Photo credit: Buddhist Altar – Colour© by Virtual Eric
Spirituality doesn’t have to be something that you do only in certain moments, like when you go to church, or when you do your meditation in the morning. For sure part of a living a spiritual life means you probably have your own spiritual practice or ritual that you do to regularly connect with your inner spirit. Of course that’s great and really necessary. But it doesn’t have to stop when you finish your routine, you meditation, or prayers.
In fact living a spiritual life is about living your spirituality continuously. It’s about trying to infuse every aspect of your life with spirituality. It’s about being a spiritual person, not just doing a spiritual exercise.
So how exactly do you do that? Well an excellent place to start is at home. Think about how much time you spend at home, in the different rooms of your house, doing various activities such as housework, eating, getting dressed, showering, and interacting with the family. All of these activities can become spiritual exercises. Home is where the heart is, and if you consciously put your heart into your home, not only will you feel more fulfilled spiritually but your home will also feel more full of love which will benefit all the family.
The way in which you practice your spirituality at home will depend entirely on you as an individual. Different spiritual traditions can be applied to daily life in many different ways. It’s up to you to explore and experiment with those ways. I’d like to share with you here some general tips which I picked up during my years in the multi-faith monastery. The beauty of these steps is that they can be adapted to any spiritual or religious beliefs.
The basis, or the goal, of most of these tips is to cultivate a focused state of mindfulness, in which you are truly present in what you are doing. The concept of mindfulness is central to Buddhist philosophy and involves giving your full attention to whatever activity you happen to be engaged in. In doing so you sanctify the present and let go of worries about the past and future. Normal everyday activities become an opportunity to train the mind and experience the calmness of your spirit.
Practice becoming aware of all the details of whatever action you are doing. Become aware of physical sensations and the movement of your body. For example when washing dishes feel the sensation of the soapy water on your skin. Consciously notice the movement of your hands. Observe how the plate gets cleaner with each swipe of the sponge. Notice how the plate feels different after you rinse the soap off. With any household chores, engage your full awareness of sensations and movements.
At first you will need to exercise your will to remember to do this exercise, and your mind will wander frequently, but with a little practice you will become more adept at maintaining your attention on what you are doing. In effect this is a form of meditation in movement. The benefits include developing a calmer state of mind, experiencing more peace in your daily activities, and you’ll find that you do things more thoroughly.
This is a variation of the mindfulness exercise just described. With the awareness exercise you focus on the sensations and movements to achieve a kind of active meditation. The exercise of practicing excellence places more emphasis on focusing on doing the job well. In this exercise you are striving for doing something to the best of your ability in the most efficient time possible. In order to achieve this you have to really focus 100% on what you are doing and give the task all of your energy. This is an upbeat exercise that generates energy and momentum in your everyday activities.
In the example of washing the dishes, you’ll approach the task with the intention of getting it done quickly but to a high level of quality. Try to speed up your movements without losing any control. Don’t start splashing soap and water everywhere. Don’t drop the dishes. Don’t leave them half-cleaned. Focus your mind fully and you will complete the task well and in a short time.
With this approach you should already know what your next task is so you can move straight on to that. When you complete one thing don’t stop or slow down to admire what you have done. Once something is completed move immediately on to the next thing. Completely let go and forget about the task you just finished. Don’t cling on to the results of your work. Complete it with excellence and efficiency, then let go of it and go on to the next thing.
To get the most benefit from this style of practice you should try to go through the entire day in this manner, as much as is possible. Then when you finish your day you will have such an amazing feeling of accomplishment and peace of mind. In addition the practice of training your mind to focus will make it so much easier if you like to end your day with a more formal spiritual ritual such as meditation or prayer. If you spend your day in an aimless, lazy way, bumbling from one thing to another, when you sit for meditation or prayer at the end of the day the experience of your spiritual ritual will reflect how your mind was during the day. Going through the day with speed and concentration trains your mind to focus, and leaves little room for unhelpful distracting thoughts or worries. Then when you sit down for meditation you’ll find that you are already in a focused state conducive for experiencing spiritual consciousness.
