Spiritual growth, or development, is an inner process of removing obsolete habits and ideas, incorrect concepts and assumptions, and erroneous ideas and beliefs about life. It is a process of broadening the horizons of consciousness, and understanding key inner truths. Spiritual growth has gained popularity as more people search for a way to become more harmonious with the life surrounding them, and as a means for developing feelings of strength and inner power in order to lead happier lives.
What Is Spiritual Growth
While all religions make reference to spirituality, this concept of spirituality does not belong exclusively to any particular religion or tradition. A person doesn’t have to be a member of any church or religion to participate in the process of spiritual growth. To the contrary, the more free the mind is from any preconceived religious beliefs, the easier it may be to make progress in achieving spiritual growth.
There is no one concise, exact definition of spiritual growth. Most people would agree, though, that the following points are consistent with growing spiritually.
- Gaining an awareness and consciousness of just who you really are
- A wakening from the common, everyday consciousness
- Understanding that a person is more a spirit with a body than a body with a spirit
- Getting past dated, tired and flawed concepts
- Learning to experience life more through the soul than the ego
Growing spiritually is helpful for everyone, whether secular or religious, living a rather ordinary life or being a high achiever. Spiritual growth is vital for a happier and more fulfilled and harmonious life — a life free of tension, anxiety and fear.
The Benefits of Spiritual Growth
There are several benefits to attaining spiritual growth. These benefits apply to all people, regardless if their background is religious or secular.
- Feelings of happiness and contentment awaken
- A realization that you are more than the body, mind and ego; you are something much bigger — the soul
- The perception of how healthy it is to cultivate understanding and compassion towards others
- Gaining the ability to remain calm and not to allow situations to negatively affect you
- A lasting sense of optimism and hope
- Achievement of a state of inner peace
- A growing of confidence and inner strength
- An ability to see situations as they really are
- A willingness to expand your horizons and leave your comfort zone
Spirituality involves your spiritual disciplines or practices, which might include meditation, prayer, breathing exercises or rituals. Spiritual growth, and personal growth, can also come from gaining an understanding of the concept of spiritual intelligence — understanding what it is and how to apply it to your daily life.
The Dimensions of Intelligence: IQ, EQ and SQ
When it comes to the topic of intelligence, everyone is familiar with intellectual intelligence (otherwise known as intellectual quotient or IQ). IQ represents the understanding of facts, the concepts behind those facts, and the path one follows to get to those facts.
IQ was eventually recognized as a fairly narrow definition of intelligence, and in the 1980’s another dimension of intelligence came into existence — emotional intelligence (otherwise known as emotional quotient or EQ). EQ is the ability to comprehend, use, and manage your own emotions in positive manners to communicate effectively, surmount challenges, alleviate stress, empathize with others, and overcome conflict.
Only recently has advances in neuroscience and psychology identified a third important dimension of intelligence. Spiritual intelligence (otherwise known as spiritual quotient or SQ) is considered by many to be at least as significant as the IQ and EQ dimensions. Danah Zohar coined the term spiritual intelligence and introduced the idea in 1997 in her book ReWiring the Corporate Brain. SQ represents strategic (long term purpose, goals, and vision) intelligence which directs the planning (short term tasks, concrete smaller steps, specific procedures) intelligence of IQ and EQ by exercising the capabilities and qualities and of the soul in the form of compassion, creativity, love, integrity, wisdom, joy and peace.
Spiritual Intelligence (SQ)
Collectively, IQ and EQ represent the ego. Being the ego means experiencing yourself as being your mind and body. The ego feels insufficient and dissatisfied and constantly seeks out satisfaction elsewhere — in the next experience. So the ego never gets to enjoy the now moment. The ego is discontented, and reacts to events based on a sense of lack, rather than responding from a state of fulfillment. Because humans have a tendency to identify themselves as the ego, it’s understandable that so many people experience lives of dissatisfaction and worry.
