The Guru Next Door: Practicing Everyday Spirituality
These last couple of decades have seen a surge in talk about becoming more spiritual and raising one’s energy levels. From the law of attraction to the power of now, we’re often inundated with pithy statements on how to live our ideal life. But beyond saying ohm until our throats go dry and doing our best to stay grounded in the here and now, how does one really practice all these platitudes in this thing called life?
I thought of this on a recent outing with a family member I love dearly and miss terribly when too many months go by between our visits. But as much as I adore her, she has a certain energy that muddies my own. Meaning: She has the power and tendency to bring my soaring spirits crashing to the soggy, mucky ground with her own. Having a perfect day? She’ll spend most of it searching for the dark cloud on the horizon and will go out of her way to make sure you see it too. The best meal of your life? Far too salty for her. Terrific news to share? She’ll find a way to quietly but meaningfully cut you down. If there’s a fault or a flaw, she’s bound to discover it—and she can’t wait for the rest of the world to know too.
As we went about our weekend together, I was struck by her constant sighing, complaining, and need to control every little thing around her. The umbrella dripping in the car? We had to stop at once to dry it the best we could before resuming our drive. (Note that the car was mine.) The waiter accidentally left a receipt on our table? It had to be removed before we could even think about ordering drinks. The coffee was too hot, the ice cubes too cold, the wait too long, and, yes, the dinner I made far too salty for her taste.
The more time we spent together, the lower I felt—and the more I thought about how she might benefit from putting all those bite-sized lessons in spirituality to good use. What if she were to approach life from a positive place, with a purer inner energy? Wouldn’t she have saved herself a headache, a handful of sighs, and, perhaps, even enjoyed life for once? With that in mind, if you’re ever feeling victimized, weighed down by negative thoughts, or just plain glum, consider this:
- Surrender That Which is Out of Your Control.
Whether your entrée is late or your significant other is taking his sweet time to respond to your text, give an oft-repeated axiom in yoga a whirl: Get back to the breath. The universe loves you, yes, but a chef can’t hear your hunger pains, especially when he has seven orders before yours, and it’s likely that your other half is in the middle of something of his own(the shock!) Accept that there’s only so much you can control, so why not appreciate what you can? Which brings me to my next point:
- Treat Each Moment As If It’s a Gift.
For most of us, the only thing we can control is how we spend our time. We all have to work, sleep, eat, unload the dishwasher, go to the DMV—all of that is well-known and, frankly, a bit irrelevant. It’s the frame of mind with which we approach each task and event and moment that matters. Let go of how long it’s taking for your food to arrive and focus on what’s right in front of you: That tasty glass of wine, the sounds and smells wafting through the restaurant, and, most importantly, the person sitting across from you. Converse. Smile. Engage. Repeat. It’s that connection that should stay with you, not the momentary frustration you feel for the delay.
- Banish Negative Words From Your Vocabulary.
Your mother always said you are what you eat, and the same holds true for what you say. “What we utter crystallizes into the material” is a better-known spiritual principle that has way more sway than you might think. Should we choose to voice only the negative, no doubt it’ll manifest again and again, obliterating all the potential joy from our surroundings. By simply rephrasing your grievances to avoid pessimistic words (not “I suck at my job,” but, rather, “I have a great deal still to learn”), you create a space where optimism and gratitude can shine through.
- Remember That Our Spirits Precede Us.
Sound a little gimmicky? Think again. In our purest, most blissed-out states, we rarely think about what we look like, how much money might be in our bank account, what kind of car we may drive, whether or not we’re carrying a few extra pounds. In those moments, we transcend earthly, ephemeral moments—that place where traffic exasperates us, inconveniences upset us, and people disappoint us—as our soul trumps all. Try to call forth your real spirit in every situation, good or bad, and inspire others to do the same—as it is in that state that we realize that we really, really shouldn’t sweat the small stuff at all.
- Also Remember that What People Think is None of Your Business.
Fear of being judged is at the root of a great deal of unhappiness. My dear family member hemmed and hawed over what people might think had she dared complain to anyone besides me about her lackluster food. Some may judge us, yes—tacitly or overtly—but it’s not our job to influence their thoughts one way or the other. When we live according to someone else’s agenda or expectations, we stray too far away from our own path—which provokes everything from low self-esteem to suffocating discontent. Act with goodness in your heart, treat others with compassion and deference, and your behavior will be met with the kindness judgment of all: Empathy.
- Keep a Close Watch on Your Thoughts.
The mind certainly is a terrible thing to waste—especially when it’s wasted on self-degrading, unsympathetic, or deleterious thoughts. What you allow to circle through your mind has a direct impact on the spiritual energy you emanate. Ever walk into a room and feel your positive mood vanish in a flash? No doubt there was someone stewing in their misery and flooding the field with negative energy. On the flipside, have you ever walked into a space and immediately felt buoyant? The souls in such a room likely had their own litany of complaints and private miseries but chose instead to let those damaging thoughts float by, concentrating instead on the beauty and richness of being alive. They are the ones who know their entrée will arrive when it arrives, their partner will call when he calls, people will think what they think—and the umbrella will always dry. We just have to let in the light.