There are some universal practices and habits that are the cornerstones of living a spiritual life. Adopting them helps you grow spiritually.
But before practicing them, it’s important to know what is spirit, spiritual growth, and the goal of spiritual practices.
Vedanta, the spiritual science of life explains that spirit is pure consciousness that enables the body and mind to be alive and aware.
Spirit expressing in your body is said to be the Self. This is your true nature.
The ego you is the small self. It arises out of your identification with your body-mind personality. For example, the ego in me is “Manisha.” But that’s not who I really am. My true nature is spirit, pure consciousness or the Self.
To grow spiritually means to expand my consciousness, to mature and express my true Self. Again, what does this mean?
You see, right now, I think of myself as a limited individual, with fears, worries, needs, desires, emotions, possessions, and relationships.
Deep down, I want to express a larger and happier me. But my responses in the world don’t always express those feelings. I tend to act out my sense of limitation, caring mostly about my own interests.
Every time I act in a self-centred way, I reinforce my limited ego-sense. But if I am able to expand my circle of concern and think and act in ways that include and benefit others, then I’m growing in consciousness and becoming more like my true Self. This is what growing spiritually means.
Our goal is to give up our false identity and take on our real identity as the Self which is unlimited, ever-free, peaceful, blissful and totally fulfilled.
Where can you start?
Your most important appointment of the day is your appointment with your Self.
Early in the morning, before getting into your daily work routine is the best time for spiritual practices.
When you do them in the morning, you infuse your mind with positive vibrations that colour how you view and respond to the rest of your day.
Here’s what you can do:
1. Wake up before 6 a.m., take a shower, put on some fresh clothes and go to the sacred space that you’ve set aside for your spiritual practice.
2. Humbly invoke the grace and blessings of your chosen spiritual or religious symbol. Say a short prayer of gratitude for your blessings.
3. Read from a spiritual book or a book from your faith for a few minutes.
4. More important than reading is reflecting on what you’ve read. So take at least 10-15 minutes for reflection. It’ll help you understand what you’ve read, absorb it and make it your own.
5. At this point, you’ll notice that your mind has become naturally quiet. Take this opportunity to start your meditation practice. *
6. End your meditation with a short prayer. Dedicate your up-coming day and activities to God or any symbol of the divine that appeals to you.
You’re now ready to take on the day!
Growing through your daily actions
The day’s pressing concerns and activities can easily disturb the peace that you’ve created through your morning routine. To keep up the high vibrations, you can practice karma yoga and bhakti yoga—the paths of inner growth through actions (karma) and divine love (bhakti).
Here are the principles of doing your actions in the spirit of karma yoga:
1. Always do your duties, doing them readily, cheerfully, and to the best of your ability.
2. Work without ego, and personal likes or dislikes. These agitate your mind and keep you in the ego mind-set.
3. Stay focused on the work at hand, putting in your best effort.
4. Don’t insist on any tangible or intangible rewards of your actions. Examples of tangible rewards are money, power, position, gifts, and favours. Intangible rewards are praise, admiration, and appreciation.
5. Accept the results of your actions graciously without complaint. The only reward you want is the satisfaction of doing your duties in the best way possible.
Growing by cultivating your heart
As a spiritual seeker, it’s essential to develop your heart. We do so much to keep our bodies healthy but sadly neglect the heart.
Here’s what you can do on the Path of Devotion or bhakti yoga:
1. Cultivate faith in a divine higher power and connect with It/Him/Her every day as often as you can. (read How to cultivate faith in the higher power)
2. Pray—not merely to fulfill your needs and desires, but to express gratitude for your blessings and to grow in your love for the divine.
3. Chant the holy names and praises of God that resonate with you.
4. Strive to see the divine in all and live by the Golden Rule. This means to treat others in the way you’d like to be treated. Being kind to others, treating them with respect and without judgement are some ways to live by the Golden Rule.
5. Do your work remembering God and dedicate all your actions to Him.
Volunteering in the community is a great way to combine karma yoga with bhakti yoga. You do the work without any selfish motives and dedicate it to the people or cause that you serve, or simply to God or the universe. It’s a sure and simple method to grow spiritually.
Growing in your understanding of life
We are inundated with information every day. But most of it is not relevant to our lives or spiritual growth. As a spiritual seeker, you must make time for spiritual study daily.
Spiritual reading and study will help you grow in your understanding of life, your true nature and purpose. The knowledge that you gain will boost your ability to handle life’s ups and downs, enhance your interactions with people and keep you even-keeled throughout.
You can add time for spiritual study in the morning before your meditation practice. This is usually the best time as your mind is fresh and not preoccupied with your daily concerns.
Spiritual growth is not a part-time pursuit
Spiritual growth is not about doing a little practice sporadically or only on certain days. In other words, growing spiritually is not a part-time pursuit. We must remember the goal of growing spiritually in and through all our daily activities.
A daily spiritual practice, reducing your egocentric concerns through karma yoga, developing your heart through bhakti yoga and spiritual study are all ways you can grow spiritually every day.
This is how you will expand your consciousness and allow more and more of your true Self to shine through.
A greater peace and harmony is the reward. It’s well worth the effort!
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