many paths to the top of the mountain,
but the view is
always the same.
Are you ready to hear something alarming and, quite frankly,
Do a quick search on Google for the question "what is
spirituality?", and you will receive 100,000,000+ results in less
than a second.
(Don't believe me? Search it for yourself...!)
Just think for a moment what that means.
means there are one hundred million different voices,
perspectives, backgrounds, and beliefs all trying to answer the
same single question.
One hundred million
results means that there are one hundred million different answers
to the question "what is spirituality?"...
And that's only on the
How the heck
are you meant to find out what spirituality is (and even what's
the right path for you to follow), with so much information?
article, I'm attempting the mammoth undertaking of simplifying
and distilling everything I know, have experienced, and have
researched from a wide range of perspectives on spirituality.
If you want to avoid
slogging through article-after-article or book-after-book in the
pursuit of answering this question, this is a good place to start.
vs. Religion - What's the Difference?
Firstly, let's create some clarity in the realm of spirituality
And are you more spiritual or religious?
Here's a simple
distinction between spirituality vs. religion:
What is Spirituality?
is connecting to the Divine through your own personal
experience. It is primarily concerned with finding,
experiencing, and embodying one's true spiritual nature.
What is Religion?
connecting to the Divine through someone else's experience. It
is primarily concerned with believing in, following, and obeying
the rules created by a certain Deity or spiritual teacher.
philosopher, Yuval Noah Harari explains the contrast between
spirituality vs. religion in this way:
Religion is a deal, whereas
spirituality is a journey.
Religion gives a complete description of the world, and offers
us a well-defined contract with predetermined goals.
exists. He told us to behave in certain ways. If you obey to
'God', you'll be admitted to heaven. If you disobey
Him, you'll burn in hell.'
The very clarity of
this deal allows society to define common norms and values that
regulate human behavior.
Spiritual journeys are nothing like that. They usually take
people in mysterious ways towards unknown destinations.
The quest usually
begins with some big question, such as,
Who am I?
What is the
meaning of life?
What is good?
Whereas many people
just accept the ready-made answers provided by
the powers that be, spiritual
seekers are not so easily satisfied.
They are determined
to follow the big question wherever it leads, and not just to
places you know well or wish to visit.
Below, I'll break down the overall difference between spirituality
and religion even further:
Goal is love and
Goal is obedience
experiencing internal Divinity
Focuses on obeying
(heaven is within you now)
(heaven is where you go when you die)
(we are all One)
(good/evil, right/wrong, heaven/hell)
spontaneity, and compassion
self-sacrifice, duty, and pity for others
Can you understand the
difference between spirituality and religion a little better now?
Yes, it is possible
to be "spiritual but not religious."
It is also possible
to be religious but not spiritual - or a little bit of both.
But it's useful to
determine what side you lean more towards:
it will help you make
clear life choices that align with your true needs and desires.
Between Spirituality and Spiritualism
Here's another area that we need to shed some light on.
What's the difference between spirituality and
They sound awfully
similar and can easily be mixed together and mistaken for each
spirituality is a
way of life in which a person seeks to connect to the Divine
or their True Nature
the other hand, is a movement based on the belief that we
can connect with departed souls
primarily seek to make contact with the dead and thereby
gain knowledge, insight, and even healing through such a
spiritualists be spiritual, and can spiritual seekers be
Many people benefit from the belief in gaining assistance from the
spirits of the dead.
For some, it forms an
important part of their life path.
spiritualism has provided hope, emotional relief, acceptance of
life and death, and other profound inner benefits where nothing
Practice healthy caution…
However, it must be noted here that it's not necessary to be
interested in or possess psychic abilities (such as clairvoyance,
clairaudience, etc.) or mediumship to successfully walk the
In some instances,
spiritualism can become a distraction - an endlessly-exciting rabbit
hole to get lost in - that actually distances one from the whole
point of spirituality:
to unite with one's
When guidance is
endlessly sought outside of ourselves (in the form of mediums,
spirits, etc.), rather than inside of ourselves, it can become an
obstacle - particularly if Spiritual Liberation is the goal of a
Furthermore, it's wise to be practice caution and discernment in the
Many people have been
taken advantage of (and continue to be used every day) by fraudulent
psychics, channels, and mediums who claim to have special powers but
are only in it for the money or status.
