“What should I do for my spiritual development?”
“When will my spiritual awakening occur?”
Several followers of my Master often ask him these questions.
To this my loving Master has often replied that it is not within our power to suddenly become a spiritual person. Only our loving Divine can make us so. Only He has the power to pull us towards Him. What power can a blind person have if he wants to catch hold of someone with sight? The only thing that the blind one can do is – keep calling out ardently to the person with sight.
What an apt reply!
We are loved and cherished by The Divine.
All we have to do, as beginners on the path of spirituality is – simply set an intention of leading a spirit-led life.
From there onwards, The loving Divine takes over and leads us.
What lies within our power is – to attend consistently to our practice of spirituality.
How can we practice spirituality?
There are various ways in which we can do so.
When was the last time you did something for a stranger without the expectation of getting something in return; with the sole intention of serving him or her?
The mere word brings up indignation in most of us.
“Why should I serve someone else? Let alone, a stranger!” we may say.
That’s our Ego speaking – conjuring pictures of big vs small, in our minds.
Life has become one big hustle. We run from one day to the next, trying to meet expectations – of others as well as our own. We have long forgotten what it means to pause and see The Divine in others.
Life has come to mean simply a means of give and take, for us. It’s all business. Who has the time or inclination to consider that The Light that illumines me is the same Light that illumines all others?
The day we really, truly begin to understand this – from the very depth of our heart – will be a red-letter day in our spiritual journey.
Till then, ‘Service’ can be a great way of making us observe everyday, bit-by-bit, the humbling of the ego within. Serving others, be it in a temple, gurudwara, orphanage, an old age home, an NGO or any other place of your choice, can be an elevating experience for the self.
The only caveat is – you’ve got to keep a sharp eye on your ego. Otherwise, the activity can soon turn counter-productive and become an endeavor of self-boasting.
Service is an opportunity to serve The Divine who resides in all souls.
We should be keeping this in mind. And being grateful for the opportunity keeps us right on track.
I love the following quote of Louisa M.Alcott about Books, in her classic, ‘Little Women’.
“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
This is exactly what books do for us. Since ages, Hindus have been worshiping their books as akin to temples of learning.
Books can be one of our biggest teachers on the path of spirituality. Writings of those that have tread the way of The Divine; have experienced first hand what it’s like to be in the flow, the hurdles on the path and how to overcome them, serve as our guiding light.
- The Bhagavad Gita – This eons-old, priceless gem has been translated in several languages by scholars all over the world. Reading it from a non-religious angle (if you so wish) answers innumerable questions of the soul.
- Conversations with God – by Neale Donald Walsch – This is a one-of-its-kind book which, in 1995, when it got published, became an instant rage. Through ‘automatic writing’ Neale claims to have received answers from The Divine, to questions that had been troubling him since long.
- Everyday Wisdom – Wayne Dyer – Being a huge fan of Wayne Dyer, I cannot miss mentioning this book by him. There are dozens of others too by him, which are worth reading.
There’s a treasure trove of spiritual books in the world, belonging to every country, every culture and every age so far. Ancient teachers like Lao Tzu, Rumi, Saint Kabir, Bulleh Shah and so many others have shown us the path to spirituality.
Growing up, I don’t remember hearing much about meditation. It, supposedly, was something that only the yogis residing in the himalayas did.
But now, in these times, each and every person seems to be talking about this marvelous tool.
I myself started on it with some doubt. Frankly speaking, I did it only because my Master wanted me to. But soon, I began seeing its wondrous effect on me. The calm, the settling down of the tumultuous emotions, was a welcome result of meditating.
Meditation in its true sense, basically involves quieting one’s mind. But that doesn’t come easily. The mind is in the habit of chattering constantly. Quieting it is nearly impossible.
To begin with, one simply allows thoughts to come and go. As we observe the flow of thoughts, we simply ensure that we don’t get stuck on any particular one.
As time goes by, with practice, the mind learns to become more and more stable. Thus imparting the meditator, a unique inner oasis of peace and calmness.
It is all a matter of practice. A lot depends on how much time we devote to our practice of meditation.
4. Having an altar:
Having a designated place for you to sit quietly and meditate is a must. The altar need not be elaborately decorated or huge. It can be simple – with just a few things that instantly connect you with your higher self.
The altar need not be at a fixed place either, although, I have personally experienced that having a fixed place in our home for an altar is better.
For example, our mind knows that bedrooms are for sleeping; so as soon as we want to rest, we head towards our bedroom. Similarly, the minute we feel like chanting the mantras, or meditating in silence, praying to The Divine or simply having a quiet introspective talk with our higher self, a designated place puts us in that head space.
