Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by David Masters a freelance writer and social media consultant. Life is beautiful, and everyone (including you) can know its beauty. A deeper sense of life, the ability to live life with soul, is available to all of us, at any time, in any place. We can cultivate the spiritual side of life with simple practices that anyone can do. And I mean anyone. All of these practices help you to pay attention to the world, slow down, and be present in the moment. Spirit is found in the things that give life. By engaging in these practices, you are gifting yourself with life, and sharing that life with those around you. All of these practices are ways to find soul in the small things. One small note before we begin: You can spend a lifetime practicing these techniques, and “practicing” is the key word. All of these techniques a child can understand and use, yet even after a lifetime practicing them, there is always more to learn. They’re simple, but that doesn’t make them easy.
“Your breathing is your greatest friend. Return to it in all your troubles, and you will find comfort and guidance.” ~ Oriental Master
At different points during the day, become aware of your breathing. Become attuned to the air spilling through your nostrils, or the rise and fall of your stomach as you inhale and exhale. Focusing on your breath brings you into the moment, helps you inhabit life with soul, and puts you in immediate contact with the vulnerability and fragility of your existence. The Greek word pneuma means both “breath” and “spirit”. Breath is life. Breath is spirit. To inspire is to breathe in. To breathe is to be inspired, to focus your creative energies.
2. Eat Mindfully
During your mealtimes, and when you snack, savor your food. Take time to chew and enjoy the flavors. Be grateful for the life and energy food gives you. As you practice savoring your food, eating will become a delight, rather than a chore or a compulsion, as it is for many people in Western society.
When your friends or family are speaking, give them your full attention. Focus your mind on what they are saying, instead of what you’re planning to say next. As you engage in this practice, you’ll find yourself becoming more interested in others and less immersed in yourself. Gradually, your friendships (even with your closest friends) will become deeper and more meaningful. The art of listening well is known as active listening, and it’s a skill you can learn and develop.
“I’ve never seen a smiling face that was not beautiful.” ~ Anon
Smiling at others – you friends, your partner, your family, strangers even – creates an instant soul connection. When you smile, you create a better world for those around you and for yourself. As someone once famously said:
“The world always looks brighter from behind a smile.”
“Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Choosing to walk, rather than taking the car or bus, slows you down and makes you more present to the world you’re traveling through. As you walk through the city, you’ll get small glimpses into the lives of the people and homes you pass. Walking in nature, you may feel a sense of peace at her beauty and stillness, or awe at her vastness and indifference. Walking on a sacred journey (or pilgrimage, as it is sometimes known) is a spiritual practice nearly as old as religion itself. Why not take a pilgrimage through the streets around your home, noticing the big wide world around you, the sky above you, and the ground holding you, as you move slowly and deliberately through?
“If you are interested in something, you will focus on it, and if you focus attention on anything, it is likely that you will become interested in it. Many of the things we find interesting are not so by nature, but because we took the trouble of paying attention to them.” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Do one thing at a time. As Zen chef Edward Espe Brown says, “When you wash the rice, wash the rice.” When you wash the dishes, wash the dishes. When you brush your teeth, brush your teeth. When you write a blog post, write a blog post. Focusing on what you are doing right now brings you into the present moment. Learning to be in the present can create a deep sense of joy. Distractions tug us away from our natural joy, and can make us feel anxious. That’s why being in the present is such a powerful spiritual tool. Despite sounding simple, it’s incredibly difficult. Our minds press us to chase our thoughts instead of living in the moment. Likewise, links on the internet, chased one after another, like running down rabbit holes, can lead us many miles away from the present moment.
When you move from one activity to another, don’t jump fast. Moving too fast, you ignore your inner wisdom and you fail to listen to your soul needs. Spending 30 seconds or a minute in silent thought or meditation between tasks feels uncomfortable, painful even. Yet by sitting with that pain, and listening to our soul, we will increasingly discover the direction our soul is calling us; our purpose in life for the present moment. To learn to listen to your inner soul voice, Michael Neill prescribes a fun exercise called The Comfy Chair. To do the exercise, turn off all distractions (TV, your mobile phone, your computer), and sit in a comfy chair, alone, in silence, for two hours. In Neill’s own words, the rest of the exercise is as follows:
“Your job is to stay in that chair unless and until you get in touch with an authentic heartfelt desire: something you’re really inspired to do. Each time you get an impulse to get up and do something, ask yourself if the impulse is coming from your scripting or your wanting: the voice of the ‘should’ or the voice of inspiration. If you suddenly remember something urgent you have to do, it’s probably just your emotions trying to re-assert their authority. Kick their butts back into line by sitting on yours just a little bit longer. If it’s inspiration calling, get up and do it, then go back to your comfy chair and wait for the next authentic impulse. (It’s important to always go back to the chair between each task.)”
8. Be grateful.
Life is a gift. As my friend and mentor Terry Biddington writes:
“We didn’t ask to be born – how could we? – and yet, ever since our birth day, life itself has been there for us. Sure, there are times when life can be sheer torture, and when we could do without some of its trials and tribulations: but life just keeps being poured out for us. Every day a fresh start, a new beginning, a new birth, even. Every day is a new day for us to use as we choose.”
Take time each day to be thankful.
Over to You
What other simple practices do you use to find soul in the small things? Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by David Masters. David is a freelance writer and social media consultant. He blogs about social media marketing with soul at Social Caffeine. Come on over and join the party.