By Gopika Nath August 2003 Misconceptions about leading a spirituality-based life abound. It is often considered that following spiritual practices, the practitioner becomes free from pain, stress and all negative emotions. Contrarily, what I have found is that in leading such a life, following spiritual practices like meditation, reiki and yoga, we have to work harder upon our emotional make-up to control impulsive actions and feelings, which may throw up much more negativity that needs to be dealt with. This, to me, has been the essence of my spiritual practice, which has involved a slowing down to notice what I resist, recognising my fears and insecurities and addressing them; to be more forgiving; to ask for what I need; take action to achieve this; embrace whatever troubles me and be open to receive the enlightened messages from within. One is often questioned about the need for techniques as well as discipline in practising them, when one can practise the basic tenets of a wholesome life based on love and mutual respect. I have often wondered about the validity of this question as those asking it have reason to question. Some suggest that it is those who have been hurt that take to spirituality. This is true to some extent, because, disillusioned by love, and life around us, we turn to God and invoke within us the essence of universal love. However, I also believe that those who follow a disciplined path and understand and value the love of God, have been touched in their consciousness by this in a meaningful way. This changes for them the idea of love and also the state of mind they feel comfortable in. I know that I do not practise meditation because I have to, but because I want to. I do not feel centred. I feel alienated from my essential being until I have done this twice daily. It has been tough to explain to those around me why I need to do this and why I have chosen to do things the way I do, where connecting with my inner self comes before profession, family, friends and social life. One day I was tired and unwell and about to sit down to meditate, when a friend said: ‘‘You don’t have to do your meditation today.’’ My response was that I needed it even more, because my tiredness stemmed from feeling off-centre, from being less connected after a busy day. Spiritual practices do have wonderful techniques that help us in our daily lives. But these do not work unless we work upon ourselves. They do reduce our levels of stress and enhance our understanding and powers of endurance but at the end of the day, we are still human. It is here that the essential misconceptions lie. It is assumed that if you are spiritually inclined, you should be more accepting, more tolerant, more understanding. This is true and relevant because with the mental and emotional work that we do as a result of witnessing our thoughts and therefore ourselves at work and play, we do become judgemental and have fewer expectations of ourselves and others. But it does not mean that people become doormats to be walked all over. Often it is the average aspirant who misleads those around into believing that silent acquiescence is the desired result of his or her spiritual practice. Being spiritual isn’t about being good, kind and generous when under attack or when being cheated and maligned. Everybody has the right to defend himself or herself. To my mind, the successful practitioner is one who is able to remain calm whatever he is called upon to do, and is emotionally detached with the understanding that whatever the action, it is part and parcel of the process of living his or her life, fulfilling his or her desires and playing the roles he or she is destined to. Spiritual people, by and large, are ordinary people aspiring to be better human beings. To be so, they do go through processes that ‘shape’ them. These are not necessarily beautiful or pleasant but could be dark, despairing and challenging. The beauty lies in how they deal with it and emerge through the process. Spiritual people, by and large, are ordinary people aspiring to be better human beings.To be so, they do go through The spiritual process is personal and often very intense.
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