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What's Your Spiritual Type?

What comes to mind when you think of a "spiritual" person? Maybe it's someone who never passes up a dharma talk, sings in the choir, or spends every weekend volunteering. Maybe she says prayers before each and every meal. 

No matter what the outward signs, if you don't happen to share those habits, you might feel lacking in the divine department. Not so, says Jonathan Ellerby, Ph.D., spiritual program director at Canyon Ranch and author of "Return to the Sacred." "Spirituality is an essential dimension of being human, and as much a part of us as our bodies and minds. It's not a matter of whether or not you're spiritual, but of what kind of spiritual personality you have."

Indeed, one person's brand of spirituality might look entirely different from another's. Chances are good that your interest in certain types of work, play, and other activities may be reflected or balanced by what engages you spiritually. The key, says Ellerby, lies in discovering your unique style so that you can optimize your spiritual tendencies and talents.

To that end, he has identified four distinct spiritual types: body, mind, heart, and soul. While we all embody some characteristics of each, chances are you lean more strongly in one direction or another. Read on to find the right expression of your sacred nature and connect with a sense of the divine in a way that really works for, inspires, and energizes you.

Body-Centered Seekers
If you gravitate toward physical activity and even derive satisfaction from physical chores, this is you. "The body is just as wise a teacher as the mind or the heart because spirituality is more than an idea," says Ellerby. "It's an experience." What's working for you in the spirituality department is that you appreciate the joy of being fully and physically present -- and that's vital to a strong spiritual practice.

Your Challenge 
Because you're athletic, you get competitive in practices such as yoga. This attitude can take you out of the more grounded, peaceful mind-set. And when pride and ego take hold, you may miss the spiritual aspect of a practice altogether.

Explore 
See yoga, tai chi, qigong, or any other mind-body movement classes as a vehicle to spirituality, not just a sweaty workout. Incorporate movement into your own spiritual practice, even if it means doing a walking meditation every day along your favorite path. "By setting an intention as you begin any of these types of practices," says Ellerby, "you'll give your movement focus, changing the nature of the activity and gain a greater sense of connectedness and joy."

Mind-Centered Seekers
For you, intellect and knowledge lie at the heart of spirituality. You may be a philosophy or an English major, a deep thinker, a lover of books and brainy discussions. Life for you begins and ends in consciousness, in your ability to study and analyze ideas.

Your Challenge 
You've been accused of overthinking things, not to mention living entirely in your head. Sometimes this can cause you to get stuck -- mentally and spiritually.

Explore 
Use your intellect as a vehicle for spiritual growth, as opposed to an end in itself. That might mean diving into more spiritual fare (say, the Bible, the Tao Te Ching or the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh). Consider forming a spiritual book group to add a new dimension to your study. You'll engage your intellect while connecting with like-minded folks.

Heart-Centered Seekers
Your sense of satisfaction rests on your feeling emotionally connected and invested. Relationships are your interface with the world, whether that means with others, with the divine, or with yourself. More intellectual pursuits (like studying spiritual texts) may leave you cold, unless they facilitate connection with similar souls. In other words, you may enjoy reading Eckhart Tolle, but not as much as you would talking about it with others.

Your Challenge 
Because you value connection so much, you risk being overly dependent on others. You may lose yourself in someone else's spiritual path rather than shaping your own.

Explore 
Capitalize on your emotional intelligence and knack for cultivating relationships. Find nourishment in volunteer work or other forms of service to your community (helping out at church or dedicating your time to a charity event). These people-centered activities naturally engender a sense of connection to others. If you've felt spiritually at sea in the past, you might benefit from working with a spiritual mentor, such as a life coach, rabbi, priest, or yoga teacher.

Soul-Centered Seekers
You possesses a deep and intense awareness of spirituality. You devour stories of saints and mystics, fantasize about traveling through India, and wonder about the monastic life. What you want most is to take your spiritual experience to the limit.

Your Challenge 
A hyperawareness of the transcendent may make you vulnerable in some ways. You risk going to extremes, using spirituality as a form of escapism.

Explore 
Maintain a healthy, realistic mind-set and consider where you're at mentally before you take on soul-centered challenges (e.g., starting an intense fast on the heels of a bad breakup). Mentorship is important, too. Plenty of organizations provide support and supervision to safely explore the kind of experiences you crave, says Ellerby. 

Look to balance larger-than-life adventures -- such as pilgrimages to spiritual sites, wilderness expeditions, solitary retreats -- with more moderate ones. Rather than a 40-day vision quest in the woods, "try two days of isolation, just in your apartment, for instance," says Ellerby. Or take a digital fast, shutting off the phone, TV, and Internet. Don't discount your capacity to access the deep spiritual experience in the everyday. 

Text by Terri Trespicio

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