On Spirituality…

Image design: John Kerry-Williams

“You are much closer to spirituality than you think”.

It would take me many years before I would begin to ‘awaken’, spiritually speaking. In a future post, I may touch more upon my personal spiritual journey. I certainly don’t claim to be an enlightened being – far from it. As an active family man I am as susceptible to every one of the faults and failings as the next person. I don’t claim that spiritually is an instant miracle cure for all; but what I will say, as readers of my previous blog ‘The Time is Now’ may already be aware of, is that by adopting some simple techniques such as focusing on our breath, and becoming aware of our inner body, we can begin to still the mind in becoming at one with what the present moment has to offer: inner peace. That’s all that is required to be spiritually aware – no robes, incense, or chants – although you can if you wish; each to their own! With practice, these simple techniques have the power to quieten even the most noisiest of minds: in short, do less, be more.

The fundamental practice of spirituality is to honour the present moment. In honouring Presence, the rich tapestry of life that our mind attempts to view in its entirety, is viewed one thread at a time. Life, as a result becomes less complicated. In fact, as we will see, at many points in your life, it is very likely that you have already had glimpses of the joy that Presence can bring without even realising… You are much closer to spirituality than you think.

“I imagine that to many people, the word spirituality conjures up images of crystal balls, tarot cards, divining rods or shady characters demanding their palms be crossed with silver in musty fairground tents.” 

From experience, I realise that the nature of spirituality is unfamiliar and largely misunderstood by many, particularly in western culture. Spirituality is often regarded as a novelty subject, something of a bygone era and totally out of kilter with the modern so called ‘real-world’ of common sense, practicality, technology and commerce. I concede that at first it can be somewhat overwhelming, and certainly isn’t helped by all the misleading stereotypes. I imagine that to many people, the word spirituality conjures up images of crystal balls, tarot cards, divining rods or shady characters demanding their palms be crossed with silver in musty fairground tents. 

We often see media representations of spiritual practices leaning towards that of the comical and gimmicky nature. We have probably all seen shows where there’s an unlikely protagonist going through a (always fleeting) ‘life-changing spiritual-detox’, burning incense and candles, sitting cross-legged while overzealously ‘omming’, much to the amusement of friends and family – and of course the audience. Naturally, nothing should ever be immune from being the subject of laughter; laughter is of course one of the greatest and most natural heeling mechanisms we have, and certainly has a deep spiritual function. My point is however, that I feel we have lost touch with the core elements of spirituality. And if we are not laughing at it, we are being exposed to the inexcusable, unsavoury rogues and fraudsters in the forms of bogus healers, self-proclaimed prophets and evangelical ‘desperados’. However which way you look at it, spirituality generally tends to get a bad press.

“Maybe to some people, spirituality seems too daunting, innaccessble or too deep – something only practiced and taken seriously by be-robed monks in monasteries?”

In a similar way to how many children scoff at say, classical music while being completely unaware of its subliminal influence: the way that it enhances their favourite films and television programmes; many adults scoff at spirituality – unaware of its influence, how it underpins every aspect of their psyche, and how potentially detrimental to their health and wellbeing such disconnectedness from it is.

Maybe to some people, spirituality seems too daunting, innaccessble or too deep – something only practiced and taken seriously by be-robed monks in monasteries? Maybe it is even seen as an elitist practice? Or maybe to some, it’s just a nice, cosy concept – something to be kept at a safe distance, except for the odd aspirational postcard quote embellishing the fridge door or social media status.

“Presence is to empty not to add.”

Spirituality, or Presence is not something you can ‘learn’ academically. It is not an ‘interesting’ subject matter or an abstract philosophical conundrum to be analysed and picked apart by scholars (although many do). I have heard that you can do PhD in Buddhism for example, but that doesn’t make you a Buddhist. Presence is a deeply personal practice of becoming conscious of the true inner essence of your being, of that which cannot be observed by instruments in a lab. It can only happen to you organically so to speak – by way of realisation as opposed to intellectualisation. And so I am not asking you to believe in, or to adopt any form of ideology, as that would require you to add more concepts to your mind’s already oversubscribed collection. Presence is to empty not to add. You cannot believe in presence. My intention here is to give you an insight, a degree of awareness – or an opening. The rest you must do, or ‘undo‘ to be precise.

Have you ever experienced what is often referred to as a ‘Natural High?’ If so, you may typically have been somewhere in nature – upon a mountain summit, in a spectacular garden or sitting peacefully with a pet or loved one. If you have, then you will already have had a fleeting glimpse of the jewel within Presence. It may only have been for a instant, but what you experienced was a brief moment of inner stillness when your mind was free of thought and completely quiet. The terms ‘lost for words’, ‘speechless’, and ‘it took my breath away’ are all in fact expressions of the spiritual phenomenon of Presence. It is a fleeting moment of ‘no mind’, known in Buddhism as ‘Satori’.

“The joy you experienced was because your thinking mind was absent, allowing you to re-connect with Nature – your true nature“.

Of such instances, your thinking mind will have you believe that it was the external circumstances which enabled you to experience such joy: the stunning view, birdsong, sweet scents and beautiful colours… Notice that the awareness here is of the sense perceptions. As described in my previous blog, such intensification of the senses occurs only when we are totally present. The joy you experienced was because your thinking mind was absent, allowing you to re-connect with Nature – your true nature. When our thinking mind inevitably resumes ‘normal’ service, the joy subsides and we may begin to notice imperfections such as the litter on the floor or the moaning tourist next to us…

What is vital to realise here, is that this level of joy and stillness is ever present within all of us, and can be accessed at any time and in any situation; whether we are waiting in a queue, in our sick bed, or sitting in our favourite rose garden – so long as we can ‘still’ our mind.

Spirituality is non-discriminatory, and non-elitist. It is available to us all, bar none – and it is available right now.

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