Spiritual Practice In Daily Life
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gain more benefits if we apply the principles of meditation.
don't have to view our everyday life as a distraction.
can adapt any meditation style to our everyday life.
- We learn about
sustain love toward our human existence.
can maintain the qualities which we develop in meditation.
- Do we change or
gain more benefits if we apply the principles of meditation.
Regardless of our reason for meditating -- perhaps for relaxation,
centering, peace of mind, or spiritual awakening -- we can apply many
of the same principles to our daily life. When we do this, we
multiply the rewards simply because we are increasing the amount of
time during which we are attending to our inner states, and we are
sustaining the momentum which we cultivated during meditation. We
also have the opportunity to test any revelations which we acquired
during meditation; when we try to apply these new ideas on a subject
such as "divine love," we gain feedback which adds new dimensions to
our understanding of these abstractions, and we can see how this
divine love (for example) takes form in our activities, our home, our
friendships, our job, our finances, our physical health, and other
situations. The feedback assists also to keep us solidly based on the
realities of our human world. (The "real world" has ways of rudely
pointing out any bizarre misconceptions that we might have created in
the isolation of our meditating mind.)
don't have to view our everyday life as a distraction. Outside of
meditation, whatever attracts our attention -- our interest, our
desire, our emotional response -- is not a diversion from some ideal
spiritual state. On the contrary, we might find that the reason we
are enticed is specifically because there is something for us to
learn -- a spiritual principle, a karmic situation which we have
created, or an attachment which needs to be released with love.
can adapt any meditation style to our everyday life. If we use a
"concentration" type of meditation, we can practice concentrating on
any task, such as driving or reading. If we use moving meditation, we
can use the same principles in every motion -- when we are typing or
gardening, for example. Be creative with the adaptations, and enjoy
the exploration of these states as expressed in the outer world.
We learn about dualities.
We might see the ways in which we separate our life into "meditation"
and "non-meditation," "spiritual" and "secular," "inner reality or
illusion" and "outer reality or illusion," "inner thoughts and
feelings" and "outer manifestation of those thoughts and feelings,"
"passive" and "active," and so on. When we bring meditation into our
daily existence, we learn more about such dualities and the common
ground that lies beyond them.
sustain love toward our human existence. As we find a commonality
between our inner and outer worlds -- principally with the idea that
our outer life is a reflection of the inner -- we are less likely to
think (mistakenly) that the inner world is the only sacred one, and
that our physical life is nothing but illusion or evil or sin. On the
contrary, many meditators develop a greater love and acceptance for
their own humanity, and they feel that their spiritual challenge is
to find the sacred within the mundane. We can receive the physical
world for what it is -- our temporary home, our place for learning,
and a creation which evokes our compassion, natural affection, and
desire to serve. This outflow of loving energy helps us to live fully
in the world and yet simultaneously to experience the loving divinity
beyond this world; if we were to scorn our physical life, we would be
succumbing to the illusion rather than seeing the light and truth
behind the many elements of our life.
can maintain the qualities which we develop in meditation. Certainly,
we must shift gears for whatever activity we are doing; our sitting
Zen practice might not be easily adaptable to our fast-paced
restaurant job. But we can try to re-create the same inner quiet,
like the calm at the center of a hurricane. Other qualities which can
be brought into daily life might include love, attentiveness
(mindfulness), joy, simplicity, clarity, compassion, relaxation,
poise, and a feeling of connection to the rest of the world. As we
apply these principles, we will discover a depth to our everyday life
which will make each moment more interesting and more joyful.
Do we change or transcend?
Although the expression, "Before enlightenment, you chop wood and
carry water, and after enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water,"
might imply that spiritual evolution doesn't spur us to express our
new realizations, "chopping wood and carrying water" refer to basic
activities and responsibilities of life (like eating and sleeping);
the expression doesn't say that we won't change at all. Spiritual
growth and enlightenment might be based somewhat on acceptance and
transcendence and bare observation (which imply not changing
ourselves or our personal world), but our expanded awareness
introduces elements which alter the dynamics of our mental processes;
the mere presence of these new ideas and energies will change our
ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
- We might want to change our outer life. As we experience the
enjoyable states which occur during meditation, we naturally want
to recreate those states throughout the day. We look for ways to
change our outer life to make those states more-easily accessible
during those other hours. For example, we might choose to stop
eating meat, because we discover that the digestion of meat causes
lethargy and heaviness which diminish the sweet lightness which we
found during meditation. Also, meditation increases our
sensitivity to subtleties; we realize that some of our friends are
abrasive and energy-draining in ways that we hadn't noticed
previously. We might quit a career which is now offensive to our
insight into human and environmental needs. We change our life
also to come into accord with our new experience of vitality; we
might become more outgoing and active and adventurous -- or,
contrarily, we might quit some of our involvements in order to
have a quieter, simpler lifestyle. We might want to change other
aspects of our life: our hobbies, the place where we live, the
manner in which we run our business, our spending habits, our
daily routines and habits, our taste in art and movies and books,
and so on.
- We change from within. Ideally, we develop this new lifestyle
in accord with personal insights rather than on the basis of any
concept of "the religious life." The spiritual path is perhaps a
refinement of our own identity rather than the mimicking of
someone whom we consider to be "religious." For example, we can
choose to listen to a different type of music because it calms our
emotions into the same state which we enjoy during meditation; we
don't listen to it simply because a certain guru likes it. Nothing
in this world is inherently more "spiritual" than anything else;
if we are true to ourselves, we find and use whichever elements
will enhance our growth, regardless of any stereotyped ideas
regarding the proper lifestyle of a meditator. Our needs will
change constantly, so we must monitor ourselves, and find
enjoyment in the freshness of each new development of ourselves.
- Some changes -- perhaps all of them -- will happen
automatically. Meditators often say that their destructive habits
-- drugs, smoking, etc. -- simply "dropped away"; the people lost
interest in them. Self-discipline and willful abstinence can help
us to convert to a more-healthful lifestyle, but we will maintain
this change only if we feel a waning of the attraction toward our
old habits, and if we now have the strength and the means and the
alternatives to establish new ways of being. We might realize that
spiritual growth is a natural process which is powered by parts of
ourselves which know more than does the conscious mind. As we
receive more input from these parts, we learn that we can trust
them, and we can surrender to this grand process; then we bring
our concepts and models into alignment with the revelations, and
we use our will to enact and embody the information from those
revelations. But we are starting from the personal intuitions, not
from the concepts. Although religious concepts can help us to
understand our inner experiences, the concepts themselves tell us
neither the timing for us to make changes in ourselves, nor do
they show the precise manner in which we need to change; that
information is available only from our inner counsel.
- Meditation alone won't transform our lives. Although our inner
guidance might become more distinct as we proceed in our practice,
we need to act on that guidance; this might mean going to a doctor
or psychiatrist for an illness, or getting a better job to pay our
bills -- instead of expecting meditation to be a cure-all.
However, meditation is likely to help us in our lives by giving us
larger perspectives, and increasing the clarity of our thinking --
and enhancing such qualities as detachment and love, to smooth the