A simple recipe for making your spiritual practice easier than meditation
Before I started life as a monk I spent many years struggling with meditation. In the monastery I discovered how to quickly slip into a natural state of spiritual consciousness without the mental effort needed with meditation. Here I will share with you the basic elements of this process which anyone can adapt to their own life.
Let’s face it: Meditation is darned difficult
If you were curious about this blog post because of the title I would imagine that you’ve probably tried meditation yourself, right? So you know how much discipline is needed to focus your mind for 20-30 minutes. Often the majority of that time is spent processing all the worries of the day, trying to relax, trying to let go of all the distracting thoughts that keep interrupting your concentration, trying to let go of the expectation that you really want to have some amazing spiritual experience this time. If you were lucky you would probably manage to spend about 5 minutes in a true, deep meditative state. And just when you were hitting that sweet spot your legs would start to give you painful cramps, letting you know that the time was up!
And all that only if you actually managed to get around to making the time to sit down without the kids interrupting, or without the doorbell ringing. In fact often maybe you just didn’t feel like meditating, and sometimes found it rather boring, struggling not to fall asleep, especially after a long day.
Yes I’ve been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. I continued wrestling with meditation for several years, in general liking the idea because it offered an intelligent, non-dogmatic, non-religious approach to spirituality.
Are you sure meditation is for you?
Well for sure meditation works wonders in the world, and there are droves of people who swear by it. The thing is that meditation is really only for some people, mostly those who are more inclined towards mental discipline and exercises of the mind. Having said that there are of course many different types of mediation suited to different temperaments. And that is the beauty of mediation… you can adapt it to your own personal beliefs and life style.
However, a significant chunk of the population just can’t hack it, even though they desperately want to follow a spiritual life. I am certainly one of those, and, although I still enjoy the occasional meditation session from time to time, my principle spiritual practice is much easier and more enjoyable.
There are basic ingredients for achieving a deep state of meditation.
The basic elements of my own practice can be taken, adapted, and applied to anyone’s life, irrespective of religious or cultural beliefs. To illustrate where these elements have crystalized from I’ll share with you an experience from a monk’s perspective living in the multi-faith monastery of Skanda Vale. By the way feel free to skip this next section and scroll down if you want to get straight to the recipe for building your own spiritual practice.
A first hand account of spiritual consciousness without formal meditation
It’s 4:30 am and I’m sitting cross-legged in the Inner Sanctuary with the other monks and nuns just as the puja (service of worship) is about to begin. Today is one of a series of special pujas held during one week in August in honor of the Hindu deity Lord Subramanium, son of Lord Shiva.
The temple was illuminated only by oil lamps and candles located around the various shrines of the Inner Sanctuary. The air was filled with a heavenly fragrance of incense. The puja started in the same way as every day that week with the playback of an ancient recording of chanting monks. Their mysterious-sounding voices resonated in the semi-darkness of the temple and washed over my being like sea waves crashing over rocks. Even though it was a recording I could feel the force of their chanting as their prayers seemed to penetrate through all the worlds and all the heavens to reach the ear of God. The more I gave myself over to that sound the more I could feel mySelf rising up on the current towards the Divine .
Within moments I could feel myself easing into that familiar deep meditative state I had, in the past, occasionally won from the hard efforts of meditation practice. It started with a feeling of lightness, almost as if the effects of gravity were slowly ebbing away. Then I felt a strong Presence, with a capital P, meaning that I was in close proximity to something bigger than me. With each passing breath I was drawn closer to something immense. As I felt its nearness I could sense that this was something living, intelligent, and above all, full of joy.
As my breath flowed in and out my sense of “I” gradually dissolved until the only thing left was this vast living joy. With my eyes closed I could feel that the Temple had disappeared, even my body was so ethereal and had no substance as if it were made of light. “I” was now completely absorbed in this infinite living joy that seemed to be stretching out to, and beyond, the very boundaries of the Universe. The Earth, the solar system, the galaxy, and the Universe itself were merely a small speck within my being. And joy permeated everything. Pure, unadulterated joy. This was the bliss of deep meditative state, of spiritual consciousness.
