In my last post, I noted the slope of experience of mind, body, and spirit. In reflection today, I noted there are three simple practices that feel the most beneficial for me – one in each area, coming out of my current conversation with the world.
Spiritual perception fundamentally and inevitably alters your interaction with the world. If you prepare your garden well, your flowers will beautifully bloom. Practices are the seeds, and happiness is one of those flowers.
Body Practice: Drink Green Tea
My grandfather always used to say that your body will tell you what’s good for it, but that you have to learn to listen. I believe that too, although I’m not nearly a master of the body. From the standpoint of that belief, though, the clearest message my body ever broadcasts is a deep satiation I get from copious amounts of green tea.
I don’t know why, and it would be beside the point for me to look up all the various medical positivities about green tea. Perhaps it’s the antioxidants. It’s certainly not the caffeine, given that I drink more coffee than everyone else in my office combined (it’s a common programmer sin). Coffee makes me incredibly tired toward the end of the day while a second round of coffee would disturb my sleep, but green tea resuscitates and soothes me after I pass the midday mark. Green tea also calms me and makes me more beneficent.
Green tea extractions and caffeine together are part of a simple mild nootropic stack. I feel that too. An expansion and uplifting of the intellect, an ease in transitioning from one mindset to another.
If nothing else, it’s also delicious. It’s always nice to treat yourself.
Mind Practice: Read in the Spiritual Traditions of India
I enjoy all kinds of books. I’m a big fan of some horror – an interest that faded away when I began delving into spirituality and then returned with a vengeance. I suppose I can’t simply discard H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King, they’ve lived in my mind for too long. I’m also a big fan of some other types of fiction, self-improvement books, and of course spiritual books.
Modern spiritual books are a sort of a hodge-podge of New Age thought combined with religious sentimentality, when they fail. In some cases, it’s hard to not see the screaming aspirations for popularity even when there’s some wisdom. Sincere spiritual books often have no specific religious ties, but when they do there’s no more truth in one religion versus another.
Any profundity of faith in any deep religion is a finger pointed at the same light. I’m not a religious advocate in the denominational sense, but I certainly encourage people to explore mysticism.
So, all that said… there’s deep wisdom in the Indian tradition. Simply reading about Brahman is liberating. To read about Shakti is to know her signs, to gain eyes to see her workings. Reading in the framework of Hinduism is transformative comprehension for any who enjoy spirituality and reading. That blossoming of comprehension can be found in our own literary tradition:
Officially Hinduism entered America in 1893 when Swami Vivekananda’s first words of address, “sisters and brothers of America”, won thunderous applause at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago…. This had its genesis in the ancient Hindu scriptures – the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita – and went on to blossom in the minds of some of the greatest American writers of the 19th century – Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau and many others.
Deepak Chopra’s works are a great introduction to some of the concepts – that’s how I first came across them myself. In particular, his audio The Secret of Healing: Meditations for Transformation and Higher Consciousness is a gorgeous and life-altering guided meditation. But that’s not the best recommendation by a long shot.
You would give yourself a massive gift to read Autobiography of a Yogi if you haven’t. The depth of that book is such that you can read 10 pages and digest the material for a day, if you choose to reflect deeply enough on it. It is not a book to be read merely once.
What we read is the diet of the mind, affecting us as much or more as the food we eat. The discrimination of intake is an important spiritual principle, my reference to and fondness of H.P. Lovecraft aside. Reading in the spiritual traditions of India is simply some of the best mental food you can eat.
Spirit Practice: Mindful Meditation in Silence
I advocate and frequently use guided meditations and mantra meditations. I am a definite fan of affirmations, and find that prayer is sometimes the only solace and bulwark against deep fear. Communication, expression… activity.
But it takes me very little time – 20 or 30 minutes on a good day, at this point – to experience a spontaneous and uplifting lightness when I meditate with no more sound than a fan and my focus on all experience. Almost a light-headed feeling upstairs, but my clothes sag off me as my posture spontaneously straightens. That lightness is the precursor to the great stillness.
After the lightness, there’s no more dips near sleep or derailments into trains of thought. That familiar movement of meditation – that recovery of awareness and mental release of whatever caught focus – no longer requires effort. It simply is – my mind becomes that movement, is a way of describing it.
After the lightness comes the stillness. Thoughts cease to be more than passing phenomenon, and as they become less frequent and far between they become narration. “How curious that I should relive that moment of recent experience, I thought it was meaningless.” “That sensation was a surge of healing in my foot.” Breath becomes an unfocused thing… a great deep surging wave that washed out attachments before becomes a gentle lapping lake surge that counterpoints my slowing heartbeat.
Guided meditations can accelerate your spiritual perception and intellectual development.
Mantra meditations can keep you skimming above the waves of mundane perception until the world and self fade away… they can help you move directly to the fundamental illusion and deeper truth.
But mindful meditation in silence quickly tames the world and self. It releases you into the next awareness beyond stillness. Perhaps the other two do as well, but never do I so rapidly feel the very liquid quality of things except when I meditate in silent mindfulness. It’s effective and blissful for me, and that is surely the biggest recommendation anyone can give for any approach.
“The darkness of maya is silently approaching. Let us hie homeward within.” With these cautionary words Master constantly reminded his disciples of their need for Kriya Yoga. A new student occasionally expressed doubts regarding his own worthiness to engage in yoga practice.
“Forget the past,” Sri Yukteswar would console him. “The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. Human conduct is ever unreliable until man is anchored in the Divine. Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now.”
Autobiography of a Yogi, p.138
Blessings and may you succeed in the cultivation of happiness,
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