Inner peace and outer harmony are great goals to have.
We could all use a little more of both, especially these days.
The key to finding it lies in being a better person to ourselves and each other.
Let me explain:
I don’t mean scoring likes on social media.
I don’t mean checking off a positive deed of the day box on your calendar.
What I’m talking about is:
Embracing and integrating the true you, “good” and “bad” and discovering and sharing your gifts with the world.
And helping others do the same.
Often the best guides in this process are spiritual people who’ve found a way to translate their inner experiences into the outer world.
But in order to become a spiritual person whose actions make a difference in the world around you it’s important to ask a simple starting question:
What is a spiritual person?
A spiritual person is someone who places high value on spirituality, which is the experience and study of divine and non-physical reality.
Now and then you meet someone who you really want to be around because they make you feel empowered, understood and accepted.
These are the kind of spiritual people who are so much more than a yoga mat poser or a good-time guru.
Being a spiritual person in a real way means being an authentic person who’s a friend and an ally on this rocky road of life.
Someone who can chart the inner path to self-healing and growth and help others do likewise.
According to bestselling author Margaret Paul:
“Being a spiritual person is synonymous with being a person whose highest priority is to be loving to yourself and others. A spiritual person cares about people, animals and the planet. A spiritual person knows that we are all One, and consciously attempts to honor this Oneness. A spiritual person is a kind person”
Overall, being spiritual is a bit difficult to define, since it is very experiential.
Some people don’t believe there is any reality beyond our material world.
Others are religious or spiritual and believe we have a spirit which is part of an intelligent design or cosmic, meaningful system.
As the writer Kimberly Fosu says:
“Spirituality doesn’t require faith. This is because it is based on your direct experience with non-ordinary states of consciousness be it angels, spirit guides, God, spirit animals, etc. This direct experience transcends faith. You don’t need faith if you have direct experience of the things a religious person may have to believe or struggle to believe.”
Having said that, it’s fully possible to be religious and spiritual or to be non-religious and spiritual.
Many spiritual and religious people believe the spirit lives on after physical death in some form, while others believe that it does not but that our earthly lives are still significant and part of a grand design.
Are there common characteristics of a spiritual person?
Secondly, it’s important to look at whether there are common characteristics of a spiritual person.
After all, each of us is unique, and maybe being spiritual depends on every person in a different way.
While that is true and each of our experiences can’t be neatly summarized or paraphrased, there are core characteristics of spiritual people.
These are the traits and qualities of a spiritual person that has been able to bring their inner journey into alignment with their outer life.
These are the characteristics of a spiritual person who has “learned the lessons” of the great teachers of humankind and its ancient wisdom, the qualities of a person who has developed a genuine approach to themselves and others from a spiritual standpoint.
Here they are, the 16 key characteristics of a spiritual person.
1) They know that not one-size-fits-all
One of the primary characteristics of a spiritual person is openness.
While everyone has their values and principles, the spiritual person knows that one-size does not fit all.
They are listeners and patient, willing to wait and see.
They take action when necessary and are effective people in the world around them, but they don’t act unnecessarily or stir up drama and conflict when it’s unnecessary.
They allow diversity and difference to flourish around them and take note of even their own negative reactions to people and situations as learning experiences, instead of interpreting them as condemnations.
The spiritual person is grateful for the space and freedom they’ve been given and they extend the same courtesy to others.
As Dr. Mark Gafni says:
“When a person begins to know that they can live their fullest truth and beauty, they begin to radiate that depth to the center of the community.”
2) They don’t consider themselves superior to others
Being a spiritual person is about fundamentally embracing the truth that salvation is not “above” the earth or in some obscure, invisible realm, but through our relation with the earth right under our feet.
The spiritual person truly does not consider themselves superior to others.
They look in wonder at the human creation and could be humbled by a woodworker or a mechanic as that person explains their trade to them.
The spiritual person genuinely values the spectrum of human talents and interests. To them it is an incredible tapestry.
The idea that their spiritual path or experiences would make them better or more “advanced” than others around them is far from their mind or life.
3) They respect the different religious and spiritual views of those around them
Spiritual people have often been through many evolutions.
One of the characteristics of a spiritual person is that they give other people room and respect to go through their own evolutions and walk their own path in terms of their religious and spiritual beliefs.
The genuine spiritual person doesn’t seek out “gotcha” debates or want to be “right” and disprove others.
They respect that others may firmly believe in a certain religion or spiritual path and the spiritual person works to learn and be open to what they can from that path.
The spiritual person doesn’t keep score. They let others live their truth as long as it’s not actively harmful.
They’ve overcome that novice spiritual ego of wanting to convert and convince everyone around them.
