Every Sunday evening during the winter months, Vincent carries out a weekly ritual. “I go for a long walk,” he says. “Because of the short days during the winter months, it’s always dark when I’m out there. When I return home, I light a candle in my darkened home and take a few moments to reflect on those words of Christ, ‘You are the light of the world’ [Matthew 5:14]. Then I think about how I can bring light to my part of the world during the rest of the week.”
Vincent is an example of someone who has found a creative way to boost his spiritual intelligence. Taking steps to increase our spiritual intelligence should be encouraged, because the result is our own personal growth that also benefits others.
Here are some ways you might boost your spiritual intelligence, and help light up the part of the world in which you live.
There are many spiritual practices to choose from: prayer, Bible study, devotional singing, fasting, journalling, intercessory prayer, pilgrimages, self-denial, compassion, hospitality, peace-making and social justice. Commit to one of these spiritual exercises for a period of time. Allow that practice to add shape and structure to the spiritual side of your life.
Shirley Martin committed to the spiritual practice of compassion and sharing. She read about a local women’s shelter and was moved by its stories of women and children arriving there with little more than the clothing on their backs.
She wanted to do more than feel badly for them; she wanted to do something. So she began to look for sales with a “buy-one-get-one-free” offer. Every time she finds one, she keeps the paid-for item for her own use and stores the “free” item in a box. Her box fills quickly and she supplements it with food and other items she prepares at home. Then she donates the lot to the shelter.
Like this woman, commit yourself to a spiritual practice until it becomes a way of life. Then commit yourself to another spiritual practice and another, and write down the difference each one has made in your spiritual growth.
Spirituality reveals itself in how we treat others. Jesus stressed the importance of reaching out with acceptance, love and compassion. Speaking about the poorest of the poor in society, He said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
In the first book of his two-volume A Code of Jewish Ethics, Joseph Telushkin relates the story of a rabbinic chaplain at a large New York hospital. He was addressing a group of health professionals about Jewish perspectives on medical issues and cited a principle stated by the legal scholar Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. Upon hearing that name, a nurse said in a loud voice, “He’s a real rabbi!” The chaplain was puzzled as to how a nurse who was not Jewish was familiar with Rabbi Feinstein.
After the meeting, he spoke to her and learned that she had cared for a newborn great-grandchild of the rabbi. When the rabbi visited the house, he made a point of seeking her out and thanking her for her help in healing the newborn. Later, when Rabbi Feinstein died, the woman called the family, offering her condolences, saying, “I remember how the Rabbi smiled and wished me a good day. I could see in his eyes that I was important.”
Commenting on that incident, Telushkin says, “This story reminds us that, although many of us think that others are impressed by our intellectual insights, our elegant clothing or our wealth and standing, what most often appeals to others is simple acts of kindness and personal attention.”
This applies to everyone. Even if you don’t have a lot of money, you can give away a little. Keep in mind the words of Jesus that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Studies show that people who give away money are happier than those who don’t. In a survey of 632 individuals, University of British Columbia psychologist Elizabeth Dunn found that the money people spent on themselves was unrelated to general happiness, but the more money people gave away as gifts and donations, the happier they were.
In another study, researchers gave people $5 or $20 with instructions to spend the money on themselves, on someone else or to donate it. Those who gave the money away or spent it on others—no matter the amount—tended to be happier than those who used it for themselves.
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers,” writes the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 6:14). He didn’t mean that you should avoid associating with non-Christians. Behind those words is the recognition that life’s journey can be helped or hindered, depending on the company you keep and the people you surround yourself with.
Dennis F Augustine, author of Invisible Means of Support, advises, “Find those persons with whom you are comfortable. Find those persons in whose presence you feel more energetic, more creative and more able to pursue your life goals. Stay away from persons who make you feel apprehensive or who influence you to doubt yourself. Especially stay away from those persons who drain you, so that your energy is all used up in trying to maintain the relationship.”
One way to do this in your place of work is by offering a simple prayer prior to entering the workplace. Your prayer could be something like this: “God, help me today to use my life for a higher cause and a greater good. May I be a source of hope, help and healing to every person I encounter. When problems and issues emerge, help me to listen deeply and respond skilfully. Help me to set aside my own ego and be generous and compassionate with everyone I meet.”
It’s amazing how many people take for granted these realities: they have a roof over their heads, clothing, food, a car, heating, cooling, water to drink, family, friends, health and employment. Yet their gratitude level is low, and in some sad cases, nonexistent, because they focus on what they don’t have rather than the many things they do have. Do your part to endorse British writer G K Chesterton’s idea of “taking things with gratitude and not taking things for granted.”
By boosting your spiritual intelligence, you will leave your part of the world softer, fuller and better. Increasing spiritual intelligence is a noble activity, one that makes prayers visible and puts love into action. And you will experience a noticeable increase in your own happiness as well.