“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
– Jim Carrey, Actor
You have the world at your feet. Still something is missing in your life. After all, worldly possessions and attachments have a shelf life. They are glamorous and alluring. Yet they do not completely satisfy or fill you. This cognizance is what begins your quest for spiritual development.
Perhaps you have not thought of yourself as a spiritual person? You have a spirit within you. In that sense, you are spiritual. It is not something you need to sign up for because you were born with it.
How is spiritual growth relevant in today’s times?
There has never been a more opportune time to explore your spiritual self than now.
- It makes you stronger from within, more resilient and happier.
- Spirituality allows you to see the commonality and union of everything in the world. It unites different people from different parts of the world. In our conflict-ridden world, this is the need of the hour.
- It makes you open-hearted and trusting – what you were as a child. You feel love for all different kinds of people.
- You approach the world with faith and confidence because you believe in inherent goodness and truth of the world.
- Spirituality allows you to experience the abundance around you.
- It provides the answers to questions that have not yet formed in your mind.
The path to spiritual development
We all have moments of inspiration. It takes us out of the ordinary and places us in the extraordinary. The question is how to replicate these moments. When you are on the spiritual path, such moments come by more frequently. You just have to look within.
There are many ways in which you can turn inwards. You could try these simple practices.
1. Silence is golden
Here, silence represents mental and emotional silence as well as verbal silence.
- Don’t plan chores in your head or make other plans in this time.
- Silence should not be angry or born out of bitter silence, but that which comes from total harmony.
- In this space, you can separate the important conversations from the frivolous chatter in your mind.
- Just observe, introspect and be.
There is so much wisdom to be gleaned from silence. You just have to know how to imbibe the knowledge and become aware.
2. Meditate regularly twice every day
Unfortunately, problems can never be permanently discarded. Once you solve one, you are presented with another, then another. That is the circle of life. What can change is your response to them. Meditation and mastering the breath foster this change, taking you on the path of spiritual development.
What meditation can do is teach you to live in the present. Many times, we feel overwhelmed with work because the past and future are piggybacking on us along with the present. Imagine dropping off the past and future and only engaging in the present. Your load will feel much lighter. It is also more sensible and productive to live in the now.
3. Engage in social service
Helping others help you gain an understanding of the world. You unearth your own creative and benevolent spirit. The joy your actions bring to others will be your lasting reward.
It will seem as if the whole world has opened up for you. So, just a slight shift in attitude can boost your journey on the spiritual path. This will be the beginning of positive changes in your life.
4. Make nature and positivity your best companions
- Think positive thoughts. Make it a habit to be optimistic.
- Avoid speaking ill of others or gossip.
- Be open-hearted and open-minded.
- Keep your life and thoughts simple.
- Take regular nature walks. Fresh air and natural colors can awaken your senses.
It is said, beware of your thoughts, as they become your actions. Actions, in turn, become habits and habits determine your character. Your character, ultimately, decides your destiny. So, train your mind to power cheerful thoughts.
5. Join satsangs
Satsangs are joyous gatherings that not only include wholehearted singing. But also discourses that spur the spirit of inquiry in you. They kindle your inquisitiveness leading you to the search for truth.
Being surrounded by positive and happy people in satsangs has a positive impact on you. The positive energy from these groups will help you delve deeper within. You will discover a safe and enlightened space, where you feel at home exploring the unknown within.
Many of us have misconceptions about spirituality and what it means. It might help to explore some of the common myths surrounding spiritual growth.
Myths about spiritual development
- Only old people turn to spirituality. It has nothing to do with age. Even the young are attracted to eternal spiritual values like truth, honesty, integrity and righteousness.
- I don’t need to be spiritual because I am not unhappy or depressed. Even happy people turn to the spiritual path to become aware and in touch with themselves.
- Spirituality will make me lose my current religious beliefs. You don’t have to change faith to enjoy spiritual growth. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Spirituality is the essence of all religions.”
- Spirituality will ensure you are not angry, depressed or unhappy. Spiritual awakening makes you neutral and balanced. It won’t banish disappointment from your life for good. However, you will learn to approach disturbances with self-awareness and composure.
- It is a misconception that you will have to give up all worldly attachments to be spiritual.
Religion and spiritual development
Most people associate spiritualism with religion. It is true that the end destination of all religions is the same – union of mind, body and spirit and communion with the world. All the same, spirituality and religiousness are not the same.
Guurdev says, “Religion is like the banana skin and spirituality is the banana inside.”
Every religion has three aspects - symbols, rituals, and values. Spirituality is the value behind the religion. Religion without values is like holding the banana skin. Spirituality is more of an inner introspection, transformation and learning. It allows you to live your life to the fullest - from your spirit. It turns chaos into bliss and creates harmony in diversity.
Every person’s spiritual experience is unique. Don’t compare your journey with another person’s and wonder at the differences. The distinct nature is what makes the experience beautiful and magical.
The Art of Happiness program helps you silence your mental chatter. With yoga, meditation and pranayamas, you will gain insight into yourself and the world around you.
Based on inputs from Amol Wagle, Faculty, The Art of Living
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