Defining Your Own Spirituality

Hopefully, by this point in our journey together, you're starting to get the picture that there's no one true way to practice spirituality. Each person's path is individual to them. While there are numerous benefits to be gained through cultivating a devotional practice, what you take from it ultimately depends upon your specific goals. This leads me to today's topic, which is a discussion of the ways in which you can define your own metaphysical practice. Defining your own spirituality can be incredibly empowering and liberating. Let's examine what it means to do so and how you can further create your own way.

Considerations Before You Begin

As with any new activity, it's a good idea to do some research in order to learn about what's out there on the subject, as well as to take a moment for self-reflection so you can determine what you hope to gain from the pursuit. It's important to remember to be gentle on yourself, as this may be something completely new in your life. It's expected that you won't have all the answers at once. Seeking a spiritual path is an evolving process that occurs over time. Consider your current belief system. Think about what's led you to want to partake in a study of something beyond yourself. Some folks have a spiritual epiphany that leads them down a particular road, while others follow a vague feeling that something's missing in their life.

Ways to Gain Clarity

You can begin by involving yourself with an organized religion or spiritual school of thought, but this is definitely not necessary. Even if you do align yourself with one particular group or philosophy, the point of spirituality is that it's personal and unique to each individual. Talk to others, do some reading and take your time to get a sense of what type of practices appeal to you. Take good notes or journal during this time. Make a list of your values and of what you feel is missing in your life. Then begin to brainstorm ways you might be able to obtain those things.

How to Learn

Now It's time to get specific about ways to learn about different spiritual philosophies. The internet is a great place to start. You can begin by reading about the religions or beliefs you're familiar with. This type of research generally leads to the encounter of relevant topics. Follow the links that appeal to you. Find books on different paths and take in information that way. It's even a good idea to get out there and attend services or meetings of groups that seem in line with your own personal beliefs. This first-hand insight can be invaluable toward reaching your own conclusions. Start to incorporate activities we've discussed like yoga and meditation into your lifestyle. Perhaps alternative medicines and treatments such as Reiki, acupuncture, aromatherapy, herbalism or homeopathy are something worth investigating and adding to your routine.

That's the real beauty of spirituality. How you pursue it can and should be completely up to you to define. Have fun with it and remain open to the possibilities. You may be surprised what you come to create.

Combat the Negative Effects of Stress Through Spiritual Practices and Meditation

Stress is prevalent in our modern fast-paced world. From work deadlines to money issues, you've got lots of things on your plate and tons of reasons to worry. You know you need to get a handle on all these anxious thoughts because they're unproductive. Constant stress can lead to poor decision making, physical health problems, emotional turmoil, loss of sleep and a host of other problems. So how can you manage the overwhelm? Beyond seeing a therapist or simply trying to muddle through, you can actually benefit a great deal by cultivating your spirituality by engaging in meditation, yoga or even prayer to deal with these feelings that threaten to overtake you. Read on to discover how to combat the negative effects of stress through spiritual practices and meditation.

How Spirituality Lowers Stress

Spirituality, or your pursuit of a higher purpose, can enhance your well-being, particularly by lowering your stress levels. This is accomplished in various ways. Taking up spiritual activities helps you to feel connected to something beyond yourself, giving you a sense of belonging in the world. This can lead you to feel less lonely and like you have to take on every difficulty on your own. Spiritual pursuits can also provide you with insights into your greater purpose and give you an understanding of what you want out of life. Having a glimpse into the bigger picture allows you to feel more at peace. Your spiritual journey will more than likely lead you to a support network you may not have had before. Whether it's a formal church group or simply convening with nature, this connection to those outside yourself is liberating.

How to Become More Spiritual

If you're new to the idea of discovering your spiritual path, you may not be sure how to get started. There's a lot of self-discovery involved in this journey. Let's look at just a few ways you can get moving in the right direction. Once you begin, you'll find the momentum will push you toward broadening your spiritual horizons. Start by asking yourself some questions and follow where your answers take you. Consider your values and what's most important to you. Delve deeper to identify what it is you really want out of your life. This goes beyond the material things. Think about the kinds of relationships you desire, what you want to do in terms of vocation and the ways in which you enjoy spending your free time. What makes you feel hopeful and joyful? Conjure a memory of a time you felt pride. Start taking notes and see if you notice a pattern. The answers to these questions might just paint a picture of the types of spiritual pursuits that will make your soul sing.