Practice Presence of Spirit
Another variation of the mindfulness exercise, this engages the mind in a more active way to help you focus on what you are doing. Before you start a task, ask for Spirit to be present with you and to assist you while you are engaged in carrying it out. Then at some point somewhere in the middle of what you are doing, in your mind repeat your petition for Spirit to accompany you and help you so that you can do a good job. Finally upon completion of your activity, give thanks for the assistance you received, and humbly offer up what you have done as a token of love and appreciation. Don’t worry if you feel that you didn’t do the job very well… just recognise that you did your best, and that the most important thing is that you did it full of love.
The beauty of this exercise is that it is an effective way to overcome the mind’s tendency to wander off thinking about other things. During a task you give your mind to what you are doing at least 3 times, so if your mind wanders away you bring it back with the petition to Spirit to be with you.
This exercise was made famous by the 17th century carmelite Brother Lawrence. His modest collection of writings, compiled in a small book entitled “The Practice of the Presence of God”, describe how he achieved an unbroken state of immersion in God, purely by following this simple exercise. He spent most of his life in the kitchen, where even the smallest task became an opportunity to experience God. Brother Lawrence relates how the exercise was very difficult at first… he would often go for several days forgetting to do it, but persisted in bringing his mind back with a little apology to God and then resuming his practice with renewed enthusiasm. He describes that after many of years of persistence in this, he reached a point where he continuously enjoyed the presence of God without even having to exert an effort. In fact it became as difficult to try and forget God’s constant presence as it was to try to cultivate it in the beginning. He lived continuously in a deep intimate communion with the Divine, which made him feel all the time an acute sense of joy and bliss. The other monks relate that they frequently saw him laughing or giggling for no apparent reason, which gave him the outward appearance of a mad man!
While this exercise would certainly be suited to the more religiously inclined, it can also be used by anyone who believes in a spiritual presence of some sort. This presence needn’t be outside of you… your own immortal spirit has its presence within you. And when you start to engage in dialogue with it that presence grows and flourishes in your heart and mind.
To supplement and facilitate your spiritual exercise around the home, here are some other strategies you can also make use of.
Order and Cleanliness
Keeping your house orderly and clean is beneficial not only for the health of you and your family. It is also a way to maintain a high vibration of energy which will make it easier to practice spirituality at home. Many spiritual traditions include this concept as part their ideals. Hindus, for example, believe that the Divine likes orderliness and is attracted more to a clean environment. A dirty or messy house discourages the Divine, and even attracts lower vibration energies that may partly cause conflicts or illness in the household. This concept can also be seen in the philosophy of Feng Shui, where the manner in which you create and maintain your physical surroundings can affect the quality of the energy you live with.
Again another element found in just about every spiritual tradition, the use of pleasant fragrances can have a significant effect on your spiritual life. Pleasing smells can heighten your mood and make you feel more positive. Nice-smelling natural fragrances can also affect the vibrational energy in your home. It’s very easy to have some incense or an essential oil burner around the home. Getting into the habit of using these fragrances will create a relaxing and inspiring atmosphere in your house.
I hope you will find some or all of these tips helpful in cultivating your spirituality at home. The great thing is that they can be adapted for different individuals. People who prefer slower, meditative styles of practice may relate better to the first exercise of mindfulness. Others who are more energetic and dynamic will find it useful to practice the exercise of excellence, which certainly lends itself to increased productivity. Others who feel a more devotional connection to Spirit or God may enjoy more the practice of the presence of Spirit, as Brother Lawrence did.
Do feel free to comment below… I’d love to know which of these tips you found more interesting. And if you have any other ideas yourself do please share!
Check out the next post in this series: 5 Tips For Practicing Spirituality at Work