Posted by: Lisa | November 14, 2010

More Than Animals

As human beings, we are part of the animal kingdom.  We have all the basic animal urges, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we must admit that if we could do whatever we want, whenever we want, our lives would revolve around food, sleep and sex all the time.  In many cases – unless we love our career – we only work so we can afford to eat and have a place to call “home” – where we can sleep and have sex.

Yet, as humans, we are more than animals:  Our brain compels us to think, to remember the past, to plan for the future.  Beyond this, we have a soul that longs for meaning and fulfillment.  Just as our body requires food and physical activity, and our mind looks for mental stimulation, our spirit yearns for pure peace, love and joy.

We can think of our complete being as a three-legged stool with the legs representing our physical, mental and spiritual selves.  If we break off any of the legs, we become unbalanced and our entire being falters.  In our culture, the most commonly broken leg is our spiritual life.

When we realize we are neglecting our spiritual side, we can choose to begin nurturing it in simple ways.  Since everyone is unique, each of us must find what works for us (so yes, this does involve some trial and error, but that’s part of the fun!).  I believe the essential components are silence and solitude.

Begin by making time each day or each week – this means dropping nonessential activities – to be alone without any distractions such as work, music, TV, telephone or internet.  If you choose to do this daily, then carve out one hour each day to nurture your spiritual life.  It doesn’t even need to be one uninterrupted hour.  It could be 3o minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening – or 20 minutes, three times a day.  If you prefer the weekly model, then set aside a larger chunk of time – say, three to five hours – one day per week.  (Of course, your decision will depend on your life circumstances, on your work and family responsibilities.)  If this seems like a large time commitment, just stop to consider how much time you devote to caring for your physical body and your intellectual needs – the other two legs of the stool.

This precious silence and solitude will give you the opportunity to engage in activities that nourish your spiritual life.  Some possibilities are:  walking in a natural setting; writing in a journal; sitting beside a stream or body of water; sitting in a quiet church; meditating on the flow of your breath or on a mantra; praying; chanting; drawing; or playing a musical instrument for relaxation.

Some physical activities, such as running, swimming, or doing yoga asanas, can also be highly conducive to spiritual practice.  The important thing is to quiet the analytical mind as much as possible because spiritual practice is more about being rather than doing; it’s about experiencing rather than intellectualizing. 

Our culture tends to label such spiritual practices as lazy or self-indulgent, yet if we don’t take the time for our spiritual life, we feel unwell and incomplete.

The point of our practice is to help us feel our connection – a connection that is always there – to something higher than ourselves, to peace, love, joy, to God.  This is the reason why every major religion and spirituality prescribes some type of sabbath “day of rest.”  It’s not because God requires or demands our attention; rather, it’s because we need it to be healthy and complete human beings.

Begin with a plan today!  Don’t allow anyone or anything to hinder you.  The rewards are even better than you can imagine!

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