Exploring spirituality and finding inner inspiration


  Exploring spirituality and finding inner inspiration

Do you often find yourself feeling like there's something missing in your life? Do you long for more meaning or purpose as a person? Or do you struggle with the mundane day-to-day of work and family obligations? If so, then there may be something spiritual to teach you. Now, it goes without saying that not all spiritual practices are right for everyone. However, if what's stopping yourself from looking for spirituality is "I don't know what it is," then here are some ideas to get started! Once you start exploring spirituality and find anything that resonates within, all the pieces will fall into place.

Awareness is the First Key
Stop a moment and reflect on what's currently happening in your life. Are there things that seem to be out of balance? For example, are your relationships with others deteriorating? Or with yourself, perhaps you're feeling like you're not living up to your own expectations? Then ask yourself: "What exactly is it I'm looking for?" You may have an idea of what it might be, but it's one thing to know something and another to resolve the issue. In other words, before you can kick a habit or make a change in your life, you must first become aware of it. And spiritual awareness is a skill that can be learned.

To begin, there are many ways to learn how to pay attention more:
First, there are the basic mindfulness practices, like simply noticing your breath or "being in the moment." Another is learning a bit about Buddhist meditation. The point is to develop a basic practice of conscious breathing and keeping your attention on what you need right now. For example, notice whether there's something you're feeling in this moment – perhaps something out of balance – then make efforts to work with it rather than letting it gnaw at you from within. Meditative practices like this one can bring calm and balance whether they are used for spiritual growth or just personal development.
Second, learning how to pay attention involves being in nature, whether it's walking in the woods or by a stream. There's something about being out in nature that allows us to fall back into ourselves and become aware of the world around us. Just sitting there with no agenda can be a great practice in mindfulness.
Third, try reading spiritual books on awareness – such as the Tao Te Ching , an ancient Chinese text dating back to the 6th century B.C.E. It's still relevant today because it teaches us how to pay attention by watching our thoughts as we would watch clouds passing overhead or the rippling water of a stream: "Let your breath go out through your nose naturally and lightly without forcing it. And let your breathing in be just as natural and light. Your breathing should not be forced or tense, just comfortable. Let it be like the soft and easy rising and falling of the waves on the beach."
Furthermore, there are countless books on spirituality and how to develop mindfulness. I have a few suggestions here if you're interested:  The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation , by Thich Nhat Hanh (more on him below), Practicing Peace in Times of War , by Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ , by Thich Nhat Hanh,"Tao Te Ching", an ancient Chinese text dating back to the 6th century B.C.E. (where it's the earliest known book of its kind), and  "The Book of Joy: The Classic Taoist Teachings on Happy Living" by Bernie Krause.
Finding Spirituality in Nature
This one can be really cool – literally! Go find some place in nature that interests you, then use your phone to make a recording of your surroundings. Edit it later and trim the excess noise and leave on an excerpt of only what you love. So, for example, I have found peace and tranquility by sitting in a spot overlooking the ocean while listening to waves coming ashore (while still editing out all the ambient gurgles and atmospheric noises). That kind of recording makes for a great "white noise" – the sort of sound that helps me sleep well!
This is my point: there are innumerable places to find your own spirituality in nature. You're never going to get there by sitting inside with all the lights off and trying to meditate. In fact, you may as well be taking a nap then, because you won't be paying any attention to what's around you! Instead, try going out into nature and listening carefully for the sounds around you. Once you find something that resonates with your own spirit, then it will be easier to meditate or pray or just be in that place.
Healing Your Mind
Many of us have many problems that go on inside our heads. This ranges from anxiety and worry to depression, fear, and shame. And some of these feelings are cause for alarm – perhaps you're not sure if you're okay or feeling unwell at all! Often we simply ignore the problem when it's not life threatening or majorly disrupting our lives.
But there is something to be said for addressing mental health issues – especially if they've been lying around making you miserable all this time:  what will it be like if you can finally get rid of these negative feelings? A great way to get started is with meditation , which is a very effective practice in improving your emotional balance. You don't have to go off and find a guru to tell you about it, either. You can just do it on your own and see if it works for you!
In this case, I highly recommend the book  "The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation" by Thich Nhat Hanh. In this book, Thich Nhat Hanh offers a great deal of information about mindfulness and how to meditate (including instructions with diagrams). He also includes examples from his own life – including how he dealt with his feelings of anxiety as a young man.
Thich Nhat Hanh was a monk in Vietnam during the war in the 1960s and '70s, then helped bring Buddhism to the West. He is often called "the guru of mindfulness" – I've read his stuff, and he's certainly a master at leading people in meditation! He has helped many people learn what it's like to pay attention to their own thoughts and feelings.
I also found this book helpful:  "Practicing Peace in Times of War" by Thich Nhat Hanh. In it he explains how we can observe peacefully without losing our inner balance as a way to deal with conflict.

So there you go. These are just a few ideas, of course – you can use and develop any of these or even your own methods! And if you're interested in a whole lot more ways to connect with nature and get some great benefits from it, then I have four books for you ( I highly recommend them): Supernature: A Guide to the Ecodynamics of Nature , by Jerome Clark and Lorenzo Maffi, Plant Spirit Medicine , by Ron Teeguarden, Healing with Plants: A Complete Guide to Herbs and How They Heal , by Dr. John Lustman.
Finally, always remember that nature is good for us – not only biologically but spiritually as well.

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