It seems like everything nowadays is plastic and disposable.
We have forgotten the value of things. We have more, but enjoy less. We have gadgets that put the whole world into the palm of our hand, and what do we do with it? We share pictures of our dinner. And we work around the clock to pay for those gadgets, too—so dinner better be quick.
Underneath all of the hurry, the stress and frustration, there is a longing for something deeper. Consciously or unconsciously, we all want to touch the sacred, and experience something timeless and eternal. We want to bring beauty and meaning back into our lives.
Here are 10 ways you can do just that:
1. Meditation. This is #1 on the list for a reason. Every mystical tradition includes the practice of meditation in some form. It is in fact the foundation of all spiritual practice, and everything that follows on this list is just a more specialized form of it.
Take time every day to just stop. Stop working. Stop planning. Stop doing. Whether sitting or standing, just be still. Be here now. Take a deep breath. Release all stress and tension. Relax and breathe. Be present to your body. Get into the flow. Open up. Open your mind and your senses. Look and listen and feel. Observe the activity of the mind without clinging to your thoughts. Expand. Fill the space around you with your presence. Embrace every sight and sound and sensation without labels and judgments.
2. Fasting. Fasting is one of the most ancient methods of spiritual practice. To go without something as essential as food brings us face to face with our will in a whole new way. To fast for a few days cleanses the body of toxins, sharpens the senses and brings about a clarity and lucidity of the mind that is extremely conducive to spiritual insight.
Note: Fasting should always be practiced responsibly. Be mindful of any medical conditions, stay hydrated, and do not ever put your health or your safety at risk.
3. Exercise. Whether it’s yoga, martial arts, running, weight lifting, climbing, swimming or something I haven’t even heard of, exercise is good. It honors the temple of the body. It is an essential part of being fit, healthy and flexible, and just feeling great. So get moving. Get your heart pumping. Feel the pulse, the flow of life and energy—become one with it.
4. Work. Bring your conscious presence into your daily tasks. Do the dishes and the laundry like you do your yoga practice—with utter absorption and attention to detail. Make your job into your seva. Whether you are a janitor or a yoga teacher or an investment banker, do what you do as a sacred service to God and to the world.
Or you can volunteer. There are churches, charities, animal shelters and other organizations in your community that would really be blessed by your time, your effort, your caring heart. Or just take a walk through a different part of town each day, with a trash bag tied to your belt loop, and clean up after those who don’t yet know better than to litter.
5. Play. Make time for fun, for laughter, for silliness. Lose yourself in a great book, or a movie. Get your friends and family together for board games, card games, chess or charades. Take up bowling, billiards, basketball, tennis, soccer or some other sport. Try your hand at role-playing.
The point is to lay down your burdens, forget all your dramas and just have fun. Even if it is a competitive game (chess, sports, etc.), the point is not to defeat the opponent but to perform at your personal best for the sheer joy of it. So check your ego at the door and just give yourself to the game.
This is the art of life.
6. Sex. Nothing is more beautiful, holy and transcendent than heart-connected, passionate sex with someone you truly desire, love and care for. So take the one you love and hold them in your arms; share a deep and tender kiss. Make out like teenagers. Grope each other, squeeze each other, disrobe each other. Work your way up and down each other’s bodies; kiss and lick, suck and nibble. Take your time, feel the heat and passion as it builds… Surrender to it.
Let that passion pull you into each other. Thrust, grind, gasp, groan, shout and cry out at the top of your lungs. Gaze into your lover’s eyes and melt into each other. Cum and cum again—and know that this is sacred.
7. Create. You are an artist, whether you know it or not. There is something innate in the human soul that longs to create, to express—to explore our own unique artistic vision. So pick a medium: painting, writing, photography, sculpture, architecture, landscaping, film, theater, anything! What do you find beautiful? What suggests itself to your heart? What artistic language do you find easy to interpret and understand?
Grab your raw materials and create from your soul. Make it raw, make it honest and personal. Spew your guts upon the canvas of the world.
8. Music. (I know this could be lumped in with #7, but fuck that—music deserves its own spot.) To be “in the groove” demands your total presence. You have to be completely in the moment, surrendered to the music, heart open wide—no room for thought or judgment. So pick up your favorite instrument, hold it tenderly (like a lover) and play it sensually, passionately, and with abandon. Lose yourself in the music. Become an instrument in the hands of God.
Or dance! Feel the rhythm, the beat, the pulse—it’s primal, it’s sacred. Connect to the music and let it move you, become one with it. Turn on a favorite song, turn it up loud, let go and let it all hang out—shake what your mama gave ya!
9. Go outside. Nothing refreshes the soul and brings us face to face with the sublime quite like Mother Nature. Go for a walk, go slowly and mindfully—and leave your cell phone and your iPod at home. Or sit outside on your porch for an hour or two, observe the flora and fauna around you. Breathe deep; take it all in. Or plant a garden; get your hands in the dirt and get up close and personal with the creepy crawlies.
Once in a while, get out of town and away from city life for several days. Go camping, or rent a cabin up in the mountains. Unplug from technology and artificial clock time, and re-connect with Nature’s rhythms.
And speaking of Nature… here’s #10.
10. Entheogens. Cannabis, peyote, ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, and other more obscure plants, have been used—in a carefully controlled, ritualistic manner—as “medicine” for thousands of years. They are one of the most tried and true ways to part the veil of delusion and access the realm of Spirit for revelation, guidance, deep healing and transformation.
I know I’m losing some of you “purists” with this one, but so be it. It’s no accident that naturally occurring plants have such incredible psychoactive qualities. I don’t think Nature makes mistakes. Millions of people can testify to the life changing power of these medicinal substances when used rightly. I’ll say it again, because it bears repeating: when used rightly (ideally in combination with one or more of the methods listed above).
“Right use” involves carefully selecting one’s companions and carefully laying out one’s set and setting—your intention has a tremendous influence on the experience. I also recommend you have a very thorough understanding of the laws concerning these substances in your area (most of them are outlawed). Luckily for all humanity, I think we are seeing a shift towards more tolerance of and appreciation for these sacred plant teachers.
Every human being has the potential to transcend the limited, mortal self and taste the infinite; and every human being follows their own path to arrive at that experience. Some may experience oneness while sitting alone beside a gentle, murmuring stream—others at a festival, with Bassnectar on stage and thousands of other people dancing, sweating and writhing all around.
For you it may be yoga, or caring for someone in need. It might be being in your lover’s arms or being on stage before a riveted audience. It may be none of these things. But find what takes you beyond yourself, what makes you feel most alive. Find what makes you feel like this is it—this is what it’s all about.
Find that. Do that. Give your life to that.
And if it’s not on this list, let me know about it. I might want to try it.
Like elephant Spirituality on Facebook.
Ed: Catherine Monkman