What does it means to be a ‘spiritual’ person? The term spiritual relates to the spirit or the soul as opposed to the physical or material world.
I have met with a good number of spiritual people throughout my life and felt this emphasis on the soul side of life emanating from them, they didn’t wear the ‘spiritual’ badge of honour loudly they just got on with it. My dad was one, he was quietly religious and spiritual and you felt it when you spoke to him or sat in his company.
At times in the past I would have described myself as spiritual, but I’m now too versed in the human condition and my own reality trying to flow with it thanks to Patanjali* to do that anymore. It’s possible to be spiritual and not religious and vice versa. Many of us have our own personal and different practices to connect into the soul. But that doesn’t mean we like or dislike the physical or material world any less.
If we are not ‘spiritual’ then is just ‘human’ enough with all of its attendant strength and weakness, failure or success? I think so. The new culture of being permanently positive, having a constant growth mindset and generally having to walk the walk and talk the talk for fear of being found out, can be detrimental. If we are caught up in this culture, what are we going to be found out about? Being human? making mistakes? being real? Hurrah! Let’s get found out.
This ‘spiritual’ badge can lend itself to feelings of superiority and judginess. Is it possible to be kind all the time? No! Is it possible to love all the time? Of course not. So what then? Ensuing shame, guilt, fear and self-loathing when we slip up in our human relations and our care of our self/our soul? Some of us do whip ourselves so very much and we are not even awake to it, possibly.
Efforting and pushing, for example that force and will to be permanently loving, kind, perfect and positive creates an internal fight, a pressure and disharmony which is destructive I believe, thus making us miserable even though our intentions are good. What’s spiritual about being miserable?
Instead can we gently practice being ‘loving’ and ‘kind’ as ideals that we try as we flow along with and against the minutiae of life and avoid self-flagellation when we ‘fail’.
I love supporting people towards change in my job and enjoy the many spiritual practices which I’ve deconstructed and embodied myself, but I’m sticking with the human stuff. It’s more real, relatable and heaps more fun over there and I’m pretty sure humans have a soul too.
Grainne Toher – Founder – Yogapal
*Patanjali was a Yoga scribe/seer who gathered together a collection of wisdoms and meditations which we now know as the Yoga Sutras.
Set your intention to try one a day for a week and notice the difference
- Go outside. Get into the garden, leave your desk at lunchtime and take a walk in the park. Weather permitting remove shoes and socks and notice how the grass feels under the feet;
- Park the smartphone addiction. Try it out two for hours, put the phone on airplane mode, pop it upstairs if possible or at least in the furthest room and just sit and be;
- Make soup. Get tons of vegetables from the market, set aside all other tasks and just enjoy chopping mindfully each ingredient with care whilst doing absolutely nothing else;
- Pick up a paperback novel. Put all devices aside and sit in a room with no screens. Notice how turning the pages feels and mindfully enjoy every word;
- Eat at the table. Set all devices aside and carefully bite, chew and taste every morsel. Turn each piece of food over in the mouth and notice the textures and tastes of each one against the various tissues of the mouth. Your digestion will thank you for it;
- Meet a friend or close family member. Put your devices away, sit tight and spend the first hour listening intently to them bring you up to speed on their lives. Resist the urge to jump in at every opportunity with your story. You will feel a much closer connection to them;
- For five minutes sit comfortably with supports on the floor or against the wall. Close your eyes and start to attend fully to your exhale and allow it to gently caress your throat on the way out. Observe the pause at the very end, then notice the natural inhale fill you up.
In this current moment all is well.
- Our ‘always on’ culture, the increasing speed of modern technology and the general pace at which we expect each other to react now, can cause rash and emotional decisions and discussions in the workplace. At the desk or the meeting, we can practice fully attending to the exhale, gently following it all the way out of the body right to the end, where the navel draws in, this will help ensure our responses and reactions come from a more centred place of personal power.
- Commuter life and busy working environments can keep us caught up in our minds with little sense of time, our environment and the space we occupy. A continued practice of fully placing both feet on the ground, then actively seeking out the feeling of the floor being underneath, will help take us out of our heads and descend our energy downwards, thus helping us operate from a more grounded and more secure place.
- Much of our working day can be spent perched on the edge of the office chair. Our shoulders brace and grip whilst we sit, type our documents and read our email. Sometimes we take our calls, gripping the receiver between one shoulder and side of the head. Drawing closer to the desk and fully using all parts of the office chair, to cup all of the curves of our spine and to support the backs of the legs and buttocks, will pay dividends in healthy alignment, full breathing and improved back health.
- In the age of the internet and social media, life has got faster, more reactive and less intuitive. Practicing really seeking out the pause at the top of the exhale, before the inhale flows in, will help us to respond more authentically to events around us. The pause can be practiced whilst walking around.
Grainne Toher – Founder Still Mind and Yogapal