Spirituality For Dummies¨
By Sharon Janis
|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
In this chapter, I provide background information about spirituality and introduce spiritual ideas and theories that have the potential to immediately begin transforming your life for the better.
|Spirituality is a unique topic to explore. After
all, the very nature of spirituality is that it reaches beyond
common material substances and therefore can't be properly
captured or fully expressed in words and form. Yet because the
spiritual essence already exists inside of you, hearing the
right words just may trigger your own awakening into higher
Perhaps the best way to discuss a spiritual approach to the
world is to contrast it with a more common materialistic
|Listen to the track called "Something Turned
Me Around" to hear the Agape International Choir singing
about the elation of remembering your spiritual nature.
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 are 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:
Making a best guess in life
Okay, I'll admit right off the bat that no one knows really
-- completely or accurately -- why we're on this earth or what
this whole game of life is all about. All anybody can do is to
make a best guess. Will you choose to spend your time and energy
on acquiring more money, power, beauty, love, admiration,
success, a nice house, good family, and devoted friends? These
are all fine ambitions, but I propose that adding spiritual
efforts to the mix is also an especially good guess.
Spirituality has an importance beyond all these worldly
achievements. It reaches into the depths of creation, into a
part of your soul that's much greater than just your body or
|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.
Spirituality: The true wealth
|The majority of men live without being
thoroughly conscious that they are spiritual beings.
-- Soren Kierkegaard
Wealth is often used to denote monetary success, but riches comes in many different forms. One Indian prayer entreats Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, to shower blessings in the form of intelligence, worldly enjoyment, success, worldly position, prosperity, liberation -- and most importantly, freedom from the enemy of ego, limited self-identification. (More on ego in Chapter 2.)
People say that "health is the greatest wealth," or "a good mind is paramount," or "having loving relationships is what's really important." However, there is a prosperity that only a small percentage of people attain. Their wealth is the experience of expanded consciousness, inner peace, and serenity that comes from spiritual awareness.
Here is an analogy that can give a sense of how spirituality gives an enhanced meaning to all the good things you have achieved thus far. Imagine that all the enjoyments and achievements of your life are like a string of zeros:
Only when you put the number one before them, will each zero add more value, like this:
It's a big difference in value, right? Adding a spiritual
perspective of life is like adding that number one. Spiritual
wisdom gives greater value to all the elements of your life.
When you enter the dawning of spiritual understanding, you may
outwardly seem nearly the same as before -- with all the same
set of accomplishment zeros. However, inwardly you will have
gained a greater wealth of peacefulness, faith, love, and
Spirituality is about following your heart
|Your vision will become clear only when you
look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks
-- Carl Jung
The spiritual journey can be summed up in two phrases:
All spiritual practices and exercises, such as prayer,
meditation, contemplation, yoga, scriptural study, and
devotional rituals (covered in Part II of this book), as well as
spiritual qualities such as compassion, honesty, steadiness, and
unconditional love (covered in Part III) are part of this
process of purifying your heart. With a pure heart, you're
better able to hear, trust, and follow the still, small voice of
God, the whisper of your own wise soul, the universal throb that
speaks softly in every moment -- if you have the ears to hear.
|If you follow your heart before first purifying
your heart, some of your inner promptings may, in fact, be
regular old thoughts and desires disguised as inner inspirations
and divine guidance! Be sure your intentions are pure. That will
ensure that even if your inner guidance isn't always on target,
you'll still be moving forward on the spiritual path, protected
by your own pure intentions.
Purifying your heart and following your heart aren't really
two separate things. Each one supports and strengthens the
other. As you progress in your spiritual efforts, eventually
your will and the divine will begin to flow harmoniously as one.
Experiencing more self-awareness -- right here, right now
|An important element of spiritual growth is to
become more self-aware, something you can practice anytime and
anywhere. Try the following:
Getting to know your spiritual heart
Spirituality is a shift into a knowing of the heart. Not the
physical heart, per se, but the symbolic heart that represents
all the ways of knowing beyond the rational mind: intuition,
emotion, and divine shifts of awareness that can take your world
and immediately transform it into a heavenly realm. Your
spiritual heart is a non-physical space of communion with spirit
that is also the
Discovering your smiling soul
|The secret of divine omnipotence resides in the
-- Eliphas Levi
When you shift into spiritual awareness, you may appear to be living the same life, with the same ambitions, joys, and sorrows as before. However, you may discover that inside you have a smile that may or may not be visible to the world. Your shining spiritual soul smiles through the good times and the bad. In fact, as your smiling soul begins to reflect more and more in the world, the world also begins to smile back at you.
Do you ever find yourself smiling even when there is no one
else around? If not, try it! Smile to yourself. Smile to God,
who is always present where you are -- closer than your own
Oh, the dichotomies!
|There are two kinds of truth, small truth and
great truth. You can recognize a small truth because its
opposite is falsehood. The opposite of a great truth is another
-- Niels Bohr
Spirituality encourages you to take life more seriously, with
greater respect for the deeper meaning and symbolic nature of
even the smallest details of life. At the same time,
spirituality also gives you an awareness that everything is
running itself quite well without your having to feel anxious or
responsible for all of it. The spiritual journey is filled with
these sorts of dichotomies and seemingly opposing viewpoints.
Here are a few more to explore:
|There is only one religion, though there are a
hundred versions of it.
-- George Bernard Shaw
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.
|Religion and spirituality can blend together
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.
One goal of this book is to focus on essential spiritual
teachings that resonate with most religions -- a formidable and
challenging objective, to be sure. Yet, in the depths of
personal contemplation, I have seen that spirituality is
intertwined with religion, politics, science, philosophy, and
art on subtle levels that may not be outwardly obvious. The
ultimate goals of these endeavors is some version of knowing
greater truth and living better lives -- what Kahlil Gibran
referred to as being "in quest of the uttermost."
No more crusades, okay?
|It is more important to create a safer, kinder
world than to recruit more people to the religion that happens
to satisfy us.
-- Dalai Lama
Many wars have been fought based on what amounts to fairly
slight variations in religious theory and language. In the light
of spirituality, no one needs to fight with anyone else over
whose religion is better. No one needs to quarrel over every
rule and detail of all the different doctrines. Rather, a
spiritually-aware person is open to learning and growing from
everything in life. One sign of spiritual awakening is an
increased respect for all people, all religions, and all forms
of God. This kinder, gentler approach replaces outdated
tendencies toward intolerance and prejudice. 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. For example, as you read this book, enjoy whatever words work for you and just skim over what doesn't. My goal is to share some spiritual ideas that have been helpful to me, not to make you agree with them.|
|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.|
|Play the track called "Tumse Hamane" to
hear more about how God exists in all religions and paths, and
in everyone's heart. Here is the translation:
I have embraced you in my heart. Whatever exists is you alone. I have found that you alone are mine. You are all that exists.
What if one is a Buddhist or a Christian? What if one is a Hindu or a Muslim? You have made everyone the way you desired them to be.
Whether it is a mosque or a temple, you are present equally everywhere. Everyone bows down their head for you alone. In all that I see, you alone are visible.