If you’re reading this article, you’re probably familiar with the term “Spirituality”. But, are spirituality and spiritual intelligence the same thing?
The words ‘spiritual’ and ‘intelligence’, being abstract concepts formed by human language, are not the same for everyone.
This is why, before we start talking about the term spiritual intelligence, I’d like to make the case for what each word means. And suggest a definition based on which we can go deeper.
Defining Spiritual Intelligence
‘Spiritual’ = relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
(Source: Oxford Languages)
Spiritual also has a second meaning, which refers to religious leaders and practices, which we won’t be considering for the purpose of this article.
‘Intelligence’ = the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.
(Source: Oxford Languages)
Intelligence also has a secondary meaning, which is the information that is of military or political value. Again, we’ll only be considering the definition above.
Now, if we put these together, we get this:
‘Spiritual Intelligence’ = the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills that relate to or affect the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
So, it’s not only about understanding spirituality. It’s about the ability to access and develop the skills that help you affect the invisible.
You won’t find this term in your standard dictionary and, if you Google it, you’ll find that it’s a term that is still being explored. It has no clear definition and thus spins from morality to values, to the unspeakable.
To understand it further, the following questions are helpful:
- What are those skills that allow you to affect the human spirit?
- How do you currently experience the human spirit?
- What difference does it make when you’re able to affect the human spirit?
The Sage And The Teenager
Before we go more abstract, let’s make spiritual intelligence more real – or what marketers call ‘reality infusion’.
For that, I’d like to start with the story of the sage and the teenager.
“One sunny morning, a teenager decided to experience the numerous benefits of meditation. Remembering the poses, gestures and posture of the sage, she sat down in a lotus position and closed her eyes. After sitting for a minute or two she was finally able to catch onto a single thought. ‘What will others think when they see me like this?’ As none of the other teenagers meditated, her unusual behaviour scared her of the consequences. So she went up to the sage who meditated and asked, ‘Sage, how can I experience the numerous benefits of meditation?’ The sage smiled and said: ‘You just did. For you were able to witness your own thought.’”
The sage and the teenager are two of the numerous voices we hear inside our heads. The point the story makes is the fact that awareness and observation of the invisible are the very skills we call spiritual intelligence.
It’s in the noticing that gives us power and choice.
Noticing our own thoughts and thus knowing what they are.
Noticing our own emotions and thus knowing how we feel.
Noticing our body’s vitality and thus knowing what it needs.
Noticing our own patterns of thinking and behaving, and thus knowing what drives us, helps us, and what keeps us stuck.
But it can also be so much more than that.
From noticing the very elements in us, to noticing it in others. Spirituality itself is a phenomenon that isn’t as greatly explored by science. The reason for that is, we simply lack the tools to measure it and predict the invisible so it can be replicated. This doesn’t mean however, that we can’t make use of the very tools available to help us notice and choose all of the above.
Who Are You?
This is a question I’ve explored over and over again, and it lies at the heart of this abstract concept we call spiritual intelligence.
I remember exploring who I was 5 years ago during a retreat a friend of mine had organised. We stayed in a hut in the middle of the alps and meditated all day every day. None of us could speak a word. We weren’t allowed to read or watch anything either. We had two meals every day, breakfast and lunch, followed by hot tea in the evening.
These 5 days taught me a great deal about who I am, what my mind is like and how my thoughts work. Because there was no input of information from the outside, the mind was slow. My thoughts couldn’t rush anywhere and I had all the time in the world to ask myself the important questions.
On Day 1, I was very frustrated. I was trying to picture an apple as vividly as possible, but the color and the shape wouldn’t be more than a blurr. I also noticed how quickly boredom can set in when you have 3 hours and one cup of tea in front of you.
On Day 2, I realised that a fun activity would be to go through my past memories. It was astonishing how much I actually remembered when I had all the time in the world. In fact I felt like I was reliving my memories in the most intense way possible.
On Day 3, I planned out everything and solved all my problems. I experienced the monkey mind, that jumps from a to b and not only finds problems, but also creates solutions and plans. I was a little sad when all of my problems had been solved in a mere 45 minutes of my monkey mind jumping around.
On Day 4, I experienced quite a bit of pain in my legs from sitting on them for such a long time. But because I had the time, I didn’t avoid the pain, I decided to go deeper into it. I realised that pain can be tolerated, I can in fact control it if I want to. Since it’s a signal that my body sends, it’s within my control to send a different signal.
At the end of Day 4, I met him. On a red couch in the middle of a white room.
Just like Jim Carrey exits his fictional world in The Truman Show, so did I for a moment exit my world and enter the room where everything was possible. And on that couch, he was sitting. He was me. Or at least looked like me, but a good 40 years older, much calmer and seemingly all knowing. I had a conversation with my own mind, only that the second voice this time was the voice of the sage.
As the silent retreat ended, I realised that I am not just my personality and my thoughts. If that were so, I wouldn’t have been able to observe myself from a third angle, distanced from the very occurrences in my physical environment.
Spiritual Intelligence In Life & Coaching
We discussed how spiritual intelligence shows up for us, as a voice inside our head that notices our thoughts, emotions, body, and more.
From that awareness, we can make a choice. A choice of what we want to create in our lives. Of what we want to experience.
All of a sudden, we’re able to manipulate our own reality in a way we never thought possible. Or maybe we thought about it and quickly disposed off the idea, deeming it too powerful.
But now you know, it is possible. And not only for yourself, but for your coaching clients.
Teaching clients and helping them to listen to those voices in their heads. Teach them how to tune into one and tune out of another to discover this new awareness. And the opportunity to create their desired reality from the inside out.
One simple tool you can use to help your clients see the different voices in their head is called Dialogue with Yourself.
Here’s How It Works:
- For the next 10 minutes, write down every single thought that comes, on a piece of paper. Make sure your pen keeps writing and you don’t stop writing. Even ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’ or half-sentences are fine.
- After a few minutes, you’ll notice your mind ‘emptying out’.
- Then, start asking yourself questions on that piece of paper and see what answers come up.
- At the end of the 10 minutes, you should have most of your thoughts captured on paper. If you did ask questions that you genuinely don’t have an answer to, you should be able to see that the answers to those questions don’t exactly come from the same place as the questions come.
- Once you’ve done this a few times, you can remove the paper and have a dialogue with yourself while meditating. It works either way.
While we talk about spiritual intelligence, it is yet just another reminder of who we are and what we’re really capable of. To explore this even deeper, have a look at Michael Neill and Christy Whitman’s work on the Evercoach platform.
I have found that the conversations we have about the very nature of our being can remind us and our clients of the power we’ve always had in our lives, but may have forgotten to exercise.
So, now’s your chance to start. What’ll be your first step to develop your spiritual intelligence?