Spirituality is having the belief that there is a power greater than oneself; that there are things outside one’s control. It is living life in a deeper, more profound way, having a deep sense of life’s ‘truths’.
Spirituality has been defined consistently by scientists as the search for or connection with “the sacred”. The Sacred might be that which is blessed, holy, revered, or particularly special. This can be secular or non-secular: sacredness might be pursued as the search for a purpose in life or as a close relationship with something greater; the sacred might be experienced in the forgiveness offered by a child, a humble moment between a leader and a subordinate, an awe-inspiring sunset, a profound experience during meditation or a religious service, or the self-sacrificing kindness of a stranger.
As a character strength, spirituality involves the belief that there is a dimension to life that is beyond human understanding. Some people don’t connect this belief with the concept of Divinity and prefer to think of it in terms of a sense of meaning rather than spirituality.VIA CHARACTER
For some, religion plays a deep role in their spirituality. But religion does not equal spirituality. There are religious people who are not spiritual. They perform acts of religion–pray, kneel, raise hands, offer food, bow, light candles and incense, etc– but you see them and you realize they give their religion a bad name– because they don’t take their religion seriously enough to LIVE this in their lives. On the other hand, there are people you won’t see at mass, or in a synagogue or temple, or in their houses of worship, but they walk their talk, exude a deep sense of peace, and have integrity. It is by their fruits that you know them, and the fruits of a person’s spirituality you see in the way they live their lives: compassion, selflessness, inner peace, surrender, deep joy, gratitude, and love.
Practical Spirituality understands that while there is a power greater than oneself, life is the beautiful interplay between the person and what-lies-beyond-the-person. Practical Spirituality then is about making choices, and acting on those choices, so that what we believe in is integrated into our daily lives.
We make practical choices every day. But it is more difficult to make spiritual choices daily. Pedro Arrupe would put it this way, “Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is than falling in love in a quite absolute and final way.”
How do we live out our spirituality in a practical way every day? Here are practical tips in building a more practical spirituality:
1) Using your cellphone to pray. When I’m tired and in bed, but can’t sleep, I do this until I fall asleep (of course I make sure I don’t check out social media apps. More on that later):
I get my cellphone and (a) go through each one of the names in my address book, (b) remember the last time I met that person (or I try to recall one vivid memory I have with that person), and
(c) thank God for him/her and pray for his/her intention.
With my bulky cellphone address book, this process could take several days. An even more practical use for this activity is that I get to delete names I don’t recognize (these are acquaintances you added over the years; you probably met them in a party and you exchanged numbers, and you saved their numbers without any intention of contacting them), and/or reconnect with friends I have not contacted in a long time. I also do this during all waiting times instead of checking social media.
2) Social Media Fast. This has done a lot of wonders for me in the past months. If you can’t do a social media fast, just turn off all notifications on your phone or laptop. But in a class by Dr. Laurie Santos on the Science of Wellbeing that I attended some months back, a study showed “that social media not only invites social comparison – which can have a negative impact on happiness by undermining self-esteem, but can also leave a negative sense of having wasted one’s time, as well reducing time doing positive activities that do promote happiness, such as face to face interactions.” You can read about that more here: “The More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel.”
3) High point and low point. At the end of each day, I think about one high point and one low point of the day. I think about the high point and thank God for that. I then try to think about the low point, replay it in my mind and think about how I could have done better or reacted better in the situation. You can also make this a family activity. If you have kids, you can sit with your kids at night and ask them about their highs and lows. It’s a very easy way to know how your kids are, and they’ll look forward to it. If you’re in a relationship, you can make this your daily ritual: to text your girlfriend/boyfriend your highs and lows. Instead of just texting the generic goodnight, it’s a more meaningful way of telling your significant other about your day. The good thing about it is that you will be forced to reflect on your day yourself. And reflection is always a good thing.
4) A feelings database. This is nerdy, I know. But I toyed with the idea of keeping an excel file of major feelings. I made sure I protected it with a password of course. This was inspired when Steve Jobs said that “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” I list down positive and negative feelings in the file. I found that in the beginning, I would just put feelings like OK, happy, sad, lonely, etc. After a while I became more and more eloquent and started verbalizing nuanced feelings like ‘panicked’, ‘serene’, ‘resentful’, ‘frustrated’, ‘adversarial’– things I felt but were never able to name before. After a while, I would notice patterns of thoughts, feelings, and emotions and have been more able to act accordingly and maturely.
5) Podcasts. For those of you who work from home, or those driving or commuting to the office, you can listen to podcasts like pray-as-you-go or the Happiness Lab or Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations on your phone. Listening to a podcast is passive, it helps prepare you for the day, and it calms you down.
Hope you find these practical tips doable and helpful! What about you? What are your tips for practical spirituality? Share them below!
Stay tuned for tips 6-10 next week!
You have a minute? You might also find these interesting:
- How Psychology and Spirituality are Two Sides of the Same Coin
- Three Practices to Celebrate Your Day
- Volo Ergo Sum
- First Two Steps to Creating Resilience
- Turning the Other Cheek