I have met quite a few people this year already who tell me that they have made a formal or informal resolution to live life “more spiritually”. When I ask them what this means, they all have different answers- meditation, yoga, read a spiritual book, or maybe take a workshop. Different answers, but all express the same challenge. How do you live a more connected spiritual peaceful serene life within the context of “real world” expectations and duties? How does a lawyer, a student, a mother or a doctor integrate spiritual concepts into the demands of their human experiences?
Spiritual living means placing an emphasis on self-knowledge and self-awareness. Meditation, yoga and other physical practices can help you become more connected to your inner energy source, which will then open the world up for many new and different types of connections. A spiritual perspective also means that being of service, in some form, becomes important to individuals.
Meditation: Meditation is available to everyone. Children in India are taught to meditate at around 5 years old, but here in the Western World meditation as a widespread practice is relatively new and many of the concepts can seem very foreign to us. Most people I meet who have tried meditation either have taken to it like a fish in water, or have found themselves fidgety and unable to sit still long enough to benefit. I was one of these “fidgety” people for years. Then I had a friend tell me to start by just sitting still for one entire minute. Wow. That was the longest minute of my life. But I practiced and in time this went up to five minutes. I began to be able to focus my very busy mind. I learned techniques that allowed me to simply observe and let my thoughts and concerns flow, like water without trying to damn them up with judgments, opinions or decisions. Meditation taught me to become aware of the voice of my ego and the voice of my spirit, which gives you very different messages about yourself. I learned to focus my energy in different areas of the body called Chakras, and over time I am able to focus for long periods of the peaceful feeling of just sitting. Meditation felt great.
Yoga: Then I began to do yoga, stretching and focusing on physical balance all day. There was something very empowering about staying focused on balance through the day. Yoga is not only an exercise but a way of life for consciously balancing throughout the day. Because I work with horses and music, this focus came in handy all the time. When I sang, my voice was stronger and more clear because I held myself upright and had done breathing throughout my meditations. With horses, in general they reacted very docilely around me, because my inner energy was centered and balanced. Just by thinking about your energetic centers, you can really change the way you feel and interact in your day.
Mental work: Yoga doesn’t have to be a 45 minute class at a gym, but a series of movements (best taught to you by a professional) which you can intergrate in your daily life to help you stay focused on how you feel and what you need. Meditation is not just an exercise in patience, sitting on a cushion uncomfortably chanting strange noises. It is the quiet in your mind when you are focusing on a task at hand. It is a pause in your day to experience the breeze and sun on your face. Meditation is in a moment – not in a classroom. But these excercises are of the spirit, not only the mind and body, and they emphasize being aware of yourself. Physically, mentally and energetically. Most people forget themselves throughout the day, running from here to there always chasing a deadline or some illusory goal that will only lead to the next goal. But Yoga and meditation teach us that all we need is right here, right now. This moment is the only reality we need to deal with. This kind of mental work helps to take our focus on the past and the future which is the cause of everyone’s pain, anxiety and unhappiness. Staying present in ONE moment means you will find a way to be present for more moments afterwards.
Don’t be overwhelmed by meditation and Yoga. It may seem that there are so many experts and fancy techniques that you will never be able to achieve a constant state of this. And I think that being human means we will all still have our bad days, our nasty moments, our negative emotions, depression, sadness – these are still part of our experience.
But don’t “try” either. Let it go. Do your best, and work hard to accept and recognize the progress you do make! It is a whole new way of seeing life you are entering on if you choose a spiritual life, and there will be bumps on the road. Find out what the bumps teach you though. Don’t dwell. Practicing presence shortens the amount of pain and length of time it lasts. Yoga and meditation will bring you self awareness which is the ultimate form of living a spiritual life. You don’t have to go live in a cave on a mountainside – you can start right here, right now.