What Is Spirituality? A Beginner's Guide To Exploring Your Spiritual Side

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woman meditating by water

So you want to practice spirituality? Awesome! Let's dive into that.

What is spirituality? What does being spiritual mean to you?

When you think of spirituality, how do you think about it — and how do you practice spirituality every day as a non-religious person?

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If you're reading this article, you're probably non-religious, though you may have grown up in your parents' church. Somewhere along the way, you decided that religious philosophy didn't jive with what you thought or felt inside.

Or, maybe you didn't grow up in a church but you're curious about the subject.

If you're spiritual but not religious, you're not alone.

Many people at some time or other question a church, mosque, or temple's teachings. Did you have an experience that couldn't be explained by religion? Did your thoughts about what is true contradict what the religion was explaining?

Depending on your nature and experience, you may have given up looking for a connection to something more for a time, but now are beginning to search for options that do resonate with you.

Some kind of spirituality or "otherness" fulfills and fits you beyond what you have or haven't experienced.

You may also have had experiences that can't be explained by conventional wisdom.

You may have sensed something around you that you couldn't see or hear, but that you felt was present.

You may have had an inner knowing that even though things around you were falling apart, that you would be OK. You may have had a sense that something was going to happen — and then it did.

These experiences are common and are sometimes not addressed by traditional religion.

Do these questions arouse your curiosity? Do you want to know more?

Some spiritual practices, like Hinduism and Christian mysticism, address these questions. These might be areas for you to explore.

What is it that motivates you to explore spirituality?

Take a moment and reflect. Go inside. Move out of your brain, your thoughts, and see if you can put your awareness in the center of your chest. Allow your body to rest and relax into yourself.

What are you aware of? Is there tension in your body, your chest?

See if you can breathe into your tension and on the outward breath, let it release. Do it again until you feel real relaxation. Do you feel more peaceful?

Most disciplines ask you to connect to your inner spaces; your body, your mind, your feelings, as starting points to spiritual awareness and practice.

Are you looking for peace?

Joy? Love? Freedom? Abundance? You are human! We all want these.

In my own journey, I've explored multiple styles of spirituality. I've concluded that no one way fits everyone.

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There are many many ways to find God, "All-That-Is," or whatever you call this experience.

You can start to practice your own brand of spirituality by finding a method that helps you notice and connect more often with what is going on with you, in your thoughts, your feelings, and in your body.

Mindfulness techniques are popular now.

These use breath and one-pointed focus to help stop the busy mind, creating calm and more present moment awareness. They help to deal with the chaos and confusion of life.

Some approaches also suggest you can cultivate a personal relationship between you and something beyond you. You could define this as God, Divine, All-That-Is, Creation, Quantum Field, and more.

How do you feel about that idea? Are you looking for a relationship with something beyond you? Will that motivate you to practice spirituality every day?

Different styles suggest that that relationship leads you into more of who you are and consequently more joy, more peace, and more love, because the divine is love, joy, and peace — and you are part of the divine.

You are part of the divine.

This begs the question: Who are you? Do you feel like there's more to you than your thoughts, feelings, body? Are you curious enough to explore it?

I encourage you to reflect, to go inward, to move out of your intellectual analysis and feel into questions. How does this sentence feel: "God is love, you are part of god, and because of that, you also are love"?

Take a moment and feel it. How does your body feel? Your mind? Your feelings?

This is an exercise in self-awareness. And, if we are to make a relationship with God or spirit, it's much easier to be conscious of the other if we are connected to ourselves.

Other frameworks like Buddhism say there's no self and your goal is detachment from everything that you're aware of to relieve suffering and experience that, "...we are merely a part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe."

Hinduism says you have a soul and your goal is to realize, experience, that you're one with the eternal soul that is god.

Do either of the above peak your interest?

Seek spirituality through activities and environments that make you feel safe and peaceful.

Many experience a sense of spiritual connection when they're in nature.

Being on a mountaintop with a magnificent view or near the ocean with its vast power or looking at a flower or a bird or any of nature's bounty.

Seeking out whatever makes you feel safe, calm, loving, joyful, free to be you, grateful could be a starting point to practice spirituality every day.

Perhaps it is none of the above. Maybe when you're being a parent or helping a friend are the times that you're most at peace.

The important thing is to decide what works for you.

What are you seeking and what have you noticed brings you to that? Bring more of that into your life.

Then your practice can be to stay aware of you; how you feel and what you think. If you notice your feelings going off the rails or your thoughts getting crazy or unfocused, practice what you've found brings you back to your inner peace.

If you haven't found anything in particular yet that helps you re-center or feel joyful or leads you to what you are seeking, pick something from this article and explore that.

Keep looking until you find it!

Some teachers say, "Spirituality isn't about reaching a goal, the answer is the journey." Or "There's no need to seek, just receive and be."

My journey took me all over the place: Christian mysticism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Kabbalah-Jewish mysticism, new age, nature. I have been on this adventure for about 50 years, and I love it.

I have grown immeasurably in all ways. It's always new. It's supportive. It's peaceful, joyful, freeing.

I have so much gratitude for all that is in my life and everywhere. My life isn't free of struggle, but I have my style — my connection that re-centers me and gives me peace. I have grown in love for myself and all things.

Always incorporate gratitude for a rich spiritual practice.

In my meditation today, the words "In all things be grateful" showed up.

From my experience, gratitude is one exercise that, when you consciously practice it, can lead you to the love, joy, freedom, abundance, peace that you may be seeking.

Wake up and find what you're grateful for. Is it that you woke up? Or that you have breakfast? Or that you live in a house and that your lights turn on? Or that your puppy loves you?

Gratitude takes you out of your thoughts and into your hearts, your feelings. When you're grateful for something, do you calm down? Does it lead you to joy? Or love?

Whatever you notice that makes your heart melt, be with that. Let the feeling of gratitude soak into your body, mind, and heart.

If you connect with the idea that spirituality includes love and peace, this is one simple way for you to practice spirituality every day as a non-religious person.

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Ann Naimark an MFT who incorporates spirituality into her work. For 25 years, she has led groups, held workshops, and treated individuals and couples to help them focus and integrate their mind, body, emotions, and spirit so they can fully live with purpose, joy, balance, and peace.