Today, lets toss around some thoughts on the difference between being “spiritual” and being “superstitious.”
There’s a fine line between the two, and it’s up to each of us to keep checking in with ourselves to keep our beliefs and intuitions in a healthy state of balance.
In this episode of the Alchemy of Affluence Podcast, I’ll share a fun rule of thumb: a test to run your beliefs through in order to maintain that balance!
I’ll also share a little story about how I came to be conscious of the way spirituality and superstition are two sides of the same coin… Read on or listen to this recording and enjoy some old pictures of my early spiritual altars as you scroll down this post!
Some years ago, my roommate had a guest over to visit our apartment. He noticed my (then very tiny and primitive) spiritual altar, and became curious about it. He asked me to explain what some of the items were for. All I had were a few candles and a porcelain dinner plate with some tumbled stones and a smudge stick on it. I explained that crystals are used for grounding and centering energy during meditation, and for balancing the energy in a space, and that the smudge stick was burned to cleanse and bring consciousness into the space (or something along those lines). The guest asked, “are you, like, really superstitious?” I replied, “no, not superstitious at all, but spiritual.”
That incident took place fairly early in my post-awakening spiritual journey, and I’m glad it came up at that time! It raised this subject in my mind, allowing me to remain conscious of that thin line between spirituality and superstition as I’ve developed along my path. It got me thinking more about what the difference actually is…
To get a better understanding of what superstition means to me, I’ve had to ask myself, when did I initially learn what superstition was, and what was the context? It makes me think of something my mom told me about people she grew up with. She recalled that a family she was close with as a young girl were very “superstitious,” and believed that if someone swept over your feet with a broom, you would never get married. There was no explanation provided as to why or how this was the case, but the girls were all super careful to move out of the way when someone was cleaning the floor!
So, as a kid I guess I must have figured that superstition was an irrational belief with no grounding in reality…
But as I began to grow older and wiser, I came to question my own religion. Just because some things were written in an old book, did that validate what Abrahamists (Muslims, Christians and Jews) believed as “grounded in reality”? Perhaps not…
Of course it was questions like these (among many others) that eventually led me to wash myself clean of my old religious beliefs and accepted values and start totally fresh in my early 20s.
I began to question everything, and opened my eyes to new potentials. I decided that nothing I thought I knew from one moment to the next was written in stone, and I allowed myself to explore practices and ideas from all across the spectrum of spiritual paths. Some of those things I began exploring included the crystals and smudging herbs that went on to become a topic of discussion in the above story…
Often times, along my journey since then, I’ll try a practice and find that it feels extremely authentic to me for some time, only to discover that it outlives its usefulness, or gets challenged in some way eventually. Have you experienced this phenomenon in which something feels so real and so true, but over time, it loses its potency for you, or you find yourself overusing it until it doesn’t even seem like a healthy dialogue with your intuition anymore? Sometimes, it comes in ebbs and flows, helping you to grow only at the right times. For example, this happens with numerology signs, like seeing 11:11.
Early along my path, 11:11 was really speaking to me… Like to a point where it was almost “scary accurate” in turning up to guide me when I was about to make an important life decision… But after the initial excitement of discovering this spiritual tool wore off, I found myself intentionally glancing at the clock around 11AM or 11PM, hoping to see 11:11 and experience it as a sign; trying to force a meaning out of it every time I did see it. That was when I started to feel like it had downgraded into a sort of superstition for me, and I took a step back from it. Now, I have a much healthier practice that I do whenever I see 11:11, but it had to go through a major evolution after losing it’s initial meaning.
Spirituality VS. Superstition
So lets have a look at the dictionary definitions, shall we!
The most simple and all-encompassing definition I found for spiritual is: of or relating to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature.
And for superstition: a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, or occurrence.
Or, an irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious, especially in connection with religion. Any blindly accepted belief or notion.
So… this presents an interesting question: If matters relating to the spirit or soul are not scientifically proven, does that make all forms of spirituality and religion superstition?
By this definition, it certainly could appear that way! So now what? Have we just rendered ourselves superstitious dummies? Well, it really depends. Here’s my spin on it:
Belief as a Tool
What I’ve learned over the years of exploring spirituality eclectically is that belief is a tool.
I believe that, humans are actually unable to comprehend the full truth of existence.
We simply don’t have all of the perceptive skills necessary to know everything… And that’s probably for a reason. I feel that we enter this life with one main purpose: to experience what life as to offer. Each of our paths will be different, as each lifetime can only fit so many experiences into its time span. Therefore, each of our perspectives is different based on what we’ve experienced and how we choose to “make sense” out of it. Some choose religion, some choose intuition, some choose science, some choose history, and some of us choose to explore all of these avenues.
I question my beliefs regularly, observing how they have served my expansion, and keeping them in check if they become too dogmatic. If I find that a belief is causing more harm than good, I pick it apart to see how it works, and explore alternatives. I approach other people’s beliefs and experiences with an open ear, curious to see how others perceive the world, whether it happens to work in my model of reality or not.
If you believe in something, and have never questioned why, or have never explored the possibility of an alternative truth, chances are you might have a superstition on your hands.
As of right now, one belief that seems to hold true for me is the concept that you will experience things based on how you perceive life. Like looking at the world through “rose colored glasses,” so to speak. If you believe that having had your feet swept over with a broom will prevent you from getting married, you will hold fear within you which will subconsciously infiltrate your thoughts, deeds, actions and habits, and will likely lead to relationship trouble. Whether you “believe” in the Law of Attraction or not, even psychologically, this model seems to make sense. At least it does to me right now (lol).
In my experience, I’ve come up with a useful rule of thumb:
If anything about your spiritual practice or belief system is dis-empowering you more than it is empowering you, and you haven’t attempted to see outside of it, it probably fits into the “superstition” category.
To illustrate this point, lets go back to the original example of the house guest who saw my smudge stick and asked if I was superstitious. The reason I answered, “no,” is because I use the smudge stick to focus on my blessings and empower myself, not to “ward off impending evil.” If I burned the herbs and walked all through my house saying “keep evil spirits out of my home,” my mind would be on the possibility of evil spirits, thereby inviting the potential to perceive an experience of evil spirits in my home. I would be believing that if I didn’t do this precautionary measure of burning the smudge stick, bad things would happen. To me, that would be dis-empowering, because it focuses on fear, creating a conflict where there doesn’t need to be one. I’d be a slave to that belief system, and that’s just not my cup of tea!
On the other hand, when I burn the smudge stick and walk all through my house saying, “I consciously bless and consecrate this space as a happy and healthy dwelling place for me,” I am empowering myself by focusing my intention on the potential for a happy time in that home. In this example, whether or not the herbs have any scientific or spiritual power to bless a space, I am psychologically conditioning myself to be happy, healthy, and thankful in my dwelling place, and my subconscious mind will cause me to think and act on that notion, thus creating potential for a happy home. If at any point smudging begins to feel forced, or if I begin to feel that I’m having to do it to “prevent bad things from happening,” that belief will have outlived its usefulness as a tool.
I hope this article raised some questions for you, if not provided answers. Take a good look at your life, habits, beliefs and spiritual practice, and run it through the “superstition” test. Is it empowering you to move forward, as you’re aware that it is simply a psychological tool that helps you to be happy, healthy, fulfilled and productive? Or are any of your beliefs creating fear and burden in your heart and in your life? It would certainly make a fun topic to journal about!
So, what is your personal definition of “superstition,” and how does it differ from being spiritual? Got any fun stories about superstitions or practices that have been useful/not useful along your path? Tell us all about it in the comments!
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