In this state of consciousness, many strange and wonderful things can be revealed to the soul. On this occasion I was visited by Lord Shiva. That is to say it was revealed to me that He is a part of me as I am a part of Him. As the chanting in the Temple continued the sound carried my consciousness to a place in the mountains of the Himalayas. There I sat cross-legged with my hair in thick matted locks, flowing down from my head, and flowing right down the mountain sides, transforming as they went, into the great river Ganges. My left hand held a small drum, the “damma” of Lord Shiva, and my other arm rested nonchalantly on the “Trishula”, His trident weapon. With half-closed eyes I looked down at my body… it was muscular and blue in colour. But I wasn’t surprised by these strange things because I was Lord Shiva and that is how I am. The joy and bliss of being Lord Shiva was so deliciously supreme. Bolts of lightning flashed around the mountain peaks with Lord Shiva/me at the centre, His/my power rippling with the electricity.
I enjoyed this blissful state of being for the duration of the puja. When the chanting came to an end I was back in my normal body, back in the temple. Once again “me”. But I still carried the feeling that my body was made of light and wasn’t really solid. And the experience was fresh in my mind, giving me joy and energy for the rest of the day. The next morning there would be another puja and again I would go into that deep state of consciousness… mmm something to look forward to!
Here are the basic elements of a puja:
The power of the temple gives a huge boost which makes it almost effortless to experience a level of spiritual consciousness, the same as or similar to meditative state, because…
- There is a carefully maintained reservoir of energy in the temple, which you can plug into during each puja
- The pujas are the same time each day, which generates a kind of resonant energy that peaks at the same time each day. If you are present at that moment you will benefit from the peak of that energy.
- The music, singing, and chanting make it easy to let go of worries and distractions, and to focus your whole mind and heart.
- Some physical movement, such as playing the instruments, clapping hands, fingering the rosary beads, or even just rocking back and forth. This keeps you awake and reduces the discomfort that can sometimes be caused from sitting in the same position.
- Starting every puja with the same routine of chanting and mantras is a powerful way to condition the mind so that you can go quickly into that state of spiritual consciousness. In that same way that Pavlov’s dog salivated when it heard a bell because it thought it was about to be fed… so too does your spiritual self “salivate” every time you hear the same routine of chants and prayers.
Now you don’t have to run off and become a hindu monk in order to experience these benefits.
Since I left the monastery I’ve found that these elements can be extracted from the traditional puja and easily applied to modern day life.
The basic recipe for easily experiencing your spiritual connection
Create your own reservoir of power in your home. Set aside a “sacred space” where you can go to relax and recharge your batteries. It can be a room, or even just a shelf, where you can place a candle, or some special objects that inspire you and lift your mood. If you are religiously inclined it can be a small shrine or altar. If you are open to a multi-faith approach you can collect images and pictures from different spiritual traditions.
Create a daily routine of going to your sacred space at the same time every day. Even if you only have 2 minutes to pop your head in and say “hi Sacred Space, sorry I’m too tired/busy to hang around… see you tomorrow!”. The important thing is to generate that resonant energy at the same time each day.
Use sound. Music, chanting, prayer, affirmations, anything. Whatever makes you feel good.
Use movement. It can be subtle like waving an incense stick around, fingering a rosary, or just rocking back and forth. Or it can be more energetic like dancing, or doing yoga.
Always start with the same routine of chanting or movement or whatever it is that gets your spiritual juices flowing. This will be your ritual that trains and conditions your mind. Each time you do your ritual you will be able to go progressively quicker and easier into that natural state of spiritual consciousness. It can be short so that you can still do it when you don’t have much time, or if you have time you can continue with your practice to deepen your meditative state.
Make this your own recipe
Take these ingredients and adapt them to your own personal beliefs or spiritual tradition. Then when you mix them all together you’ll get fast results. If you struggle with meditation, just accept the fact that it’s probably not for you! Try out this recipe and if you’re serious about living a spiritual life you’ll be enjoying that intimate communion with your inner spirit on a daily basis.
Coming up next:
Use your spiritual practice to have “conversations with God”. Learn to listen to the voice of your intuition. Ask it questions and get the most sincere advice you could ever find! Read it HERE.