What Does "Being Spiritual" Really Mean?

Nicole Markardt
What Does "Being Spiritual" Really Mean?

The word “spirituality” comes from the latin root word spiritus, which means ‘breath’- referring to life force. Some people are put off by the stigma that can be attached to “spirituality”, while others allow it to thrive inside of them independent of religion.

We live in an era where yoga is a 10 billion dollar industry and “mindfulness” is a mainstream word. As I walk down the busy streets of Manhattan I can’t help but notice people openly adorned with glistening OM symbols, their mala beads strung from their neck like pearls as they bustle through the subway.

Yoga mats are strung over shoulders, as new yoga studios/ meditation centers are popping up on every few blocks of my electric city. We live in a time period where the $70 Lululemon yoga pant is in high demand. What does it all mean? What does being “spiritual” really mean?

I got to thinking about my own spiritual journey and what it was, exactly, that I was seeking when a connection with spirit revealed itself to me. Almost fifteen years ago, in my very early 20’s after a traumatic injury, I was faced with the shattering reality that life as we know it can all just …change in the blink of an eye. This reality left me riddled with anxiety. I suffered from crippling panic attacks that would creep up and tap me on the shoulder in the most inconvenient moments; pulled over on the side of the road, hands trembling as I dialed my cell phone reaching out for my mom, my best friend, my husband (then boyfriend)… anyone that could help me come back to center. Sweat streaks from panic covered my phone screen as I pulled it from my ear, attempting to breathe deeply and pull myself together just to step on the gas pedal. Like the acceleration of my vehicle, my mind would accelerate into panic mode. This happened often.

I grew weary of my fears and how they navigated my choices. I began my spiritual search.

“I want to feel my life. I want to feel… something other than fear.” I remember these thoughts, as well as, the desperate feeling that accompanied them. I wanted to feel at peace. I wanted to be able to engage in life as an active participant, rather than always needing someone to lift me up or to be my crutch.

In the age of modern technology with massive amounts of information at our fingertips, I did what anyone would do- I googled it! I used my search engine.

I began reading about reiki and sought out a reiki master in my area. He literally taught me how to breathe. He would guide me through a short mediation as we began our reiki session. I had to actually be taught (step-by-step) how to take a real breath. I uncovered that breathing deeply and slowing down… felt good. It really is that simple. It felt good to connect with myself. I connected with my breath, my life force, and ultimately my own heart.

I felt as if I woke up a bit more with each breath. I felt alive and free from my crippling fears.

I was able to focus on my joy rather than my own addiction to fear. I was capable of giving again. Once I learned to connect with myself, I was able to access my higher energies and open my heart to others.

What is a spiritual person?

In my experience, it is what drives us to make connections and follow a path that leads to the unlearning of fear, and uncover love as the ultimate truth (self-love included).

How we arrive at that is very individual and deeply personal.

Breathing in our lives and slowing down to notice the beauty in the ordinary; watching my daughter talk to her dolls and pretend to be a “real mommy”, REALLY listening to my son’s questions about the world and about history, listening to a friend and offering support for their struggles or goal setting…

Connection is where I find peace; connection to the spirit inside myself that is deeply intertwined with gratitude, reverence, and the passion of existence. Tuning in- looking deep into someone’s eyes when they speak, seeing through to their own life energy and heart center; taking a deep breath and basking in that feeling when you know you’re being kind or living in that space of mindfulness.

If we think about the people and energies we gravitate toward that help us reach those higher vibrations; what we are seeking becomes clear.

I practice yoga as a way of life. I attend guided meditations, and give reiki when I can. These practices help me remember what I once forgot- that I possess the life force of Prana, and that I can mindfully cultivate my capacity to experience awe. I practice. This is a path that I have chosen to stay connected.

Some people that I am inspired by- one of my dearest friends- a busy working mother of three with no outside support is one of the most “spiritual” people I know. She doesn’t have time to practice yoga or attend mediation workshops, but she practices. She practices seeing into the heart of others and pausing to notice beauty in even the worst situations.

She chooses connection and breathes life into another when they have forgotten how to breathe for themselves. My husband is one of “the helpers” that Fred Rogers speaks of when bad things happen. He is such a helpful being to all that surround him. He practices being of service. It brings him peace.

Our capacity to love and act with kindness is great.

Some people find their connection in church, others by taking a walk in nature, maybe digging their hands deep in the earth to help grow and nourish our planet. Some people choose to help others any way that they can because it feels good to step into awareness and spread kindness as it aligns with an inner knowing. I see spirituality redefined in many forms.

This is our choice based on how we experience the world and choose to relate it.

We all have a deeply sacred light inside of us. How we choose to shine it is individual. Whether you wear your om on your sleeve as a reminder, sing in church on Sunday, or just help a friend through a difficult time… we all have access to our true loving nature.

Some seek spirituality in the wake of loss or trauma. For others, age poses a certain pull toward a spiritual awakening.

What’s your definition of spirituality?