But often, the circumstances don’t permit it. So rather than altogether not having an altar, it is better to have a temporary one. Anything that helps us in our practice is good for us.
Often when I am traveling, I carry a small copper OM and a few crystals in a pouch, with me. Inside my hotel room, I sit on the rug/ carpet/ folded towel, set up my things in a circle around me and I am good to go. That becomes my altar.
5. Chanting of mantras / Jaap:
How does chanting (also known as Jaap) help us? First off, chanting helps quieten our brain chatter. The constant repetition has a soothing effect on us and reduces our stress in a big way. Secondly, the mantras carry hidden mysterious vibrations behind the word formations. Growing up, I was advised by my father to do Jaap of the Gayatri mantra for 10 to 15 minutes everyday – especially during my exams. That helped me immensely in calming my fear and anxiety during those stressful days.
Till date, whenever I feel anxious, stressed out or ungrounded, I turn to Jaap of mantras. Along with the Gayatri mantra, I also love chanting (1) the Devi mantra – Om Aim Hreem Kleem Chamundaye Vichey
and (2) RAM naam jaap.
These repetitive mantras have a strong calming effect on the mind.
6. Guided meditations:
There are a number of excellent healers, spiritual guides and teachers who regularly upload guided meditations on the internet for free. The duration may vary anywhere from five minutes to fifty. As a beginner on the path of spirituality, it is great to start with 5 to 10 minutes of guided meditation everyday.
There are all kinds of guided meditations.
For beginners, I list below links of 3 amazing meditation videos:
7. Guided Visualization:
These are basically meditations based on suggested imagery. In the daily clatter and constant onslaught of thoughts, we often forget to pause and listen to our heart – what our soul really feels and what we, the real we, actually want in life.
Guided visualizations are designed by the facilitators in such a way that we get to deep dive into our psyche so that the real answers emerge out of our own subconscious depths – unhindered.
Here is one such example –
8. Practice Gratitude:
There are so many ways of saying ‘thank you’ to The Divine. Years ago, I came across the book – The Magic – by Rhonda Byrne. That book totally changed my perspective on gratitude. If you haven’t read it so far, do read it. It might prove life-changing – like it did for me.
My earnest suggestion to you is – Buy a spiral notebook and beginning today, start writing on each page- 10 things that you are thankful for in your life. Write one page everyday. And see the magic happen in your life!
9. Living with Nature:
Spending time in Nature has a magical effect on us. Ever wondered why? That’s because Nature brings us in direct touch with our primeval self. It grounds us to Mother Earth. Walking barefoot on grass or dirt makes our energy connect with that of the earth, thus grounding us. Grounding has been known to calm our nerves and to quiet the anxious mind.
10. Practice Silence:
In the everyday rush of our life, we have forgotten what true silence is. It is not just a lack of outside noise; but also, the quieting of our inner clamor. At any given moment, hundreds of thoughts rattle around in our mind. For any sense of calmness, clarity and focus, it is important that we give ourselves a daily diet of silence.
Begin with just one minute.
‘One minute of silence everyday’ is easy for the beginners. Just sit quietly in a chair or on the floor – whatever you prefer – and observe your thoughts. In total silence. Do not judge your thoughts. Just let them flow.
With practice, you can increase the time from one minute to five or fifty or whatever length of time you feel appropriate.
The idea of practicing spirituality in everyday life is not to get fixated with one way only. Or with one thought or idea alone. Spirituality is as vast and deep as the universe in which we live. There is no end to it.
There is an intention to it, however. And the intention is – connecting with our higher self. We need not go door to door looking for spirituality. It is all within.
The treasure lies within and we ourselves are the key to that treasure.
Practicing spirituality doesn’t mean that we become saints. I still have my vices, I still erupt in uncontrolled anger sometimes and I still get triggered by outside stimuli. But the difference is – the intensity keeps reducing slowly but surely. I am able to see the flow of my emotions in greater clarity than before. And I am able to guide myself towards ‘the center’ with more success than before.
Most importantly, I live more at ease with myself than before.
I make it a point to read from a spiritual book everyday; anything from one chapter of some favorite book of mine, to one paragraph, or even a line or two as quoted by some higher, evolved soul. I have stuck to this practice for years now. Sometimes when my day is super rushed and I have no time to pause, read and reflect, I make sure that I finish the day with this old practice, before going off to sleep. Many saints and advanced souls have illuminated my way with their divine words and my heart fills with gratitude towards them when I think of all the guidance I’ve received from them in my life.
Here is a quote from Dr.Wayne Dyer, whose words I absolutely adore and follow. May these words help you too, on your journey towards spirituality.
“Begin to see yourself as a soul with a body rather than a body with a soul…We are not human beings in search of a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings immersed in a human experience.”
I wish you love, light and joy.