Spiritual Practice

 


S E V E N

Spiritual Practice


Spiritual practice is the foundation of our happiness. It guides us in times of turmoil and grounds us in times of joy.

‘Meditation can help us embrace our worries, our fear, our anger; and that is very healing. We let our own natural capacity of healing do the work.’

—Thich Nhat Hanh


Spirituality is based on the premise that we live in this world, but we are not from it. Many of our problems lie in not understanding our fundamental identity: we are not human beings having spiritual experiences; we are spiritual beings having human experiences. It’s impossible to realize this principle theoretically.

  We can attend hundreds of lectures and read volumes of books; but this is inadequate without us committing to a spiritual practice, or sadhana as it is known in Sanskrit.

  The simplest way to explain spiritual practice is to describe the hierarchy of connections. At any moment, we can be making three kinds of connections: Outside ourselves: The majority of our time is spent in connecting with the world—networking, relationships, our work. It’s all crucial, but can lead us astray if we have no inner direction. The fear of missing out, thinking that the grass is greener elsewhere, and living a life out of balance are all symptoms of having incorrectly prioritized happiness outside of ourselves.

  Inside ourselves: Beyond our everyday lives, many look for solace within.

  People struggling with life, those trying to work on themselves to conquer the external world, those curious about their inner world, and occasionally, a few of those seeking the truth—these are the types of people who will take the journey within.

  Above ourselves: Those simply voyaging within can get frustrated by their lack of progress or direction. They can feel as though they’re on a ship travelling at 70 knots per hour, but without a compass. Connecting above ourselves means re-establishing our relationship with God, or something higher than ourselves.

  God is One, and is identified differently across different cultures. Therefore, it is not about connecting to my God or your God, it is about connecting to our God.

  When this happens, it is as if a light bulb is getting connected to an entire powerhouse. A bulb on its own is just a piece of glass with a tungsten filament; it needs an electrical charge to experience light and give light to others. Similarly, it is our relationship with something higher than ourselves that can give us love and allow us to give love to others.

  Harry listened as I explained further, ‘Just as there are many paths to get to our destination, there are many ways of connecting to God that transcend religious and sectarian boundaries. Many people practise prayer, a simple yet deeply effective method to become self-realized. I do practise prayer, but my preferred method for developing spiritual strength is through meditation.

  ‘Out of the many types of meditation, I practise mantra meditation. This means I spend some time daily focusing my mind on sacred sounds, chanting the name of God, by which we can free ourselves of anxiety. Modern science recognizes the huge benefits of meditation: relieving us of stress, giving us a sense of purpose, thus enabling us to become more creative, amongst many other benefits. However, ancient eastern literature gives us deeper insight.

  ‘Meditation is like a plane: It first takes you high, then far away and then further away imperceptibly. I see meditation like a plane because when you take off, you immediately start gaining altitude. We experience worry and anxiety in life because we take things out of perspective. Meditation enables us to look down at all our anxieties, problems and worries through a higher vantage-point, thus giving us a great sense of peace and calmness.

  ‘The deeper effect is that meditation carries us far. It completely transforms our character, develops the best of qualities within us and allows us to experience self-realization. Through meditation we become the best versions of ourselves. But this takes time and is often imperceptible. For example, if you look outside the window on a plane it does not look like you are moving very fast. But eight hours later, you’re landing halfway across the world.

  ‘Meditation becomes difficult because of our mind. It is said that the mind is like a restless monkey, always jumping from one thought to another. It does not become peaceful just because you say so. It needs to be controlled. Therefore, meditation is a discipline that helps us control the mind. For example, the trains of Mumbai keep the city’s economy moving. But what keeps them travelling is the fact that they are bound by the tracks, schedule and destinations. Similarly, the mind without being bound by the discipline of meditation will not be able to reach its destination. Some days it will feel like meditating, and some days it will not.’

 ‘Even understanding the concept of meditation takes time. I know many executives and celebrities practise it, but I’ve never felt like I have the time,’

  Harry interrupted. He seemed to be feeling overwhelmed at the variety of concepts I had presented.

  ‘People with no time to spare need it the most,’ I chuckled. ‘I am now able to practise meditation for two hours a day. It was not like that in the beginning. I could cope with only ten minutes a day when I initially started and that didn’t seem so daunting.’

  Harry nodded, then asked, ‘After all this time, have you noticed any changes in your character?’

  ‘I have, quite honestly. One doesn’t have to wait to see the effects of meditation in the afterlife—we can see them in this life if we practise it diligently enough and under the right guidance.’

He seemed impressed with that answer.

‘Do you remember what I said about the importance of gratitude earlier?’ I asked.

‘Sure.’

  ‘People who meditate develop a habit of practising sincere gratitude which helps them in all their relationships. It is a “relationship-strengthening emotion” because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.’

  Harry began to fidget with the steering wheel again. ‘What’s on your mind?’ I asked.

  ‘I was thinking about how my wife and I treat each other,’ he said, ready to take our conversation forward, and I knew it was time to tell him about the second wheel of life.

Summary:

  • We are not human beings having spiritual experiences; we are spiritual beings having human experiences. We are not this body; we are a spiritual being.
  • We need to understand the hierarchy of connections. Ultimately, we must connect to something above ourselves such as God. This can give us the power to spread happiness and joy around the world.
  • There are many ways to connect to God. We may have our own, which is great, and we should go deeper into it. One of the most effective methods that has worked really well for me is mantra meditation.



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