What is spiritual development? Is it the development of your innermost connection to the Divine, however you define your spiritual outlook and experience. In addition to thoughts, emotions and physical experience, many people relate to a spiritual dimension of experience–an inner, sacred way that we communicate and commune with the Divine. For others, spirituality represents their deepest thoughts and emotions about the mystery of life and of themselves. However you approach the spiritual dimension of your life, deepening your spiritual experience comes with tremendous benefits: More peace, deeper love, more compassion and patience, less anxiety, deeper relationships, less stress, being more present in life and being able to harness your energy toward a goal.
Spirituality is defined differently by different people. Some people believe in and worship God. Others simply believe in nature, or in love. Some people commune with the Divine through dance, music, or exercise; some through prayer, meditation, or contemplative practice. Spirituality, in my book, includes atheists and agnostics as well as people of faith of all stripes. What sets spirituality apart from other studies is the belief in something greater, wanting to understand or at least connect closely with the essence of the mystery of life. Spiritual people attempt to develop their minds and ‘hearts,’ and engage in a lifestyle of personal growth.
When people start to identify spirituality as an important component of their lives, they sometimes lack an open-minded, accepting forum in which to explore and discuss emerging beliefs and experiences. Many churches are no longer focused on or experienced in mystical training, or may feel challenged if a member’s spirituality begins to compete with church-held beliefs. Psychotherapists are not always comfortable or well versed in facilitating spiritual exploration. This gap leads some to seek spiritual leadership from poorly trained sources that may not be helpful and sometimes endanger the student seeking guidance. Some spiritual teachers may miss mental health issues than can get in the way of spiritual development and in some cases be exacerbated by spiritual exercises. Spiritual groups led by psychotherapists can offer a safe environment in which to explore spirituality and avoid some of the pitfalls present in other training settings. It can be helpful to find a supportive mentor, teacher, or community that has your best interest in mind.