This article was written by Caroline Nettle.
There are 5 principle ways to evolve spiritually, and they are all equally as important as each other. Each person will have natural preferences to one or two, but all of them contribute to our spiritual journey towards happiness and peace.
The first way to grow is through the heart. The heart is the control centre of our emotions and spiritual growth happens when we learn to forgive, love, and truly accept ourselves and those around us. The greatest teacher for all these lessons is relationships, both romantic and family relationships. These are the people that we let close, and they push our buttons, and in doing so, give us the gift of seeing where we are most intolerant, selfish, and angry for example.
The longest journey is the 7” journey from the head to the heart. We live almost entirely in the head in the west, and I have watched many people struggle with the concept of living from the heart- myself included. As you get to know and accept yourself and continue to work on your issues, you begin to be able to accept yourself and thus begins the journey into the heart. All the parts of you that you reject are the parts that keep you from living in the heart.
The second way to grow is through prayer and devotion. Religion is the traditional way to practice devotion. Service is commonly encouraged in many of the worlds’ religions. Thinking about how you can be of service in the world is a very effective antidote to self, as not only are you rendering service to another, it usually boosts your self- esteem at the same time.
There has been a shift away from religion in some parts of secular society, and a growing number of people have found meditation and other spiritual practices to replace the church. I think that tuning into something greater than yourself (universal consciousness, for example) as a daily practice, will allow you to connect with the deepest parts of your being. This ritual can really enable you to open your heart and mind and can contribute to your spiritual evolution.
The third way to grow is through the body. “My body is a temple” is a common phrase, but in actual fact, the body is the way that we experience this spiritual lifetime. I am a spiritual being in a human body. Healthy food and good exercise like Yoga and Chi Gung, and other eastern practices will strengthen your body and keep you from illness.
Other activities make this experience of the body more enjoyable- hygiene, dancing, sport, intimacy, hiking, and so on. For some people, living in the body is too painful, so they escape with spiritual or religious addiction, or any other methods of denying their body. This could involve over- eating, alcohol, anorexia, living in the head, (over-analysing, catastrophising, depression or anger are a few examples) or body hatred. For these people, becoming grounded and learning to live in and through the body is the spiritual growth that will enable them to start on a different path.
The fourth way to grow is through the mind. This is all about understanding with the mind and expanding the mind to encompass vast concepts like “Who am I?”, “What is Truth?”, “What is Death?”
Studying different philosophies and pondering the big questions in life, and finding new ways to look at yourself and the world are great ways to find out who you are and what you hold true. Meditating and going within is also a good way to find yourself – it is amazing how much you can learn about yourself in a moment of silence. Meditation is a spiritual practice that can take some time to master but it does become easier as you learn to switch off the busy mind, and the benefits to your health and well-being can be incredible.
The fifth way to grow is the way of creativity. This section offers the most excitement on a spiritual journey- chanting, drumming, singing, ritual, ceremony, artwork, and many different forms of creating. This is probably the one that attracts most people at the beginning of their journey. Here is where you can try lots of different activities, and meet lots of people who are also searching for some answers. Many people stay here and are drawn to the excitement. However, some people experience this stage as a solitary time, and draw and sing on their own.
For some, this is a very personal stage that they do not choose to live out in front of others as they find their expression through whatever medium suits them. Whichever way you choose to grow, be aware of the other forms that are also a necessary part of the journey. Becoming spiritual is a profound lifestyle choice and each journey will be different to anyone else’s. Spiritual Growth is an extremely personal journey, and one that needs time, and patience, courage and honesty.