Enter the word “spirituality” into the Google search engine and see for yourself how broad the term is and how much ground it covers. It can pertain to how religious you are; the act of praying and relating to God, or having thoughts about anything that is not physical and can not be seen but only felt, or even simply pondering the meaning of life.
If we can agree that Spirituality, regardless of your definition, is something that is important in our daily lives, what are you doing to nurture it? Perhaps you go to church a couple of times a week and read scripture daily. Maybe you meditate twice a day to quiet yourself and tune into nature. What if, for you, going to the park and watching your children play is spiritually fulfilling? These are all wonderful ways to exercise your Spirituality as long as you’re aware that that is exactly what you are doing. Are you?
I’ll use myself as an example. For two and a half years I have practiced Vedic Meditation. It has become so second nature to me that I could equate it to a lifelong habit like the daily brushing of my teeth or putting on clean underwear post shower.
Let’s pretend that Spirituality is a form of currency. If you have enough of this currency, you can pay your bills (i.e. move through daily life with a sense of purpose), have a little fun (like, laugh your head off at the magic of fireworks) and even sock some away for a day when you might need a reserve (say if there’s a significant death in your family, a natural disaster, or a health threat in your community).
Now let’s pretend that my daily meditation practice is the tool that I use to obtain this currency. A total of forty minutes of meditation a day equals forty rupees of Spirituality to be spent or saved as I see fit. But, if I’m using this tool by rote in an absent minded manner, then how in the world am I expected to be mindful enough to know that I have in fact been paid? I may think I have a solid Spirituality Bank Account because of my diligence to my practice but when I try to make a withdrawal I might find that not only is it overdrawn, but that I owe the universe some outlandish overdraft fees!
Here is your #Extraordinary40 February Challenge!
I challenge you to mindfully make at least 10 deposits into your Spirituality Bank Account throughout the month of February. We are going to do this together and I’m going to give you some suggestions, but first, let me tell you about my trip to INDIA!
INDIA! It’s a magical and majestic land that simply vibrates with Spirituality. My fellow meditation retreaters and I stayed in a gorgeous hotel right on the Ganges (locally referred to as Ma Ganga). The river herself is a goddess, a healing force rushing along with the strength and beauty of life itself; she is a profound example of Mother Nature, both nurturing and dangerous.
We had daily lectures, daily meditation and daily excursions to holy temples, sacred caves and other wondrous places of interest. We also had optional daily dips in the river, herself! I fully dipped in the 48 degree water two days in a row, dunking my head under three times, to receive a blessing from Ma Ganga. It was truly EXHILARATING! Other days, I just put my feet in and splashed myself and thanked the river for this incredible opportunity and all of my many blessings. It felt so humbling to acknowledge all that I have in her presence.
After two and a half years of meditation I went all the way to India to receive an “advanced technique” from the wise and knowledgeable, Maharishi Vyasananda, which has rejuvenated my practice! We got to partake in a four hour ceremony called a Yagya which is an intricate and ancient ritual using sound and a special fire burning specific herbs, wood and fruits to align our bodies, minds and spirits with nature. (At least, that’s what I got out of it. I’m not completely sure what it was about, but I felt pretty amazing afterwards…still do!)
The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes were rich beyond description. But so much more than that is the feeling that my trip to India instilled in me; the feeling that I am both a part of nature and nature itself.
Between the WILD taxi rides (called Tuk Tuks; they actually make that sound while dodging cows, scooters often balancing entire families, other taxis, pedestrians, fruit and nut carts, monkeys, pigs and dogs), the incredible daily lectures from our Maharishi and his guest speakers, daily interaction with Ma Ganga, almost daily ceremonies and rituals, getting to wear traditional Indian clothes, meditating in a cave, a five hour train ride spent silently observing the Indian countryside scrolling by like a picture book illustrated just to make my heart sing, meeting beautiful like-minded people from all over the world, having a private session with a powerful and wise Vedic Astrologer, and receiving a blessing at the Mother Divine temple in the foothills of the Himalayas, my Spiritual Bank Account was suddenly overflowing, so much so that I feel compelled to share it and give it away to anyone who wants some of it. Take it! It belongs to you, too!
So, how do I propose we make ten conscious deposits into our Spiritual Bank Accounts throughout the month of February?
Here are some EXTRAORDINARY suggestions!
- READ Pick up and start reading a book on whatever aspect of Spirituality that rocks your socks!
- FOCUS Clear a private solitary space in your home to light a candle. Sit near this candle and just observe the flame for 5-10 minutes. Gently focus on the in and out of your breath while allowing whatever thoughts you have to come in and then move on. Try not to contemplate or plan. Just allow yourself to be alone with your breath and the flame of the candle.
- NATURE Go on a hike in nature with no other purpose than to be with nature.
- RENEW Whatever practice you have that makes you feel part of something bigger than yourself, take a renewed and mindful approach to it. If you don’t have a practice, try one or some on for size; there are countless meditation apps out there or you could actually drop into a meditation studio in your area, just about any church will welcome you if you want to get your prayer on, or volunteering at a homeless shelter or kitchen, at a hospital or senior citizen care facility is a wonderful way to feel in touch with humanity. Or go to your local Planetarium! There’s a whole UNIVERSE out there that we are undeniably a part of; talk about connecting with something bigger than yourself!
- WRITE Write a journal entry, poem, or essay where the only pronoun you use is “WE.”
- SILENCE Try a day of silence. If that is not feasible, try a morning, afternoon or evening of silence. If that is still not feasible, try an hour and a half of silence. Silence doesn’t just mean no talking. Silence means your phone is on silent or even better, it’s off, your computer is sleeping, and your television is off. Be awake and be silent.
- EYE CONTACT Take a walk and try to make eye contact with as many people as you can. (Be safe.) If they look back, smile at them. If they smile back, say, “Hello.” If they say “hello” and want to engage, just listen, ask them questions, and then move on.
- ART Experience a work of art whether it’s visual, performance art, music, etc.! Go see it in person! Try not to judge it or appraise it. Just experience it and allow yourself to be moved.
- GRATITUDE Whether they are living or not, call or write your parents a letter thanking them for making space for you to be here. If your relationship with them is strained you don’t have to send the letter. It’s powerful just for yourself to acknowledge the fact that you are living right here, right now and to express gratitude for that!
- AWARENESS Take a meal in silence and with each bite, imagine whatever you are eating having been a part of nature before nurturing you. For example, it’s likely your rice came from India, Pakistan or Thailand and was planted by hand by farmers there. It needed three months of perfect conditions, not too hot or cold and very wet, in order for it to grow. How many human hands helped bring your meal to your hands? How many days of rain and sun helped your food to grow?
These are just some ideas! I’m eager to see if you try any of them or what ideas you come up with yourself! You can Tweet your Spiritual Deposits this month with #Extraordinary40 and be sure to tag me @jameyhood and @projectwomen!
Go be Extraordinary!