Spirituality is a topic that is often misunderstood and at face value can seem very esoteric. When in truth, the very essence of who we are as human beings is represented and defined by our “spirit.” The spirit can be described as the self that is apart from the body. As such, we all have a spirit.
Spirituality is the action taken to cultivate and strengthen our internal spirit (aka soul, essence, true nature). When our spirit is strong, we are naturally more resilient, meaning we can easily bounce back from adversity. Therefore, the practice of spirituality truly is the path to resilience.
I believe most people accept and easily understand the concept of the internal spirit in relation to the body, and that we are not our bodies. In fact, we are not even our thoughts or our emotions. We are the conscious observer of these experiences. Yet, beyond this basic notion, there is much spiritual confusion, especially when it comes to spiritual practice. A key concept to clarify, since it is through spiritual practice that the strengthening of the spirit and resulting resilience occurs.
One of my favorite analogies to help foster spiritual clarity, is relative to the overall concept of “physical” fitness. Spirituality is to resilience as exercise is to physical fitness. When we practice spirituality, we are building our mental and emotional muscles stronger. As the spirit grows stronger, we become more spiritually fit and naturally more resilient. In fact, spirituality is so powerful that it positively impacts every aspect of our overall health and wellbeing, including the physical body.
There are a variety of ways in which we can choose to physically exercise the body. Similarly, there are many ways we can choose to practice spirituality. For example, many people choose to practice spirituality through religion. Yet, religion is not the only way to practice spirituality.
In fact, one could argue there are many people who are religious who are not spiritually fit. This is one of the most common areas where spiritual confusion arises, with this idea that spirituality is synonymous with religion. When, in fact, religion is only one of many different ways to practice spirituality.
To further clarify, let’s expand upon the exercise analogy. There are many people who have a gym membership, and utilize the resources provided at a gym to exercise their body and build their physical muscle strength. There are also many different types of gyms. Many, arguably most, who belong to a gym also exercise outside of the gym.
There are also many who regularly exercise and don’t belong to a gym. And let’s not forget the person who may go to the gym, but then spends all their time socializing or otherwise isn’t engaged in putting any true effort into building their physical muscle strength while they’re at the gym.
Likewise, there are many people who belong to a religious group and practice spirituality through their membership in that group. Many of these individuals will also practice spirituality in a variety of other ways aside from their religion. And, of course, there are many who belong to a religious organization, but are not truly engaging in any spiritual practice. They are simply going through the motions, much like the person at the gym who isn’t really exercising.
There are also those who practice spirituality in many ways that don’t ever include religion. The strength of your spirit and your resilience is not predicated on any religious involvement or membership. The strengthening of the spirit occurs when we connect with people, places and experiences that strengthen the mindset and cultivate positive emotions. As such, spirituality is both universal and personal relative to the when, where, and how this strengthening of the spirit occurs.
One of the most powerful ways to practice spirituality is through the consistent cultivation of universal spiritual principles, such as courage, compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, and love. Mindfulness and other meditative exercises are a common within-self practice that helps individuals to cultivate these spiritual principles.
Some other examples that will be more personal to the individual, are practicing spirituality through connecting with nature, relationships with others (such as service or volunteerism), and/or artistic pursuits (such as music and art). Physical exercise, in and of itself, is also a spiritual practice. You may utilize one or many different resources to practice spirituality and strengthen your spirit to become more resilient.
Clearly, there are also many different ways the spirit can become weakened, such as through grief, trauma, and any mental or physical illness. Spiritual practice will strengthen the spirit that has been weakened, just like exercise will strengthen a weakened muscle.
Consistent spiritual practice will maintain your spiritual strength and provide you with more resilience to bounce back from adversities. Identifying what spiritual practices you enjoy and implementing them into your routine on a consistent basis is your path to resilience.
KJ Foster, PhD, LMHC, CAP is a leading expert on fostering resilience for overall health and wellbeing. Dr. Foster specializes in working with individuals and family members who are impacted by substance abuse issues, helping them to effectively communicate from a place of forgiveness and compassion, instead of anger and shame. She is an author, speaker, and YouTube creator. Her latest book is entitled Fostering Resilience for the Family in Recovery: A Guide to Helping You and Your Loved One Get Out of the Swamp of Substance Abuse and Addiction. Available on Amazon at https://bit.ly/FRFRBOOK and on her website www.drkjfoster.org
Such a well-written article and so helpful for each and every one of us! The wonderful & ever-inspiring KJ Foster describes here how we can recover from addictions, mental illness or any other human frailties by re-connecting with our inner spirituality and becoming our true selves.