Spirituality is present in every moment of life. We still don’t know how to recognize it
In scarce time and oppressive materialism, spiritual life seems at first glance to be a matter that concerns only the religious. Dedicating time to spirituality, lay people think, is a mission for some time on the weekend, and with sacrifice – after all, there are priorities such as bills to pay, professional obstacles to overcome, home care, problems with a spouse and children.
Nothing more false. Spirituality is present in every moment of life. Just open your eyes to discover it in our daily lives, with all the extraordinary potential for inner development that it brings us.
A powerful example of this is the narrative of the Dalai Lama’s readaptation to his land after three years of retreat in Tibet. According to his account – mentioned in the book “After the Ecstasy, Wash Your Dirty Clothes”, by the psychologist and Buddhist monk Jack Kornfield –, in the first five years after his return he struggled to connect to the spiritual life, because in our daily lives people “only have the sensitivity to run after things”. To maintain what he had learned and balance his mind, the Dalai Lama used a resource surprising in its simplicity: cleanliness.
“In silence, I chanted a mantra of compassion with every dish I washed, every floor I scrubbed,” he says. “I also prayed that all floors and the hearts of all beings around me would be clean, purified and innocent. Time stopped as if I were part of the earth that is purified in spring. (…) The simplest physical tasks teach us to stay in this world in a sacred way.”
At first glance, the idea of washing dishes to progress spiritually seems like sheer nonsense. But all spiritual traditions stress the importance of being whole beings – and how could we achieve this by ignoring what we think and do in everyday life?
Reconciling spirituality and everyday life is no simple task anywhere on the planet. In the West, the main obstacle is our consumer culture, which pushes people to seek immediate and external gratification – fashionable clothes, the state-of-the-art cell phone, the imported car. As a result, spirituality takes a back seat, and most of the time it is lived as if religious, moral or ethical beliefs did not even exist.
But it is impossible to escape the everyday. Acts like paying bills, going to work or taking the children to school are also spiritually important, and without being aware of this we cannot evolve. “You can’t get one department right and go wrong in another,” said Gandhi. “Life is an indivisible whole.”
To start this day-to-day review, nothing better than the family. Is there a better place than the home itself to refine tolerance, and respect and get rid of prejudices and expectations to see life as it is? “If we take good care of family relationships in this life, more than 90% of our task here will have been accomplished”, said Martha Gallego Thomaz, a spiritist
Another crucial item is money, exchange energy that works as an excellent teacher – for bad and good – on the spiritual path. The overvaluation that the West attributes to it leads to greed, avarice, and fear of scarcity. On its positive side, however, money serves to spread prosperity, it rewards work done with love, and, as energy, it should never stagnate.
Getting in touch with spirituality in everyday life requires developing what Buddhism calls mindfulness. According to writer David Spangler, this mindful, nonjudgmental observation of what happens in each moment leads us to a deep awareness that gives us insights into the world and ourselves. Mindfulness allows us to respond to the present more spontaneously and freely.
Spangler exemplifies how mindfulness can transmute everyday activities:
Paying the bills – Concerns and fears in this regard give way to a confrontation with the belief system linked to money. Analyzing these beliefs without judging them weakens the mental programming that governs this area and allows the person to choose more effective ways to act.
Going to the supermarket – Instead of simply needing to supply the home, this activity is now seen as the end point of a vast distribution network that connects the production of thousands of people to their neighbourhood. Purchasing consciously is also admiring the abundance of goods and exercising discernment – selecting, for example, organic products or products that do not harm the environment.
Educating children – The tendency to constantly impose restrictions on children gives way to the perception of their positive aspects, such as solving problems apparently beyond their capacity or sharing toys with peers without being instructed to do so.
Discovering spirituality in everyday life means having many more resources to balance yourself and change your future. Life will go on with successes and failures, but the mind learns, without going into imbalance, to extract lessons from all situations.
“In everything a person does it is possible to create and maintain a state of being that reflects our true destiny”, observes Karlfried Graf von Dürckheim in the book “Daily Life as Spiritual Exercise”. “When this possibility is put into practice, the ordinary day is no longer ordinary. It becomes an adventure of the spirit.”