02 Nov 5 Practical Steps to Spiritual Growth
[clickToTweet tweet=”Beside the search for your soul there is nothing.” quote=”Beside the search for your soul there is nothing.”]
After food, sleep, love and work arises the question: “who am I and why am I here?” This is the voice of the soul seeking identity and connection.
The quote above, from BKS Iyengar (Light on the Yoga Sutras), states that it is the only question and the only reality.
Humans sense the presence of soul and spirit. It is tricky to experience and define. In the hyperactive, consumption-driven world of today, the contemplative life is a distant dream. Or, more kindly, the flood of shallow nonsense keeps us so bloated there is simply no time left.
What are we to do with the nagging hunger for meaning?
“Who am I?” is the question of identity. At your deepest, purest and simplest expression sits the soul. Rarely do we give it much attention. Mindless activity, cravings, anxiety and distraction overwhelm the experience and voice of soul. We must search.
“ Why am I here?” is a question of connection to spirit (or God). Spirit is the manifest reality of the moment and the universe. We connect to spirit through our breath, physical presence, emotional resonance and intellect. With identity and love, creation begins.
The spiritual journey is thus a two-fold path of discovery. First, can we discern and present the soul to consciousness? Second, through the experience of soul can we connect to Spirit?
We have a well-tested method to create a better life and better business. If this journey up the spiral continues we will find ourselves “knocking on heaven’s door.”
A Framework for Spiritual Growth
Simply resting your attention on the spiral evokes a “YES” to more altitude. No one wants to suffer. We seek calm, energy, positivity and clarity. We can all agree that the capacity to bounce out of adversity and move up towards more healthy, positive and constructive states of being is intuitively right. This is vertical growth rather than the horizontal dash for food, qualifications, jobs, houses and wealth. When we ask the question “who am I?” we want to define ourselves in the upper spirals.
Insight helps us recognise our altitude and to detect the subtle currents moving us up and down. Insight within the framework triggers an impulse to move up. We want it! This is the beginning of desire and the source of motivation to grow up.
It is important to distinguish temporary states from stages. A state occurs with bad news (downwards) or good news or drugs (upwards). Chaotic state change happens in bipolar depression. It is traumatic for all as the patient lurches from hope, excitement, super-confidence and mania back down to despair and depression.
We seek stage development. While not every stage is equally important, we have no doubt they all contribute in a logical progression. Mastery is the practice of moving upwards in a progressive, skilful and stable way. We start with physiology and work through body, emotion and mind. There are five stages to master:
1. Master Stress
Here we become competent at bounce and mastering a calm, focused and connected state. Sourced in prayer and contemplation, every spiritual tradition has a well-articulated method. If we can achieve this on demand and in critical moments we are on the spiritual journey. Posture, exhalation, muscular relaxation and parasympathetic activity are very concrete tools we can learn, practice and master.
2. Energise Body
When calm we sleep better. A relaxed body eats with natural wisdom. The cravings for sugars, salts and stimulants settle. The human being is a moving system and the body is our most concrete tool for practice. By working attentively with our muscles we stimulate awareness, health and vitality. This level has been missed from many spiritual traditions and remains the challenge of our time. Most importantly, it is through physical discipline that we build capacity to master the more slippery and subtle emotions and mind.
3. Engage Emotion
Emotion bridges body and mind. Emotion moves both body and mind. Destructive emotions like anger, fear and sadness send us – and those we travel with – spiralling down. Neurobiologist Antonio Damasio casts emotion as the central character in the journey to spirit. Positive energy feeds constructive emotion. Constructive emotions – peace, joy, contentment, love and gratitude shine brightly in the enlightened. It is this resonance that we seek more than anything.
As your emotional literacy and mastery increase, you become more calm and healthy. The key is recognition that emotion drives the mind. In destructive emotion we lose control of the mind and thereby our actions. Constructive emotion enables clear thinking, decisiveness, compassion and agility.
4. Train Mind
We are inclined to mindless thoughts. While initiated by emotion, chaotic thinking can quickly become habit. For example, fear and anxiety trigger cycles of worry. Worry then becomes a habit and recycles the fear in a never-ending loop. Mostly, thinking causes suffering and removes us from the experience of life as it unfolds in the moment. The spiritual journey requires calm, clear and steady attention. On the strong base built from 1,2 and 3, the mind becomes strong and agile. We can then see and realise soul.
5. Spirit in Action
When body, heart and mind are trained and mastered, the lens of spirit is clear and focused. We experience ourselves with clarity. “Who am I?” becomes evident. How we express the soul becomes obvious. Now we begin to see the world more clearly. “Why am I here?” becomes obvious. We align our highest self, through skilful means with a worthy purpose. Soul and spirit are always present. We have to take the inward journey of insight and mastery to see this creative impulse of your life.
Nothing is more important.
- Spirit in Action sits waiting. Understand what is holding you back. Focus here.
- We all have strengths. Build your spiritual practice through your strengths – relaxation, physicality, positivity, and meditation.
- Learn to soften your consciousness down into the body and emotions as you exhale
- Activate the spine and energise as you inhale
- Seek moments to sense beauty, appreciate the ride and act with kindness
- Find your rhythm of deliberate practice and compassionate release (let it be)
- As you see yourself more clearly, your talents and skills are the catalyst that drives connection. When your talents match the right challenge in the state of flow you will realise spirit.
- Be playful
- Be resolute
- Be kind