In the past week, I have been asked by friends and family members: “your transformation is inspiring to read, but what worked for you and how exactly do we get started on the path of attracting positivity and developing our own practice?” This post is my attempt to present a response to my loved ones and offer suggestions to those who would like to kick off their daily practice.
Any spiritual daily practice requires elements that trigger positive thoughts and peace within us. I highly recommend finding a special place within your living space where it is easier to feel comfortable and relaxed. It’s even better if you are able to find an altar or a temple within your home, but it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Whichever space you end up picking, just keep it clutter free and decorate it however you’d like. Be creative and allow the intuitive feeling in your heart to guide your decision.
When I first started meditating a few years ago, I wasn’t sure how I could create the most optimal space for my practice, so I experimented with a few spots in our tiny apartment. Later I realized that I found comfort in meditating right in front of the fireplace. There was something about the fire which provided peace and fueled my persistence in following the daily practice. Now, I sometimes use candles or even meditate while being in the water (aka my long relaxing baths!).
I also want to put it out there that the purpose of my post is to not convince you to change your religious beliefs. I simply want to provide suggestions, which could enable you to listen to your inner voice of truth and wisdom. This internal voice could be complementary to your existing beliefs and lifestyle.
Here are six tactical tools that I use to maintain my own spiritual hygiene:
Meditation – Nowadays we hear a lot about meditation. The bottom line is that it’s a process that brings a better sense of awareness within our internal space. There are a variety of meditation techniques out there. Some rely on sounds and mantras while others require focus on breath. I won’t go into too much detail on each one, but I can tell you that each of these techniques could be effective if followed regularly. No one size fits all. Therefore, I suggest finding the best meditation technique that works for you after experimenting with a few. Sometimes using guided meditations could help in get started by improving the focus. If you prefer guided meditations better, the Abraham Hicks’ general well being meditation is my favorite. It is available free of cost on YouTube.
My personal favorite is the mindfulness practice. I simply sit with my feet flat on the floor, close my eyes and focus my attention on my breath. I make no effort to control my breath and just observe. Whenever a thought comes into my mind, I let it go and gently bring my attention back to the breath.
This practice of being in a thoughtless state could seem challenging initially, but try not getting too consumed by your thoughts. Start your practice with 5-10 minutes each day and increase the time slowly as you feel comfortable. I remember when I first started my practice, keeping my eyes closed even for five minutes felt really long, but with time, things got easier. If you become distracted or are unable to follow your practice daily, please don’t beat yourself up. Remember, the idea is not to please anyone and force ourselves to meditate due to self expectations. The purpose here is to completely accept ourselves the way we are and be at peace with the difference between our expectations and reality.
Early on in my meditation practice, I held the belief that my mind is always too active and meditation feels like a boring activity to be engaged in. Later I realized that my viewpoint was a limiting belief and that meditation was a tool to balance my energy, especially for my overactive mind. I learned my lesson the hard way and I recommend keeping an open mind as well as a child-like curiosity while starting your daily practice.
Affirmations – I absolutely love affirmations as they serve as a reminder for us to attract the energy that we truly desire on a daily basis. After your meditation, set intention for the day that you’d like to experience. Whichever aspect of your life you’d like to affirm, make a note of it and draw your attention to it on a daily basis. For example, a few years ago I used to feel nervous about my actions and always felt like I am not good enough. Now I fill myself up with tons of validation energy and remind myself that I am a confident being. I am whole, complete and perfect the way I am. Due to the power of affirmations, my inner confidence has strengthened significantly over time. Now, it doesn’t even bother me if anyone places judgments on me as I have reconciled the core issue related to my self-worth. In fact, since people and situations in our lives reflect the same energy as we do, the judgments from others have gone way down.
Another one of my favorite affirmations is reminding myself that I am not responsible for how others feel and react. I know that every situation and person in my life exists to assist me in my growth and always have my best interest in mind. If anyone has a negative reaction towards me, they are merely acting from the level of their consciousness, which is beyond my control. I cannot make anyone happy or bring peace in their heart. All I have control over is my reactions and maintaining a non-judgmental and loving space within my heart for people around me. This has helped me in taking a huge weight off my shoulders, limited drama in my life and allowed me to free up that space for keeping myself positive.