Ways to Reduce Stress Through Spiritual Practice

There are so many ways to incorporate spirituality into your life that can lower your stress levels at the same time. The key is choosing activities that are most meaningful to you and that will lead to the highest sense of fulfillment. Some practices we've already spoken of include meditation and yoga. These physical acts involve strengthening the body and focusing the mind in order to gain an appreciation for the present moment and to feel more in control of your own circumstances. Prayer is another spiritual tool that can help you to obtain a stronger sense of inner-peace. You don't have to belong to a formal religion in order to pray. Simply stating a desired intent with meaning and sending it out to the Universe or to whatever greater source you believe in will do. There are hosts of other ways you can become closer to your higher self, such as getting out into nature, exercising, spending time with animals, reading, journaling or engaging in fellowship with friends.

Your spiritual path can connect you to so many outlets for stress reduction. The opportunities are practically endless, as you'll see once you begin to create your own practice. You'll notice your stress levels decreasing before you know it.

How Mindful Meditation Can Calm Anxiety

If you'll recall from our earlier posts, mindfulness meditation is a type of meditating practice that helps you to be present in the moment. It has some very specific benefits, as have been demonstrated in a number of studies. Researchers and scientists are starting to take the healing powers of meditation seriously, and it's becoming an accepted and popular practice across the globe. One very specific use of this type of meditation is the alleviation of anxiousness in those who suffer from this prevalent problem. Follow along with me as I share how mindful meditation can calm anxiety. You may be surprised at how effective this act can be.

Effects of Meditation on Anxiety

Meditation, in general, can be beneficial toward lessening the effects of anxiety. There is evidence that mindfulness mediation can be particularly effective in this area. That's good news because this form of meditation is actually quite easy to learn for beginners. It simply involves finding a quiet spot to sit and engaging in focused breathing, while keeping your mind on the present moment instead of letting it drift to other things. It will take practice to master the art of settling your mind, but it can be done and the benefits are immense. The reason this type of meditating works is due to the fact that the foundation of anxiety often lies in unproductive worries and thoughts. Mindfulness meditation teaches you to stop those harmful thoughts. With repetition, actual changes in the structure of your brain will occur in which the nagging worries are essentially short-circuited.

Changes in the Brain

It's true. The ways in which your brain functions are completely changed after engaging regularly in mindful meditation. Modern neuroimaging technology lets researchers make note of these changes to provide us with evidence of the occurrence. In one particularly thorough research investigation, Johns Hopkins University researchers sifted through the findings of approximately 18,000 earlier studies on mindfulness meditation in order to cull through the methodology and determine which were the most scientifically sound. They then determined that the evidence presented was enough to rule the benefits of this type of meditating were most significant on generalized anxiety disorder and related conditions such as panic attacks, agoraphobia and social anxiety.

Structural, Functional and Chemical Transformations

Without getting too technical, let's look at some of the specific alterations that happen within the brain due to repeated practice of mindful meditation. One of the main developments that can arise is actual “rewiring” of the brain in which new neural pathways are built. The ease of which the brain has the ability to undergo these changes is called “plasticity.” Meditating can lead such rewiring of the brain to become less anxious and more focused. You can train your brain in this manner to actually view your thoughts in a new light and to recognize when your thoughts are wandering in order to stop them with more immediacy and to let them go. Structural changes to the brain can also occur as a direct result of meditation. Physical differences of note include increased gray matter, along with noted changes in the thickness of the cortex and volume of the hippocampus. Perhaps more significantly, the fear center of the brain, known as the amygdala, actually decreases through exposure to meditation. Many connections within the brain are improved, and inflammation is reduced. Amazingly, these changes can happen in the span of several hours.

There you have it. There is actual scientific evidence that mindful meditation can calm anxiety. Hopefully, this information will increase your desire to take part in a regular meditation practice of your own.

Using Yoga to Tap Into Your Spiritual Side

You may think of yoga as a form of physical exercise. You'd be correct. It definitely is. In fact, yoga requires a great deal of strength and focus to perform some of the more advanced poses and postures. This centuries-old practice goes beyond simply being good for you physically. It offers a number of benefits for your mind, body and spirit.  Let's take a look at how using yoga to tap into your spiritual side can work.

