We Asked 11 Millennials To Define Their Spirituality — & The Results Are Profound

Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Many of us have found ourselves in conversations with people who describe themselves as "spiritual." Though this descriptor might have meant something specific once upon a time, it's become a catch-all term for anything between fanatically religious and staunchly atheist. "Spirituality," as we hear it used today, is a pretty vague word for faith.
For the most part, however, it seems as if people use the term to distinguish their beliefs from religious ones. And since we ourselves have been known to use this word for everything from horoscopes to Catholicism, we decided to put this question to our readers: What do you really mean when you say you're "spiritual" but not "religious"?
As you might expect, their responses varied. While some based their spirituality on the religion in which they were raised, others considered their faith completely specific to themselves. But across the board, everyone's definition of their spirituality was very personal. After all, what's closer to your true self than the beliefs you choose to guide your actions?
Ahead, we've rounded up some of our readers' deepest answers to our question. Click through to read them, then let us know how you define your spirituality in the comments.
1 of 11
"I consider myself spiritual because of this phrase I once heard: 'Religion is for people who are scared of going to Hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there.'"

-Molly, 33
2 of 11
"Personally, 'spiritual' means still believing in God but not actively participating in a church. I'm Catholic and grew up going to church every Sunday. I completed all my sacraments, but as I got older, I didn't like being told what I could and couldn't believe and what I should support. I ended up disassociating myself from my church and stopped going all together, but I still believe in God and pray. My family supports my decision to no longer participate in my church and just follow what I believe to be right for me."

-Victoria, 22
3 of 11
"I just believe that there are greater forces at work. I'm not sure if that's necessarily a 'god' figure, but I don't believe that everything is up to chance. I'm a big believer in energy, manifesting energy for yourself. So I meditate a lot. I do read my horoscope, too. I'm very much of the opinion that you manifest good energy for yourself, and it's important to keep your energy positive and healthy as much as possible. I've seen a medicine reader a few times in order to have an energy cleansing — that's probably the main thing I believe. The better your energy, the more positive your life.

"Since we all have this energy, and energy can't be destroyed, I also believe in some kind of afterlife. I don't know that it's a heaven. I just think that the spirits and energies of our loved ones hang out and help us out when we need it. I guess there are aspects of Eastern religion in there somewhere, but the idea of 'energy' is mainly what I believe in."

-Maria, 27
4 of 11
"Being a spiritual person to me means that you connect directly with universal energy (i.e. the spirit that infuses and creates everything). It's a recognition of being in the flow of it all and actually being a part of it as well. From there, people are able to create their own unique spiritual practices.

"In my case, I incorporate a bunch of different practices, ranging from things that may be considered more religious, like prayer and working with Angels (though I truly believe angels to be non-denominational), to practicing other forms of energy work (crystal healing, chakra balancing, and Reiki healing). I'm super devoted to my horoscope and understanding planetary energy, as well as working with sound energy, mantras, and affirmations to name a few.
Ultimately, it all comes down to tapping into that energy and how it feels for me."

-Kelsea, 24
5 of 11
"It means I don't follow the rules or tenets of a particular religion, but rather what feels true and 'right' for me. I aim to work hard and be nice to people. I believe in something bigger in the greater universe. I believe if you put good energy out into the universe, you will receive it back. I don't feel the need to go to a place of worship on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis to affirm my personal values."

-Emily, 29
6 of 11
"Knowing myself and my capabilities. It gives me a sense of self; religion took that away from me growing up. I didn't like that if I did not believe in their rigid terms, then I was not fully this religion or that religion. Being spiritual gives me a sense of being that I lost along the way; what I think, how I feel, divulging into my emotions and finding out who I really am and not what others impose on me because of a label."

-Salai, 21
7 of 11
"Spirituality means self-improvement to me and believing your thoughts are connected to your reality — more of a way of life and trying to be as positive as possible."

-Rachel, 28
8 of 11
"Religion gave me a moral role model, but one doesn't need to worship Jesus to take with them the lesson to love your neighbor. Overall, I would say spirituality has evolved from my religion in the way I live my life with the knowledge that we are all connected, to each other and to all living and nonliving things in the universe, and that kindness and love are as 'religious' as any dogma. It's the acknowledgment that there is something higher than all of us on this earthly plane, and that we can all gain something by trying to reach out to that entity, be it through meditation or just having a silent conversation with your 'God.'"

-Lauren, 23
9 of 11
"To be spiritual is to seek connection with other life and to look for that connection in regular practice. I feel spiritual when I seek to forget my ego and the limited human conceptualization of time. Daily meditation, journaling, regular letter writing to geographically distant friends, and time spent in nature (whether in my backyard garden or in the most remote national park) form the backbone of my spiritual practice."

-Eli, 27
10 of 11
"'Spiritual' to me means something that feeds your soul. Growing up in a Southern Texas Baptist church, I often felt like I was pretending while there. I also got in trouble a lot for asking too many theological questions. My soul was not being satiated. As I grew up, I discovered several different religions and tried a lot of them: Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Atheism, Wicca, etc. Yeah, nothing fit. While I now declare myself a witch, I do not follow the Wiccan religion. I follow my soul. Once you've found what make sense to you and you feel a connection to something (even if you don't know what it is), you've found spirituality. Now some people can find this through religion, but, as with me, it doesn't work for everyone. Feed your soul, however you need to do it."

-Jillian, 28
11 of 11
"I think being spiritual means you are in tune with the narrative of human life, not just the narrative of a specific theology. Spirituality is pursuing the 'why' in not just what we do, but everything that we feel. It's a belief and curiosity in the things that are out of our control. Religion just adds context. Spirituality is the personal or unique essence of belief in something greater."

-Sophia, 20