“Oh, you’re a spiritual person? Please.”
“Do you collect healing crystals? Do you know the zodiac signs? Do you make your decisions based on a tarot deck?”
This is why I don’t tell people I’m a little spiritual. They usually don't get it. People assume you may as well believe in magic.
No one knows what the word “spiritual” means anymore. So let’s break it down and see if you’re a spiritual person.
A Spiritual Person Defined
Here are two Oxford definitions of the word “spiritual”:
1. Relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
2. Relating to religion or religious belief.
Some people gag when they hear the word “soul.” They don’t think the flow of electrons that makes up your consciousness should be given any special titles.
They want to reduce everything to its fundamental components and mock anyone who tries to look at the whole. Saying “soul” makes them think you must either be religious or stupid.
As much as people love crushing the idea of there being anything significant about consciousness, at the end of the day, they are still people.
They get up in the morning. They have dreams and desires and relationships. They have pride and shame. No matter how strict and scientific they are, their immediate reality is that of being a person.
I don’t know what consciousness is (I hope you weren’t expecting me to know because I can't help you there), but I do know that I have an inner sense of being. And you know what, whether it has any greater significance or not, you may as well call it a soul.
According to Oxford, that’s a spiritual belief. Well, guys, I guess I’m spiritual.
Origins of a Spiritual Person
What can turn a person spiritual?
Let’s explore how people arrive at spirituality:
Religion can give people a sense of meaning in life, in addition to giving them certainty about the unknown.
It answers spiritual questions like:
- What is beyond death?
- What is my purpose?
- What is the best way to act in the world while I’m alive?
The most spiritual part of religion is its focus on transcendence. However, some say religion’s flaws and contradictions get in the way of true spirituality.
If being a spiritual person means thinking in a transcendent way, then there are other ways of doing that.
I could say a million things about meditation, but as it relates to spirituality, the intentions seem clear.
People meditate so that they can:
A. Find peace.
B. Connect to something greater than themselves.
Broadly speaking, the goal in meditation is to reach “oneness” with something, whether that be God, or the universe, or humanity.
Even hardcore skeptics like Sam Harris gain a sense of spirituality from meditation.
I don’t know if there’s any greater tool for making a person rethink reality than a psychedelic drug.
In case you didn’t know, there are endless reports of people dissolving into psychedelic experiences, communicating with higher consciousnesses, and healing themselves of emotional pain in a genuine and lifelong way.
When you’ve felt how immense the universe is, or how deep your own psyche is, through taking a psychedelic drug, there is a good chance you’ll come out a little more spiritual than you did going in.
That is, spiritual in the sense that you’ve added more depth to your reality. You have, at least for a few hours, transcended it.
4. Trauma and Difficult Experiences
When we go through tough things, we don’t come out the same.
Some become jaded and cynical, while others emerge with newfound strength and wisdom.
When you go through a personal ordeal, and you are forced to examine what happened, who you are, and what you’ve done, you gain a self-understanding that could be called spiritual.
It’s the spirituality of knowing you’ve grown as a person.
I believe there is a deep significance that can be felt when you heal from something. I think even the most secular, raw-minded can understand this feeling. Spiritual or not, it’s real.
Some would say healing from any trauma is a spiritual pursuit, no matter how you look at it.
5. Transcendent Experiences
The most significant experiences of our lives can have a spiritual element to them.
What those experiences are will depend on the individual. And for most of us, they are extremely rare. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:
- Reaching a lifelong goal.
- Having a child.
- Genuinely helping another person.
- Experiencing real love.
- Having a near-death experience.
Think of anything that is profound enough to make you want to drop to your knees and appreciate…something.
You could say finding meaning in life is a spiritual pursuit. It’s something deeply personal, and it’s something only a conscious human being can do.
It’s the difference between finding a reason to live, and just finding something to do while you’re alive.
The Real Spirituality
Gabor Maté is a medical doctor who gained a sense of spirituality through his helping his patients overcome addictions.
Here’s how he (roughly) defines it:
Spirituality is being in touch with an intelligence in nature. Not necessarily a man with a white beard pulling levers in the sky, but being touch with something that leads to connection, compassion, and love.
Being a proponent of compassion, connection, and love, doesn't make you a weirdo. It makes you wise.
So yes, spirituality is complicated, especially with all the fake gurus and fads and cults thrown in.
Here are the real signs of being a spiritual person:
- A strong self-understanding.
- An open-mindedness to ideas and things that could be beyond human understanding.
- A desire to know the truth.
- A desire to find meaning.
- A desire to connect deeply and have rich relationships.
- A desire to feel the depth and breadth of human experience.
- A desire to not spend your life just sitting and consuming.
- A desire to grow and change.
Spirituality is finding the connections and purposes that make life’s suffering worth enduring. Some would call that existentialism, but maybe existentialism is a little spiritual too.
Spirituality isn't rejecting reality in favor of magical ideas and fake religions. It’s completely embracing it. It’s not agnostic or atheistic or religious. It’s just being willing to explore everything life has to offer.
Trying to exist is a physical and biological experience. Trying to live is a spiritual one.