This time, as promised, I'd like to talk about how you can begin an authentic spiritual life or get the one you have back on track.
Now you may be thinking, "How can I start a spiritual life if I'm not really sure what I believe in yet?" The answer is simple: if you feel the need to begin or expand your spiritual life, that means you most likely believe already that there is an Absolute Reality behind this visible universe, that life does have meaning, and that you can bring your own life more into alignment with this Absolute Reality than it is right now.
I've studied spiritual life for decades and met some extraordinary people worldwide while doing so. And over time I've become less and less interested in the specifics of each person's theological beliefs (as important as those may be) than in what they actually DO in their spiritual lives. In fact, it's scarcely an exaggeration to say most people I know who would claim to have a spiritual life don't really do much of anything on a daily basis by way of practicing it.
On the other hand, some of the people with the "busiest" spiritual lives, who "do" lots on a daily basis are primarily engaged in ritual actions that make them "feel" spiritual without actually transforming their consciousness. In other words, they too have a "spirituality" largely confined to beliefs, to the intellectual level, that doesn't affect how they use their mind-body organism at all.
Unfortunately, according to every Authentic Ancient Tradition worldwide, that kind of spiritual life is pure self-deception. Real spiritual life depends not only on what you do, but on doing the one thing that will transform your life...
The 5 Laws of Spiritual Life:
Here are five things to put on your spiritual "to-do" list. If you do each one consistently, patiently and joyfully, I'll guarantee you'll reap the fruits of your spiritual practice in your own life before long. Remember, of course, that in spiritual life, the journey itself is to be enjoyed - not because it's easy (it's not), but because of how it changes you.
Spiritual life is about repeating the same basic practices over and over until they transform your inner world into paradise. While you do this you will be tested beyond your current limitations. You'll find it boring... or painful... or useless... and you have to learn to disregard all that and continue. That's the plain truth.
2. Discover the Miracle of Stillness:
Inner stillness is the foundation of every Authentic Ancient Tradition without exception, including the original Christian tradition, where it's called "hesychia", meaning "stillness" or "silence". This silence is interior and doesn't refer to whether you talk or not. You discover inner silence by sitting in quiet meditation and using some psycho-somatic method to calm your mind and observe your inner world without getting caught up in the emotional drama. To get started, simply pray to be open to the truth and to be preserved from harm. Then go into your stillness practice with that intention. The most common, safest and powerful method is simply to use your mental attention to observe your breath. Random thoughts will come, of course, and you can't stop them. Don't try. Just bring your attention back to the process if your mind wanders.
3. Find Inspiration:
It's vital that you stay inspired in your spiritual life, and that's partly why a community of like-minded practitioners has always been considered so important. Whether or not you can find such a community right away, you do need to find books, articles, videos, etc. to keep you spiritually inspired. You need to build yourself a steady diet of this inspiration because, if you don't, the pressures of daily life will almost certainly derail your spiritual intentions.
4. Pursue Harmony:
In everything you do, pursue harmony. This means first and foremost pursuing harmony within yourself, harmony of thought and emotion, harmony between your mind and body. And then it means harmony with the created world, with your environment, with your spouse, your children your friends and colleagues.
5. Beware of the Dark Side:
The dark side of spirituality is very real and it's all around you. You'll find some people telling you that you need to join their group to be saved from hell, or that you need to persecute groups they don't like because God said so, or that you have to fit into their preconceived ideas of behavior and social morality. Stay away from these people and from what they teach. You'll find other well-meaning people telling you that we're here to suffer for our sins and the more wretched and miserable we feel, the better our spiritual lives. That's a tiny bit of truth mixed in with some huge twists, so be careful. If you're not sure about where the line between truth and delusion is, be sure to solicit the opinions of people of integrity you trust. That doesn't mean you take their opinions as gospel, just that you ask for help in discerning what's for real and what's not.
Implement these five steps and you'll be well on your way to a genuine spiritual life.
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger