of superiority. That approach is the ego’s ally and spirituality’s nemesis! We cannot reasonably believe that we have ‘arrived’ and have become spiritual experts, because there is no definitive benchmark, and no way of measuring it. There are only versions of it… and one person’s version will not automatically work for another. Which is why we need to be mindful of the way in which we present and use it out there in the world. I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t want to embrace our beliefs wholeheartedly and share them with others – that is a joyful thing to do. But there is nothing joyful about using spirituality as a way of feeling better about ourselves whilst making others feel worse about themselves. There is nothing joyful about passive-aggressive communication (all too often present within the spiritual fraternity) that is dressed up as well-meant feedback. Especially when it is followed by kisses, or the phrase ‘love and light’!
Spirituality is about freedom, curiosity, creativity, positive connection, humour, and friendship. It is about strength, courage, passion, and forthrightness. It is also about genuine sadness and even anger – because they are a part of actual, real, human life. You can read all of the spiritual books, meditate, light candles, use tools of divination, and attend spiritualist events… and these things can definitely enhance your life – however, they are, when all is said and done, activities… and spirituality is a state of mind. Often, when someone informs me that they are spiritual, they usually mean that they engage in spiritual activities. On the other hand, I have come across individuals who have never engaged in any of the above, but yet who appear to naturally live spiritual lives without giving it a second thought. Which is why I say that spirituality is something that we are, rather than something that we do. There is nothing wrong with the doing, or the talking about it – it’s just that, on its own, it’s a bit like a lovely layer of icing – sitting on top of a half-baked cake!
So, don’t fall into the trap of believing that there is, somewhere, a spiritual pathway that you should be on… if only you could find it. And don’t automatically accept everything that you read or hear within the spiritual arena, simply because it is being delivered by a popular ‘expert’ (after all, they should know). If the experience of spirituality is painful and frustrating for you, if it causes you to feel intense, then you might want to rethink things. I would put it to you that it isn’t supposed to feel that way. Your life might not be great (right now, at this moment in time); you might be struggling with your own feelings and mindset (right now, at this moment in time); you might feel lost, and you might be making unhelpful choices and decisions (right now, at this moment in time) – but spirituality is not the magical, mythical answer to all of your problems – and you are not failing if you aren’t ‘feeling’ it in the way that you believe you should. Believe me, I have met my share of spiritual ‘performers’ in my time, and they do far more harm than good. This is what I think: being spiritual means doing your best to be the best version of yourself, wherever possible (which is often easier said than done). Being spiritual means being willing to learn and grow from your experiences. Being spiritual means facing life’s challenges as best you can, without becoming entrapped by bitterness and blame. Being spiritual means standing up for what you believe in, in an honest, non-violent way. Being spiritual means being true to yourself, whilst not allowing your lower-self to gain the upper hand too often. Being spiritual means developing your interests and talents, and not dismissing them as unimportant. Being spiritual means being open to different points of view and always willing to learn something new. Being spiritual means being curious about the world around you, and appreciative of all the good things it provides (including those opportunities to evolve!). Being spiritual means being open to guidance, whilst forming your own opinions and beliefs. Being spiritual is what you are – not something you are yet to become. Recognise it, welcome it, and embrace it – and leave the smugness to the smug, and the intensity to the intense… you don’t need either!