Being spiritual, what does it mean?

Being spiritual is seeking who you really are, trying to get back to the essence. It is also seeking happiness, when life seems so hard, so strange, sometimes absurd.

This quest is a process of simplification, a process of liberation, where unnecessary things are gradually left aside. Until the moment when the quest ends, and the essential remains: presence, love, and a great burst of laughter!

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It is simplifying

To be spiritual is, hence, simplifying. It is to get rid of what is useless, in order to better see the essential.

It is, for example, no longer being attached to what is material. Not because material things are bad, but because non-attachment simply becomes obvious. It becomes obvious that attachment will sooner or later cause suffering, and just as obvious that the loss of anything does not affect who you really are or your true happiness.

So why fear losing anything?

But this non-attachment has nothing to do with being rich or poor! It’s not about not owning anything, it’s more about a mindset regarding what you own.

You can be extremely wealthy and know deep inside that nothing you own is really yours. You will probably spend most of your time giving away everything you earn, laughing at it, not for the sake of looking good, not for the sake of karma, but simply out of evidence.

Being spiritual is thus the simple and humble state of mind in which having or not having, being an important person or being an unknown person, no longer makes any difference.

It is freeing oneself from everything

To be spiritual is to be free.

Being spiritual has nothing to do with religion, rituals, gurus, disciples. On the contrary, it is to free oneself from institutions, groups, belief systems.

Small drawing representing institutions, gurus, and disciples.

It is not judging, rejecting, or opposing these things, but simply becoming transparent to them, not taking them seriously, going beyond them. It is not being satisfied with ready-made, partial, non-logical answers; and wanting to go straight to the point, back to the source.

You can get inspiration from a beautiful person who makes your heart vibrate, you can read esoteric and spiritual texts, you can practice this or that meditation technique, but you know that these people and these things are not themselves the truth you are looking for. You know that they are simply signposts that invariably point to simplicity, freedom, presence, love.

You can guide other people, but you don’t take pride in it, because you know that you can be nothing more than a signpost for them. To be spiritual is even to realize that every person you meet on your way is, in fact, a spiritual master, who invites you to become more and more aware of what you are, and what you are not.

But, to be spiritual, is above all to free yourself from yourself! To free yourself from everything you identify with: your thoughts, your emotions, your own beliefs, your own concepts, your body.

Small drawing representing emotions as color patches.

It is not at all to repress all these things, but simply to place yourself as an observer, to take a little height. It is to stop identifying with these things, to transcend them, and to notice that they thus affect you less and less.

When you free yourself from external social structures, and internal structures — emotions, beliefs, thoughts, paradigms —, what remains gets closer and closer to who you really are.

It is putting presence first

To be spiritual is to put presence first.

Small drawing representing presence as a kind of Sun.

It is to experience reality more and more without going through the mental, the analysis, the elements of the past or the future. It is seeking to go directly through perception, observation, intuition, in the present.

It is to let regrets complain if they wish, but to choose to bring one’s attention back to the present anyway. It is to let anticipatory fears emerge if they wish, but to choose to bring one’s attention back to the present anyway.

To be present is thus to be attentive to one’s sensations, to one’s breathing, to observe one’s own thoughts and emotions appear. It is to observe and be amused by all these things, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, keeping in mind that they will all eventually disappear, be replaced by others, and so on. To be spiritual is not necessarily to have already succeeded in maintaining presence at all times, but to become more and more obsessed with presence and to let it gradually take over the whole space.

To be spiritual is to stop thinking about spirituality, to stop intellectualizing spirituality. It is no longer trying to know the sacred texts with erudition, nor even to speak or write about spirituality.

It is, much more, to live spirituality through presence.

But it’s not about wanting to be present because it’s trendy! No, simply because it is becoming more and more clear to you that presence and observation bring you closer, day after day, to true happiness and to who you are; while the past, the future, and conceptualization take you away from it.

It is putting love first

To be spiritual is to put love first.

Small drawing representing love as a kind of Sun.

It is placing oneself beyond judgments, beyond duality. It is loving even those who are not spiritual at all. But loving has nothing to do with being nice to everyone, being friends with everyone, or agreeing with everyone! It is not even necessarily spending time sending love all around, because it is much more, being the love itself.

True love is feeling, more or less clearly, but more and more clearly, that you are the other, that love is the common essence between the other and yourself.

Do you ever feel the other person’s emotions in you? The thoughts of the other person in you? Do you sometimes feel that hurting the other person is hurting yourself? Do you sometimes have the intuition of being connected to the other person, even when he or she is far away? Perhaps you have already felt this sense of fusion, with elements of nature? The ocean, a storm, the desert, a tree, a forest, a kitten? Have you even had the strange, perhaps fuzzy, feeling of being the other?

It is not a question of looking for a fantastic sensation, but rather of noticing, without looking for anything, a very simple impression, almost ordinary, but more and more evident. To be spiritual is to put this growing evidence in the foreground, whatever the circumstances of life. Not because some great blogger wrote it, but because you feel that this is probably where you really are.

But, to be spiritual, it is especially to start with yourself!

No longer judging yourself, but loving yourself, unconditionally. Even when you are not simple enough, not free enough, not present enough, not filled with enough love. Even when you are not spiritual enough!

It is laughing at everything!

To be spiritual is, hence, not to take anything seriously anymore!

Small drawing representing laughter as a kind of Sun.

Neither the wealth, nor the poverty, nor the role you play in this world. Neither religions, nor rituals, nor mentors, nor disciples. Neither your thoughts, nor your emotions, nor your beliefs, nor your concepts, nor even your own opinion. Neither your suffering, nor your own death, nor the death of those you love. Not karma, not spiritual powers, not levitation, not the other dimensions, not angels, not archangels, not even this article!

To be spiritual is to laugh at all that!

Small drawing representing death.

It is not denying or repressing all these things, it is seeing them for what they really are. They are real and they affect you if you place your consciousness at their level of existence. They become illusory and cease to affect you if you place your consciousness beyond them, if you refocus on what you really are.

To be spiritual is to have fun changing your point of view all the time. It is a mindset, a state of consciousness, which cannot necessarily be guessed from the outside, but which changes everything inside.

To be spiritual is even to go so far as to no longer take one’s own spirituality seriously! It is to go to the point of losing all interest in spirituality itself, since it becomes the obvious attitude, the normality, the ordinary.

In the end, spirituality is a kind of joke. A joke that makes you relativize everything, until it relativizes itself.

So, if spirituality makes you burst out laughing, maybe it’s a sign that you are very spiritual?

Isn’t it? ;)

Visual summary

Drawing summarizing what it means to be spiritual.

I first published this article in French on May 25, 2016. I translated it into English on Dec 31, 2022.

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Lénaïc Pardon
Lénaïc Pardon

I am a kind of researcher-explorer. I am French, introverted, and hypersensitive. I value a lot freedom, creativity, and altruism. I am curious about almost anything, but I do have a preference for topics around simple living: permaculture, nature, craftsmanship, autonomy, philosophy, the mysteries of life… More about me and my work >