We have plenty of quotes on a balanced life floating around our collective conscious. A quick Google search reveals entire lists of inspiration for those of us seeking moderation and peace.
Technology can be a lovely thing. We can connect instantly with thousands of like minded people. It’s a great time to be alive.
But at some…
We have to shut it all down and take quiet moments to ourselves. We have to hit our mats, our prayer rugs, our little corner altars, our favorite trees in the park, whatever they case may be; no amount of reading and conversation can replace meditation and prayer.
Maybe you’re completely new to it all and looking for a simple way to start.
Well, that’s something I can write. Spiritual practice is actually quite simple. Here’s a few simple steps you can take to start your day off with.
1. START DOING IT
The first step is commitment. Shocking, I know, but we are creatures of habit who form routines. Whether we be conscious of them or not doesn’t change the fact that many of us follow patterns day in and day out. That’s why teachers recommend the mornings more often than not. Set an alarm 20 minutes earlier than usual and leave yourself a note with your new commitment on there. “Time to meditate” works.
2. STRETCH OUT A BIT
As you get out of bed and walk over to your personal space just take a moment to be a person with a body. Rotate your shoulders and feel the stretches in your lower back. Lean down and touch your toes feeling the life flowing through you. Maybe begrudgingly sit down crisscross applesauce and extend one leg out and reach for your toes. It’s okay to be pouty about it. After all, you’re awake a bit earlier and doing something new. These aren’t InstaSage steps that will immediately make you Christlike or whatever. Stretching in the floor gets your blood flowing and gives you the space to be at home in your body. Whatever mental state you’re in at the time is alright.
3. SETTLE DOWN AND BREATHE DEEP
Once you’ve stretched a bit just throw a pillow under your butt and do your best impression of a monk. It’s okay to feel silly or crack jokes with yourself. This is a personal practice. The only thing that matters here is that you settle into your body and start breathing deeply. Breathe in through the nose, pausing a moment, and exhaling out of your mouth. Really feel that air flow into your body as you come into your own. Relax. As you breathe deeper into yourself notice any tension in your body and release it as you exhale. Take as much time as you can.
Here’s a simple mantra: “It’s good to be alive!” Breathe in: “it’s good to…” and exhale “be alive!”
“It’s good to…”
Feel the corners of your mouth curl upwards into a smile as you breathe in and out silently telling yourself “it’s good to be alive.” Life is a gift. Bringing awareness to the gift is a great way to start mediating. Take as much time as you can. (If you do this whole routine in 10 minutes you’re still taking a huge step towards inner peace.)
5. ABC’S OF GRATITUDE
Now that you’ve established a sense of it being good to be alive turn your attention to why. Use the alphabet to simplify this practice. Start with A and work your way to Z naming something you are grateful for.
“I am grateful for…”
“I am grateful for…” by the time you reach zen you will be fully aware of how much good is in your life. If you struggle to come up with things this is good. Your mind is showing you where you are struggling. Feelings of aversion will arise and that’s okay.
6. WISH YOUR ENEMIES WELL
When those aversions arise we become aware of where we need to forgive. Some names become bitter against our lips. Realization is the first step to freedom. The second step is to consider that person or situation a moment and turn over our own aggravation. We do this by praying that they have everything we want in life. A good relationship with our loved ones. A fulfilling career or a good standing in the community. We pray our desires for inner peace over the ones who hurt us the deepest.
Now, this step takes time to develop. “I hope you don’t get hit by a bus today” may be the best we can do at first. However, three or four weeks in we realize that we actually do want peace for that person/ situation.
It’s freeing. I cannot stress that enough. Something very real shifts within us as we learn to let go of our own feelings of animosity and anger.
Sometimes it’s necessary to recenter ourselves and return to meditation. This is a completely natural reaction. So if you need to return to the breath. Return to “It’s good to be alive.”
7. PRAYER- SETTING INTENTIONS
Once you’re centered it makes sense to pray and set your intentions for the day. Find a prayer that really calls to your highest morals. Something inspiring that reminds you of who you want to be.
“God, I offer myself to You—to build with me and to do with me as You will. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Your will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Your Power, Your Love, and Your Way of life. May I do Your will always!”-Third Step Prayer
I’ve been using this simple prayer of surrender forever and a day now. I’ll rotate it out with the St. Francis Prayer or the Jesus Prayer depending on what arises during my morning meditation and gratitude practice.
The point is to pick something that you can strive towards. This will vary wildly from person to person and I highly recommend you reflect on what you aspire to be and think it through.
After all, that’s the real point of creating a daily practice. We’re finding a balance between the noise of the day and the calm before it begins. It’s a matter of anchoring ourselves in our highest ideals so we can strive to be the kind of person we hope to meet everyday. It’s being the change.
This is how we change the world we live in. We change ourselves and let go of our drama so we can be of service to each other.
If you have anything you’d like to add please feel free to comment away. We are a community and feedback is always welcome.