Maybe you’re looking to understand your purpose in this life, or you’re experiencing an existential crisis.
Or perhaps you’re starting to examine the belief system you grew up with. Whichever the case, you’re contemplating a spiritual journey.
But where and how should you start?
To help you figure it out, we’ve created this beginner’s guide to spirituality.
Below, we’ll unpack definitions, look at different spirituality types, review the process, and briefly discuss the available practice paths.
- What Is Spirituality?
- What Are The 3 Elements of Spirituality?
- What Is a Spiritual Journey?
- What Are the Types of Spirituality?
- Common Mistakes on The Spiritual Journey for Beginners
- The Benefits of Learning How to Be Spiritual
- Spirituality for Beginners: 15 Steps for Starting Your Spiritual Journey
- 1. Declutter Your Spaces
- 2. Take Stock of Your Current Belief System
- 3. Develop a Self-Care Routine
- 4. Read Up on the Possibilities
- 5. Decide Whether You Will Share Your Plans
- 6. Reconnect With Nature
- 7. Learn To Be Kind to Yourself
- 8. Choose the Path You Want To Try
- 9. Keep an Open Mind
- 10. Give Everything You Try a Chance
- 11. Be on the Lookout For Scammers
- 12. Keep a Record of Your Progress
- 13. Try Rituals
- 14. Allow Yourself To Believe
- 15. Read, Learn and Absorb
- What Are The 5 Spiritual Paths?
What Is Spirituality?
What are the basics of spirituality? In some ways, it’s an impossible question to answer because spirituality means different things to different people.
For some, it’s a religious pursuit. For others, it’s an individual exploration of spirituality.
The director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, Christina Puchalski, MD, contends that “spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.”
Generally speaking, most forms of spirituality:
- Invite practitioners to connect with a higher power or source
- Encourage a transcendental end-goal through belief or energetic experiences
- Involve the search for greater meaning or feeling
- Feature a relationship between the practitioner and a divine force
What Are The 3 Elements of Spirituality?
Back in the day, the three pillars of spirituality were truth, goodness, and religiosity. People’s definitions, narratives, and rituals differed, but nearly everyone saw spirituality as a religious undertaking.
But things are different these days. Sociologically speaking, spirituality is no longer tethered to a theological framework. And while religion colors many people’s spiritual pursuits, growing numbers are severing that tie.
As contradictory as it may sound, it’s not uncommon to meet deeply spiritual atheists — which begs the question: What are the three new elements of spirituality in an increasingly secular world? We’d argue they’re connection, love, and faith.
Most people pursuing spiritual journeys want to feel deeper connections with themselves, others, and the Universe. For some, the bond is cosmic and otherworldly; for others, it’s about communing with nature, neighbors, and the galaxy’s physical realities.
It’s been said that love makes the world go round, and we’d agree. When people love instead of hate, offer grace instead of judgment, and collaborate instead of competing, everything — (and by extension everyone) — is better.
Faith has myriad definitions and is expressed in disparate ways. For some, it’s a religious undertaking. For others, faith is linked to personal development and fostering humble confidence.
What Is a Spiritual Journey?
Have you been wondering how to start a spiritual journey?
One of the most important things to understand is that going through one can take physical and emotional effort since most of us cruise through life on autopilot.
The energetic shift required to change spiritual gears can be more intense than people imagine.
But it’s well worth the endeavor. Navigating a spiritual journey can help us become comfortable with ourselves and live more meaningful, joyful, fulfilling lives.
With courage, forgiveness, and honesty, we can examine our true natures and develop greater capacities for love and compassion.
People who successfully go through a spiritual transformation tend to be more content, calmer, and self-confident.
What Are the Types of Spirituality?
There are several types of spirituality. Some folks pursue all of them; others pick one or two to master.
The choice is yours and may depend on a “soul contract” you signed before diving into this life.
Mystical spirituality focuses on cosmic and intuitive aspects of existence. People who subscribe to these types of esoteric belief systems have faith in a force more powerful than what we can see and touch.
They also believe in a universal unity that transcends the physical world.
Practitioners of mystical spirituality may say things like “everything happens for a reason” and “there’s a cosmic explanation behind everything.”
Authoritarian spirituality involves devotion to a hierarchical structure in the heavens and Earth. Fundamentalist commitment to a religion or belief system is the most common type of Authoritarian spirituality.
Sometimes, this type of journey can safely allow individuals to immerse themselves in their chosen faith, like monks living in ashrams and temples. Unfortunately, it can take a more violent, destructive turn, as is the case with some sects of fundamentalist cults and religious movements.
People who travel down the authoritarian spiritual path may believe that their belief system is the only right way.
Intellectual spirituality is rooted in the notion that knowledge is power.
People who choose this path enjoy reading about and discussing theories. They find their way to the unknown through learning.
