What's Your Spiritual Personality?
When you think about your personality, maybe words like social and bubbly, or quiet and reflective come to mind.
You might even label yourself an introvert or extrovert. But have you ever thought about your personality in spiritual terms?
“There are questions and practices that we naturally gravitate toward in our own individual spirituality. People express their spirituality, and what they value, in a variety of ways,” says Stephanie Ludwig, PhD, M DIV, MA, spiritual wellness provider at Canyon Ranch Tucson. “If you accept who you are — what really resonates for you — and learn to work within that natural wisdom, it can help guide you toward a spiritual practice particularly suited for you.” And we all know that any regular practice that connects your divine self: mind, body, and spirit, has a calming effect and is good for your health and wellbeing. Experts agree that a sacred activity, such as meditation, yoga, or nature walks, reduces stress and anxiety, increases your sense of fulfillment and gratitude, and makes a big different in physical health, since stress hormones amp up blood pressure and put us at risk for multiple conditions, from diabetes to heart problems. “There’s a lot of research that links a regular spiritual practice to better health and more contentment with life. I personally can’t imagine getting through each day without connecting with my spiritual self, especially when life feels overwhelming or when I’m feeling a bit lost,” Ludwig adds.
But in order to do something regularly, we must want to do it — which is why matching an activity to your personality type makes sense. If you’re unsure about what spiritual practices best match your personality, Ludwig says start by simply asking yourself what you enjoy most. “What brings you joy? What makes you feel alive?” she asks. “It may be working out, reading, spending time with those you are close to, or just taking quiet walks. How someone answers that question would tip me off to what kind of spiritual personality they might have.” Knowing this, you can more easily figure out what practices would feel most sacred and best connect mind, body, and spirit. Here are five spiritual personality types to assist you. More than one may apply, and that’s OK. See which sound most like you.
“For kinesthetics, their way of connecting spiritually is through the body,” says Ludwig. You like to keep moving; you may have even chosen a job where physical activity is part of what you do every day, such as a bodywork specialist, massage therapist, personal trainer, or coach. “Kinesthetics feel through their physical being, through touch, through movement,” adds Ludwig.
Try: Walking or any kind of moving meditation — yoga, tai chi, and dance — can help you tap into something bigger than yourself and let go of your ego. Once you do, it’s easier to find more peace, or even answers to important questions or problems you may be struggling with. “Long-distance running can be a way to connect with spirit too,” notes Ludwig.
“If the kinesthetic is the body, the scholar is the mind: These people really connect with their own spiritual essence through their thoughts,” says Ludwig. “There’s a saying: ‘If you don’t have a spiritual teacher, then read, read, read’; throw yourself into books.” If you fall into this category, you love to research, contemplate, and write; this is how your spiritual personality explores. You may have a more scientific mind, too, wanting corroboration and reasoning for what you believe.
Try: Reading Scripture, inspirational, or self-help books will feel like a natural way to explore your spiritual self. “The topics you choose will depend on what floats your boat,” says Ludwig. “But it will be mainly through research, reading, and being interested in what spiritual leaders and other teachers have to say that will deepen your soulful orientation.” And while scholars are more cerebral, they aren’t necessarily solitary. “You might enter into a discussion with someone about things you’ve read, or you may want to join a book club, or other group that provides you with fulfilling conversation,” Ludwig notes.
To continue the analogy, “if the kinesthetic is the body and the scholar is the mind, the devotional would definitely be the heart,” says Ludwig.
“Devotionals are committed to living from the heart, opening up to spirit in this way, and bringing love to everyone they meet. They are very compassionate, loyal, and empathetic.” Instead of craving evidence for their beliefs, they just feel and trust them intuitively. “Devotional types are less analytical and do not always need a lot of scientific evidence. They often feel the truth in their heart, and trust their instincts.”
Try: “This spiritual personality might enjoy chanting or singing, or being with a teacher who inspires them,” says Ludwig. You may also be drawn to ecstatic experiences and dance (also attractive to kinesthetics). If you want to cultivate more of the devotional in yourself, says Ludwig, you might attend a lecture or read books by a spiritual teacher whose teachings interest you. Or you may feel divinely nourished by simply spending time with loved ones or helping others in some way.
“These are the people who need to serve their community to nurture their spirit,” says Ludwig. “In yogic philosophy, these people are called the ‘karma yogis,’ which relates to service in the world.” Ludwig says servants tend to be aware of the needs of others, and are often social personalities, or interested in social service. “Most of the time these people do not feel like they are connected to their spirituality unless they are helping the people that are most in need, she explains. “We are living in a time where there are more opportunities to give, (and people who are in need), than ever before. We receive many blessings when we become aware and give to others. What many people do not realize, is that when they give, they receive just as much and likely more.”
Try: Not surprisingly, volunteer work can be a big part of this personality’s spiritual practice. Some servants go so far as to start a charitable organization themselves. “You feel most connected when you’re serving, giving, caring for, contributing, and engaging in the world around you,” says Ludwig, who adds that serving others can also be a one-on-one endeavor.
“You might notice that your friend is feeling down and bring her some flowers, or maybe a neighbor just had a baby and you organize a meal train so the new parents don’t have to cook,” Ludwig says. “You’re aware of the needs of other people and you want to serve and care for whoever that may be.”
Contemplatives are more solitary, and tend to be sensitive and introverted, Ludwig says. “The world can sometimes overwhelm them. These are people who need time alone to feel content; they can feel drained by the energy of other people,” she explains. Spirituality
manifests for contemplative personalities in meditation, prayer, or quiet reflection. “This group feels a deep spiritual connection when people disappear and everything stops,” Ludwig adds.
Try: For this personality, a retreat—such as a 10-day Vipassana (which means to see things as they really are) meditation retreat — or taking a solo hike might be a good idea, suggests Ludwig. “But if, say, you’re a musician, it might be time spent composing a song that fulfills you internally. Or maybe it’s working in your garden or creating a meditation room or some kind of sacred space that nurtures your spirit,” she adds. You may also find that it helps to take short breaks during the day to be on your own, perhaps shutting your office door and simply closing your eyes to breathe deeply, meditate, or pray for a few minutes.
It’s worth reiterating that many of us have elements of all of these personalities within us, so don’t be surprised if several of these types sound like you on different days and at different times. In that case, you may gravitate toward short meditation breaks on some days, and nature walks or runs with friends on others, while volunteering once a month, too. It’s all OK if it re-plenishes your heart.
“It is better to trust the inherent intelligence of your spiritual type, and to let the practice naturally unfold from there than to force yourself to be someone you are not. This is how you will be able to thrive and connect with your spiritual nature the most.”