by Dorian Martin for JBuergermeister.com
Spirituality maintains a strong hold on our society, even as our views of spirituality evolve. For many years, spirituality was equated primarily with being part of a religion. However, a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center for Religion and Public Life points out that the percentage of Americans who attend regular religious services and describe religion as being very important in their lives has decreased since 2007. Additionally, a growing percentage of Americans – especially those in the Millennial generation – describe themselves as being religiously unaffiliated.
The Pew report suggests that many members of our society are redefining their views of spirituality. So what is a useful definition of a spiritual practice in our ever-changing world? The Spiritual Science Research Foundation suggests that a spiritual practice involves “honest and sincere efforts done consistently on a daily basis to develop divine qualities and achieve everlasting happiness or bliss.” In addition, this practice can involve a personal journey that goes inward past the five senses, the mind and intellect in order to reach the Soul and to provide an experience of bliss.
Additional Benefits of a Spiritual Practice
A spiritual practice also provides benefits to both psychological and physical health. For instance, studies suggest that people who have strong spiritual beliefs may have lower blood pressure, suffer from less anxiety and depression and have faster healing rates after surgery. They also may cope better in the face of chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.
Other Ways to Have a Spiritual Practice
As spirituality moves beyond the walls of the church, practices continue to grow and evolve. In a column for OnBeing.org, Courtney E. Martin suggests that some powerful spiritual practices may actually be mundane parts of an individual’s day. For instance, she describes five practices that she’s seen in her own life:
- Mindful consumerism, which avoids buying what one doesn’t truly need while also preserving economic resources to support an individual’s freedom.
- Mindful eating, which involves truly appreciating food’s look, texture, smell and taste and pondering the memories the food invokes. Additionally, mindful eating also includes turning away from technology and instead staying focused on having meaningful interactions with people at the table.
- Mindful conversations, which build empathy with strangers. Martin recounts a mindful conversation that she had with her Uber driver about his roots in Sierra Leone. At the end of the trip, she gave him $20 to send to his family. “I have no idea if it will make a difference to them, but it made a difference to me,” the columnist wrote about the experience. “It made me feel like a person whose outside, however fumbling or inadequate, mirrors her inside.”
- A gratitude practice, which offers continual thankfulness for even the smallest of gestures in life.
- Witnessing the large and small miracles inherent in life, such as when Martin watches her infant daughter learning about the world around her.
Spirituality continues to be at the core of religion and a wealth of practices help congregations focus on individual spiritual growth. Fortunately, those who make a choice to embrace spirituality without a religious affiliation can also find ways to enhance their spirituality through daily practices that enhance and deepen their lives.
Sources for This Post:
Martin, C.E. (2014). Spiritual Practices Hidden in Plain Sight. OnBeing.org.
Pew Research Center for Religion & Public Life. (2015). U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious.
Spiritual Science Research Foundation. (ND). Definition of Spiritual Practices.
University of Maryland Medical Center. (2013). Spirituality.