All spiritual disciplines have an intellectual sect or path to enlightenment, and many people drawn to intellectual spirituality combine it with service, devotion, or mystical ritualism.
Service spirituality involves attending to others’ needs. Mastery of the craft comes when an individual genuinely helps others without expecting anything, not even a “thank you.”
It can be a tricky path because many folks don’t recognize that they serve performatively. They feast on the praise showered on them for being “good people.” However, healing through service can only happen in a pure state of generosity without a need or thought of recognition or reward.
Some people are introverted, and others are extroverted. Folks who fall under the former umbrella may appreciate individualized spiritual journeys, whereas those in the latter may seek out socially spiritual events — like group retreats.
If you pick this path, think long and hard about your relationship with dependency. Are you choosing to seek communal salvation because of fear or a genuine desire to live selflessly among others?
Common Mistakes on The Spiritual Journey for Beginners
Ethereal journeys can be exciting and fulfilling — but nobody ever said they’re easy, especially in the beginning. Finding one’s spiritual sea legs can be a bumpy ride!
With that in mind, let’s unpack a handful of mistakes many people make at the start of their spiritual awakening.
They Lack Patience
Have you ever tried spirituality for a week (or ten) and gave up when miracles didn’t immediately rain down in your lap? Please don’t feel bad; you’re not alone; it always happens. In fact, it’s more common than successfully establishing a mindfulness or spirituality routine.
Remember that devotional work — (both religious and secular) — isn’t a magic bolt that instantaneously ushers “the dream” into your conscious realm. Heck, monks practicing for decades have yet to experience bliss, much less enlightenment.
In other words, it takes time. Lots and lots…and lots of time. So cultivating patience early in your journey is wise.
They Engage in Enlightenment Arrogance
The benefits of mindfulness (spirituality’s backbone) can sometimes lead to judgment. Bluntly stated, “baby spiritualists” can be “all ego and no insight.”
Many also approach the journey myopically and think: Well, if X worked for me, it can work for anyone. Then, when people fall short of expectations, newly minted “gurus” attribute their failure to some moral failing rooted in laziness and victimhood.
But each life carves a distinctive path in the sands of time and space, and what’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily suitable or feasible for the gander.
It’s also a bad idea to cut people out of your life because they aren’t on the same exact track as you. Like stars, lives have singular trajectories — and judging another’s is rarely an excellent karmic idea.
Bottom line: When it comes to spirituality, worry about yourself — and only yourself.
They Search for External Answers
Spiritual newbies love to search for answers outside of themselves. Sure, the Universe throws people proverbial bones in the form of “signs” every so often, but the work of spirituality is internal.
Forming a conscious bond with the world around you is about learning to recognize your divine spark.
They Crave External Validation
As discussed, novices frequently search for external answers. They also crave external validation, which defeats the purpose of a soulful journey.
Ultimately, it’s best to avoid spiritual competition at all costs. Your quest for meaning, connection, and purpose should never be a status contest.
They Confuse Spirituality and Material Goal-Setting
Another common mistake is conflating personal and professional goal-setting with spirituality. Goal-setting is about what you want your life to look like, materially and professionally. Spirituality is about how you want to feel, see, and experience the world.
Please don’t read us wrong. Goal-setting and spirituality can work in tandem, but they’re different. The former requires external effort and feedback; the latter is an internal process.
The Benefits of Learning How to Be Spiritual
Embarking on a spiritual journey for beginners can be disorienting at the start.
Think of it as if you’re a 16th-century explorer. When you leave port, you’re anxious, detached from what you know, nervous, and unsure of what awaits you.
You’re out to sea for a long time. Then, one day, you discover a new land; you’re elated and rewarded handsomely. In most ways, a spiritual journey follows that same arc.
A spiritual journey has many potential benefits, including:
- Experiencing a cosmic-level of love and respect for all living people, animals, and plants, instead of only feeling connected with folks and things with which you’re most familiar and comfortable
- Moving through experiences with faith, optimism, and joy
- Being aware of life’s divine nature
- Getting to know and love yourself unconditionally, even when you mess up
- Being able to see magic in the ordinary
- Being aware of the divine grace that helps fuel your life
- Coping better with stress, anxiety, and depression
- Restoring a sense of hope and optimism about life
Spirituality for Beginners: 15 Steps for Starting Your Spiritual Journey
Some peoples’ spiritual paths are clear from an early age. The rest of us usually need to put in a little effort to find the road that most resonates with our eternal beings. In some ways, it’s a trial and error process.
However, there are things you can do to prepare and make the journey easier.
1. Declutter Your Spaces
The Universe is, at its most basic level, a web of interconnected energy. Living and working in clean, uncluttered places attract healthy, positive vibes and wavelengths to your space and aura.
