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I'm New to the World of Spirituality--Any Advice? A Reader Asks

Reader's Question

Image of lotus, symbol of spirituality

What would you say to someone who has just opened up their channels to their spirituality, but at the same time has no idea about the spiritual world? What does it even mean to be spiritual?

Nancy's Response

This is such a great question. Thanks for voicing it. My response is in the spirit of friendly discussion. So, from where I stand:

You say you are new to spirituality and the spiritual path, but you aren’t. That’s because there is no other path, no other world. As Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron says, “Whatever is happening is the path to enlightenment.” In other words, the path to enlightenment is the only path there is, and you’ve been on it since the moment you, fundamentally a spiritual being, were born into a physical body and physical experience. (And probably before, but that’s another discussion.)

So you are not new to spirituality. All that is new is your level of awareness and intention about it.

We often think of spirituality using the image or metaphor of a path or journey, and that has usefulness. But the image is also misleading, because it is temporal/spacial, implying that there is a beginning, sequential steps along the way, and an end. And there are not.

It is more a state than a process. And one thing I gather from that is that, on a deep level, no one of us in this physical experience is more spiritually “advanced” than another. We all have different perspectives, different things that we see, different ways of interpreting and expressing what we have experienced. So we have valuable things to share by talking about our spiritual experiences with each other. But I believe it is a mistake to overvalue others’ words and thoughts about the spiritual life, and to undervalue our own.

(I also think there are whole cultures that would disagree with this, and I respect that.)

Many people, at least in our hard-working culture, think of spiritual growth or awakening as a process that you have to toil away at for a lifetime to “achieve.” More books! More workshops! More teachers! More meditation! We turn it into such a chore.

I believe that we are all already “there.” Each of us already possesses Buddha-nature within. The peace and wisdom and love and awakening that we all seek is already a part of us. So the spiritual path or process is more about stepping into where you already are, of seeing what is right in front of you, of standing up to your full height instead of crouching, of embracing the Beloved who is right before you, arms outstretched for you.

So the most important thing, I think, is to cultivate stillness, presence, mindfulness—in daily life. Because when we do that, we can see and feel the Beings that we truly are. We can access the Universal Intelligence and the Universal Love. If we get still and wait, we can see that they have always been available to us.

Furthermore, when we are still and present, we can more easily perceive the often subtle information and promptings from Universal Intelligence and Universal Love. The writer Jan Phillips has so beautifully said, “The face of God is always just inches away.” Noise, furor, thought, ego—they all create a fog that makes it hard to see that glorious Face.

Answering Your Specific Questions About Spirituality

Q: What does it mean to be spiritual?

A: Just to be alive. It is all holy.

Q: What does it mean to be in tune with your higher self?

A: Just to have enough periods of stillness in your life that you can catch glimpses of the eternal Consciousness that you are and your unity with all other Consciousness, which is to say everything, which is to say God. (Hint: You cannot get there through thinking or thought.) You will act accordingly.

Q: How can we use our own body to heal ourselves?

A: Everything is energy, which means that the physical world, including your physical body, is energy too. Your physical body also channels/manifests Intelligence and information, and it does so without thought. Therefore it can be a powerful source of healing and insight. Expand your conception of healing beyond the physical body, and allow your physical body to be a source of healing and wisdom for the entirety of your being, which includes not just your material body, not just your energy field, but also your life. You are both a noun and a verb. Your physical body, through its imbalances as well as its harmony, is trying to heal that expanded, entire YOU.

Q: How do we know what unique abilities we have to help others?

A: Just see what comes up in your life and offer what you have in support of others' stepping into their fullness. Learn to see—and believe in—the subtleties around you. Life brings us everything we need.

To give an example, my husband and I were in the emergency room with my elderly dad a while back. My husband (also an energy worker, though not professionally) had retreated from the too-small room my dad was in, back to the waiting room. He was feeling like a third wheel and wondering if he should go. Then life brought him two ways to support those around him. A little girl was upset and crying. He reached out to her energetically and she calmed down. It would be easy to dismiss that as a coincidence, but I would urge you to trust in our shared human ability to sense each other and influence each other on subtle, energetic levels. He also helped someone in a practical way, with the mechanical aspects of a wheel chair. Neither of these ways of helping, the subtle or the mechanical, was superior to the other.

Bottom line: in this "new" world of spirituality that you are entering: trust yourself.

In friendship, Nancy

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