Saturday, 10 August 2013

A Time For Spirituality

Let's face it, our daily lives tend to be pretty full.  First off, there's that thing called work that most of us have to do.  To get to work, there's the daily commute, which seems to take longer and longer.  Then there's the family.  Looking after the children, if you have them, is another full-time job.  Perhaps there are elderly parents that need your care.  There's the grocery shopping, chores around the house, cooking, the dirty dishes, the lawns that require cutting and the regular maintenance of the garden, the car that needs a wash, household bills and the accounts to be paid.  Then you need to go to the gym, go for a run, play some sports, go to the movies, watch that TV program, visit friends, go to the bar, go to a restaurant.  Perhaps there's a dog to walk. There are a lot of things to take care of and all of them take up our precious time.  Where, in all of this do we find the time to connect with our soul, to sit quietly and talk with our heart?  Are we in danger of losing our spirituality?

For the past week, I have been participating in the 21 Day Meditation Challenge from Oprah and Deepak Chopra.  It has been the process of setting aside a specific amount of time each day, to sit down and to formally meditate, that triggered my thinking about spirituality in a modern society, and the questions of when and how do people find the time to meditate and to reconnect with themselves and the universe?

For me personally, I know that I have meditated throughout my life, albeit, not in a conventional sense.  I have always sought out peace and calm, quiet oases where I could sit and think, and just be me.  Down at the beach watching the waves; in a clearing in the woods amongst the trees; on the top of a hill or mountain, looking down upon the world; under the ocean, listening to the rhythmic sound of my own breathing; sitting quietly inside of a church or cathedral.  Wherever I have been, I have made time for these moments. 

There have been several significant advances in technology during human existence: fire, the wheel, agriculture, the industrial revolution, electricity, telecommunications, the combustion engine, computers and the digital age.  With each step, humanity has moved progressively ever further away from the natural world.  As a race, we are spending increasing amounts of time enclosed within the confines of our self made spaces, whether that be the car, the office, the home, the mall, restaurants, cafes, cinemas, or at the gym.  Then, there is our  immersion in television, music,  movies, the internet, video games, text messaging, and social media.  Human society is becoming ever more closed off from the natural world.  We are shutting ourselves away from nature and moving further away from our natural surroundings, cocooned in a world of concrete, steel, glass, bricks, mortar, and an endless stream of ones and zeros.

This has a detrimental impact on our ability to find moments to commune with our inner selves, that we are no longer finding quiet moments of solace, where we can be one with our natural environment.  Because of this, I believe that as a race, humanity is losing touch with its spiritual self, and with the spiritual world in which we live.   It seems to me that our collective belief is increasingly to see ourselves as separate from the natural world, able to control nature, but we are not separate and neither can we control the elemental force that is nature.  Humanity is as much an integral part of the life on this planet as a tree, a flower, an insect, a fish, or a bird.  Immersing ourselves in nature reconnects our souls with the force of life.  Losing those moments, takes us further from a spiritual path and understanding of life.

I see that there are two fundamental problems in modern society, in regards to finding spirituality.  The first is that our lives have become too busy, and the second is that we are increasingly closing off from the natural world.  I do not believe that either of these can be good for our race.  Something is being lost, something which, although intangible, is nonetheless an essential quality of what it is to be human.  Spirituality is being slowly eroded away.

Take the Sabbath for example.  There was a time in the England, when Sunday was a special day, preserved for prayer and family time, when the shops were not allowed to open, where pubs had restricted hours for the sale of alcohol, when large numbers of people used to attend morning church services, when lunch was a traditional roast dinner involving all of the family.  Now shops are allowed to open and trade, pub opening hours are far less restrictive, church attendances have long been in steady decline, and the traditional Sunday roast?  Well, in my family at least, that was lost long ago.  Where the Sabbath was once preserved as a day of thought, reflection and prayer, and for family time, it has been steadily reduced to just another day of the week, no longer as sacred, no longer set aside as a special day, and many people are now required to work.  It is just another sign of our increasing loss of spirituality in society.  A further distancing from our spiritual needs.

I am very fortunate.  My current work as a scuba diving instructor means I am usually out on the ocean, or immersed under it.  The very nature of my work allows me the time to connect with nature.  When I exchanged my corporate life in the UK for an alternative lifestyle, there was a big part of me that wished to find this very connection.  Now, living in Costa Rica, it is impossible not to connect with my natural surroundings.  As I do not own a car, I either cycle or walk to all local places, which allows me the time to look around, to think, to see, to feel.  When I am outside, I never listen to an iPod or other music player, I prefer instead, to listen to the pulse of nature.  I choose to hear the songs of the birds as they call and whistle one another.  I like to listen to the waves as they break on the shore.  I smile whenever I hear the calls of the monkeys that are hiding up in the foliage of the trees, somewhere in the jungle.  These are the natural rhythms of life, they help me to stay connected to nature.  They have helped me to become more spiritually aware.

Since I left the corporate world, it has been my immersion into the natural world that has truly opened my heart, so that I now see truly.  I have learned to see the miracles of life that surround us, that occur every single moment.  Everything that I have learned and now express in this blog, has been learned as a direct result of walking my one true path.  Perhaps I was always this way inclined, someone once told me that I was spiritual even before my life change.  I have always followed my heart, so I guess this is true.  But now, by choosing to be surrounded by the natural world, I have found a far greater insight and awareness of myself.

Don't lose your spirituality.  Find yourself a quiet moment to stop and reflect.  Take time to get outside, into a park, to go and walk in the woods or along the beach.  Stare up to the sky and watch the clouds roll by, see the rays of sunlight, gaze at the stars and the moon.  Unplug yourself and listen to the world.  Let your thoughts drift.  Slowly and surely, you will begin to recover your soul, you will begin to regain your spiritual self, and through this, will come self awareness, and you will open your heart and see the miracles that exist in every single moment.  Life is simplicity.  Peel away the layers and finally be your true and natural self.


1 comment:

  1. I like to think that the world/people only change - not for the better and not for the worse. They just change. Where there used to be practically no divorce as opposed to today's 50-50 or so divorce rates, there used to be a lot of quiet misery and putting up with the intolerable as opposed to freedom. Where there used to be Sunday roast as opposed to today's take-away pizza for family gatherings there also used to be the same old boring over-cooked vegetable as opposed to the chance of knowing cuisines from Japan to Argentina. Today we have many different sources of stress, a lot of which we generate ourselves. In the old times there were wars, dictatorships, political fears. I firmly believe that the happiness-misery ratio does not significantly change over time, it's only the sources that do.

    Spirituality is still everywhere - if one is open to receive it. It is even easier to access in a way than it used to be. I am sure that thousands of people used to reject the dogmas of the Catholic faith who had no access to finding out more about other religions or other spiritual teachings. I don't believe that the entire population of Spain in the era of Franco was more spiritual than today's Spaniards, just because the Generalisimo ordered them to believe and follow The Church.

    Being the rebel who I am I'm glad that I could define my own spiritual needs when the time was right. I'm glad that I can receive daily mantras on my smart phone. I'm over the moon that I don't have to go to Church on Sunday mornings, at 8 am, like I used to have to do as a child.

    As for having less contact with nature than in the old days, that's an undeniable sad truth. It seems to be irreversible and I agree that it greatly affects our souls' connection to the universe. That is why I tend to make friends exclusively with people who travel, hike, discover, wander and wonder, appreciate and see beyond appearances. For the rest of humankind.... I just really have no time. I'm in too much of a mad rush... ;)