For some people, the word “mindfulness” conjures up images of a yogi sitting completely still in a contorted, pretzel-like position, chanting “Om” – not that we find anything wrong with that. However, to practice mindfulness and to become a more spiritual person you do not have to spend hours in an ashram.
I will be the first person to admit I have a difficult time sitting still and calming the mind on my own. Using recorded guided mediations can help to focus the mind, and what I really like is that in many instances these mediations have specific areas of life to work on. You can find guided mediations for stress reduction, anger management, overcoming fears, deeper sleep and even reducing test anxiety.
If you do not feel comfortable listening to someone else’s guided meditation, you can stream your own relaxation music through a music service like Pandora.com. This works well for someone who may not live alone and has too many distractions to sit quietly. You can stream the music and set your timer for a few minutes, and as you get better you can increase the timer by a minute each week until you are at your goal time for meditation.
If you want a more hands-on experience, Meetup.com has many mediation groups throughout the country that meet on a regular basis. Some do include a fee, although many times they offer a free first session so you can get a taste of what is to come. These groups may also include a yoga session with the meditation. A group meditation is also a great way to meet likeminded people.
Becoming a spiritual person does not have to happen overnight. Like most life-changing habits, baby steps regularly help you get to your goal. Whatever you believe in (a higher power, Yoda) or the lack thereof, spirituality is what you want it to be and how you carve it out. This is what I see as the main difference between religion and spirituality. Once reconciled, being a spiritual person can be quite fulfilling.
I find that nature and spirituality go hand in hand, and the awe-inspiring portraits of nature can at times be overwhelming. Sitting in a quiet spot outside, an active garden for example, really forces you to sit still and observe. Some of my favorite moments have involved hummingbirds and butterflies, both of which I was fortunate to see as I was sitting quietly in my garden enjoying the sun, flowers and life.
Spirituality also encompasses the way we act with others. Having empathy and treating others with dignity and compassion leads to introspection and a deeper spiritual outlook on life. Sometimes we get so caught up in our day-to-day motions that we forget practicing gratitude also enhances our spirituality and mindfulness. Being thankful for even the smallest thing in our day has been shown to make us happier overall.1
Happily, there is no one right way to lead a life of mindfulness and spirituality. The form of practice does not matter as much as finding what harmonizes your individual nature with the world. After all, we are all individual snowflakes, and like snowflakes we can accumulate and vastly alter the landscape.
1. Benefits of Gratitude. Psychology Today.