Let me begin with this: I don’t believe that there is one “right” way to approach a deeper understanding of ourselves. There are different practices, theories, and teachings because different interpretations and methods are needed for different people and at different parts of the journey. I believe our journeys are ultimately the same, but that there are different paths along it, so to say. To that end: I am speaking from the perspective of this one. Disclaimer over.
A spiritual experience, much like any other, serves you in some way. It makes you more aware. It expands your consciousness. It connects you, at least for a moment, with the part of you that doesn’t require physical means to validate it. On a human level, it is uniquely important, regardless of what religion you practice.
To be spiritual is to be human.
At its core, spirituality is a combination of human psychology and traditional mysticism, aimed at personal well-being and self-development. In a sense, it’s the essence of that which religions are built on, except with a focus on turning inward rather than personifying the higher being and turning outward.
In concept, it brings awareness to the idea that we are spectacular manifestations of our own energy fields. In practice, it brings awareness to being able to sit and breathe so consciously that your whole body dissipates from your understanding. That the sensations of lightness, freedom, goodness, love, and beauty can only be registered in practice of them, as simply as they come daily and as elusively as they reside mystically.
In theory, all of this is a spiritual experience. We define isolated incidents as the moments in which we become actively, consciously aware of that.
I am a spiritual person. Not that one person is any more inherently spiritual than another, but just that I identify as that. At first doing so was involuntary, but now it is by practice.
When I was young, I would have what I would later call “spiritual experiences,” episodes that landed me in the offices of psychologists and neurologists promising me the tests were fine and that these experiences were “normal.” (Evidently so: The University of Chicago has claimed that about half of all Americans say they’ve had such an experience.)
To me, at least, these are comforting words. The medicinal aspect of it all could easily be explained (sleep paralysis and such). The things I was told, heard and saw? Not so much. But those things have remained with me, and are very often the essence of what I write about now.
But spiritual experiences don’t have to be involuntary. They aren’t reserved for Tibetan monks in isolation and renunciation of modern life. Spiritual experiences do not exist at such a complexity that they remain inaccessible to us mere mortals.
They can be as simple as an intuitive hunch that you follow to a positive end, as complex as an out-of-body experience. As easy as sitting and being aware of your breathing, as deep as an hours-long guided meditation. As common as attending a concert, as mysterious as glaring at a photo of a certain time period and having the feeling that you were there. As ordinary as reflecting, reading a book, listening to music, watching the sky, wondering what influenced your actions, what your thoughts and actions stem from.
On the other end of these mindful acts, many people find a sense of health, lightness, growth, freedom, understanding, faith. It connects you at such a level that you start to realize how external means do not change the state of your internal being, that your experiences will only ever be as good as how you are processing them now.
Understanding this was what saved me from myself. Understanding this was what made me realize there were two “selves,” and one could save the other. That the human could only ever amount to what the spirit was. My daily life proved they were connected for a time, my spiritual experiences, that they were for a reason.