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Looking the spiritual type

Fushimi Inari at Kyoto Park temple, by franck.barre on Flickr.

Some time ago at a cocktail, a gentleman came up to me and told me that he had heard about my Vipassana experience and he was contemplating on attending the 10 day retreat. I shared with him my experience and we ended up speaking about Vedanta, Buddhism and various other philosophical subjects.

Towards the end of the conversation he said to me, “But you don’t look the spiritual type.” His comment made me think, what is a spiritual type? Is there a spiritual type? Why do we associate spirituality with a certain physical outlook?

Apparently, I’m not spiritual just because I drink wine and have diverse friends and don’t wear traditional clothes, don’t speak in soft muted tones, participate in rituals, or follow particular religious doctrines closely!

What do we really mean by being spiritual?

According to Wikipedia, spirituality was indeed traditionally associated with religion. In fact, if you look for a definition of spirituality, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as something that in ecclesiastical law belongs to the church or to a cleric, something that has sensitivity or attachment to religious values.

No wonder people associate spirituality with a certain type of person or behavior. For the longest time we were told that the only way to attain salvation was by following strictly the principals of some organized religion with clearly stated do’s and don’ts passed on through the right lineage and teachers. We were considered philistines who had no idea on how to live meaningful lives unless we were guided by some religious authority.

Today we are coming to understand that life becomes meaningful if we stay connected to our spiritual self by associating with qualities of love, compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, responsibility, harmony, and a concern for others.

Keeping the above definitions in mind, I don’t think there is a spiritual type. We all are spiritual beings.  Spirituality is nothing but a connection with spirit. Spirituality is what brings clarity, joy, peace and happiness in our lives.  The more connection and clarity we have the more spiritual we are. Clothes, religion, language, diet, vocation or preferences don’t define spirituality. Spirituality is not the domain of a few, it is our very essence. It is rightly said ‘we are spiritual beings having a human experience.’ Why then should we compartmentalize spiritual from non-spiritual?

Isn’t it time for all of us to recognize our inherent spirituality and start living our full potential?

The easiest route towards spirituality is through kindness and compassion towards all beings and that includes our own selves. Often in our endeavor to become kind and compassionate towards others we tend to overlook our own needs and sometimes end up hurt and resentful. There is no spirituality in trying to please others at the cost of ones own peace and happiness and at the same time there can be no joy in making someone else miserable. First and foremost step towards spirituality is acknowledging that we are all connected and our joys and pains are also connected.

Another way of being spiritual is by becoming light. Letting go of all the baggage that we end up accumulating over one or more life times. Being spiritual means, carrying no grudges, no pain, no guilt, no worries, and no resentment. Spirit is not heavy we make it heavy by shrouding it in concepts and refusing to let go of all that holds us back.

Spirituality is not limited to churches, temples, synagogues, mosques or other places of worship. These places of worship may help us reach that place of inner calm and peace where we may find the answers but the answers will not be outside of us. Whether we are religious or not, we are all spiritual.  

At some stage or another we all ask the question, who am I and what is my purpose? Spirituality helps to answer these questions.

The answer will be different for different people and will only come when we search within our own selves. What makes my connection with spirit stronger may not be the same as yours. Never try and be someone else. Be the best you, you can be. The moment we try and be someone else we loose our connection with our own spirit and get lost in trying to find ourselves.

So when the gentleman said to me that I don’t look the spiritual type, I understood exactly where he was coming from. In his opinion spirituality is something that needs to be practiced or acquired through intense effort. In my opinion, spirituality is something that can be light and fun. It is what gives me joy and makes me happy. Of course, it takes work to let go of all the accumulated baggage and start listening to the inner voice, but the work should not become heavy and restricting. For what is the purpose of trying to be spiritual and at the same time getting angry with our own selves for not being able to follow the percepts of spirituality.

Spirituality is the way and as Michelangelo said when he was asked about how he made David, his answer was ‘David was already present in the marble, he just chipped off the excess.’ Similarly, spirituality is present within each one of us. All we need to do is let go of the dross that surrounds it.So go ahead, start having fun in life, have joy and bring joy. Let go of all that keeps you tied down and spread your wings and fly for we all were meant to rise and shine.

Visit Shveitta’s Happiness is a Skill blog here

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