What does it mean to be spiritual? That is a question that confounds many people who are initially drawn towards a desire to live their lives by a more self-nurturing and less-materialistic set of personal values.
Discovering for yourself, exactly what spirituality means to you personally is not a question that can be quickly and easily resolved.
In fact, it can take a lifetime to reveal your unique relationship to the Infinite.
Looking For Shortcuts
Many who seek a quicker understanding of what it means to be spiritual are drawn towards one of the great religions through a mistaken belief that they are the best place to find a true and authentic path to the spirituality.
Sadly all to many who follow this path very quickly reach a dead-end and find that religion is not spiritual at its heart. It is, at best, a dogmatic set of teachings – usually very archaic and thoroughly out-dated in their value – a pale imitation of spirituality that can only relate to its followers stories of how other great names from the past have followed their own path spiritual enlightenment.
As anyone who has followed a spiritual discipline closely for several years will tell you, the only way through to a meaningful experience of any form of true and authentic spiritual life is through self-initiation; through that gradual, personal process of alignment to the metaphysical forces that exert such a powerful influence upon our lives.
Main Paths to Insight
In her book ‘365 Ways to Strengthen Your Spirituality, writer Alexandra Chauran explores the world of personal spirituality. Within its pages she offers her readers specific guidance on the best ways to make that all-important connection to the world of spirit and reveals ways in which the reader can speed up the process of personal growth that extends from it.
Chauran has divided her book up into ten sections with each one looking at a specific area of modern spiritual practice.
Within this the author has also assigned each page to a single day of the year in which she presents one aspect of spiritual work with a bias towards a specific exercise or practical technique for that day.
In the first of the ten parts she focuses upon your immediate environment – the world that exists outside of you but which is an aspect of the greater spiritual dimension.
As the author explains
Ideally, your life should serve as an inspiration to consult Spirit, and your relationship with Spirit should inform the way you interact with the world around you.
The following three parts to the book centers around an exploration of some of the most important elements to the way in which we interface, on a daily basis, with Spirit.
These important aspects to spiritual practice are simply referred to in the book as Body, Mind and Prayer.
The third of these, namely prayer, may well be associated in most people’s minds with orthodox religion but the practice has a very significant role to play in the world of personal, modern spirituality.
The only difference here is that the solo-practitioner tends to pray to a deity that resides within themselves rather than take religion’s perspective which requires that devotional work is extended to supernal powers that are seen as residing outside of ourselves.
God or Goddess?
In today’s world of equal rights for both sexes, many people are openly questioning the traditional concept of the male polarity of any Supreme Being.
It is increasingly common to find spiritual seekers rejecting the notion of a all-pervading, male, patriarchal form of God and instead of exploring the many forms of deity expressed up by a Goddess figure.
Like all other aspects to spiritual devotion, the choice as to whether you personally venerate a male or female deity is entirely a decision of your own making.
In her book Chauran dedicates subsequent parts to the exploration of both the Divine Feminine energy as well as the Divine Masculine – though in truth, you may well feel comfortable integrating the powers of both masculine and feminine gods into your spiritual work.
Spirituality as a Personal Quest
For spirituality to work in your life it needs to become an integral part of your life path. It needs to be reflected through your cycles of psychological growth, within the heart of times of challenge as well as in moments of celebration.
Traditional religion tends to set aside specific dates in the annual calendar as mini, and imposed rites of passage, but in modern spiritual practice the journey, such as that taken by the Hero and Heroine, determines its own timeframe.
Chauran explores these ideas and reveals how the Spirit operates in such as way as to help us grow and develop in spiritual maturity.
At its culmination – in part ten, the author approaches the one aspect of spirituality that orthodox religion does excel at in a way that is far above that of solo practice. That is the area of communal or group devotional activity.
The path of the spiritual seeker can indeed be just as lonely to follow as it is hard so Charuan offers specific advice at the end of her book on how to connect to the larger spiritual community.
As she reminds us in the concluding remarks to her book:
Today, see Spirit in everyone. Realize the Spirit you see in each person is also the Spirit that resides within you.
This is a book that has the distinction of being one of the few beginners guides to spirituality that actually succeeds in creating a bridge connecting the world of modern spirituality to 21st century life.
It does have its drawbacks, however, for, as a rule, these sort of 365, one page a day, books rarely work and in this book in particular this format proves to be problematic in so many regards.
Nevertheless, if you read ‘365 Ways to Strengthen Your Spirituality’ as a standard initiatory, and introductory book about the varying strands of practical spirituality; or if you simply dip in and out of it at will, then its finer aspects shine through.
Although I did not like its structure, it is all the same a publication that evidently has been carefully thought out.
Within its pages it covers a lot of ground extremely well and places itself firmly in the mindset of someone seeking spiritual guidance but who is not quite sure even what questions to ask – never mind where to ask them and of whom!
For most of us who have been around spirituality for more than a few years its content appears overly simplistic at times and in some places somewhat self-evident but these, as it turns out are the qualities that make it such a powerfully effective introductory guide to those who are standing on the edge and ready to step out into the somewhat diverse and confusing world of spirituality.
365 Ways to Strengthen Your Spirituality is the sort of publication that you could quite comfortably offer to anyone who might come to you with that all important question.
What exactly IS spirituality and how do you DO it? … and in that context, it works admirably!