Although the percentage of Canadians who identify as religious as declined, the majority still consider themselves spiritual in some way. According to the 2001 census, 65% of Canadians consider themselves spiritual people and 66% indicate that they believe in God. The 2011 census did not ask this quite the same way, but it did find that 76% of Canada identified with some community of faith.
Not all of these people who are saying they are Spiritual are actually open to the Spirit. That is, it is very possible that you might be saying yes to the Spirit with your mouth and still have little openness to the Spirit actually influencing your body, mind, behaviour, decisions etc.
This idea of saying one thing and feeling or acting another is not a new concept in psychology. Often people will describe an experience of wanting one thing with their mind and another thing with their heart. For example, someone might say that they don’t want to be in an abusive relationship, and mean this quite sincerely, but then still admit that they are in love with the person and won’t actually leave.
This seems to be similarly true in the spiritual realm. One metaphor to describe this experience would be to say that individuals in this situation have an open door in their mind, but a closed door in their heart. It is also possible to have an open door to the Spirit in your heart, but a closed door to the mind. Here is a description of people who have different relationships with the Spirit.
Having a closed spiritual door is quite common, especially in the Western world. Many are quite closed in almost every way. They deny the existence of the spiritual, which leaves little room for the influence of spirituality in their lives.
An example of this might be an atheist who leaves no room in their thoughts, emotions, or behaviour for spiritual realities. Their lives are lived in a way where they are attempting to purge themselves of any spiritual influence.
That being said, a totally closed spiritual person is actually rare. Even the most ardent denier of spirituality will often have subtle influences of the spiritual in their lives. For example, research that has found that people who say they don’t believe in the God are still generally reluctant to pray against things things they desire. If these individuals really don't put any stock in the spiritual world, why are they reluctant to pray that they never get a new car? Deep down, people often can't fully put away niggle that there may be something out there beyond the natural.
Closed Spirit, Open Mind
These individuals are open to the influence of spirituality in their mind, but close the door to these influences in their Spirit. These individuals may be involved in spiritual practices, sometimes even heavily, but will approach spirituality with their minds. They may think about spiritual forces and the ways they work in the world etc. They may even use these principles to make decisions in their lives. An example of this might be a someone who believes in a powerful God, but doesn't feel God’s presence.
It is also interesting that some individuals would say they are open to spiritual realities, but aren’t really that open at all. They say they are open to the Spirit doing things in their lives, but won’t actually seek it out and may actually resist any spiritual forces that might impact them. For example, they may say the believe in healing, but would never actually seek a spiritual healing and may resist someone who wants to spiritually heal them.
Open Spirit, Closed Mind
These individuals are open to the influence of the Spirit, but do not engage in a this process with their minds. They would likely mentally accept that there are spiritual forces, but haven't really thought about how those forces work or perhaps consider spiritual realities as completely unknowable. Their decisions, bodies, and emotions would be influenced by spiritual forces at varying levels, but they would likely not engage in a process of attempting to understand these forces.
An example of this might be someone who enjoys and seeks after spiritual experiences, but likely doesn’t commit to any one spiritual practice. They would also not engage in any kind of personal thought journey in regards to spirituality. Instead, they would take these experiences as they come, from wherever they come, in a more spontaneous manner.
These individuals experience spirituality and engage this with their minds as well. It is likely that they have some ideas about how spiritual forces operate and continue to grow in this understanding over time. They will seek out spiritual experiences and try to understand the experiences and how they fit in the spiritual world.
Opening the Door
Becoming open to the Spirit is a decision everyone has to make in their own spiritual journey. If you did decide to become more open, this process is not automatic. The desire to be open to the Spirit can be an important first step, but there are other factors that influence that definitely effect the process.
One of the first factors is our personality. Some individuals adopt new things slowly and other adopt them more quickly. Openness to experience is one of the big five personality traits. If you were born as a person generally closed to experience you likely have a strength in being more stable in various areas of your life. However, adopting new practices will take more time and effort. On the other hand, once you make changes in your spirituality, they will likely be more stable and lasting as well. So you may make slower progress, but that progress will be solid and stable.
Becoming Open by Paying Attention
What we pay attention to is usually more likely to change. This is not just a spiritual reality. In our minds, our brain changes parts of our minds depending on what we are paying attention to. For example, if you pay attention to math, your brain will start to become more mathematical.
This principle seems to also apply in spirituality. Paying attention to spiritual forces will likely make you more aware of their influence. However, it is important to pay attention with the different parts of yourself. For example, it is possible to just pay attention with your mind. This might be thinking about spirituality for longer periods of time. It is also possible to just pay attention with your spirit. An example of this might be to meditate on the Spirit, to try to feel a spiritual presence or force.
Most people have some openness to spiritual forces and everyone approaches it differently. Some approach spirituality in a mental way, others in a more emotional way. Becoming a balanced spiritual person is often about opening parts of yourself to spirituality in ways that may not feel natural at first. To do this it is important to spend time paying attention to the Spirit both in a mental and emotional way. In practice this could look like journalling, thinking, and attempting to feel the Spirit. Another good first step would be to simply ask the good Spirit that wants good things for you to reveal more of himself to you. This can be an exciting and very fulfilling process. May you be blessed as you experience more of the Spirit.