By Vatche Bartekian
Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, Who am I? What am I? or Why am I here? Well, as human beings, many of us ask those same questions everyday of our lives. Unfortunately, however, we never truly find the answers to those questions, and they remain mysteries forever.
religion vs. spirituality
Believe it or not, humans were historically spiritual beings first and foremost before becoming religious beings. So what is spirituality? Well, I'll tell you what it's not . It's not an organization. It's not a set of rules and laws. It's not scripture. It's not history. It's not ritual. And finally, it's not faith.
In a few words, spirituality is the attachment to all that concerns the life of an individual's soul. Religion, on the other hand, is the attachment to all that concerns the life and faith of a society or culture.
are you spiritual enough?
In general, women tend to be more spiritual by nature than men. That probably has to do with the fact that women are emotional creatures, while men are more rational. Recently, however, rationalism and logic have been playing a big part in spiritual experiences. Therefore, men have become more aware of their spiritual side.
In this stressful world we live in, spirituality plays an important role for men who want solutions to their problems and answers to their questions. The most common question many men ask nowadays is, Why in the world do I have to get up at 6am, rush out of my house, drive an hour in traffic, work my butt off for 10 hours a day (9 to 5 doesn't exist anymore), get no appreciation, drive back for 2 hours (in more traffic) to get home, slop on the couch and watch TV until I fall asleep? and repeat the process everyday of my life?
If you already have this kind of lifestyle, chances are that your spiritual side is almost non-existent.
But if you are one of those people who loves waking up early simply to see the sunrise, loves to drive in traffic because it gives you more time to listen to your favorite band, loves your job because you learn something new each day, and loves some quite time alone at night to reflect upon your life, then you, my friend, are a living Zen master and don't even know it.
the road to enlightenment
Many of our world's so-called religions are actually different forms of spiritualism. For example, Confucianism, Taoism, Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, and Wicca (naturalists) all concentrate their philosophies on the growth of the individual soul and it's ascension into a higher level of being.
Through different methods and practices, these "religions" focus on ways to satisfy one's soul in order to calm it and make it one with nature. After all, we are children of this Earth. The simplest form of spiritual practice would be Zen Buddhism and the ultimate goal of a spiritual experience would be enlightenment.
Being "enlightened" means attaining happiness through understanding both the physical and spiritual world. In Zen Buddhism, meditation is used as a means to gaining enlightenment. The road to enlightenment, however, can take someone years, if not decades, to achieve. For more simple folk like ourselves, simply becoming more in tune with yourself and your surroundings would suffice.
The following are some suggestions on how to gain a higher level of spirituality:
i can see the light!
1. Take time off
It is extremely important to make time for yourself during the day, week, month, or even year. Time is after all a precious commodity, and something that we can not take for granted. The next step would be what to do with that time.
2. Start a journal
Writing your thoughts and feeling down in a private journal a few times per month helps you to become in tune with your inner self. Each time you write, try not to think too much, just let your thoughts flow and your pen move. It's always interesting to look back on your journals and see how you evolve spiritually over time.
Yes, a healthy body almost always leads to a healthy soul. Exercise refreshes your mind and greatly diminishes stress and worry, two key factors you need to eliminate in order for your spirit to thrive.
Nowadays, more and more men are regressing to watching TV or listening to the radio instead of picking up a good book and reading. Lack of time might be a huge factor in this problem.
Once you take care of that, however, reading can be the most enjoyable thing you do during the day. Its main benefit is that it stimulates your imagination and creativity, not to mention your vocabulary. Imagination is an important part for the next tip.
The word itself conjures up images of mystical people levitating in mid-air with serenity around them. The truth is, anyone can do it, and it's not hard at all (except the levitation of course, which is just nonsense). Here is a meditation technique I teach my martial art students:
Sit down cross-legged on the ground and make sure you are comfortable. Your hands on your knees, and your back and shoulders straight. Slightly tilt your chin down, and close your eyes.
Start breathing slowly and deeply -- in through the nose, out through the mouth. Focus only on your breathing for 5 minutes and try bringing in as much air into your lungs as possible.
While breathing, focus on contracting and releasing your abdominal muscles in order to fully contract and dilate your diaphragm, which will, in turn, open your lungs more.
After 5 minutes, visualize all your day's problems, and one by one push them aside in your mind. Make them disappear. All that should remain is total blackness.
And finally enjoy this void, while maintaining your deep breathing and falling more into a relaxed state.
If stray thoughts come into your mind, don't fight them. Accept them, acknowledge them, and then push them aside.
You can meditate as often as you like, at any time or place (except while driving of course), and for as little as 5 minutes to as long as an hour.
6. Be positive
Optimism also destroys worry and stress, and an added advantage is that others will become influenced by your own optimism and share your happiness. Positivity plays a key role in spirituality.
There you have it. Use these tips and try to find your own spirituality. It may not happen right away, but nonetheless, the journey to a more spiritual life is full of interesting learning experiences that you will treasure for a lifetime.
I AM more than aware that spirituality runs deep between both sexes and there is no bias from the Great Spirit. I find it nice that there are sources available that meet individual needs as well. I walk in balance of both male/female polarities at all times of my day. For me this practice and ability assists my achievement of what I am aiming for within myself and those I choose to involve my time with.
May peace find its way into your heart, mind and soul,
Love and Light