Ever feel like your spiritual quest and your material surroundings are at odds? The path to inner peace can be a little tricky to navigate with our spiritual compass via all the limitations, demands and conflicts of daily life. But fret not! Even when we have money to earn, bills to pay, groceries to buy, meals to cook, a house to clean and so on… it is possible to find calm and purpose and reconnect with our spiritual selves on a daily basis, while making the most of what the material world has to offer..
Find below our five must-do’s to keep your spiritual practise alive in the midst of modern living.
1. Find your tribe
Even when we’re surrounded by some pretty awesome people in our lives, if none of them shares our interests in spiritual growth and personal development, it can feel like something is missing. It’s not only refreshing to have someone in your life who ‘speaks your language’, but exchanging ideas and information is a great way to deepen our understanding of the concepts we’re exploring.
From sharing wisdom gained through life experiences to recommending books and techniques, connecting with like-minded people can really help steer us in an enlightening direction. You may already have people in your life who share your spiritual interests – if so, nurture those relationships! – but if you don’t, it’s well worth seeking them out. Find your new pals by joining classes and attending events or reach out to online communities that centre on the spiritual ideas you’re drawn to. You’ll be glad you did.
2. Oh so many choices? Use your inner guidance
From choosing which brand of loo roll to buy (how long can it actually take?!) to deciding where we live, our lives are a never-ending stream of small and big choices. And while on the surface having more options seems wonderful, the truth is that decision making in the face of endless choices can be a one way track to stress and extinguished zen.
In the book The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz takes a look at how the more choices we have the more time-consuming investigating each option becomes and how more often than not we end up second-guessing ourselves. But is anything out there actually perfect and could we instead be satisfied with ‘good enough’ and let go of the need to make ‘the best’ choice every time?
Zap the stress out of decision making and find your calm core again by following these two steps:
Make snap decisions
Sound scary? It doesn’t have to be. The way around the agony of choosing can be as simple as to stop deliberating and make decisions quickly. Do you ever think to yourself “I knew the right decision all along, why didn’t I just make it at the time?” Then you’re aware of your inner guidance and can start tapping into it to make easier – and probably better -– decisions. The more we practise surrendering the decision making process to our innate wisdom, the freer and more in tune with what really matters to us we feel.
Take it from Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking):
“decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.”
And if you’re thinking: that’s all very well when I’m choosing a tube of toothpaste or a new shade of lippy, but what about the really important decisions in life? Shouldn’t I spend a lot time making sure I’m making the right choice? Glad you asked.
Make peace with your choices
Making a big decision is scary. However, choosing between two different options is seldom the life-and-death dilemma our brains often make it out to be. If the fear of making a decision is paralysing you, take solace from this advice from Susan Jeffries (the author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway): at any point you’re faced with a decision, realise that either option is most likely going to turn out ok in the end. When we accept that nothing is perfect anyway and that every choice is going to have some benefits (we learn from mistakes after all), we can find greater peace and start enjoying life more.
3. Make your material world a mindful world
When life gets hectic, attending to our spiritual lives can easily take a back seat, however important it is to us. But thankfully we don’t need to attend a week-long meditation retreat to quieten the thoughts racing through our minds or take a day off work to chant mantras to feel more spiritually focused. In fact, reconnecting with our inner selves can take as little as 10 minutes a day as Andy Puddicombe explains in this Ted Talk.
Mindfulness – bringing our awareness to what is happening now and observing it without judgement – is your go-to daily tool to help you slow down, relax and be more present in your life.
Try Andy’s tip: pop post-it notes on your front door, the fridge, by the kettle, on the bathroom mirror and anywhere else you frequently visit, and use them as reminders to focus fully on the present moment for a minute or two. Check in with your senses – what are you hearing, smelling, tasting, seeing, feeling in your body? – and if you’re experiencing an emotion, name it and let it be without resistance. The more we practise mindfulness, the more naturally it comes to us – and the easier life will begin to flow.
4. Spend time connecting with nature
Rekindling our relationship with the natural world is a one-way path to a greater sense of meaning in our lives, so even if you’re a city girl to your core, make space for nature in your life. Taking the time to commune with nature reminds us of our connection to the rest of the world and observing the earth’s cycles is a healthy reminder to accept change and to let go of what’s no longer needed. And you can build up your connection with nature wherever you are – everyone has access to at least a window sill! Go on, grow flowers or herbs in your home, create a seasonal nature altar with the kids, make art with natural objects, walk barefoot in your garden, meditate in your local park, learn to forage for edible plants or pack your bags and leave the city for a weekend of hiking.
Natural surroundings also make for a perfect setting to practise mindfulness. Next time you’re out and about, follow the advice of Eckhart Tolle, author of Stillness Speaks:
“Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it. How still they are, how deeply rooted in Being. Allow nature to teach you stillness.”
5. Be the change you want to see
What values do you hold dear? Are you passionate about helping others or looking after the environment? Checking in from time to time with what’s most important to us and making small changes accordingly can give us a real spiritual lift. And the great thing about a material world is that it gives us ample opportunities to express our values through the choices we make as consumers. From Fairtrade, locally grown and organic produce to greener energy and responsible fashion, every time we choose to support the businesses and individuals who offer products and services that are in-line with what we care about, the more actively we’re shaping a world we’d like to see. Or perhaps being in-tune with your values could mean consuming less and stepping away from the ‘disposable’ culture through ‘making and mending’ and reducing waste through re-using and recycling. However it looks to you, ‘being the change that you wish to see in the world’ is a spiritually empowering practice!2