I have been blessed throughout my life to know people with deep spiritual connections. I am talking about people who shine the light of God through their faces, who sometimes seem to not walk on this earth at all but to float above it. I wasn’t sure what these people had, but I knew I wanted it.
Believe me I chased after it with everything I had. Unfortunately, I was mistaking the outward manifestation which appears in some spiritual people, but not all, for the spiritual life itself. We are all created to be different and we are all called to live the mystery of our oneness with God and each other in our own way.
It is much easier to live this mystery in seclusion or a small group of like-minded people with nothing but time to devote to prayer and meditation, but this is not a secret we are to keep to ourselves. Jesus, the master teacher tried to teach us how to do this during his time on this earth. If we read the New Testament gospels we see that he often withdrew to spend time with his small inner circle or with the Father. Life in this world is difficult. It is confusing. It can be physically exhausting. We must have time to rest, renew and remember our spiritual connection which is always there, we just tend to forget from time to time.
So how do we do this?
Spend time alone in the silence every day.
Don’t get caught up in personality differences. Some people living the spiritual life are calm, peaceful and slow-moving, while others are more energetic and even fun loving. Some focus more on the inner life, while others are compelled to reach out to the world. There is no one form or model we all have to fit into. You are a unique manifestation of God for a reason.
Remember our thoughts are prayers and we create our own reality with our thoughts.
In everything you do, be led by love.
The way you live you life will have much more influence than your words ever will. Live the inner mystery — the outer world needs you.
Bob and I have a very nice laundry room in our home. I did not realize how spoiled we were until the dryer went out. We live full-time at a lakeside resort and there is a laundry room on the property. In fact it is less than a block from our house. But I quickly learned that dragging hampers full of wet laundry even a short distance in not fun. The first two times I tried I hurt my back and neck. After weighing my options I decided to take the laundry into town when I took Bob to the YMCA and dry the clothes at the laundromat while I waited for Bob. Seemed like a great idea. In fact earlier this week the laundry was all washed and ready to go when Bob decided he was not up to the Y. Not wanting to drive into town just to dry clothes I decided to schlep them down to the laundry room. But this time I did something different.
So what did I do? The first two times I was trying to dry clothes while also trying to work online and prepare lunch, with frequent trips back and forth between home and laundry room. It was a mess. I was a mess. Everything got done, but not well. When I was finished I was in pain.
So… this time I decided to devote my full time and attention to the laundry. I sat down and waited for the clothes to dry. I read magazines. I drank a bottle of water and had a nice conversation with a neighbor who came in to wash her clothes. What I had been seeing as a burdensome chore became a welcome break. And since I was not worried about getting everything done at once, my muscles did not tense up when I picked up the laundry baskets, and I was not in pain.
Another gentle reminder of how we create our own reality and a good lesson in living in the present moment.
My morning practice takes some time — anywhere from 1 1/2 to two hours. Even though we are retired Bob and I still work. We just don’t go somewhere else to work and we don’t collect regular paychecks. Like most people, one reason we work is that we need the money. Sometimes that need takes over and my morning practice starts being seen as a nuisance that just takes up too much time.
So I start experimenting with ways to shorten it. I take my yoga practice down to 1/2 hour. Then I decide I don’t need to practice every day (believe me, I do). The morning walk goes by the wayside as do other things like my art. I become a really strung out mess going around saying things like, “there’s just not enough time to get everything done” and “I didn’t move to the lake to work this hard, I’m always exhausted.” Preparing healthy meals becomes a dreaded chore rather than something done with love. It’s just not pretty. Can anyone else relate to this? I sure hope I’m not the only one. 🙂
So what causes all this? Well, first my priorities get out of order. Our lives have never been about making huge amounts of money. While we do need to work to generate extra retirement income, our situation is not as dire as it sometimes becomes in my thoughts. Misplaced priorities lead to ignoring the way my body works. I have always tired easily. When you’ve lived with something that many would consider a limitation for almost 60 years you figure out ways to work with it. Trying to do more than my body can do only results in exhaustion and eventually illness. I know this — but sometimes I forget. Eventually I come back to my true self and things settle down. But I do wish I could stop taking these frantic detours.
So, what’s my point in all this? We talk about “values” and what is important to us, but when people look at our lives, is that what they see? If we say family comes first, yet we never find the time to spend with them are we living what we say we value?
After my latest detour I find myself back to one hour of morning yoga, followed by reading the Daily Word, a brief Tai Chi practice and my morning walk. I will eventually be combing Tai Chi and the walk. This is a meditative walk, not exercise. Then I can get to work. Know what I’ve finally realized? Work goes better. I get more done when I am calm and relaxed rather than in a frenzy worrying that “we’re going to starve.” I am also able to stop resenting what I am doing and enjoy life.
I understand that not everyone can find two hours to devote to spiritual practice. But just as we make time to stop for morning coffee and check social media we need to make time to slow down, get centered and start living what we say we believe.
“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”
“As parents, we have the responsibility and the power to create a foundational love for nutritious foods that will influence our children’s choices for decades to come, setting the stage for our children, grandchildren, and future generations to flourish in wellness and health.” ― Leah Borski
It surprises me how many people in the over 50 age group, of which I am a member, believe that sickness is a natural and unpreventable part of growing older. Having witnessed family members aging well I know this does not have to be. But to be healthy as we age we need to create healthy habits and lifestyles when we are younger.
So this month we are going to look at simple things we can all do to live and age well. We will also introduce you to “seniors” who are living healthy and active lives. Instead of being “retired” think of being “refired.” This is serious business, but I think we can also have a little fun with it. 🙂
Meditation is always important, but especially when we find ourselves going up against fear. Many of these tools I will talk about are things we need to grow and cultivate so they will become a natural part of our lives, available when we need them. Fear, desperation and turmoil certainly can drive us to these practices There is never a bad time to start learning, but we cannot expect to have full knowledge of or the ability to use these tools immediately. It all takes time, so be patient. It will be worth it.
Meditation means different things to different people and there are many different methods and techniques available. Perhaps the easiest way to begin is simply by following the breath as it goes in and out. This is sometimes called “mindfulness of breathing” and will slow down and calm both the body and mind.
Meditation is something that can be practiced by people of any or no religious tradition. My meditation practice is a part of my religious practice, where we enter into the silence and experience the presence of God, but yours might be quite different.
There is such a thing as “guided meditation.” This is another tool and it is one that I sometimes use. These are often scripted and read. It is easy to become dependent on these words and the tone and delivery style of the teacher. So, if you use these be sure you are also practicing meditation on your own. The teacher, video or podcast might not be there in time of crisis.
In the crazy world we live in, we all need to stop, be still and remember who we are. Start developing your meditation practice now and it will be there for you when you need it.