2. Take Stock of Your Current Belief System
It’s beneficial to know where you’ve been to figure out where you’re going,
When embarking on a spiritual journey, take stock of the belief system you grew up with or currently subscribe to. Does it serve you? Is it comfortable? Do you practice it because that’s all you’ve ever known, or does it genuinely resonate with you?
3. Develop a Self-Care Routine
A significant part of spiritual journeys is getting to know yourself. Getting it right takes self-compassion, honesty, and self-forgiveness — which isn’t always easy.
As such, you must care for yourself, and developing a self-care routine is wise during this period of your life. Moreover, we can control habits, which adds a bit of stress-lessening stability to a sometimes rocky time.
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4. Read Up on the Possibilities
Before you pick a path, read up on the possibilities. Think about your motivations and what you want to get out of the experience.
Don’t forget to consider the logistics of your life. Try not to pick something that doesn’t fit into your lifestyle. Sure, it’s fine to make some changes — like adding meditation and journaling.
But if you have a nine-to-five job, it’s not practical to pick a path that requires you to live in an ashram for 24 months straight.
5. Decide Whether You Will Share Your Plans
You get to captain your spiritual journey and decide who gets to know. If it’s something you want to share with the world, post about it on social media. Start a blog about your journey.
And if you want it to be a personal experience between you and the higher forces, keep it 100% to yourself.
6. Reconnect With Nature
Nature plays a big role in spiritual journeys. After all, it’s the Earthly manifestation of otherworldly forces. Connecting with nature is akin to bonding with universal energy, and it helps during a spiritual transformation.
7. Learn To Be Kind to Yourself
Spiritual journeys aren’t smooth sailing at all times. The waters can get rough, and you must learn to be kind to yourself to get through it.
Instead of listening to the negative voice in your head, give attention to the positive one. Learn to forgive yourself; understand that everyone messes up, including you — and that’s OK.
8. Choose the Path You Want To Try
Once you’ve adjusted your mental facilities, done some research, and prepped your space for the journey, it’s time to pick a path you want to try.
Don’t worry about not picking right the first time. It happens to loads of people. Remember that this is a time of exploration and discovery, so feel free to try on different things till you find something that fits your soul.
9. Keep an Open Mind
Skepticism is bound to drop by for a visit during your spiritual journey. Do your best to keep an open mind. Some things you try may feel silly and improbable. But give it a shot anyway. Hey, you never know.
10. Give Everything You Try a Chance
Giving everything a chance is another important aspect of a spiritual journey. You probably won’t get much out of the experience if you go through the motions half-heartedly.
So allow yourself to believe in magic and mysticism for a bit. Who knows, maybe there is a scientific explanation for why certain “spiritual” things work, and we just don’t understand it from a practical standpoint yet.
11. Be on the Lookout For Scammers
The spiritual market is filled with many aspiring cult leaders, grifters, and various types of scam artists. They prey on peoples’ vulnerabilities, and they’re usually skilled at leaching money from marks. So be careful about the orbits you inhabit.
12. Keep a Record of Your Progress
Having a record of your journey is educational and fun. Think how satisfying it will be to go back a year or two from now and read how far you’ve come.
13. Try Rituals
Rituals are a fun way to enhance the spiritual journey. Plus, they put you in the right frame. If you use candles, however, make sure to be safe.
14. Allow Yourself To Believe
One of the biggest hurdles some people face on their path to higher consciousness is that they refuse to believe.
But it’s a catch-22 because to perceive extra-sensory forces, you must believe in them. So try to put doubts aside and give yourself to the unknown for the time being.
15. Read, Learn and Absorb
Journeys can take decades. Heck, some people argue that one’s spiritual journey is never over as there’s always more to experience and learn.
Keeping up a reading and learning habit is the best way to keep your spiritual receptors tuned and receptive.
What Are The 5 Spiritual Paths?
Many paths can teach you how to learn about spirituality. Some people stick to one; others try on several.
Path of Knowledge
The knowledge path is suited for people who gain depth and insight through wisdom and gathering knowledge.
Analytical meditation, contemplation, studying, and journaling are important tools for people on this path. They frequently delve into questions about self-knowledge and the greater good.
Path of Devotion
The path of devotion is all about surrendering to something greater than yourself. The ultimate goal is to liberate the soul from its ego. Praying, chanting, and using mantras are common.
Path of Meditation
Meditation is a spiritual path in and of itself. People who go this route usually are interested in connecting with a higher power. They also value stillness and calmness.
Path of Service
Active selflessness defines the path of service. But it can be a tricky road, as practitioners mustn’t focus on their efforts but instead on the needs of others. People who serve for the wrong reasons can find themselves in miserable places.
Path of Energy
The energetic path is probably the least discussed and one of the most powerful. It combines several disciplines, including meditation and knowledge. People who go down the energy path typically use rituals.
We hope you found our guide to spirituality helpful. Whatever path you choose, and no matter how long it takes, your spiritual journey will help you have a deeper understanding of yourself and the meaning of your life.