Spirituality doesn’t have to mean throwing yourself on your knees every Sunday. At its simplest, spirituality tends to mean an indefinable sense of connection with everything around you, on a profound level. While it might not be easy to recognise it while you’re in the spiritual groove, it’s all too evident when it’s lacking in your life. It can manifest as sense of being alone and disconnected from the world around you – even though you might be constantly surrounded by people.
Left unattended it can result in a general feeling of apathy; that there is no real purpose to your existence and, furthermore, can even result in physical ailments, mental illness and negative patterns of behaviour.
The solutions to a lack of spiritual completion may well be rewarding, but they often seem too impractical to pursue. While spending a week at a yoga retreat might seem the right thing to do, family and work commitments can make ventures such as this next to impossible. However, the good news is that there are simple and effective ways that you can reignite that feeling of connection, without having to spend vast sums of money or take time off from real life. The key is to incorporate these ideas into your daily routine, so that they become as much a part of your existence as eating breakfast or chilling out in front of the telly.
The secret seems to be in creating habitual patterns of behaviour that unite the mind, body and soul. Research carried out by Dr Andrew Newberg found that there was similar brain activity between meditating Buddhists, praying nuns and chanting Sikhs – all of whom were practicing rituals designed to help them achieve higher planes of thought, being or understanding. Dr Newberg concluded that which mystics and religious leaders have been espousing for centuries: that pursuing spiritual practices as part of your day can help engender those feelings of spiritual connection. While each of the practices may have been different, they each seemed to have a commonality to them in factors that can be used by anyone to make them feel more in tune with the world and the people around them.
Let’s take a look at the simple techniques you can bring into your life to change it for the better.
The In and Out of Spirituality
Buddhists have long espoused the benefits of meditation and a key part of that process is breathing. During meditation, Buddhists are particularly mindful of the breath, counting inhalations and exhalations as a way to quieten the mind and root it in the moment. After all, a wandering mind or chatty brain can undermine the point of meditating in the first place.
Dr Newberg’s research found that deep breathing has a physical effect on the body, slowing the heart rate, lowering the blood pressure and inducing a feeling of relaxation. If you can spare a few minutes a day to stop whatever you’re doing, clear your mind and focus on breathing slowly and deeply, you’ll notice feelings of tranquility starting to spread. The good thing is that the brain develops a sense-memory of this and, if you practice breathing daily and at a particular time, you’ll find that those feelings become easier to access.
Disconnecting Yourself A part of what disconnects us from the world around us is technology. While we might be able to send and receive emails or make and take phone calls, these forms of communication are spiritually empty and can allow us to fall into a very lonely trap, thanks to the illusion that we are, somehow, connected to all those people. In addition, the constant stream of data our brains absorb through technology can swamp us to the point where we become an extension of that technology, rather than it being a useful tool for us.
The answer is a simple one: turn everything off for an hour. Whether it’s on your lunch-break or at the end of the day, switch off your mobile and don’t go near your computer. You may find that you are suddenly involved with rewarding conversations with your partner or, if you live alone, are inspired to go out and meet people or even just go for a relaxing walk.
Kindness for its own Sake
A great way towards recharging your spiritual batteries is to do things without reward. It’s the ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ school of thought. Maybe you could do some voluntary work in your local community or set aside some time each day to go and help strangers in whatever situations you come across. Possibly you could get involved with a local charity. These moments come with their own reward. It might be a smile, a word of thanks or even tears of gratitude, but if you can help someone for no other reason than for the sake of doing so, you’ll find that your feelings of connection with your community and the people around you increases dramatically. Remember, you're not doing this to make yourself feel better or good about yourself, but purely because you can.
Growing your Spiritual Side
Gardening is used by Zen Buddhists to engender a state of inner calm. Often, tasks can involve something as simple as ploughing a straight line in some pebbles – but taking the time to ensure that the line is completely straight; a fusion of mind, body and soul.
You can approach gardening with the same intent, but reap further benefits. Plant flowers that you know will delight you when they bloom. Plant herbs that you can use for cooking and even those that have healing properties. The very act of planning your horticultural calendar, preparing the soil and nursing those plants to maturity can help you cleanse your mind and put you in touch with the seasons and the ebb and flow of Nature. And if you don’t have a garden, get yourself a window box or something like a Bonsai tree that somehow represents your quest for inner harmony.
Spirituality is one of the most consistently overlooked aspects of our existence. However, it is one of the most important. By making spiritual practices a part of your daily routine, you will find that more opportunities and friendships come your way.