Is There "One
True" Spiritual Path?
Spirituality is extremely personal:
it means something
different for everyone.
Therefore, there is no
"one true" spiritual path...
If anyone tries to claim that their spiritual path is the "one true
way," they are adopting a religious mindset, not a spiritual
mindset. (And as we've seen, religion is based on dogma and
spirituality is based on personal experience.)
Unlike religion, your spiritual path is tailored exclusively to your
emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. This means that your
spiritual path will shift, change, morph, and evolve alongside you
many times throughout your life.
5 Common Spiritual Paths
Spirituality is like an eclectic rainbow:
there are endless
varieties of paths and practices out there.
What matters is that you
choose something that feels true to you. And remember, what you like
and need now will likely evolve in the future.
The reason is that you're
an eternally evolving creature! When you stop going through changes,
you are in a state of living death (and that's obviously not healthy
So don't be afraid to dabble, then commit to something that feels
true to you.
To keep this section succinct, I've divided the following paths and
practices into the most common approaches to spirituality clearly
seen in this day and age.
(Keep in mind that some
practices and paths can/do overlap):
1 - Earth-Based
(connection with the earth or the material realm as a gateway to
(connection with the non-material realm as a gateway to the
(Reiki, Chakra healing, etc.)
Spirit guide /
(Palmistry, Tarot cards, Pendulum dowsing, etc.)
Witchcraft / Magick
3 - Body-Based
(using the body as a gateway to the Divine)
Tai Chi / Qi Gong
(using the heart as a gateway to the Divine)
meaning of life
relationships (twin flames and soul mates)
Listening to /
(using the mind as a gateway to the Divine)
It's impossible to include every single spiritual path/practice
here, but I hope you now have a smorgasbord of options to explore.
Remember, spirituality is like a tree. Some paths and practices are
closer to the central trunk; the ultimate goal of spirituality which
awakening, Oneness, and liberation
Other paths and
practices, on the other hand, form the peripheral twigs:
important, but perhaps to a lesser degree.
It's up to you to
ultimately figure out what your ultimate spiritual goal is, and what
practices are going to help you get there.
Really, that's the joy
that comes with walking your own spiritual path.
Spirituality Overlaps With Psychology
of the ego.
As it turns out,
they are both right.
Once we have
done enough work
to establish our
sense of self,
with the bigger
psychology = psycho-spirituality.
Psycho-spirituality is a
Heart and Mind
Heaven and Earth
East and West
It's an integrative,
balanced approach to life that we advocate on this website and a
path I strive to bring into my everyday existence.
But why bring psychology into spirituality?
psychology is vague, ungrounded, and disconnected from daily
life. In and of itself, spirituality typically doesn't deal with
the mental and emotional issues buried beneath the surface of
Thus, when we only
focus on spirituality, we tend to fall into the trap of
spiritual bypassing, which is using spirituality to avoid
our everyday life issues - causing great harm to ourselves and
On the other hand, psychology without spirituality is dry,
overly-theoretical, and disconnected from the fresh breeze of
spiritual insight. Working on ourselves and our issues is
important, but if that's only what we focus on, our lives end up
feeling empty and dull.
If you're interested in
walking the spiritual path, I strongly recommend incorporating some
kind of psychological work into your practice.
This could be as simple
as seeing a therapist every fortnight or reading self-help books.
