Spiritual development isn’t something that features in everybody’s life goals, but if it features in yours you may notice that unless you’re committed to a specific faith there’s not actually that much practical information out there on how to grow spiritually.
This article is dedicated to exploring the issues around what spiritual growth is if you’re a non-religious person. How is it possible to develop spiritually without a formal religious framework and what are the best ways to do it?
What is Spiritual Growth?
Within a religion, spiritual growth is generally defined as developing an understanding of God’s intended purpose for you and making an ongoing commitment to handing yourself over to his plan. Non-religious spiritual seekers use different words to describe a similar process. You’ll hear phrases like ‘getting in touch with your higher self’ and ‘becoming more attuned with the divine purpose of the universe’. Individuals who’ve developed a degree of spiritual maturity tend to be less focused on material success, more at peace with themselves, have a clearer sense of their own values, and are more loving and empathic towards others than those who are still new on this path.
How to Achieve Spiritual Growth
It’s not necessary to be a believer in a specific religion in order to grow and develop spiritually. Having said this it would be a mistake to totally discard all the teachings and practices of the major faiths. Understanding that wisdom can be found in any and all places is a sign of growing up spiritually. Maybe the formality and rules of traditional religions don’t suit you, but many of the practices recommended to the faithful to aid their spiritual growth and development can be equally helpful to those who are not committed to any specific faith.
Here are some practical tips on how to grow spiritually without religion:
Read spiritual texts
Read widely, from western and eastern traditions. Take time to consider all the different perspectives that are offered. You’ll find contradictions and discord, but you’ll also find a strong core of common truths in the great spiritual texts that run from ancient history to current days.
Set aside time for your spiritual life
Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Sikhs are all counselled to make prayer a part of their daily life. A period of emptying the mind of trivial worries and communing with God, Universe, Higher Self, or whatever label you feel comfortable with.
Even connecting with your inner essence through meditation and awareness practices is a good practice to develop discipline and a deeper sense of self love. This is one of the foundational stones for anyone who wants to grow spiritually.
Strive to become aware of all the good things that happen to you and all the people who act kindly towards you as you go about your daily life. Make a point of giving thanks. Counting your blessings is one of the important steps to grow spiritually. As you make a habit of it you’ll drive out the cynicism and negativity that are such an integral part of modern life and which block spiritual growth.
Spend time with other spiritual seekers
You can do this by attending meditation groups, spiritual retreats, or just by making a point of choosing your friends with care. Spending time with others who care about their spiritual life will help you not to lose sight of your own.
Do something creative
It doesn’t matter if it’s music, art, dance or singing. Even baking a cake can be a spiritual pursuit if you do it with love, and the act makes you feel more centered and peaceful!
Tune into nature
It’s important that your spiritual journey doesn’t become too introspective. You are still a part of this world and your spiritual growth should reflect this. Take an hour or two and go for a mindful walk through a woodland, along a riverbank, or in any other beautiful place that has ample nature and as little urban pollution as you can find. Concentrate on the sights, smells and sounds around you and rediscover the joys of appreciating the divine in the ordinary.
Look for ways to help others
It’s said that ‘work is prayer made visible’ and this is certainly true when that work is for the benefit of others. It’s all very well praying for a better world, or meditating on the infinite beneficence of the universe, but turning good thoughts into actions is an essential step on the path of sharing your truth with others.
Take a complete break from your usual routines
It’s hard to maintain a higher perspective when you’re constantly pulled back by daily mundane cares. Traditional religions often recommend retreats or pilgrimages for this very reason. As a non-religious spiritual seeker, you have a world of options open to you. You could participate in an ayahuasca retreat for spiritual development, spend a weekend developing your yoga practice or plan a tour of some of the world’s great spiritual centers.