Simple ways to live a spiritual life
Updated: Aug 31, 2022
Often when I’m speaking to my clients about the importance of certain values in their lives, the topic of spirituality or religion comes up. Many people say things like this,
“Well, I was raised in the United Church.” Often with a statement about how they no longer go to church and don’t feel they resonate with it anymore.
“I’m a non-practicing Catholic.”
“I believe in spirituality, but I don’t really know how to incorporate that into my life.”
I see a pattern of a desire to explore spirituality, but feeling confused about how to tangibly take steps to do this. I thought I’d write today’s blog all about some practical methods for incorporating spirituality into your everyday life.
Spirituality is by far my most favourite topic to talk about and so I could go really deep on this one. I have to admit that I went too far and then had to re-write this blog a few times. I’ll touch on some strategies today, and please know that if this is a popular blog post, I’ll be sure to write more in the future.
So what are some ways to connect with the spiritual dimension of life?
By connecting with a sense of love and compassion, you can live a more spiritually aligned life. Often when we’re feeling angry, sad or fearful, we’re disconnected from loving energy that could be a source of healing. Love is a wonderful way to provide relief from the issues that are plaguing us.
If you want to consciously connect with love, think about someone that you have intensely loving feelings toward. It might be a person like your partner, your child or a loving grandparent. If you have too many mixed feelings about people in your life (let’s face it…relationships are complicated!), pets are often a great choice too.
As you think about this person or pet, experience the loving energy in your body. You’ll likely feel it in your heart area. Try to see if you can get a sense of what colour the loving energy is. I recommend practicing this activity once a day and I find that right before bed is a great time for this one.
Once you’ve practiced feeling love in your body, you can use this strategy to soothe yourself. When you notice you’re feeling fearful, sad, or angry, allow yourself to feel the emotion, and then see if you can use loving energy to reduce it. Bring up that feeling in your chest and send them loving energy (often pink or green) to yourself and perhaps also to the person who is involved.
Another way to use love to heal is to ask yourself, “what is the loving response here?” This is especially helpful if you’re frustrated. If you’re feeling sad, ask “how can I show myself love right now?”
“Spread love everywhere you go” ~ Mother Teresa
Ask spirit for help.
I’m going to write this blog post operating from the perspective that there is a benevolent, supportive source of spirit energy always helping, guiding and loving us. Whatever you want to call it- God, Source, The Universe, or something else- it’s ever-present and available to all.
Incorporating spirit into your life can be as easy as asking for the help that you need at that time. You can call this prayer or connect with spirit, but remember that the name you refer to it by isn’t important. An important aspect of prayer is to always express your appreciation for any support. It’s also vital to ensure that your prayer wouldn’t cause hardship to a person or thing in any way.
Here’s a sample prayer: “Dear Spirit, please guide me to recognize what is best for me and those around me. Thank you for all of your loving support.”
What would be the downside of asking compassionately for what you need?
To Be honest…how often do you allow yourself to truly experience silence? If you’re like most people, it’s probably not happening very much.
Silence helps us to get out of the stress response that many live in all the time. It allows us to recover from our challenges and to connect to a larger part of the universe.
I often tell my clients that prayer is asking for what you would like in life, but meditation is where we receive the answer. We’re commonly too focused on the action-oriented aspects of life and don’t take the time to receive, surrender and just be. This is where we receive the intuitive flashes of insight that send us in a helpful direction in our lives.
Can you commit to sitting in silence for a few minutes every day? Whether it’s meditation or just turning off the music or TV while you eat dinner or do the dishes? The more you do this, the more you’ll begin to feel a connection to the spiritual side of life.
Much of the world looks like from a scarcity mindset, where one believes that there’s never enough, they have more than me, their gain means my loss and life is better “there” than “here.”
An abundance mindset is a spiritual path. It involves a perspective that there’s always enough, life can be a win-win and I have everything I need at this moment.
Abundance is not associated with how much you have, but instead, it reflects your perspective on your life. Can you think of someone who is exceptionally wealthy, but doesn’t ever seem satisfied with what they have? Can you think of someone who seems very content, even with very little material wealth? There are ample examples of both. An abundance mindset is all about feeling a sense of “enoughness,” regardless of one’s financial circumstances.
By approaching the world with an attitude of abundance, we can handle situations with love and generosity. We step away from trying to fill ourselves up with too much stuff and activity, knowing that this is not the path to happiness.
Take radical responsibility. Radical responsibility involves recognizing that you and you alone are in charge of yourself. We can’t control anyone else’s choices or behaviour, but we can take full ownership of our own choices.
When we’re disconnected from spirit, we have a tendency to cast judgement on others and blame them for where we are in our lives. The spiritual path is to take ownership of our role in how our life has played out and make decisions to promote a healthy and happy future.
This might look like setting firmer boundaries. It may mean a job change. It may involve more time alone.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that others get a free pass. It doesn’t mean that they get to treat us badly and we take the blame. It also doesn’t mean that we beat ourselves up for our choices.