Whatever the case,
something is better than nothing. It's best to flush out the toxins
rather than letting them accumulate and fester within your mind and
Common psycho-spiritual inner work practices include:
Learning how to
love yourself (self-love)
Inner Child Work
Imagination ("Astral Travel")
Divine Feminine /
Divine Masculine Work (anima and animus)
(somatic experiencing, body-centered mindfulness)
There are many layers to spirituality and the spiritual path.
Most people who become interested in spirituality have gone through,
or are going through, a spiritual awakening process of some kind.
After, or simultaneously during this experience, they might also
experience a painful phenomenon known as the
Dark Night of the Soul.
I'll clearly differentiate what these stages in human evolution mean
What is Spiritual
Quite simply, a spiritual awakening is the experience of
entering the spiritual search.
awakenings happen as a result of sickness, job loss, traumatic
life experiences, and big life changes such as getting married
or having a child.
Suddenly, the old,
materialistic way of life doesn't satisfy a person, and they
start to crave more. And so begins the spiritual quest.
Luna poignantly wrote in
her spiritual awakening
awakenings are the soul's cry for freedom…
If you have
experienced a spiritual awakening, you have come to see
through the lies and illusions of this world. Deep in your
soul, you realize that nothing external has ever, and can
ever, bring you true happiness or fulfillment.
realization leaves you craving for something richer, more
fulfilling, and something that will make you feel whole once
What is the
Dark Night of the Soul?
The Dark Night of the Soul was a term originally coined
by the 16th-century Spanish Monk and Mystic,
Saint John of the Cross.
It was derived from a
poem by the same name ("Noche
Oscura") that described his own painful experience.
In a nutshell,
the Dark Night
of the Soul is the experience of feeling totally
disconnected from the Divine.
This severe feeling
of isolation and spiritual abandonment may accompany a spiritual
awakening (having "lost" contact with Spirit) or naturally as a
result of life experience.
As I summarize in my Dark Night of the Soul
The Dark Night of
the Soul is a period of utter spiritual desolation,
disconnection, and emptiness in which one feels totally
separated from the Divine.
experience the Dark Night feel completely lost, hopeless,
and consumed with melancholy.
The Dark Night of
the Soul can be likened to severe spiritual depression.
How to Start Your
is both deep
By now you might be wondering,
how do I choose
my spiritual path?
Not to sound like a
fortune cookie, but your spiritual path chooses you.
What I mean by this is that, deep down, your heart, soul,
spirit, whatever, knows what it needs the most to evolve,
mature, heal, and transform.
But to make the process a bit easier for you, here are some
steps you can take.
Feel free to keep
what resonates and throw away the rest:
1. Define what
spirituality means to you
Yes, the power and freedom are in your hands to throw away
all second-hand descriptions and define what spirituality
means to you.
Remember, this is your life and your path. You don't need to
buy into a definition of spirituality that doesn't resonate
on a core level with you.
It needs to feel
true, and viscerally real - and if it doesn't, throw it away
and move on.
You need to be
able to really feel what spirituality is in your bones in
order to find a genuine spiritual path that truly helps you.
For me, spirituality is a direct experience:
spirituality is about growing up and waking up.
It's a uniting,
finding out who I am and moving beyond all labels.
doing and being, building up and tearing down, and
experiencing the very core of who and what I am.
constantly evolving, maturing, healing, and embodying
the Divine that I am an inseparable part of.
Don't worry if
your definition of spirituality isn't as long or
multi-layered as mine. It doesn't need to be.
or write some of your thoughts down on a piece of paper, or
in your personal journal.
The benefit of
writing down your thoughts is that you'll be able to refer
back to them in the future and see how your approach has
morphed and evolved.
Not many people clearly define what spirituality is to them
- and this results in a lot of personal confusion,
frustration, and disillusionment.
It's easy to look
to others for answers, but ultimately no one is living
your life for you but you, and you need to define what
spirituality means to you in order to authentically walk
your spiritual path.
2. Think about
your approach (and what you really want)
Why do you
want to have a spiritual path?
do you want to be?
