Spirituality has so many meanings, connotations, and ways to practice it. And with due respect to all forms of spirituality and spiritual leaders, what I share here is what I believe and practice with myself and my patients. With almost nine years of coaching and consulting experience with my patients and clients across the world with various lifestyle diseases and spending hours together with end-of-life and terminally ill patients, I have gathered a lot of learning to see life, suffering, and death so closely.
No matter which path of spirituality you follow, and whether you are religious or not, the fundamentals of spirituality never change. The one fundamental that I believe is spirituality starts with respecting and honouring the gift of life, that is YOU. Spirituality begins with self. It begins with us valuing this gift. Yes, you are a gift. Your life is a gift, and we must respect and look after it.
Unfortunately, many people abuse their health and bodies with over-drinking alcohol and other substances and call themselves spiritual. But my question is—how can you be spiritual when you are disrespecting your own life and health? You cannot honour anything if you are not honouring the gift given to you.
You can’t be kind to others if you aren’t kind to yourself. We are such an amazing creation that no one can replicate, and there is an immense intelligence and value in this gift of life. So, spirituality starts with self. One can immerse themselves in whichever spiritual path they want to, but they know they are living a lie when it’s not started with themselves.
The second is to practice compassion. It is the heart of spirituality. My take on compassion is to suffer together and take steps to help alleviate that suffering, which is the literal meaning. So even by offering the person a gift of listening and understanding, you are offering compassion in a huge way.
Another is to practice. While there is an abundance of knowledge around spirituality, why are people still seeking more and more? Because they lack practice. How many people practice compassion (which is very different from empathy and altruism), forgiveness, letting go, kindness, and so on? So, putting your learnings into practice is also fundamental to spirituality.
Spirituality doesn’t have to be a complicated path. Someone’s way of spirituality could just be adopting kindness or selfless service to people. So many people try so hard to find spirituality and reach out to gurus and leaders to ask for it. But aren’t all of us spiritual beings already? We have a spirit within us. It's how you nurture the spirit. Being spiritual means being connected with our spirit, which most of us lose because of all the layers of self-doubt, bitterness, and jealousy.
So, while the spirit is there, it becomes clouded, which needs to be cleared up through tools like meditation, immersing in nature, silence, meaningful relationships, prayer, learning from spiritual scriptures, and paths of wisdom which are handed down to us in the form of stories that we learn from and practice.
Luke Coutinho, Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle- Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine