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What Does it Mean to be Spiritual?

By Dr. Margaret Paul
December 31, 2006

Does praying or going to church make you a spiritual person? Not necessarily. In this article, learn about what it really means to be on a spiritual path.

"I'm a very spiritual person. I pray every day."

"My spiritual path is important to me. I go to church every Sunday."

"Yes, I'm a spiritual person. I light candles every evening, I chant, and I love to read spiritual books."

"I'm devoted to my spiritual path. I read the bible daily."

In my view, none of the above activities in and of themselves indicates devotion to a spiritual path. All of these activities can support your spiritual path, but none of them by themselves hold the essence of what it means to be spiritual.

The essence of our Source - the intelligent energy that created us - is love. God is Spirit, God is Love. To be on a spiritual path means that we are consciously choosing to behave in ways that evolve our soul toward a deeper and deeper ability to express love.

Love encompasses compassion, truth and joy. To be a spiritual person means that, moment-by-moment, we seek to know truth and live in truth, compassion and joy.

To be a spiritual person means that our deepest desire is to learn, with our Guidance, about what is loving to ourselves and to others.

So, are you a spiritual person if you pray every day? Maybe, but not necessarily. It depends upon the intent of your prayers. If you are praying for your own highest good and the highest good of your loved ones and the planet, and if you are praying for help in knowing what is loving, you are supporting your spiritual path. But if you are just praying for the outcomes you want, then you are using prayer to try to control rather than to learn, and this has nothing to do with being on a spiritual path.

Are you a spiritual person just because you go to church every week? It depends on your intent. If you go to church every week because you think it is the right thing to do, but the rest of the week you completely forget about being an honest and compassionate person, then going to church has nothing to do with being a spiritual person.

Lighting candles, chanting and reading the bible or other spiritual books can certainly support you in opening your heart. But if your moment-by-moment intent is mainly to have control over getting love, avoiding pain, and feeling safe, then these activities have nothing to do with being on a spiritual path or with being a spiritual person. When your primary intent is to learn about love and truth and take loving action in your own behalf and in behalf of others, then these activities can support you in this intent. But without this intent, these activities become just another way the wounded self has of avoiding being on a true spiritual path.

Our society offers us many objects and activities that the wounded self can grab onto to give us a sense of control over how we are seen or over the outcome of things. Is going to church or reading the bible or praying or chanting or lighting candles a way to attempt to have control over how people see you or the outcome of things, or a way to open your heart to God's guidance for you? Do you do these things to try to be seen as a good person in the eyes of God or others, or to truly open your heart to loving yourself and others?

Being a spiritual person means that your deepest desire is to continually be in the process of evolving your soul in your ability to express love and compassion toward yourself and others. It means that you are constantly seeking the truth and are continually attempting to take loving action for yourself and others based on the truth.

It means that you continually attempt to behave in a way that brings you deep and fulfilling joy. As philosopher, priest, and mystic Teilhard De Chardin stated, "Joy is the clearest indication of the presence of God."


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