What comes to mind when you think of a "spiritual" person? Maybe it's someone who never passes up a dharma talk, sings in the choir, or spends every weekend volunteering. Maybe she says prayers before each and every meal.
No matter what the outward
signs, if you don't happen to share those habits, you might feel lacking
in the divine department. Not so, says Jonathan Ellerby, Ph.D.,
spiritual program director at Canyon Ranch and author of "Return to the
Sacred." "Spirituality is an essential dimension of being human, and as
much a part of us as our bodies and minds. It's not a matter of whether
or not you're spiritual, but of what kind of spiritual personality you
Indeed, one person's brand of spirituality might look
entirely different from another's. Chances are good that your interest
in certain types of work, play, and other activities may be reflected or
balanced by what engages you spiritually. The key, says Ellerby, lies
in discovering your unique style so that you can optimize your spiritual
tendencies and talents.
To that end, he has identified four
distinct spiritual types: body, mind, heart, and soul. While we all
embody some characteristics of each, chances are you lean more strongly
in one direction or another. Read on to find the right expression of
your sacred nature and connect with a sense of the divine in a way that
really works for, inspires, and energizes you.
you gravitate toward physical activity and even derive satisfaction
from physical chores, this is you. "The body is just as wise a teacher
as the mind or the heart because spirituality is more than an idea,"
says Ellerby. "It's an experience." What's working for you in the
spirituality department is that you appreciate the joy of being fully
and physically present -- and that's vital to a strong spiritual
Your Challenge Because
you're athletic, you get competitive in practices such as yoga. This
attitude can take you out of the more grounded, peaceful mind-set. And
when pride and ego take hold, you may miss the spiritual aspect of a
yoga, tai chi, qigong, or any other mind-body movement classes as a
vehicle to spirituality, not just a sweaty workout. Incorporate movement
into your own spiritual practice, even if it means doing a walking
meditation every day along your favorite path. "By setting an intention
as you begin any of these types of practices," says Ellerby, "you'll
give your movement focus, changing the nature of the activity and gain a
greater sense of connectedness and joy."
you, intellect and knowledge lie at the heart of spirituality. You may
be a philosophy or an English major, a deep thinker, a lover of books
and brainy discussions. Life for you begins and ends in consciousness,
in your ability to study and analyze ideas.
Your Challenge You've
been accused of overthinking things, not to mention living entirely in
your head. Sometimes this can cause you to get stuck -- mentally and
your intellect as a vehicle for spiritual growth, as opposed to an end
in itself. That might mean diving into more spiritual fare (say, the
Bible, the Tao Te Ching or the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh). Consider
forming a spiritual book group to add a new dimension to your study.
You'll engage your intellect while connecting with like-minded folks.
sense of satisfaction rests on your feeling emotionally connected and
invested. Relationships are your interface with the world, whether that
means with others, with the divine, or with yourself. More intellectual
pursuits (like studying spiritual texts) may leave you cold, unless they
facilitate connection with similar souls. In other words, you may enjoy
reading Eckhart Tolle, but not as much as you would talking about it
you value connection so much, you risk being overly dependent on
others. You may lose yourself in someone else's spiritual path rather
than shaping your own.
on your emotional intelligence and knack for cultivating relationships.
Find nourishment in volunteer work or other forms of service to your
community (helping out at church or dedicating your time to a charity
event). These people-centered activities naturally engender a sense of
connection to others. If you've felt spiritually at sea in the past, you
might benefit from working with a spiritual mentor, such as a life
coach, rabbi, priest, or yoga teacher.
possesses a deep and intense awareness of spirituality. You devour
stories of saints and mystics, fantasize about traveling through India,
and wonder about the monastic life. What you want most is to take your
spiritual experience to the limit.
Your Challenge A
hyperawareness of the transcendent may make you vulnerable in some
ways. You risk going to extremes, using spirituality as a form of
a healthy, realistic mind-set and consider where you're at mentally
before you take on soul-centered challenges (e.g., starting an intense
fast on the heels of a bad breakup). Mentorship is important, too.
Plenty of organizations provide support and supervision to safely
explore the kind of experiences you crave, says Ellerby.
balance larger-than-life adventures -- such as pilgrimages to spiritual
sites, wilderness expeditions, solitary retreats -- with more moderate
ones. Rather than a 40-day vision quest in the woods, "try two days of
isolation, just in your apartment, for instance," says Ellerby. Or take a
digital fast, shutting off the phone, TV, and Internet. Don't discount
your capacity to access the deep spiritual experience in the everyday.
Text by Terri Trespicio