I’m the first to admit it. By 2017 standards, I suffer from spiritual laziness. I don’t meditate (ever). I fall asleep writing what I’m grateful for in my gratitude journal. I don’t have a list of mindfulness techniques that I schedule into my day. Yoga? I do it on YouTube every now and again (is there an animal that does not have a pose in yoga? Come to think of it I’ve never heard of an elephant pose in yoga).
I’m OK with my spiritual laziness
But for all my spiritual misgivings I still think I’m a pretty awesome guy. I’m a great listener (and also love to chat), I love a walk in nature for a breath of fresh air, and take notes and write (or type) down my thoughts frequently. I love to ponder, to visualise (plan my future in images) and I’m a tenacious written planner, constantly jotting down my plans for a year, quarter, month, week, or day.
But in the socially accepted model of spirituality, I think I would get a D+ at best. I don’t go to church (sorry Mum & Nana), I don’t think I can even say I pray (although I do thank the world, universe, God on a daily basis for things big and small). I do believe in a higher source or power. I believe there is perfection in all living things, events and circumstances, no matter how hard that can be to digest in the moment. I truly believe that we needed poverty for Mother Theresa to be who she was. Nelson Mandela would not have his reputation if it wasn’t for his 27 years in jail. And you probably wouldn’t know who Turia Pitt was if she didn’t get burnt to a crisp in the Kimberley bushfires.
I focus on self-talk and acceptance
Here’s what I do find myself doing on a regular basis. I do find myself regularly talking to myself in an empowering way, and reminding myself that all is well in the world, no matter how un-well things look on the surface (watch the news for 30 seconds and it’s easy to feel like the world sucks). I definitely have an empowering self-talk, and I don’t have much time for doubt to creep in to my thoughts.
I find myself agreeing or at least being sympathetic with almost all religions. I don’t have a wrong/right view about any one of them. I believe they all have their place and most of the time it seems to be our cultural differences that dictate our religious differences (and some may say vice-versa as well).
For those that get the A+ Gold Standard for socially acceptable spiritual habits, here’s what I’ve observed (and I’m sure you have as well).
The elephants in the spiritual room
** I know people who go to Church or pray every day and express their devout faith in a divine being or God, only to treat their family and fellow human beings like dog excrement. They yell and scream at their spouse, their kids, their colleagues and their neighbours, and then go to Church on Sunday in a bid to look good (and maybe ask forgiveness). Really? It simply reeks of incongruence for me.
** I know people who meditate morning and night and exude anything but a sense of calm during the day. They talk a good talk about finding themselves, finding inner peace, improving their brain waves and connecting to Source, yet they are snappy and unhappy. Go figure.
** I know people who do yoga who are so mentally, emotionally and socially rigid it’s laughable.
** I know people who are grateful in their gratitude journals and behave like ungrateful sods for the rest of the time.
Do you know where I’m going here? It’s so important to choose your own path of spiritual health and connection. The absolutely key to success in exceptional spiritual health is to define your path then walk your path!
Mine might be lazy for you, but it works for me.
10 rituals that work for me
- Waking up at 5am (and “hearing” the silence or the pitter patter of my keyboard)
- Eating breakfast with my children and simply watching and listening to them relate to each other, all the while feeling incredible that I have three healthy and happy human beings sitting next to me with a big smile on their face.
- Walking in to the room of a sleeping child is one of the most peaceful feelings I think I’ve ever experienced.
- And jumping in the ocean (especially when it’s cold), is one of the more spiritually uplifiting activities I do on a regular basis.
- Lying next to my children at night whilst they fall asleep feels spiritual to me.
- I use people’s names as often as possible. It makes me feel more connected to people (and life). If I’ve forgotten someone’s name I’ll swallow my pride and ask them their name again (and again if necessary).
- In addition to this, in conversation I regularly practice the scientific art of “shutting up”. I listen and nod, using words such as “wow”, “awesome”, “that’s fabulous”, “congratulations”, and more. Why? As Dale Carnegie taught, the best conversationalists in the world are those who say the least. And whilst I’m no shy wallflower in a conversation and have also been known to interrupt (apologies to my 100 Not Out co-host Damian Kristof), this art of listening is one I see as a purely spiritual practice.
- On a gratitude front, I make a big effort to openly express my gratitude to people (instead of writing it in a journal). According to research done by Martin Seligman (and no doubt countless others), the strongest form of gratitude is in the presence of someone else. I say thank you for my coffee, thank you to my wife, Sarah, I thank my Mum for birthing me, my sisters for dealing with me growing up, my clients for supporting my message and seeing value in my work, and so on. There’s no doubt at times I feel like I’m being too vulnerable in expressing so much thanks (it almost sounds tedious just writing it), but I have no doubt that it makes my days more fulfilling and my heart more open. Again, this practice works for me (i.e. I’m not telling you to do it). Importantly, I’d just recommend you do whatever works for you in order to feel grateful for the life you live.
- And finally, I honour my Love Language (which is physical touch). I don’t suppress or deny it. I”ll hold my wife’s hand until the day I die. I’ll kiss and cuddle my children until the day I die … and in a social setting I’ll high five, hug and back slap at any opportunity. If I meet a stranger I’ll still go for a hug over a handshake (being fully aware of the setting and recognising if it’s completely inappropriate to do so). For any number of reasons my primary love language is not words of affirmation, gifts, quality time or acts of service. It’s physical touch. And so, instead of arguing with my soul about why this is so, I simply honour it. For a “physical toucher” like me, family therapist Virginia Satir said it best when she noted
So whilst socially I may be spiritually lazy, I tend to find moments throughout the day to tap into my spirit, sense of self and connection to this incredible world we live in.
Next time you get told that you should meditate, practice mindfulness, or start a gratitude journal, just ask yourself if it’s really what your heart and soul needs right now. You may be doing a number of other spiritual practices which you may not have classified as spiritual, and your soul may be soaring.
As I write this, what I believe I’m saying is that I do what I can to fully engage in life, on a 24/7 basis (as best as I can). The alternative is to be disengaged from life and then engage from time to time through meditation, gratitude, yoga and so on (in search of connection). There is nothing stopping life from being one big yoga session, meditation or gratitude practice.