Jan 24, 2019

What it means to live a Spiritual Life

A lot of people have interesting ideas about what it means to be “spiritual”. When they hear that I teach yoga for a living they see me getting up at 4 am every day, sitting on a meditation cushion for several hours, living in abstinence and sobriety with a halo over my head. 

Even though I might fulfill some of the clichés - I eat vegan, run around in leggings all day and once in a while stop in the middle of the street for some deep releasing breaths - I am just a normal person like everyone else. I get asked a lot about my spiritual practice and about my opinion on how to synergize a spiritual life with materialistic and sensual pleasures.

My opinion on how to live a spiritual life, however, might be a bit different from what you would expect. It is not about typical practices such as mediation and yoga or refraining and restricting oneself from any kind of pleasures.

To me living a spiritual life means…

Be in tune with your needs. Practice self-care.

Hear your inner voice and listen to it, even if your conditioned voice of reason / ego / status says something else. Even if you think something else is expected of you and even if that is the truth. Only you know what is good for you and what it is that you need. This applies to big life decisions just as much as small ones, like what to eat today or if to go dance your heart out or if to stay in and take some me-time. The unexpected choice might be the right one: there is no wrong or right, only match and mismatch to your current situation.

Decide by yourself and for yourself. This obviously doesn’t mean you should deliberately hurt others, it merely means to live with attention to your own well-being, with awareness of your true inner state. You may want to call it self-love.

Forget the supposed spiritual to-do-list. Establish your own rituals.

One way to ensure we do what is good for us is to establish rituals. I don’t speak of those routines that you only stubbornly work through because they are supposed to be part of your spiritual practice or some other plan that you think you have to follow. If you feel like getting up at 4 am and meditate for 2 hours, please go for it, it can be great! If you rather just take 5 minutes before you turn on your phone to check in with yourself and taking a few deep breaths, than that’s it! Maybe it’s the small question “what would I do if I really loved myself” that you ask yourself before taking any decision, that secures you staying on your smooth path of a free life. Your mindfulness practice can be the conscious boiling of your morning tea, going for a slow walk or run, reading an inspirational book, just as much as a sun salutation. Do something that actually gets you in tune with yourself, brings you to the present moment, rather than something that stresses you because it is not working, and it is just another thing you have to do.

Let yourself (and everyone else) off the hook. Practice kindness.

Don’t get angry at yourself when you feel like you took a wrong decision, or you made a mistake. It’s all good. You are human, you are just exploring life. All the turns and detours are necessary for you to get a holistic view on your world, on your needs. Whenever something goes wrong, it helps you to understand what would have been “right” instead. It makes it clearer to you what it feels like to live in alignment with your values and intentions. When you feel remorse – say thank you! This is the natural feedback mechanism of your heart. It lets you know, if something is right for you or not. Isn’t that amazing? What a beautiful gift! Listen to it!

And – let others of the hook, too. The above counts for all of us. Don’t hold grudges, don’t judge. Let everybody take their own decisions, let them make their own explorations without having to fulfill your expectations. If we all are a less hard on each other, and we all listen to our own heart, nobody will hurt or disappoint each other. Cultivate an attitude of understanding, face your fellow humans and all other beings with respect, kindness and love. 

Appreciate the gifts that life brings you. Practice gratitude.

Things are smooth, you love your work, you have great friends – say thank you! Things are not so smooth, you feel stuck or lonely – say thank you, anyhow! This might be the perfect opportunity to reevaluate your life choices, to get to know yourself better, to define your goals, intentions and values. You have food and a roof over your head, don’t you? The sun is shining, warming you face? Or heavy rain dropping, nourishing the flowers and trees? Isn’t that equally great? I could go on forever. Life is so generous! Start seeing the small things, the little gestures, the little gifts. Gratitude is the highest vibration! Take more moments out of your day to feel grateful, for everything. Stay in that mode as often and long as possible, live your life in gratitude for everything you encounter, all the good things, all the contrast, it is all part of life. We are so lucky, aren’t we?

I could go on, but I think you get my idea. Living in appreciation and trust, with awareness for your own needs, with loving kindness to all beings, this is what it means to be spiritual – at least to me. Are these not the essential things? Wearing a Mala prayer necklace and tattooing a buddha on your skin are fun things to do, too! But just as a correct but heartlessly carried out spiritual practice in the traditional sense, they won’t make a real difference in your life. 

I also want to say that I respect, appreciate and love the traditional spiritual practice, in yoga called Sadhana, which often includes mediation, yoga, chanting and selfless service to others. Especially in phases in my life when I feel stuck or I need grounding, I practice all the steps intensely and it is incredibly rewarding. But this is something everyone has to choose for themselves. It is not the only way to invite awareness and spirituality into your life and most certainly shouldn’t be the prerequisite for anyone to call themselves spiritual. Spirituality is not a chore, it is not supposed to restrict you but to enhance your experience!

I hope my ideas on this topic inspired you and resonate with you. I am always happy to hear your opinion, too.

Love from me to you.