Introduction: where do I start?
One of the questions I see more and more often on the Internet is: “I’m new to Spirituality, where do I begin?” This is a great question; there is so much to the topic of spirituality that it can be difficult to know how to “jump in”. To help new spiritual seekers, this article provides a brief introduction to the topic of spirituality.
Life’s Higher Purpose
Spirituality is the idea that there is more to reality than just the physical world. It acknowledges that we have a spiritual nature, and that our spiritual nature is our “real self”.
With our physical eyes, we often see a world of chaos, destruction, and suffering. But from a spiritual perspective, we are asked to be open to the fact that everything is not quite as it seems. And this is for a reason.
The spiritual aspect of each of us is evolving. This evolution is taking place in an “experiential classroom” that we call planet Earth. Note that there are other classrooms in existence for spiritual evolution; the “Gaia classroom” happens to be one of the more difficult ones. However, the difficult nature of our physical reality allows us to evolve more quickly, relatively speaking.
If we were able to perceive the illusion of our physical world (i.e. that it is not the ultimate reality), such rapid spiritual progress would not be possible. It is the nature of “not knowing”…the not being able to see through the veil to the spiritual world that makes our classroom challenging, and thereby more “rewarding”.
That being said, spirituality is the knowledge that (regardless of appearances) we are actually spiritual beings with a spiritual purpose. So even though we may see chaos with our physical eyes, we can be comforted that there is a greater purpose to life that we are not aware of. In short, spirituality provides us with hope, faith, and a sense of purpose in what would otherwise seem to be a meaningless world.
There is an almost limitless amount of spiritual knowledge to learn and discover as we work our way along our respective paths. But one thing that is not “part of” spirituality is the concept of falseness. What is truth for one person is not truth for another, due to the differences in spiritual attainment and individual paths.To explain why, let’s use an analogy.
Let’s say that all your life you live in a valley surrounded by mountains. You have never climbed to the top of the mountains and therefore have no sense of what is beyond the mountain range. In fact, you aren’t even aware it was possible to climb the mountain.
Then one day, you discover a guide who informs you that not only is it possible to climb the mountain, but he can show you the path. This news is very exciting and you decide to set off at once. For a while, the guide is with you and teaching you how to stay safe and keep moving forward. At times you veer off course, and your guide gently helps you recover from your errors. After a while, your guide tells you that he has taught you everything he knows, and the rest of the journey is yours to make.
As you continue your journey, you encounter many adventures and unexpected events, a few dangers, and even temporarily lose your way a time or two. Thankfully, after certain periods of time, you always are able to eventually find your way back to the path.
As you continue along the route, the most amazing discovery is that your perspective continually changes. When you were in the valley, you could see everything up close, but never had a good bird’s eye view. But now as you climb higher and higher along the path, you are able to see your world from a completely new point of view. Nothing has changed, but everything looks completely different.
And then finally, when you reach the summit of the mountain, you look down the other side and discover an entire new world that you had never seen before. It had always been there, but you just hadn’t been aware of it. And now that you have seen it, your whole concept of how you “fit into the picture” completely changes.
The Relativity of Truth
As we journey along the spiritual path, our perception of reality will begin to change. This doesn’t mean that the things we regarded as truth were in fact wrong. Instead, it simply means that our awareness has expanded, and we are now looking at reality from a different perspective.
Contrast this with the idea of religious doctrine, which is stagnant. Religious teachings are also “truth”, but they are truth that is stuck at a certain level of awareness. Therefore, people who are spiritually evolving tend to eventually “outgrow” religious teachings. But make no mistake: it is no different for spiritual teachings. As is made clear in the Bhuddhist tradition, all spiritual teachings will eventually have to be relinquished at some point along the path.
This does not mean we should dismiss all spiritual teachings outright. On the contrary: just as each rung of a ladder is necessary to get us to the next rung, each spiritual teaching is necessary to bring us to a “higher” spiritual teaching. So keep this in mind and always honor where you are along your path.
In addition, you must also honor where others are along their paths. We are all at the same spiritual school, but in different grades and taking different fields of study. In other words: we are not only at different heights as we climb the mountain, but we are taking different paths to get to the top. So keep in mind that each person has their own path and their own truth that they are working with.
One of the less pleasant aspects of Earth life is dealing with the fact that we are imperfect people. Even when we are trying to “be good”, we end up doing, saying, or thinking things that we are later ashamed of. One can easily wonder: how could I possibly be this grand spiritual being when I’m such an awful person?
To explain this, let’s use a new analogy. Let’s suppose you go to the doctor’s office because of a bump on your arm that is causing irritation. The doctor pulls out a microscope to take a closer look and finds the cause of the issue: there is a splinter that got lodged under your skin.
When we are in physical bodies, we start out with the perspective of what we see through the microscope. I.e., we are “zoomed in” to look at a certain aspect of self that we have decided to work on in this lifetime. But this aspect of self is so exaggerated from our perspective that our reaction is usually to try to deny the problem or ignore it out of shame. Without our knowledge of our true selves, we can only see the flaw under the microscope and think: “Oh wow, look at what a bad person I am!”