About Yoga

First, I'd like to take a moment to ensure we're all on the same page with regard to what yoga is. It is both a spiritual and physical practice involving focused breathing, stretching, purposeful movements and a cool-down period. Physical benefits of yoga include increased strength, greater flexibility, enhanced stamina, improved posture and better balance. Yoga has mental benefits, as well. These are relaxation, body awareness, reduced stress and better sleep, among others. When these benefits combine, they transcend into becoming a spiritual practice. Keep reading, and we'll get into the specifics of that.

A Quieter Mind

Much like practicing meditation, the act of performing yoga poses can lead to a calmer and quieter mind. One of the ways in which it does this is by allowing you to focus on the postures at hand, holding them and breathing through the pose. During this time, you're no longer thinking about the outside stressors and obligations of your life and you have the opportunity to just be. In this moment, you are actually experiencing a form of spiritual transcendence.


Yoga puts you in touch with yourself. If you're taking a class, there will be others surrounding you. With practice, you'll learn to tune out the world around you and focus only on yourself, your physical space, your responses to the poses and the places that your mind takes you during this quiet repose. It's rare that we are able to find this kind of opportunity for introspection in our busy, hectic lives. Take advantage of it to learn more about whom you are and the person you want to be.

Ability to Give Up Control

Losing control of our circumstances is one of the biggest fears of many people. The fact is there are countless events and circumstances that are beyond our control in life. Living in fear of that is a big contributor to bouts of anxiety, frustration and neuroticism. We don't have to be on edge in the face of ambiguity. Yoga gives you the freedom to let go and to realize what happens around you won't necessarily destroy your world. It's that sense of a calm and quiet mind that gives you the power to handle not knowing what the future may bring because you're now better equipped to be mindful of the present. It's a very freeing feeling.

This is just an overview of the ways in which yoga can help you to tap into your spiritual side. Once you begin to incorporate it into your life, you'll soon discover for yourself the unique personal benefits it can bring.

The Long Term Benefits of Daily Meditation Practice

Meditation is increasing in popularity. Lots of folks engage in the practice for various reasons related to health and mind. We've already discussed some of the reasons you should consider giving meditation a shot. It will enhance your spiritual pursuits and provide you with a mindset that is open to a number of possibilities. There are also some physical and emotional benefits to be gained that have been proven by science. The meditating you do today can enhance your mind, body and spirit for years to come. Keep reading to explore the long-term benefits of daily meditation practice.

Quiets “Monkey Mind”

You've heard the term “monkey mind”, right? It refers to those racing thoughts that come out of nowhere and just won't quit, often when you're trying like mad to drift off to sleep. Meditation has been linked to a reduction in the mind's default mode network (DMN), the area of the brain that is responsible for allowing the mind to wander. This is great news when you're trying to get in touch with your spirituality. A focused mind lets you prioritize when pursuing your higher purpose goals.

Enhanced Focus and Concentration

Meditation has been shown to sharpen the mind and attune it more readily to what's known as “visual discrimination” tasks, allowing them to more readily notice small discrepancies those in the non-meditating control group were likely to miss. Other studies have demonstrated the ways in which meditation leads to improved cognitive skills and sustained attention span. These are long-term effects of meditation that can truly improve numerous facets of your life.

Strengthens the Immune System

You know that meditation quiets the mind and helps you to focus, but you may be surprised to learn it also has a tremendously positive effect on your body as a whole. Studies have actually shown that those who engage in a regular meditation practice begin to produce more antibodies when compared to non-meditators. Researchers found that meditation actually has a direct influence on the manner in which the body functions.

Lessens Anxiety

Even those who don't suffer from a formal anxiety disorder can experience minor bouts of this uncomfortable emotion. They tend to come on without warning and can truly impede your daily functioning and well-being in clinical cases. Regular meditation can help to lessen anxiety and to promote an overall sense of calm. There's a specific form of meditating known as “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction”, or MBSR, that has the specific aim of lowering stress levels. It's actually been shown to have a positive effect on anxiety levels that can last well into the future. Mindfulness meditation, in general, can also reduce anxiety due to its impact on the earlier-reference DMN section of your brain.

This is just a partial list of the many long-term benefits of meditation. Getting into a routine of meditating will lead to actual changes in your brain's makeup in positive ways that will spread across various parts of your life.