Instead, we recognize the great freedom in taking radical responsibility for our own life experiences. This is the spiritual path.
Get out in nature.
Another way to incorporate spirit into your life is by getting out into nature more often. Nature is where we feel a sense of oneness with the universe and peace that we cannot achieve when we’re surrounded by concrete, buildings and people.
Research has begun to show evidence of the great benefits of nature on our emotional well-being. In Japan, there is a practice of forest bathing or shinrin-yoku, which involves spending time in the presence of trees. It’s been found to reduce stress hormones, improve immune function and boost overall happiness levels.
Grounding or “earthing” is an emerging field and involves making direct contact with the earth by standing or lying on grass or soil. It’s been found to reduce inflammation in the body, improve circulation as well as regulate one’s sleep cycle.
In my life, as I’ve begun to connect more with spirit, I notice and appreciate nature so much more than I had previously. I hear the birds chirping, I appreciate plants and flowers and I enjoy the beauty of the sky. My kids know that if I miss a rainbow, they better take a picture of it for me!
I urge you to commit to spending time in nature and noticing what you experience. Go for a walk. Plant some flowers. Get an indoor plant. Gaze at the stars.
Forgiveness is a sensitive topic and it’s one that I don’t bring up in therapy unless I feel that the person is ready for it. When someone has wronged you, it can be so challenging to get to a place where you’re ready to forgive. If you’re not there right now, that’s just fine. You can skip this part, bookmark it for later or read it with no commitment to making a change right now.
I want to begin with having you reflect on what it feels like before you’ve exercised forgiveness. The bitterness and the anger that you feel when you’ve been wronged. The sense of betrayal perhaps. Maybe you’re harbouring resentment and entertaining revenge fantasies. It’s important to always allow yourself to feel and work through these emotions. If you need help with this, it’s a good idea to connect with a psychologist.
Once you’ve felt your feelings and processed them sufficiently, you may become ready to begin to consider forgiveness. Forgiveness allows you to release what you’ve been holding onto, not only for those who you are forgiving but ultimately for yourself.
By forgiving those who have wronged you, it doesn’t mean condoning their behaviour and it doesn’t mean that you welcome them back into your life (although sometimes you might feel this is appropriate).
What it does mean is letting go by consciously and purposefully choosing to release resentment. On a spiritual level, this will allow you to feel a deeper sense of contentment in your life that you likely couldn’t have achieved otherwise.
“To err is human, to forgive, divine.” ~ Alexander Pope
Engage in a hobby.
When we feel connected to spirit, we’re far more open to our own sense of creation and wonder. Have you ever been involved in a creative hobby and just completely lost track of time because you were “in the zone?”
Creative pursuits replenish us and strengthen our souls. They reconnect us to our inherent joy and the simple pleasure of being alive.
What could be more spiritual than that?
What I recommend is to try to have your creative hobby be very different from your “day job.” If you are hunched over a computer all day, try skiing, dancing or hiking. If you’re outdoors and active all day long, try quietly painting, puzzles or learning to code.
The most important factor is to do something that excites you. The spiritual path is the path of childlike wonder and joy.
Most of us want to be able to appreciate what we already have, rather than focusing on the next thing we want. Like many of the things that cultivate joy in life, experiencing gratitude feels like it should be easy, but it’s not always simple to accomplish on a daily basis.
Many of us have done the exercise of naming three things we’re grateful for every day, which is a wonderful and simple process that helps to bring a focus to the appreciation of one’s life’s gifts. The key with this activity is to be sure not to repeat the 3 items, which pushes you to notice and think about what to put on your list each day.
Another helpful practice is to flashback to 10 years ago and asks yourself, what do I have now that I had hoped and wished for then? I bet if you did this right now, you’d have accomplished more than you expected. There is usually a lot to be grateful for.
Another idea is to offer help to others in need, which tends to naturally increase our sense of gratitude for our own situation in life. This can involve volunteer work or simple actions like answering a few questions for people on social media every day or sending a supportive text to a friend.
A more advanced strategy would be to attempt to discern the gifts that come from the challenges in your life. It might be that a financial situation has led to greater knowledge about how to manage your money. Or perhaps a loss of a friendship has led to greater clarity about the types of people you want in your life.
Cultivating gratitude is a wonderful way to incorporate spirit into your life, and it’s simple to begin right now.
In this blog, I purposely chose to include activities that are doable for most people right now. You can see that the spiritual path is not complicated, but instead involves a simplicity that in modern life, we often don’t naturally experience.
I urge you to choose one or two of the points from the list above and take some time each day to embody these ideas. Then add in one or two more. Over time, you’ll find that you experience a sense of simplicity, wisdom, and peace that characterizes a spiritual path.
Comment below with your thoughts on the spiritual step that you plan to take today. Remember, I read and reply to every comment!