Don't react, Realign

Lately I’ve been going through some major life changes.  Some have been welcomed, and others, not so much.  Either way, the daily routine of my life has been altered and it has affected my time spent in spiritual practices.  I live by my spiritual practices.  They are my life line so to speak with the Divine.  It’s what centers me.  But lately I’ve found myself thrown from my routine. Are there ever times when you feel a little off?  Like something isn’t quite right?  Sometimes it feels like everything you do is a left a little empty.  At other times it feels as if you’re a little out of alignment and everything isn’t quite running the way it was meant to.

This happens to all of us from time to time.  A multitude of things can happen to throw us off our game or derail us a bit.  It’s not the end of the world by any means.  All we really need to do is be present with our situation.  Be mindful of the ‘what’ and the ‘why’.  And do whatever it takes to get re-centered and realigned.

However, what happens more often than not is instead of realigning, we react.  Instead of being present, mindful and connecting with the source, we react by turning to that thing that temporarily takes away the pain, or more likely, distracts us from the problem/feelings.  So we falsely validate ourselves with food, coffee, pills, booze, pornography, relationships, sleep, books, videos, video games, gambling, ________________.  I don’t think there is a distraction out there that I haven’t tried at one point or another in my life.

This can be a seemingly insignificant ritual or it can be extreme.  Anything from facebook to crack.  It’s all a false validation and distraction.  But no person is going to make you feel fulfilled.  That comes from actually living a fulfilled life.  No amount of sex is going to make you feel worthy.  No amount of time spent online will fill the actual void that you feel.  No amount of searching online will lead you to a solution for the ache you feel inside.  No amount of alcohol will align your heart and conscious with your purpose and passions.  No level of any video game will center you with the Source.

This is why we have spiritual practices like meditation, prayer, solitude, yoga, fasting, journaling, going on a retreat, chanting, sacred reading, etc.  They help us to be present.  They help us to be mindful.  They slowly pull us back to center by connecting us with The Source.  There are all kinds of arguments to be made the spiritual practices.  I won’t be making them here.  But I will say that they aren’t the end, but a means to an end.  Doorways to The Divine if you will.

So the next time things seem a little ‘off’.  Instead of reacting, realign.  Simply be aware that things are off kilter, avoid the reaction to ease the uncomfortable feeling of being ‘off’, and invest some time into spiritual practices.

When Spiritual Practices Seem Stale and Lifeless

One of the most frustrating things that happens in a person’s spiritual journey, is the way well intentioned disciplines become stale and empty.  Spiritual practices are important and the discipline it takes to spend time daily in prayer, meditation, contemplative practices, kundalini, etc. help to provide a path to connect with the sacred and help us find our rhythm. There is a pattern in my life that seems to emerge.  After a time of great insight, depth, and even elation after having started these spiritual practices on a regular basis, there inevitably comes a ‘dry spell’.  It’s like a plateau of sorts.  It isn’t that the spiritual practices are no longer helpful or beneficial.  It’s just with any sort of discipline, there are exciting times with profound insight and then there are the necessary times that while they seem dry and rote, are actually still just as beneficial.

The problem here is that we are emotional beings.  If you are saying to yourself, “I’m not that emotional”, you’re fooling yourself.  We are all moved when we are touched on a heart level.  So as emotional beings, when we feel our spiritual practices are growing stale, we want to do something to bring the life back.  Unfortunately, the answer to this dilemma given by spiritual mentors, guides, and pastors is often… “spend more time in _________________”.  Fill in the blank.  More time in prayer.  More time in solitude.  More time in yoga.  More time in whatever it is you rely on for a spiritual practice.  Unfortunately this advice can actually cripple our spiritual progress.  We are told to do the very thing that is feeling ‘lifeless’ to us.  So we push on, spending more time than may actually be beneficial to us in a spiritual practice that feels lifeless.  Then we quickly grow to despise the very practice that we first adopted in an effort to grow our hearts.  Eventually we abandon the spiritual practice all together and declare them useless, lifeless, and a waste of time.  Or we determine that we’ve ‘outgrown’ that particular practice, all the while we know that’s not really the case.

During one of these dry spells  in my own life, I connected with a distant mentor.  In casual conversation this person asked me a simple question.  “Brad, what is it that makes you feel the most alive when you do it?”  I had to stop and think.  I had to sit with that question for quite some time.  But then I knew.  Riding horses.  Something I had done since I was a child, but hadn’t made happen in a long time.  I made a call to a friend, set up a few rides, and I just let go and enjoyed everyone of the rides.  I can’t tell you how connected I feel to the Divine when I’m riding a strong horse in the early morning while the dew is still on the ground.  Nothing else matters and I feel as tied to the Divine as ever.  I feel connected to my highest self and it isn’t work or effort.  It just happens.

So here’s my advice to you.  Do those things that make you come alive.  Do those things that make you feel closest to The Source.  What is it that when you do it you feel the presence of the Divine in your life?  Maybe it’s hiking.  Maybe it’s camping.  Or reading a book.  Or watching a movie.  Or painting.  Or running.  Or flying.  Or competing in a sport.  Or playing an instrument.  What is it that when you do it, you feel connected to yourself, the Divine, and all of creation?

Whatever it is that you need to do, don’t put it off.  Tap into it today.  Pursue those things that make you feel alive.  Pursue those things that seem to make time fly as you participate in them.  Pursue those things that shake the rust and dust from your heart because of the thrill and peace that comes with doing them.  All the while, not giving up your spiritual practice.  Then you will see for yourself how you are transformed during these ‘dry’ times.

So what makes you come alive?  What is it that when you do it, you absolutely feel connected to something larger than yourself?  Now either drop what you’re doing right now and pursue it, or schedule it into your next 2 days immediately.