I have a problem with people who spout about spirituality but do not actually do it. My first taste of this was at school where the head teacher and his wife preached a gospel of kindness but behaved like bullies. You probably all have your own stories.
SNAKE OIL SALESMEN
For forty years now I have been involved in the new spirituality that is emerging in our culture. I love it. We can call it new age, or holistic, or contemporary. Like all spiritualities, it has its beauty and it has its shadow sides. One of its shadows and not a new one is the promise of a quick fix. John Diamond, the journalist who died of cancer, once likened new age teachers to snake oil salesmen.
Another problem is the way in which people get fascinated by the promises, the glamours, the reassurances and the entertainment. And then don’t do the actual spiritual work. If you think Im too opinionated, remember that I have tasted more spiritual paths than some people have had hot breakfasts. (Is that a boast or a confession? Should you pity or envy me?) For ten years I co-directed the Alternatives Programme at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, and experienced the cream of the worlds spiritual teachers. I have personally put on 600 or so lectures plus several conferences.
You name it. I have heard it. There were many inspiring jewels and also some weird ones. I especially remember a Feng Shui teacher who advised audience members to put small pieces of aluminum foil on their shoulders to bring them power and success. My favourite bizarre folk were the Course in Miracles teachers from the southern states of the USA who threatened us with hell if we did not surrender to Gods all embracing forgiveness. That was an interesting mixed message.
THREE CRUCIAL QUESTIONS
One of the beauties of contemporary spirituality is its diversity. We are the first generation ever that is able to look at all the worlds spiritual traditions. This gives us a unique opportunity to see the core practices that they share. Despite all their differences for example, from meditation to ecstatic dance there are great similarities. It is like sport. No matter which particular sport you practice golf, swimming, tennis you still need to practice certain core skills such as fitness, muscle tone and stamina. Spirituality also has its core skills. Let me ask you three simple questions that illustrate this. The answers to these questions will show whether you have the basis of Spiritual Practice.
(But why, you may ask, would you want to do spiritual practice? Because, like piano or yoga or football, you want to get better at it! To become more awake and conscious. To be more connected. To soak in the beauty and wonder.)
Anyway have a look at these three questions and answer Yes or No:
1. Spiritual Connection: Do you connect with the pure wonder of existence?
2. Reflection: Do you reflect on your development and consciousness and seek to guide them?
3. Service: Do you try to live a life is of benefit to others?
If you answer Yes to those three questions then, according to most traditions, you already understand and observe the three core skills of Spiritual Practice. Do them regularly and with consciousness and you actually have an ongoing and grounded rhythm.
So the next important question to ask yourself is this: At least once a day, do you do them? Do you connect with the wonder of life and soak in spirit? Do you pause and reflect? Do you benefit others?
You can do all this in whatever way works best for you. There are so many different strategies and styles contemplative, shamanic, traditional, dance, chant, landscape, healing, psychological and so on. All you need is to take responsibility for yourself and guide yourself into a rhythm of daily practice, so that ultimately it all becomes one ongoing flow of awareness and experience. This requires a great mix of spiritual maturity and continual innocence at the newness of each moment.
Whether you develop your Spiritual Practice in one of my courses or elsewhere, let me share with you what I believe a consistent practice will give you. If you regularly soak in your experience of spirit, and consistently guide the growth of your consciousness and of your usefulness, then you will receive what most people really want:
- A sense of personal integrity, not dependent on material success or the opinion of others
- Inner strength
- Love and compassion
- Deepening connection with the pure wonder of existence
- Long-term vision
- A stable foundation for personal and career development
- A clear sense of morality and ethics
- Improved health
- Friends and family will enjoy your company more
- Quiet leadership qualities
- Character improvement
- The necessary foundation for exploring energy work, the inner worlds and altered states of consciousness
- Keeps you alert and intelligent
- A sense of being in the driving seat of your life
- Genuine enjoyment of life whilst being solidly present to the challenges and suffering
- Consistent spiritual growth
Although it can be challenging to maintain a daily practice, look at those benefits! They are the best. Nothing else compares