The word “spirituality” means different things for different people. For some, spirituality is associated with religion and is tied to concrete rites and rituals. For others, meaningful activities like swimming, making art, and walking through the woods brings on a spiritual experience. For the most part, though, the word spirituality has become as ambiguous and vague as the word “the,” and is often stigmatized by associations to “hippy-dippy” new-age philosophies, patchouli, dreadlocks, and yoga pants.
Spirituality seems to have become confused with religion, as it is common to now associate as “spiritual” or “not spiritual”. However, at its core, spirituality is a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and is not an ideology to believe or not believe in. Spirituality is, in fact, what gives life a sense of meaning and purpose.
Practicing spirituality has scientifically-validated benefits, making it important for each and every person, not just yogis in the Himalayas. If you find yourself skeptical about the necessity of spirituality, check out these 10 reasons why spirituality matters for the average Jo(sephine):
1. Be Present
The spiritual life is based in the present moment, as the present moment is the only real moment; the past and future are concepts in the mind. When living with our minds in the present moment, we function with greater focus, clarity, and spontaneity. We also feel greater levels of joy, as happiness is only accessible in the here and now.
2. Get Smart
Studies show that many spiritual practices, especially meditation, result in increased grey matter area in the brain. Among its many benefits, regular meditation leads to increased cognition, improved focus, attention, and ability to perform under stress, and higher levels of emotional intelligence, all of which contribute to enhanced work performance.
3. Be Healthy
Most spiritual paths and religious traditions recommend abstaining from behaviors and substances that are detrimental to health, such as drinking, smoking, using drugs, committing crimes, and harming others. Many paths, such as Ayurveda and Buddhism, even make dietary recommendations, which can lead to a lower body weight and lessened risk for chronic health problems.
4. Let Go of Grudges
A basic tenet of most spiritual paths and traditions is forgiveness. When we forgive ourselves and others, we are able to let go of blame, negative feelings, and anything else holding us back from moving forward in our lives. In fact, studies now show the positive health benefits of forgiveness, which include lowered risk of heart attack, lowered blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, and reduced levels of pain, depression, anxiety, and stress.
5. Bounce Back Faster
Studies show that people who feel a sense of spirituality have greater resilience to hardships. Those with a spiritual outlook have an easier time moving through challenges by finding meaning in difficult situations. High resiliency is also a trait associated with the most successful people in the world.
6. Make Better Decisions
Decision-making is an area that many people struggle with. By simply identifying a set of values that we feel aligned with, we can make decisions that help us feel connected to the greater whole and with a sense of purpose. Spiritual paths also tend to support the development of faith and trust, which helps with stress-reduction in times of uncertain decision-making.
7. Enjoy Amazing Relationships
Research in social science demonstrates that humans are neuroscientifically hardwired for connection, and that connection is what brings meaning to life. Interconnectedness, which is at the core of spirituality, helps us to recognize the shared human experience and feel compassion for others. And when we feel compassion, we enjoy the company of others more and find it easier to find common ground.
8. Release Stress and Anxiety
When we feel a sense of connection to a higher power, we experience mental and emotional freedom. Personal spiritual practices, such as yoga, meditation, running, gardening, and other meaningful activities, are all correlated with lower levels of stress and tension.
9. Enhance Creativity
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “True art takes note not merely of form but also of what lies behind.” Many of the great artists in history attribute their creations to a higher power. When we are relaxed and in the present moment we can more easily experience the state of flow, which leads to more spontaneous ideas and greater levels of creativity.
10. Be Happily Alone
In our modern day culture, it is all too easy to never be alone. If you walk into any restaurant or cafe and look for the people sitting by themselves, chances are they will be absentmindedly eating their food while scrolling through Instagram and sending Snapchats to people in other locations. People in this day and age find it difficult and even painful to be alone, both metaphorically and physically. However, when armed with spirituality, being alone is a gift, offering an opportunity to look inward and know oneself. Because, as almost all spiritual traditions teach, our Self is all we truly have. Spirituality teaches us how to ENJOY being alone, so that we can truly enjoy being with others.
Full article originally posted on ArtofLiving.com
By Amanda Turner
In a world filled with distractions, trying to find a way to have a zen session without something popping up to break us away from self-care in inevitable. Taking time to have a zen session each day allows you to clear your mind of the clutter and distractions that happen each day, so finding a way to squeeze it in and not be distracted is essential. To discover ways to dedicate time to meditation, take a look at these tips to avoid distractions.
It is essential to dedicate time each day for meditation and self-care, so treat it as such. Whether you make a point to have your zen session every morning or every night when there are fewer distractions, or you plug it into your calendar to make sure you don’t overbook yourself, make sure that self-care is considered a priority for you.
Use “Do Not Disturb”
Whether you use your phone for guided meditation or an app that walks you through a yoga sequence - it is hard to not peek your eye open when you hear that “ding” letting you know that you just received a text or an email. Even the most disciplined individuals will find it hard not to take note of your phone making a sound during meditation. Most modern phones have a “Do Not Disturb” option to keep those notifications from happening during your moments of zen.
Create a Routine
Did you know that when you create a routine, your mind and body will automatically start to get used to tuning into certain tasks at certain periods of time? Whether you want to create a routine for creativity, physical fitness, or for meditation, your body will begin to look forward to these tasks at certain periods of time each day. Create a routine for your mind and body so that it will tune into “zen mode” for whatever time you decide to dedicate a zen session during the day.
