Spiritual development is one of those widely used abstract terms in modern day life which has a different meaning to everyone and can be very confusing. It can be as simple as knowing one’s own personal philosophy on life – and in doing this you can bring about great personal development. For some people their religion is intertwined with their spirituality whilst others see it as being separate and if the two overlap for someone then this is their belief, but it can be helpful see them as two different parts. Religion is an organised set of ideas and beliefs and spirituality is the source of our soul and leads us to a way of life and an embodiment of who we are. Each of us will have a different starting place from which to explore this and I guess maybe part of one’s development. The development through mindfulness and meditation does not have a dogma or prescription that has to be followed and nor does it intend to change or interfere with your own religion. Neither is it considered weird or esoteric – nowadays it has the backing of the NHS and the growing body of scientific evidence and research studies. Everyone’s experience is unique and right for them!
The advancements in technology and communication networks have meant that all too often we are driven to make fast decisions at work and personally, with little time for our private reflection and downtime. When you look around at Life it seems like everything is accelerating. As a species from an evolutionary perspective we are not adapting fast enough to meet the rate of change.
On average we have 60,000 thoughts a day and 95% of them you had yesterday. Most of those thoughts are about memories of the past and worries about the future, never in the present moment. Inbetween each thought is a little space or a gap and this little space is the silence and an infinite field of possibilities. Through meditation we are able to access these silent spaces and when you are able to access these silent spaces when you come out of meditation you are able to bring a little bit of this stillness out into your day.
The reflective mode accessed through mindfulness allows you to work with your true self and make more authentic and balanced decisions – importantly it gives you a place to steady and work with your emotions, rather than against them. The reactive mode is part of our threat based emotional protection and operates in the negative, better safe than sorry and activates the “what if” centre in the brain – which helps explain negative thinking and/or fear procrastination.
We can walk around in the trance of life on automatic pilot being a head with arms as a “human doing” and wandering around life mindlessly. I am led to believe that we are the most adaptable species on Earth and because of this we are easily conditioned from birth and throughout our lives. We also grow up in Society in cultures each with their own values and beliefs. Mindfulness and meditation provide us with an invitation to step outside the ordinary trance of life and experience our consciousness beyond our brains, physical bodies and explore and perhaps challenge our current belief system.
Being human is not easy and we have a tricky brain which is easily programmed and allows us to multitask and evolve as we move through life. It has built in biases and safety mechanisms and this can make it difficult and confusing to look inside at what is. The brain likes to objectify everything and match things up to make life easy for us. The thing is the emotional brain is conditioned from the moment we are born (we are born with some of our templates) and generates our reactions to life and gets us to behave in the World before we are cognitively aware. The best of it is that It gets things wrong and even gives us false memories! That’s why sometimes we have no idea why we behaved in a certain way or said the things we did! As we move along in our spiritual development we can begin to realise that what we experience, see and feel with our senses is such a minute sense of what and who we are. We can also begin to see how our senses can filter and change our experience. We can take a fresh new look at the World with a “beginners mind” and enquire and question with an open mind. Mindfulness in daily living brings a new vibrancy to life and a way of being in touch with oneself.
One of the questions we can ask ourselves is who am I? The self is emotional, thinking, functional and one that observes beyond the physical sense, a higher consciousness with connectivity to what flows in this Universe. I am much more than the self I was led to believe beyond the physical and ego. One of the reasons meditation is so powerful is it able to reveal who you truly are at the centre of your being and you are so much more than your physical being and personality So stepping outside of the automatic pilot is a valuable part of development and allows us to tap into our full potential and deeper consciousness and realisation of our true nature.
There are many different types of meditation to explore and again its for each individual to see what works for them. Meditation allows you to withdraw from the usual distractions and dramas of daily living and bring into balance our emotions and thoughts. Meditation doesn’t mean you have to wear robes and withdraw from daily life and sit chanting or humming. Many people, me being one of them can sit quietly in a busy place and meditate and no one would know. We can find a space between the thoughts and emotions and through this detachment observe what is. It’s almost as if a new way of being unfolds with new depths, richness, insights and awareness and a renewed sense of meaning. It’s not ,static not always calm and rosey and brings new challenges and questions.
Meditation is the art of quietening your mind in order to still the never ending stream of thoughts that often govern your consciousness. Meditation draws your attention away from thought into the powerful space inbetween thought, the infinite present moment. Meditation is a transformative practice that reveals your own innate wisdom, peace and inner beauty that is always present but usually covered up by the chatter of your mind.