Generally, spiritual practices involve exploring a deeper sense of meaning and purpose, a sense of belonging, and a connection with the universe. Spirituality can work in tandem with counselling and other holistic approaches to help you achieve inner peace and happiness.
What does spirituality mean?
Alongside our physical, mental and emotional wellness, spiritual health is an important part of our holistic well-being. Some use spiritual practices to help them achieve a goal, restore balance in their life, or reduce stress. Some set challenges, for example doing good deeds, or helping those around them.
There are many benefits of spirituality. It can lead to a deeper connection with others, growing as a person and gaining more insight into life. It can also promote quality of life and forgiveness, helping to let go of past grievances and anger.
Juliet Bunting (MBACP) explores how counselling, spirituality, and holistic approaches can work to help you to overcome life's difficulties and find spiritual meaning.
Spirituality vs religion
These terms are often used interchangeably and, while spirituality and religion are not the same things, they can overlap. Religion can be one way of experiencing spirituality, and many spiritual practices are also religious practices. For some people, spirituality helps them feel more connected to a higher being, God, or the universe and connected to everything and everyone around them.
That said, you do not have to be involved in religion to benefit from spirituality. For some, spirituality does not relate to any kind of belief but relates more to how they live their life and their outlook on the world. It can be a path that will lead them towards a higher state of awareness of the self and a better way of life. Some see spirituality as a life source that flows.
It’s common for people to have vivid dreams, but sometimes unusual experiences can occur in our waking lives, outside of the everyday norm. For example, many people report having visions or ‘out of body’ experiences. An example of a spiritual experience which continues to fascinate people is that of a near-death experience or NDE. This has often been attributed to ‘anaesthesia awareness’ when it occurs under general anaesthetic, but it’s harder to explain among people who have been pronounced clinically deceased and have been revived with CPR, for example.
Regardless of what you experience or how you interpret it, having a ‘spiritual awakening’ or mystical experience can be eye-opening and transformative. Counselling can offer a space to help make sense of these experiences, but you may also benefit from some of the below practices.
There are many different ways to practice spirituality, as part of everyday life, or by taking time out for specific practices. Below are some ways to practice spirituality:
Rituals, symbolic practices and forms of worship
This can range from traditional religious worship, such as attending services at places of worship, to rituals involving words or objects which are completely unique to the individual. They may involve listening to music or saying sacred chants.
Pilgrimages and retreats
There are many kinds of spiritual retreats, both in the UK and further afield. They are usually based around a specific type of spiritual practice, such as yoga, or they can simply be a way of escaping from the pressures of daily life and enjoying peace and quiet.
A pilgrimage is a meaningful journey to a sacred place, often leading to a personal transformation. A pilgrimage will see a person searching for a new or expanded meaning through the experience, often about their self, others, nature, or a higher good. Some examples of famous pilgrimages around the world include Jerusalem, Mecca, Lourdes, Italy, Tibet and Peru.
Practising something spiritual on a regular basis can be a good way of finding balance.
This involves training the mind to block out other thoughts, have complete focus and be still. There are many different methods of meditation, some people prefer complete silence, whilst others will use music or a guided meditation track. Some meditate regularly, whilst others use it as a form of stress relief when required.
Prayer can relate to specific religions, with specific prayers, conventions of praying, and a higher power or God to pray to. Others may choose to pray to a nondescript higher power or being, or to the universe.
Yoga is a physical practice which helps focus both the body and the mind and promotes better health. Yoga mixes stretches and breathing techniques to help promote a better flow of energy around the body. It can be practised as a class with an instructor, and by yourself at home.
How can counselling help?
Being able to explore different ideas and beliefs without judgement can be hugely rewarding. Working with a counsellor can allow you to explore your sense of spirituality or ask existential questions, such as 'What happens after death?' or 'Why am I here?'. Additionally, spiritual counselling can play a particularly useful role in helping with emotional traumas or overcoming grief.
Spiritual tools and methods
Some areas of spirituality are based on methods, theories or specific practices.
- Philosophy - some may use a set of philosophies to live their life by, for example, the seven principles of spiritualism, or Instructions for Life by the Dalai Lama.
- Meditation - using crystals or music.
- The human aura and colours - reading auras and analysing what the colours of auras represent.
- The Chakras - placing specific crystals on specific chakra points on the body.
- Creativity - many believe that being creative is an important part of spirituality. Creativity can take many forms, from sculpture or painting to gardening and cooking, or keeping a journal of thoughts or dreams.
- Goal setting - goals can relate to becoming a better person, helping others more, or setting time aside to meditate, pray, or be contemplative.
- Taking part in spiritual/community groups - whilst spirituality can be a very personal thing, some may prefer to share it with others, coming together to engage in spiritual practices.
- Mantras - a mantra is a word, phrase or statement which can help create spiritual transformation, through motivation, self-affirmation, or relating to a higher being. Mantras are associated with several religions, with traditional mantras. However, they can be used by anyone, and some prefer to use philosophical quotes or write their own that specifically relate to what they want to achieve.
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