I am writing this post while snacking on fresh pomegranate and jackfruit in this beautiful paradise!
I would consider myself a “spiritual” person, along with, I’m sure, many of the readers of this blog. But lately, I have been contemplating; what does “being spiritual” really mean?
Perhaps it means various things to various people, but for me, it means that I believe in and cherish the subtle elements of life. I believe in God. I believe in devotion. I believe in being conscious on my path of self development.
Over the course of the last few years I have learned some valuable lessons in tweaking my spiritual practice. I am only at the very beginning of my journey of self-realization, but I have come to a few observations regarding the nature of ones spiritual practice. I would like to share them with you here.
Gentle, not aggressive
Ultimately, I believe that engaging in spirituality should make you a more gentle person, not a more aggressive one.
I am speaking specifically about a certain gentleness of the heart that allows you to soften your relationship with every living being on this planet. Gentleness means a gentle relationship with the world around you.
There are some Swamis who are renowned for being the “tough love” type, but their strictness always emerges from a gentle heart. In fact, ones relationship with their Guru takes on a different structure than most other relationships. Often it is like taking medicine every day. You may not always enjoy the taste, but you know it is good for you.
If engaging in my spiritual practice makes me a more aggressive, extremist type of person, then this is not the spirituality for me
Tough, not cruel
That being said, walking your spiritual path is not always an easy feat. There will be challenges, obstacles, difficult lessons to learn, difficult people to learn to love, bitter medicine to swallow, a tiring tug of war relationship with self discipline (especially in the beginning).
It is tough. But never cruel.
It is this toughness that builds your heart muscles. Soul strengtheners.
But if spirituality is practiced with the quality of harshness of heart, the result is cruelty. Cruelty is a harsh relationship with the world around you.
If engaging in my spiritual practice makes me a cruel person, if it harshens my relationship with the world around me, then this is not the spirituality for me.
The more you know, the less you know
I believe that the more you deepen your spiritual practice, the more you start to realize how little you know and how much there is left to know and understand about life, about yourself. It is a sublime and sweet taste of humility. It is in the realization of how magnificent life truly is.
Engaging in spiritual practice should not make one start to believe that they are Mrs/Mr. Universe. I don’t believe it should make you feel like you know everything or that you know the answers to everything. I don’t believe your spiritual practice gives you a right to be judgemental with our limited knowledge.
If engaging in my spiritual practice makes me believe I know everything, then this is not the spirituality for me.
Accepting, not judgemental
Spirituality is not categorical, even though at times it may seem that way. Spirituality in its true essence is unifying, not dividing. Sometimes these categories and specifications were described in ancient texts (for example, the four Varnas; the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shrudas and Dalits etc) in order to help structure the magnificent and glorious diversity that exists in this universe. It was designed to help people to understand that each of us has a unique dharma and we much each full fill our own dharma and not attempt to full fill the dharma of another soul.
It was not created in order to divide and conquer. It was not created to tear apart, break down, alienate, discriminate.
It is so easy to fall into the traps of judgement as we start to gain more knowledge about life and it’s mechanisms. It’s easy to start believing that you have all the information you need to start making ridiculous conclusions about people; their goodness and evilness, their purity and impurity, their righteousness and their sins. But spiritual knowledge does not give us the licence to do this. It gives us only the opportunity to understand and love all beings at a deeper level.
The essence of spiritual practice is to learn how to love and accept everything. To unify. To go back to the oneness from which we came from.
If engaging in my spiritual practice makes me a more judgemental person, then this is not the spirituality for me.
Simple, not complicated
Engaging in spiritual practice will ultimately make your life more simple, not complicated. It is about stripping down to our true essence.
It is not about keeping up with tends or current spiritual fads.
You do not need to sign up, or subscribe to something, or go somewhere in order to connect with the divine.
Spirituality is always about simplifying. Simplifying our thoughts, our energy, our focuses, our goals, our belongings (moving away from the material world, and greed – when we are ready), our actions, our heart. Only then we are left with the elements that truly matter, and these must be nurtured.
The more profound and rich our internal life becomes, the more simple our external life becomes.
If engaging in my spiritual practice makes me a more complicated person, then this is not the spirituality for me.
Quality, not quantity
Your spiritual practice is about quality not quantity. If you can focus just on quality of your practice, over time, your practice can start to take up a larger proportion of your day in a natural and comfortable way (if you wish).
It isn’t about the things you do, or how many things you do. It is about how you do the things you do. What is the intention behind all your actions?
As Mother Teresa said “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”
It is about having a simple and focused practice. Even a leaf, if given with care and devotion (to God, to goodness) is a cherished act. So even if you can only do one small thing, do it with your mighty heart.
Some may never have the opportunity to go on a spiritual pilgrimage to a place they ache for in this lifetime, and some do.
It is about the quality.
Take the pilgrimage in your heart first.
If engaging in my spiritual practice is about being able to proudly list my spiritual accomplishments, then this is not the spirituality for me.
The rose, not the thorns
I had mentioned this in this post. It is worth mentioning again
Spirituality and self development means the flowering of your inherent goodness.
We have both good and bad qualities. By “good” I mean the qualities that allow you to live with ease, and “bad” I mean the qualities that cause you to live with unease with the world, and with yourself. Even a beautiful rose, is covered in thorns. And yet, we still call a rose a rose and not a thorn plant.
That is because you can choose which part of yourself you want to feed, engage with, grow. Do you want to care for the rose or for your thorns? When you care for the rose, you can develop your inherent goodness of your character and let that light overpower your shadows. Your thorns. You need not keep dwelling in pain and suffering. You can choose to understand that at times in life, there will be pain. And you can choose to focus on what is good still.
If engaging in my spiritual practice makes me chase punishment and repentance instead of growing what is good in me, then this is not the spirituality for me.
Flow, not forced
Each step you take to deepen you practice should make sense and be appropriate to your life right now. There are no “giant leaps” unless you have a giant leap of understanding simultaneously (for example, a business man who one day realizes that he is living the wrong life, moves to the Himalayas and lives forever with the yogis.)
But for the majority of us, each step comes naturally. If right now your commitment to spiritual practice is 5%, you can deepen it to a 10%. What can you do to deepen your practice? Suppose you first start lighting a candle every evening. You may then start to say a short prayer. Then you might decide to do a 10 minute meditation after the prayer. You may then decide to try a 30 minute meditation after some time.
There is a discipline involved. And sometimes you will want to resist that discipline, but not the practice. In your heart you know that what you are doing is good for you. So while there is discipline involved, your practice need not be forced. If you are not ready for the next step, thats ok. Do what you can do with great love and dedication and it is enough. And when you are ready to give more of yourself, give.
If engaging in my spiritual practice is forceful and aggressive, then this is not the spirituality for me.
Thank you so much for reading,
Have a blissful day, wherever you are and whatever you are doing!