As the mental health podcaster and author Kelly Martin says:
“During my intensive period of following the teachings of the Law Of Attraction and Abraham Hicks, I thought that anyone who did not ‘get it’ was an idiot. I became evangelical in my beliefs. I didn’t question the validity of what I was saying back then. I was so sure I was right. It took a shift of perspective to drop the teachings and realise that other ways are just as valid.”
4) They don’t latch onto or worship gurus and spiritual teachers
Many people suffering from spiritual ego latch onto gurus and spiritual teachers.
They often fall into the codependent trap of wanting someone to “save” or “fix” them externally.
Of course, it never works.
And sometimes it leads to even worse situations of abuse and manipulation.
As Justin Brown explains in this video on Spiritual Ego, getting too hooked on a guru or becoming one yourself is a slippery slope. Watch the video below.
5) They voluntarily help and care for others
Another of the main characteristic of a spiritual person is someone who voluntarily helps and cares for others.
They don’t do it for money, recognition, or rewards, they do it because they can.
They also extend that kindness to caring for the environment, animals, their own home, and common public spaces.
They do kind things for others and help where they can because they have embraced the Golden Rule.
The spiritual person has embraced their own inner journey and therefore is ready and effective at helping the world outside as well.
The renowned Herman Hesse writes about this search for meaning and the authentic spiritual life in his book Narcissus and Goldmund.
Hesse’s protagonist concludes that the meaning of life is using one’s gifts to serve others:
My goal is this: always to put myself in the place in which I am best able to serve, wherever my gifts and qualities find the best soil to grow, the widest field of action. There is no other goal.
6) They care about their surroundings and the realities of daily life
One of the problems with people who “tune out” and think of the spiritual life as an escape from regular life is that they often become disconnected.
They live in such a state of hyper-positivity and “bliss” that they end up losing touch with their surroundings and the realities of daily life. This is a key danger of spiritual ego.
And it’s something that the genuinely spiritual person has overcome on their journey.
The spiritual person relishes making a delicious meal.
Or sharing an evening with a glass of wine and a loved one’s company.
Or even playing a fun board game with family and enjoying the magic of laughter.
They’re fully in the present and engaged with the reality of daily life.
7) They know that love starts with loving and respecting themselves
Another superb characteristic of a spiritual person is that they love and respect themselves.
They don’t hide or repress their negatives, and they don’t boast or inflate their positives.
They accept and fully actualize their own power and love of themselves to validate their place in our living biome.
As the world-renowned shaman, Rudá Iandê teaches in his free masterclass on finding true love and intimacy, the search for love that is meaningful and lasting starts within.
This is something that the spiritual person experiences every day.
It is not that they never feel sad, disappointed or angry. It is that on the fundamental, living and breathing level they have said yes to life and their place in it.
8) They’re humble and open to learning and new experiences
Another of the characteristics of a spiritual person is humility.
They don’t overestimate themselves or seek out ego trips.
They love to help out and make a difference, but not for their own glory. They don’t over-promise and under-deliver, they take each situation as it comes realistically and plan for the future with practical common sense and reasonable, informed optimism.
Being truly spiritual means being humble in the true sense. Not in being shy or ashamed of our power, but in owning our power and connection with the earth.
As Back to the Source puts it:
“If we actually analyze the word, we note that the Latin root humilis comes from humus, or rather that it is proper to the earth. The humble person is the one who maintains contact with the earth, with reality, who keeps his feet on the ground. Remembering his own roots, he will not be deceived by the Pindaric flights of the mind, often driven by unresolved unconscious wounds.”
9) They’re done with pointing fingers and stirring up conflict
The idea that a spiritual person is a warm and fuzzy bundle of joy at all times is silly.
It’s often pushed by New Age “Law of Attraction” types who don’t understand the dark side of positive thinking.
It’s also kind of sad because there’s so much potential in grief, rage and anxiety for transformation, but when you repress it you lose that potential opportunity.
The misunderstanding and distortion happens for a simple reason:
Spiritual people are done with the drama and conflict.
That doesn’t mean they never get angry or depressed. It means they don’t “get off” on arguments or gossip or other people’s drama. And pointing fingers or giving out blame no longer feels like anything but weakness.
It just tires them out, because they see how unnecessary and draining it all is. So they walk away.
It doesn’t mean nothing ever gets to the spiritual person, it just means they have exited from the day-to-day drama that can often tie so many of us up in its complications.
As Fosu puts it:
“They are self-aware of their emotions, of things they need to heal, and they are aware of the fact that their outside world is a reflection of what goes on within. Because of this level of self-awareness, a spiritual person will never point fingers at the outside world.”
10) Injustice and egotism make them genuinely sad
Another thing when it comes to the characteristics of a spiritual person is that injustice and egotism make them genuinely sad.
This does not mean it shakes their core self-identity or that it makes them want to blame, fight and be “right.”
It’s a little different:
They genuinely feel disappointed, because they know a better way is possible. They see people fall into the same temptations and instincts without being conscious and feel frustrated on a wider level.