Get Rid of Excess Noise
During your zen session, make sure that there is as little excess noise as possible. If possible, call a repairman to fix any noisy or faulty appliances so that they don’t distract you throughout the practice. On the same note, you may experience your family and friends that are staying with you feeling the liberty to interrupt your session without understanding its importance. If you have family that is prone to opening the door during your zen session, consider putting a note outside the door to let them know this is “you time” to avoid having to pause your time for meditation.
Now is Not the Time for Multitasking
Your zen session is a time to clear your mind and focus on being in the present. This helps mitigate stress, anxiety, and even depression. Now is not the time to try and do yoga while also playing with your child or dog. When you prioritize your zen session, make sure that you are not multitasking to also squeeze in other tasks at the same time.
Contributed by The Tuck Sleep Foundation
Meditation has been an integral part of Eastern culture for hundreds of years. It may have been a fad when it first hit the scene in the Western world but, today, science has begun to discover the many benefits of how meditation on the mind and body.
The Relaxation Response
When the body relaxes there are biological responses that take place such as a decrease in oxygen consumption, an increase in exhaled nitric oxide, and reduced psychological distress. Together these create the ‘relaxation response’ that gets triggered while meditating. There is even evidence to suggest that regular exposure to the relaxation response can change the cells at a genetic level.
Depression, Anxiety, and Fatigue
The science behind the relaxation response supports the idea that the mind can change the body. Studies have shown that regularly helping the body to have a relaxation response can relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Meditation can also reduce the feelings and signs of daytime fatigue. More studies have found that the effect of meditation works across age groups with older adults and teenagers having similar responses to regular meditation.
Reducing the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and fatigue creates conditions that lend themselves to getting better sleep. Better sleep creates a healthy cycle that can continue to reduce symptoms of mental and physical illness.
The Right Kind of Meditation
Not all meditation techniques promote sleep. Some methods work to bring the mind into focus and stimulate the brain for complex activity. If you’re trying to get ready for bed, you don’t want your brain to be waking up. In general, the less cognitive effort needed the more likely you are to relax.
Four of the most effective methods include progressive muscle relaxation, mindful breathing, counting, and guided meditation. All can be performed while lying in bed so that you can drift off to sleep as your mind an body relax.
This method involves identifying muscle tension followed by systematically tensing and releasing muscle groups. Once you’ve laid down in bed, breathe deeply. Starting at the top of your head and tense one muscle group for five seconds and then release. Inhale before tensing and exhale as you relax. Work your way through each muscle group in your body down to your toes. It may take two or three times through the exercise to release all tension at which point your muscles should feel heavy.
Mindful breathing involves focusing on the inhale and exhale of your breath. As you take slow, deep breaths feel the expansion of your lungs and chest. With every exhale, empty your mind and body of stress as you release your breath. When the mind wanders, bring gently back to the rhythmic in and out of your breathing.
If muscle relaxation and focused breathing don’t work for you, counting meditation might be the right blend of focus and tension release. When you lay down, take a few deep breaths and start slowly counting. Focusing on each number helps you stay present but isn’t hard enough to require mental strain, which will allow you drift off to sleep.
The key to guided meditation is that you don’t have to think about what to do next. You follow someone else’s instructions. Guided meditation may involve mindful breathing or counting, but you simply follow the guidance of the instructor. You can use guided meditation apps and/or audio files.
Whatever meditation method you use, it should help bring your mind to a quiet place of rest for a better night’s sleep.
“Meditation: Because some answers can’t be answered by Google.”
How do we balance a meditation practice and a work schedule? Is it possible to wake up earlier just to sit and breathe before we turn our attention to our work load? Can we take advantage of breaks in the day to set aside a few minutes for sitting in silence? These are questions I constantly asked myself for a long time before taking action. For a while, just the thought of creating some sort of meditation practice was enough for me to be content. I didn’t know how it would manifest and what benefits would truly resonate with my life. Then, one day, I stopped asking and started doing.
Creating space for meditation can be a humbling experience. Like our practice on the mat, it is a mirror of ourselves. When we transition in yoga or hold postures we become aware of our breathing patterns, how we engage and focus. In meditation, we observe how we sit, how we react to external silence and internal chatter. When the voice in our head screams discomfort from sitting in the same posture for an extended period of time, do we silence the voice or listen and walk away? Do we silence the voice that says laundry is more important than giving ourselves space to breathe and release the urgency to attend responsibilities? Do we stay or walk away? Sometimes it’s harder to even discipline ourselves to take the initiative to try and sit for meditation. Wherever you are in this process of developing a meditation practice, don’t give up! The benefits show up in our work life and all other aspects of our being.
How do we find a method of meditation that works best for us? There are so many variations of creating space to “just be”. When we find a method that naturally syncs with our needs and wants, cultivate a regular practice! If you have a regular “asana’ practice, carve out some time before or after “final relaxation” to sit and meditate. Maybe carve out some time after you wake up, before you return from your lunch break or before bed. Try out different variations of meditation. Taking a walk out in nature is a form of “being present in the moment”. Notice your breath with every step, how the wind rustles the leaves. Simply notice all that is around you. My personal favorite form of meditation is holding something in my hand (a rock or mala) that connects me to earth. I then repeat a mantra over and over again that keeps my mind from wandering. Some people focus on colors or images. Research and explore the possibilities.
Meditation does not have to be a linear idea. There are many ways it can be practiced. Keep exploring all the different forms of it and when you find that one or two ways that truly resonates with you, keep practicing! The calmness and clarity that follows is unexplainable. It is simply to be experienced to truly understand. We work hard in our everyday lives for stability and assurance of survival. Imagine what life would be like if we worked that hard for clarity and relaxation. For further ideas on meditation techniques, visit this website below!
Meditate away, om shanti om.