If you look up the word “spirit” in the dictionary, you will find that it comes from the Latin, spirare, meaning “to breathe.” The inbreath is inspiration; the outbreath expiration. From these come all the associations of spirit with the breath of life, vital energy, consciousness, the soul, often framed as divine gifts bestowed upon us, and therefore as aspect of the holy, the numinous, the ineffable. In the deepest sense, the breath itself is the ultimate gift of spirit. But, as we have seen, the depth and range of its virtues can remain unknown to us as long as our attention is absorbed elsewhere. The work of mindfulness is waking up to vitality in every moment that we have. In wakefulness, everything inspires. Nothing is excluded from the domain of spirit.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go There You Are
How do you define spirituality? Here are some definitions that I found:
- that which relates to or affects the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things
- an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being
- whatever makes you feel peaceful, joyful and content
I believe that spirituality is our quest for connection with something larger than ourselves. I like that third definition too.
As children, we start out believing that we are the center of the universe. Our parents have generally reinforced that belief with their love for us.
As we get older and become more independent, we realize the importance of others and our environment in the interconnectedness of things.
As more time passes we start to wonder about why we’re here and how everything works together – the BIG questions. This usually leads to some form of quiet contemplation in the form of meditation or prayer.
Initially we seek answers from people and other sources outside of ourselves. We look for validation and succinct answers that we later find don’t exist.
Some seek answers from religion. Others from more secular sources.
Ultimately, we find that the answers are within us.
we are spiritual beings
When I get caught up in my to-do list and stress about getting “enough” done, I have to remind myself that I’m a human “being” and not a human “doing.” Society tells us that we are nothing but a list of accomplishments; that the act of being is a waste of time.
I have found being to be the most powerful thing I can do.
When I get caught up in doing, I tend to shut out the important things in life that bring me real joy. Things like:
- looking into my children’s eyes to see their beauty and purity
- watching an amazing sunrise and sunset
- feeling my body unwind during a great yoga practice
- listening to the wind in the trees and the birds chirping
- breathing in the cold crispness of a winter day
- watching a fire burn in the wood stove and feeling its warmth
- tasting each sip of a perfect cup of tea.
Stopping to notice these things and being mindful of their presence and how they affect us is spirituality.
Realizing that we are part of something grand that includes all of this magnificence is spirituality.
be mindful of your spirit
Have you had times of serendipity were things just seem to fall into place perfectly? You may ask yourself how this happens.
It’s all part of the flow of energy in which we exist. Our energy affects the energy of everything around us. Some call this the Law of Attraction.
Your thoughts and feelings are creating an energy. What kind of energy are you sending out right now?
We attract more of what we focus on. It’s like sending out a tractor beam, whether we realize it or not.
My husband is a master of this. When I hear him say that he wants something in his life to be a certain way, I know with certainty that it will manifest in a relatively short period of time. For example, he’ll say that he’s overworked and needs a few days off but his schedule is packed. Then, out of the blue, his truck won’t start (he relies on his truck in his business). It has to be towed to the shop for repairs that will take a few days and the shop “coincidentally” doesn’t have any loaners for him. And the repairs all happen to be covered under warranty.
Or he says that he wants better quality clients. As soon as he stops complaining about the clients that he doesn’t want (and giving energy to them), the kind of clients that he does want appear out of nowhere. It happens every time.
My powers of manifestation seem to be more muddied so I try to learn from him. From what I can gather from discussions with him and the wealth of information out there on the topic, I need to learn how to feel things more deeply to be a part of the energy that flows around and through me.
I’ve always been more of a thinker vs. a feeler. Growing up, showing or expressing my feelings wasn’t “safe” for me so I learned how to shut them off. At times this came across as cold or heartless while I saw it as being objective.
Over time I’ve learned how damaging this is to my happiness.
Taking time to meditate and realize that I even have feelings was a huge first step for me. To many people this may sound ridiculous. For others out there, you know what I mean.
I never found a safe place to allow this to happen until I met my husband. For him, feeling his feelings is so essential.
Over time I have learned that it’s OK to not only have feelings but also to feel them and express them. It’s been a scary process for me but the results have been magical.
Taking the time to be with myself in meditation has allowed me to see how much of my life I was living to make other people happy. Once I realized that what I was doing with my life wasn’t making me happy, I had to go deeper to find what did make me happy.
There are tons of resources out there to help you find your passions. From my experiences, these are great places to start but, unless you get out there and experiment and experience all those things you write down, you’re no farther ahead than when you pulled out the piece of paper to write down your ideas.
One of the biggest lessons that I have learned is that we are all here to help others in our own unique way. It’s our mission to figure out what our unique gifts are and how to best express them to the world.
The world is waiting for you.
The world needs you.
feel the connection
Stop reading right now and look up. What do you see? Really look and notice.
If you see other people, look at each person individually. Think about how they might be feeling right now. What is their average day like? What is their life like? How could you help them be a little happier right now? Do it.
If you see nature, focus on specifics. What is the temperature like? Is it sunny or cloudy and how does that make you feel? What do you hear? Notice the trees and plants. How old do you think they are? What have they seen? How can you make your surroundings a little nicer? Do it.
If you see animals, wonder about how they experience the world. How can you make them happier? Do it.
By interacting with your surroundings instead of making them separate from you, you can better understand how interconnected everything is. Feeling this brings joy.
take a moment to be
Close your eyes and take three deep breaths.
Slowly perform a body scan from your head, down your neck, arms, fingers, back, hips, legs and feet.
What kind of sensations do you feel?
If you notice an area that’s sore or tense, don’t try to relieve it. Think of that area as something separate from you. Another being that has inhabited a part of your body.
Ask it why it’s there and wait for an answer.
Be curious about the painful sensations you may be feeling. Exactly where are they in the specific muscles and joints?
When you focus on these areas in a curious and non-judgmental way, they frequently disappear.
Other times the dialogue you create with the painful area helps you to understand how you’ve buried your feelings about something or someone in your body. The process reminds you that the issue needs to be dealt with in order to relieve the pain.
I’ve used this process many times and I know it works. It’s extremely rare that I have any aches and pains that aren’t psychological.
the paths to happiness
These are two exercises: one focused on our external environment and one focused on our internal environment, where we can open ourselves up by simply being. By getting out of our minds and into our hearts, we slow down and notice the things we normally block out.
It’s in this noticing, this mindfulness, that we open the door to allow more happiness into our lives.
The article above is the fifth in a series of six covering mindful body, relationships, career, finances, spirit and mind. I’m developing these into a series of online courses. I want these courses to be incredibly valuable to you so I need your help. Are there topics that you would like the courses to cover that I haven’t covered here? Are there concepts that you would like to see covered in more depth? I’m open to your ideas.
Help me to help you by posting your comments below or emailing me at Paige at PaigeBurkes dot com. I genuinely value and appreciate your feedback. I’m here for you. Thank you.
Learn how I manage three little kids, a husband, job, writing and taking care of myself - all with mindfulness. Check out my latest guest appearance: a podcast interview at Manifested Happiness: How To Be Mindful When You're Too Busy
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The Mindful Body program includes many ideas that you can use every day to avoid gaining extra weight while keeping your energy and spirits high. It’s also a great gift to share with the special people in your life.