In the physical world, we’ve completely lost sight of our spiritual greatness and the fact that there is so much to who we are. This is on purpose. If we were aware of our true nature, we wouldn’t have the ability to focus on the flaw that we are currently trying to correct. So we are down in the valley looking at everything up close, which also means we don’t have access to the “bigger picture”.
So keep in mind that there is more to you than you are aware of. Much more. Each person is amazing and deserves the utmost respect. The individuals that we are looking at and interacting with on a daily basis are simply those unpleasant, microscopic parts of the soul that have been magnified in order for them to be healed and brought back to the light.
Over the years, there have been numerous spiritual teachers which have produced a plethora of teachings. In the end, they are all trying to explain the same thing. So approach spiritual teachings in the same way that you would approach a puzzle that is waiting to be solved. Ask yourself: how do different teachings fit together? Can you reconcile seemingly different ideas?
As noted previously, you can’t define truth, but you can point in the direction where truth can be found. So keep an open mind and see if you can connect the dots when spiritual teachings use different words to say the same thing. For example, the following terms are essentially saying the same thing:
- “Raise your vibration”
- “Expand your consciousness”
If you had never heard these phrases before, you could spend a long time analyzing the words and trying to understand what the author of each phrase actually meant. But unless you can connect these phrases to an experience, they will always remain somewhat of a mystery. But at some point along the spiritual journey, you will likely have an experience and think: “Aha! Now I understand what was meant by [insert phrase here]” At which point you will have solved another piece of the spiritual puzzle.
Knowledge by itself does not accomplish anything. We can have the best directions in the world, but if we don’t take a step, we will never get anywhere. Learning includes practice, not just studying.
There are many spiritual practices that will help an individual along the path: meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, mindfulness, and creative projects are some examples. If you would like an example of something to start off with, here is a simple exercise you can try right now:
Love and Light Visualization
- Sit down in a comfortable position with your hands in your lap.
- Begin by taking three deep breaths.
- Next, visualize yourself embracing someone that you love deeply and feel the love build up within your heart.
- Let this love expand in and around you for a few breaths.
- At the same time visualize a bright light surrounding your heart area. As the love expands, see this light expanding until it surrounds your entire body.
You can with this visualization for as long as you wish. Feel free to also add another element to this practice. As an optional next step:
Take the loving vibration you feel and visualize it being sent out to all those in your life. Do this for both people you like and people that you don’t like. In every case, visualize these people lighting up with joy as they receive these “love packets” from you.
Note: for those who are beginning on the spiritual path, I would recommend a minimum of a short morning meditation daily upon waking, and another short meditation (or prayer) before bed. The method of meditation is your choice; just note that the goal is to do something that will definitely “raise your vibration”. I.e., a mediation in which you often get lost in your own thoughts is not recommended for beginners as the sole method of spiritual practice.
There are so many topics within spirituality that the vast amount of knowledge can perhaps be a little overwhelming. For example, there is spiritual healing, sacred geometry, ascended masters and angels, the sacred rays of God, ascensions and initiations, esoteric teachings, and so much more. So keep in mind that the attainment of spiritual knowledge is not the goal. Knowledge will come when it needs to come. We are not here on Earth to impress people with our spiritual knowledge; we are here to shine are lights so that others can follow the way.
Of course, this may not make sense if we don’t know the way ourselves. And we aren’t responsible for showing others what we don’t know. In fact, we definitely want to avoid being the blind who lead the blind. But we do need to realize that wherever we are on the spiritual path, there are people who are a step behind us. And we want to be the light that helps those people take that next step.
So notice that we are not actually telling people what to do. We are simply turning on our lights so that others are no longer in the dark and can find their own way. The way we turn “turn on our lights” is by our commitment to spiritual practices and spiritual living.
Spiritual practices are exercises that raise our vibrations and remind us to look at everything from a spiritual point of view. These practices do not have to be complicated. Any proper technique, if done with enough positive intent, would be sufficient for significant spiritual growth. The most important thing about our practices is that we have to practice them. The repetition of our practices will help create the habit of living each moment of our lives from the perspective of our eternal, Divine selves.
The following are some basic spiritual practices that would be beneficial to anyone at any stage of the spiritual path:
- Immediately upon waking, fill yourself with love and keep this feeling with you throughout the day.
- Respect every person you meet as if they were the most important person in your life.
- Bring as much love and joy into your life as possible.
- Truly forgive yourself and others.
- Release the past, trust God to handle the future, and cherish each moment as if it was the only moment.
Although these practices seem simple, they are not easy. Therefore, don’t be fooled by their simplicity. The act of keeping your heart open at each moment of your life will be of tremendous value to not only yourself but all others around you.
But keeping your heart open at all times is not easy. Therefore, don’t be discouraged at how difficult it may be to turn these practices into habitual patterns of behavior. No matter what happens in life, the only thing that counts is the willingness to continue trying. We may not move along the spiritual path as fast as we would like, but we definitely won’t go very far if we don’t even attempt to move forward.
Good luck in your journey!