Self Improvement & Spirituality: A Beginner's Guide

The terms "self improvement" and "spirituality" aren't too often spoken in the same breath, but I think it is time to redress that balance. Let us be clear here: spirituality does not mean religion, (although it doesn't exclude it), and self improvement does not require you to abandon all your knowledge, history or beliefs. If you want to "improve" your dinner you might just add a little salt - you would hardly throw the whole meal away.

To understand why self improvement and spirituality are so closely intertwined we should perhaps agree on definitions of both. "Spirituality," for the purposes of this essay at any rate, means accepting that there is a force, or intelligence greater than our everyday intellect. This is the intelligence that knows how to grow an oak from an acorn, spin planets on their axes, and heal your cut finger without the slightest interference from you. It exists, like gravity, irrespective of whether you believe in it or not. It does not seem to be separate from everything, as an orthodox god tends to be portrayed, but is integral and essential to the very existence of everything.

Self improvement is the art and the desire to grow as a person with the intention of getting more from, and perhaps having more to put into, life.

Are we on the same page yet? Great, because now you will quickly see how self improvement is virtually impossible without some recognition of spirituality. It's more an allowing, really. You need to allow for the possibility of that greater intelligence if you truly want more from life.

Do you remember the last time you had a "brainwave"? (An interesting nickname for an ingenious idea, since in actuality every thought you ever have generates brain waves. But we'll move on). Where do you suppose that bright idea came from? You can't make yourself have a brainwave idea - they just come, don't they?

If you think these rare events do not demonstrate the existence of anything other than everyday thought, consider this even more common occurrence: conversation. Conversation is the most amazing phenomenon when you think about it. It is spontaneous and unrehearsed, and yet you can, in the tiniest of mental moments, formulate from the merest glimpse of a notion in your mind a well constructed argument and make complex points. Out from your mouth will spout sentence after sentence to explain the most complicated and complete notions! Even more amazing is when you come up with a metaphor. How does your mind put together images and emotions that, when done well, will convey to anyone who has an approximate experience like yours, what you mean?

We take this intelligence for granted, but it will nudge you and guide you once you learn how to listen to it. Meditation - the actual quieting of the cacophony of your mind - is one way that everyone should use, exercise, such as running or swimming may be another.

The conclusion we come to is counter intuitive to our twenty first century confusion of noise and mindless entertainment.

Self improvement - the improvement of the self - comes mainly not from increasing activity or from straining your brain as if wringing out a dry cloth - but from actually doing less and simply going within and listening.

Inside you, in no particular location, is your spirit - and hence your spirituality. That is the part of you that knows when you are fulfilled and when you are not, that feels good when you make the right choice and fretful when you procrastinate, hesitate or follow the crowd against your instinct.

Self improvement is not a trick. It is simply being.