Spiritual Intelligence (SQ) Is the Soul
SQ — spiritual intelligence — is a higher dimension of intelligence. Spiritual intelligence activates the capabilities and qualities of the authentic self. Whereas IQ and EQ represent the ego, SQ represents the soul. Being the soul results in experiencing yourself as being aware — as consciousness itself. This is experienced as moments of presence, and takes the form of the above-mentioned qualities (compassion, integrity, peace, and so forth). As a result, unlike the ego, the soul does not seek satisfaction elsewhere. The soul is not concerned with the next experience, because the soul is already content. Thus the soul does not need to use this moment as a means to reach the next. The ego reacts from a state of lack. The soul instead responds in each moment from a state of prior fulfillment. Therefore spiritual intelligence brings about a sense of purpose and deeper meaning. Living as the soul results in betterment in a broad range of crucial life skills and work skills.
When your soul (SQ) governs your ego (IQ and EQ), as it does in moments of presence, your ego gets removed from being in charge. As a consequence, in those moments your ego is no longer in control of your purposes, emotions, actions, thoughts and values. This means SQ is your most precious personal resource, as it puts your soul in command. The soul, with its qualities such as compassion, creativity and joy, will always do a much better job than the ego. SQ allows you to live from your soul, thereby realizing your full potential and transforming the life destiny that would otherwise be built by the ego.
The ego and the soul act as opposite poles. This is the basic operating system of human awareness. The ego is not who you are, although we tend to think that that’s who we are most of the time. In fact the soul is who you are. The soul is awareness itself.
When you are governed by the ego, one thought can quickly lead to many other thoughts, in a sort of chain reaction. As a result the direction of attention can shift and take us down blind alleys. Conflicting emotions can hijack attention and sends us back and forth in a kind of endless loop, getting us nowhere.
The Steps to Shift From Ego to Soul
Shifting from ego to soul is a big part of spiritual growth. The pathway involved in this shift from ego to soul can be referred to as the SQ portal. Here we touch on the concept of the portal. The 3Q Institute, a leader in secular education and training in spiritual intelligence, discusses the SQ portal at length.
While the SQ portal is not identical to what’s thought of as conventional meditation, there are similarities. The SQ portal has three essential steps. Notice, feel, be. These are the three steps that get you from ego to soul.
We spend so much time in the ego, focused on objects of attention, we forget about the soul, where the focus is the subject of attention. We need to notice — to remind ourselves — to focus on the subjects rather than the “things.”
Feel the qualities of awareness itself. At its simplest form this can be accomplished with a simple breathing exercise. After inhaling and before exhaling is a natural pause — a point where inhaling has ended, but exhaling has not begun. The same is true with exhaling — when finished exhaling, inhaling doesn’t again begin immediately. If you breathe slowly and deliberately you will become aware of these two still points. During these short still points you may actually feel a sense of peace. At these moments your attention is not on objects of attention (the thoughts and emotions of the ego), and thus the subject qualities (the soul) are not masked.
In this third step you attempt to move beyond feeling awareness to actually being awareness. Becoming totally self-aware. To continue with the breathing exercise, at the point of inhaling — of breathing in — do so with spiritual self-awareness. Emotional self-awareness refers to knowing what you’re feeling at any moment. Spiritual self-awareness instead means to recognize what you care about, what you live for.
By going through the three steps — from IQ to EQ to SQ — you activate spiritual intelligence. You follow a pathway from one pole (the ego) to the second pole (the soul). This polar shift replaces ego reactions with soul responses.
Further Spiritual Intelligence Study
If you’re interested in spiritual intelligence, but don’t find the topic immediately intuitive, you might consider digging deeper by taking an online course specifically devoted to SQ.
Richard Griffiths is one of the leading voices on the subject of spiritual intelligence. His decades of research and practice as a psychologist and spiritual practitioner culminated in the founding of the 3Q Institute. The institute’s website at www.sqi.co offers online courses in spiritual intelligence, including the nine week The Essential Experience course that teaches SQ essentials, and the more advanced three month The MindMaster Experience course that includes real-time neurofeedback for tracking your own brain development.