People often get confused about the word ‘spirituality, thinking it means believing in a specific religion. But that’s not true. There are some folk who don’t follow any religion at all, but who are deeply spiritual nevertheless and have found their own way of expressing their beliefs, often from a blend of understandings drawn from various sources and personal experience.
Some people also make the mistake of thinking that becoming ‘spiritual’ means they don’t have to deal with the darker sides of their nature. A number of spiritual teachings encourage an intense focus on our higher aspects at the expense of ignoring the more basic levels of our being. But unfortunately, any problems relating to hang-ups and negative attitudes towards money, sex or relationships, etc., don’t magically disappear when you start exploring your spirituality!
The manner in which your spirituality unfolds is a process that’s rather like building a house i.e. The foundations have to be dug and laid before the construction can rise up out of the earth. So in order to commence the building of your spirituality you, too, need foundations. And you lay your foundations by becoming aware of your problems and difficulties and being prepared to work to release them through the many change techniques that abound. That way, they’re less likely to jump out unexpectedly and push you off balance!
If you want to pursue and explore your spiritual development, working on yourself is very important. For if you only focus on your higher aspects and pay little or no attention to your baser problems and difficulties, you’re actually destabilising the structure of ‘the building’. It’s hard to see this happening when you’re in the middle of the process, but it usually shows up through bad attitudes and behaviour towards others. And the last person to notice what’s going on is usually YOU!
Understanding how mind, body and emotions are interlinked and learning techniques to keep them in balance will always support your spiritual practice. As you develop your higher consciousness, it brings yourself and everything around you into a sense of connection and oneness. By increasing that level of consciousness, you become better able to live in the present moment. And the good news is that being more in the NOW means there’s going to be less worry and anxiety in your life! With this comes a greater sense of well-being which in turn helps you to start feeling more grounded and centred. In essence, no part of you functions in isolation because everything is ultimately connected to everything else. You’re not separate, but a part of one whole thing. And the understanding of this grows steadily the more you open to accepting and experiencing it.
But if you’re seeking a way into spirituality, or wishing to travel more deeply into it and don’t feel as if you’re getting anywhere, where do you start? Well, you may have already begun without knowing it.
Have you ever felt a sense of peace that was so powerful it stilled your mind and filled your heart with love? Many of us have, at some point, but it’s often a fleeting sensation, which sadly is quickly forgotten. Such moments can come unexpectedly, triggered by the sight of a beautiful view or sunset, or the sun shining through leaves and dappling the shade, or breath-taking music, exquisite singing, the sight of carved arches or beautiful frescoes in a cathedral or temple, or the soothing sound of waves lapping along the shoreline. It can also be triggered by music, dancing, drumming, or a peak sexual experience. It can come from extraordinary psychic or telepathic happenings or from noticing synchronicities and co-incidences. It can occur during or after tragic situations, suffering and distress. It can also come via a sense of contact with some beloved person who has passed on, or through chanelling an inner guide. And it can, of course, also arise through earnest prayer and meditation.
These blissful sensations are the very same feelings which have long been described in just about every spiritual tradition as mystical or religious experiences. For thousands of years we’ve been told that these states are encounters with God/the Divine/the Supreme Consciousness/the One/the Universe – or whatever term you might choose to describe the essence or centre of existence.
Any experience of this nature is in fact a totally NATURAL occurrence and most of us have had one at some point in our lives. These events can happen unexpectedly to people from all walks of life, race, colour, creed or persuasion. And you don’t have to follow a particular faith or religion to experience them. They can even happen to people who don’t believe they have any spiritual leanings at all!
The commencement of one’s spiritual journey often begins this way. Mystical or meaningful events don’t tend to come in the form of some great bolt of lightning blasting out of the sky. They appear more frequently from a sudden opening of the heart, or a sense of stillness, peace and belonging. The fact is, these blissful sensations are openings or gateways into our spirituality.
At these moments, you’re at one with the world and with yourself. In that fleeting space of time, nothing matters except just being wherever you are and letting yourself fill up with the experience. The mind empties, and it’s as if your energy stretches out and touches everything. You’re connected, whole, alive, and full of love.
In those sacred moments you can begin to perceive that love is all there is; and that there is nothing else. You don’t have to go looking for love or have wait for someone to tell you that they love you – because you ARE love! For a few seconds, you can let go of the ego and stop judging and criticizing and complaining about this, that and the other. For an instant you can feel complete and wanting nothing. You can love yourself. You can love EVERYTHING.
Recognizing these gateways to bliss is very important, for if you’re not already aligned to some spiritual practise, they’re a very good starting point for you. And if you’re already on your spiritual path, they can help to take you further along the way.
If you’d like to know how you can begin to experience these blessed flashes of love and peace more frequently, the answer is very simple. You GROW them! Since they’re a perfectly natural occurrence, you can therefore cultivate them like everything else in Nature. How do you do this? You call up the memory of these past encounters with one-ness and allow yourself to RE-EXPERIENCE them! Why does this work? Because the conscious brain can’t tell the difference between something you’re feeling in the here and now or a vivid memory! And because of this, whether you’re experiencing something in the moment or re-experiencing it later, it triggers exactly the same blissful feelings and releases the same healing hormones into your body. Therefore, recalling a love-filled, wonder-full experience will release the healing hormones of endorphins and send them coursing through your entire being. (Conversely, recalling a traumatic experience will trigger the stress hormones of adrenaline and cortisol and make them flow through you which won’t be at all beneficial.) By bringing these blissful experiences to mind when you want them, you are literally changing your biochemistry and triggering your body’s own natural healing system.
Here’s a meditation to help you accomplish this:
Think of yourself breathing slowly in and out through your heart and spend a few minutes doing this as preparation. This helps to bring all parts of your body into mutual coherence with each other. It also helps you to centre.
Now choose a special moment you recall that you can identify as one of those ‘gateways to bliss”. Bring that experience back to mind with all the intensity you can muster. Recall the colours, the light, the sounds and the feelings that were associated with it. Evoke the experience of love, peace and total connection it brought to you.
Now let the reminiscence of that moment spread through you like a gentle stream of warm water. Allow yourself to enjoy the feeling of it spreading through your body and coursing along all your energy pathways. This is a healing connection of great magnitude and opens and strengthens the gateway to your spiritual unfolding.
Allow it to penetrate and melt into every part of your being – bones, muscles, cells, organs, brain. Breathe it in. Float in it. Bathe in it! Soak it up! You may find that for a few brief moments, all thoughts disappear. Stay with this for as long as you can and then slowly come back. Spend a few minutes reflecting on your experience and noticing how you feel before getting up and moving into the rest of your day.