Gratitude – When we set the intention of feeling gratitude, we subtly train the mind to actively seek goodness in every situation that we find ourselves in. Strengthening the feeling of gratitude involves starting the day with the intention of finding at least one thing that we are thankful for. Even if we end up having the worst day possible, still reminding ourselves to be thankful will take courage and practice. However when we are able to do it, instead of feeling annoyed by things beyond our control, we can then focus our attention on finding the big picture reason why even the frustrating situation is perfect for our growth and well being. Eventually, we begin feeling deep gratitude towards the Universe for this beautiful life. See, how we learned to flip the switch on experiencing positive emotions of gratitude, instead of feeling drowned within our own negativity. One positive thought can begin an avalanche of positivity. Now imagine us attracting similar positive energy in our life in every single moment.
Reading – reading spiritual books remind us of the goodness within our own heart. Whether you prefer a religious text or a spiritual guide, read at least few pages of it every day. My personal favorite books are: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and The Places That Scare You by Pema Chödrön. These books are written by enlightened beings and contain deep wisdom that could be applied in our everyday life. Einstein said that "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." Gaining a different perspective through the wisdom of others is sometimes essential in solving our own problems.
For example, my mind has a tendency to dwell on the past and to want to always feel right. When these thoughts arise, they become very tough for me to manage. However, reading even a chapter of The Power of Now brings my awareness to how egoistically our mind works. Once this awareness is re-established, it allows me to control my thoughts and to observe them without getting too attached.
Nature – I believe that as human beings, we were never intended to be confined within the sky scrapers of urban jungles. Our needs, desires and ambitions are usually driven towards the materialistic world. In the process we lose touch with the feelings of contentment and gratitude for what we have. Life was never supposed to be this complicated. We were supposed to breathe in “prana”, the life force, provided to us by the universe and feel the connection with the divine with each breath. This connection could help us navigate through any situation in life, without our egos getting too attached with it. Unfortunately our materialistic lifestyle doesn’t fully allow that.
In one research study, 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed and anxious to more calm and balanced. Nature has significant healing effects on our minds and bodies. I personally find being in the nature very helpful in relaxing my mind and feeling centered. Whether it is a short walk or a long hike, it helps me in feeling grounded and establishing my connection with the divine.
Service – there is no greater joy than to give. The more we are able to expand our hearts and selflessly share with others, the richer our life becomes. Giving takes the “our” out of “ourself” and allows us to expand beyond earthly limitations and connect with our true “self”. Genuine joy lies in the act of giving without an expectation of receiving something in return.
Sometimes giving could mean donating money to a charity. On other times it could mean offering your seat to others on the train. It could include buying coffee for others anonymously or providing food to the homeless. At the very least, if we are able to speak kind and encouraging words to others and morally uplifting them on the daily basis, we are allowing our inner divinity to shine through and increasing joyfulness in our lives.
Whichever techniques you end up choosing to keep yourself positive, do remember to not take life too seriously. Every situation, feeling or emotion is temporary. It too shall pass. Just like good days don’t last forever, bad experiences are going to be short lived as well. Regardless of how you are feeling in the moment, set the intention of being joyful. When I set the intention of finding joy in my life, I automatically attract more happiness. Be responsible for fewer people, take time out for yourself everyday and fill your life with things that you truly enjoy doing. Whether it is listening to music, dancing, or even taking up adventurous sports to enjoy the adrenaline rush, do it right now. Let go of the past and future and let’s take it one moment at a time. Our responsibility is to be present and make this very moment as joyful as we can.
Food for thought: Which aspects of the above mentioned suggestions you feel inspired to incorporate in your daily practice?
Image source: http://blog.mentallycharged.com/mindfulness-5-reasons-how-itll-improve-your-game/