It’s not about being personally mad at someone or thinking they’re a bad person for being an egotist, or greedy or hateful. Instead, it’s frustration at how they could be so much more.
And this sadness and frustration is powerful, because it’s the bedrock that they use as a foundation for teaching, healing and helping themselves and others.
We can do better.
We will do better.
11) They know that love isn’t all sunshine and roses
Another of the characteristics of a spiritual person is that they’re an emotional realist.
What I mean by this is that they know that love and spirituality isn’t all sunshine and roses.
By getting in touch with the power of our breath we can tap into a deep spiritual energy, and even in doing this you may come across many “negative” and difficult traumas and pain in yourself.
The spiritual person knows that trauma and pain are part of the spiritual journey and that life can be truly difficult.
Even the most beautiful creatures will one day wither and die, and disappointment can hit even the richest and most powerful person on the planet.
We are all in the same boat, and the path to accepting ourselves and others can be difficult.
But it’s worth it.
12) They know how to get in the flow state
Another of the most interesting characteristics of a spiritual person is that they know how to get in the flow state.
They understanding that “going with the flow” is not actually about “letting go,” but is about holding on to the right things.
The spiritual person is self-actualizing themselves by focusing on what’s important and honing their gifts.
Think of many of us as cars with clogged carburetors, expending major power and fuel to get down the road.
The spiritual person has managed to burn through that gunk and is running clean. They get charged up and power down the road without wasting time and energy on all the blockages and distractions inside their own engine.
13) They help others reach their full potential
Another of the biggest characteristics of a spiritual person is that they want what’s best for others.
Even the best of us can get stuck in thinking of life, career, and even love as a “zero-sum game.”
In other words: if you get an amazing career, a great family and a wonderful wife or partner it means there’s less to go around for the rest of us and it’s a reminder that I’m not getting XY or Z of what I want.
The spiritual person has completely let this mentality go.
It no longer applies to them. They are genuinely happy about the success of others and they want the same things for those around them as they want for themselves.
As the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) says in Hadith 13, there is no room for hassad (envy) or ghibta (jealousy) in the spiritual person:
None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.
14) They understand and embrace their own power
Another of the great characteristics of a spiritual person is they understand and embrace their own power.
As the spiritual teacher, author, and presidential candidate Marianne Williamson wrote in her 1992 book A Return to Love:
Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
This is a truth that the spiritual person knows in the core of their being.
They have discovered the key difference between ego and power.
Ego, really, is weakness. It’s acting out of fear and greed and wanting to have “more” than others.
Power is knowing that when you win I win. Power is knowing that we get far more from the help we give others and our own inner peace than we ever will from cars, homes and possessions.
15) They don’t seek out rewards and external validation
One of the core characteristics of a spiritual person is that they don’t seek out rewards or external validation.
That’s because they’re not in it for the thank yous, the Oscars, the rounds of applause.
They’re in it to do good things and be constructive.
They’re in it to illuminate the path.
They’re in it to create and sustain win-win situations.
And that is the biggest reward in the world.
16) They’re genuinely grateful and full of wonder about life
Spiritual people are grateful.
This doesn’t mean they need to post about it on Instagram everyday or “tell” people how grateful they are. I’m just saying they actually are. (There’s a difference).
They are also full of wonder about life.
As Hesse’s character Goldmund says in Hesse’s magnum opus Narcissus and Goldmund:
“I believe . . . that the petal of a flower or a tiny worm on the path says far more, contains far more than all the books in the library. One cannot say very much with mere letters and words. Sometimes I’ll be writing a Greek letter, a theta or an omega, and tilt my pen just the slightest bit; suddenly the letter has a tail and becomes a fish; in a second it evokes all the streams and rivers of the world, all that is cool and humid, Homer’s sea and the waters on which Saint Peter wandered; or becomes a bird, flaps its tail, shakes out its feathers, puffs itself up, laughs, flies away. You probably don’t appreciate letters like that, very much, do you, Narcissus? But I say: with them God wrote the world.”
A final word
As a final word, I would emphasize that being spiritual is not a competition. One of the worst things about New Age Spiritual Narcissism is that it has made being spiritual seem “elite” and cliquey to many people.
But the truth is spirituality is the opposite of a competition: it’s a collaboration.
We become truly spiritual and effective people when we embrace the interconnectedness of life and our link to each other.
You don’t need to chant or visualize your chakras to be spiritual, although there are lots of great meditations for inner peace that you can try.
You can be spiritual just enjoying a simple day at home with your family and watching the birds peck at the bird feeder in the backyard.
You can be spiritual by truly getting in touch with your anger and channeling it into something positive.
Or sitting by the ocean watching the waves roll in and letting feelings of forgiveness wash over you.
Spiritual experiences are all around you and within you.
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