When all is
said and done, what are your true needs, motivations,
these three questions will clear up a tremendous amount of
confusion and frustration. By asking the deep-and-real
questions, you are giving yourself the best chance to grow,
transform, and heal.
As psychotherapist and yoga teacher Mariana Caplan
To ask this
question of ourselves - "Am I committed, or am I just
involved?" - and give an honest answer helps us to make
intelligent choices about which paths and practices are
best suited for the spiritual development we seek.
arises when we profess one thing and live out another,
because we confuse ourselves and others, and we limit
If only we could say honestly and without shame,
engage spirituality as a hobby"
want a spiritual practice that will give me some
peace of mind but without any commitment or
"I'd like to keep spirituality as my mistress
but maintain comfort and security as my spouse"
want to be seen as a spiritual man or woman
because that will make me more sexy",
…it is not
wrong to have such an approach to spiritual development.
We grow from
where we are, and if we pretend to be somewhere we are
not and try to move forward, we are likely to travel in
a very crooked line and become more confused than
Be honest with
yourself and look within. What do you want? What do you
3. Choose a
handful of spiritual paths/practices
Refer back to the Common Spiritual Paths and Practices
above and choose up to five
areas that interest you.
For me personally, five is way too many:
I prefer to
focus the majority of my attention on one or two
practices to really go deep with them (presently, that's
meditation and mindfulness).
But you may be
Try to pick practices that you feel a genuine pull towards
(even if they seem silly to your mind). Let your heart lead
the way. The reason why I advise listening to your heart is
that the mind tends to deceive us easily.
We believe we
"have to" like this or "should" practice that. As a result,
we try to live up to a mental ideal that superficially looks
attractive but internally feels hollow.
So go with your instincts.
4. Choose a
As I mentioned above, without psychology, spirituality can
easily become ungrounded, disconnected from daily life, and
can be used to bypass our inner shadows, traumas, and
To truly get the most out of your spiritual path, you need
to also heal and mature on the personal (ego) level. This
process is known as individuation.
The goal is to
become a Whole human being with access to all sides of
your nature (with none of them being shamed, reactively
acted-out or repressed).
Go to the section above entitled
When Spirituality Overlaps With
Psychology and choose one or two practices
from the list.
shadow work is an advanced psychological practice that
requires a good foundation of self-love - so if you're new
to self-development, try other practices first to not
If you would like professional guidance, seek out
transpersonal and psycho-spiritual counselors/therapists.
If you can't find
any in your area, ask the professionals that are available
whether they incorporate spirituality into their therapeutic
5. Combine, mix,
and co-create your unique path
Using the spiritual and psychological paths and practices
you've selected, begin to incorporate them into your daily
At first, you may need to formally set aside or schedule a
certain amount of time every day to dedicate to your
spiritual path. Think about what time of the day would be
best for you (many people prefer the morning, but if you're
a night owl perhaps try the evening).
aside 10-15 minutes, and gradually, you can increase this
amount of time.
However, if you
feel like dedicating more time to your spiritual path from
the beginning, go for it! This is your path remember.
You might like to dedicate a space in your house to your
spiritual practice - even if that simply means an empty
corner of a room. If you have an artistic side, you may like
to create an altar if that speaks to you.
create a quiet space in which you can reflect/work.
6. Ask, "what is
the ultimate purpose?"
Many spiritual paths and practices are alluring on the
surface, but beneath they are very limited in scope and will
only get you so far.
One profoundly helpful question I keep using over and over
again on my journey is,
"what is the
ultimate purpose of this path?"
I then reflect on
what spirituality means to me and my true needs, and whether
they all align.
If they don't,
and if I find the path/practice to be superficially pretty,
but lacking on a deeper level for me, I discard of it.
This simple question will help you sort the 'wheat from the
chaff' and the diamonds from the dust.
Over to You…
In conclusion, I'll leave you with a beautiful quote that summarizes
religion, spirituality, and the spiritual path:
be true to
and if you
put your heart
out of it...