4 Ways to Connect Your Mindfulness Practice With Spirituality
Eastern and Western religious practices and thought patterns differ. Western minds tend to compartmentalize everything. They only embrace their spiritual side for a few hours on Sunday, if that. They devote the rest of their time to more banal concerns like making money, preparing and eating food, and nurturing their homes and families.
Eastern minds don’t separate the esoteric -spirituality- from the mundane. For example, those who follow the Taoist path strive to incorporate Wu Wei principles into their daily lives. Meditation isn’t only something that happens on a mat in a dedicated temple — it’s something they practice as they prepare dinner or tend their gardens.
A sense of disconnectedness pervades Western society, as many wallow in despair, stifling inchoate existential cries of “why are we here.” Incorporating Eastern practices, like bringing meaning to daily tasks, could ease emptiness. How can you do so? Here are four ways to connect your mindfulness practice with spirituality.
We’re all human beings. One of the unique aspects of our condition is our ability to predict and shape our futures through our choices. However, there’s a dark side to every gift. Our desire for a brighter tomorrow creates a yearning inside us, a vague dissatisfaction that things aren’t how they should be right now.
However, the present moment is all we genuinely have. After all, a wayward bus could come out of nowhere and mow us down on the way to that crucial board meeting — unlikely but possible. The best-laid plans and all that. How can you find a happy balance between pursuing your goals while simultaneously enjoying the here and now?
One way is by connecting your mindfulness practice with your spirituality and taking comfort in your faith — whatever it may be. For example, suppose you follow the Christian religion. The Bible says, “as you reap, so shall you sow,” but also reminds you that faith the size of a tiny mustard seed can move mountains.
Examine such passages mindfully when you encounter a challenge. They can remind you that obstacles are challenges, necessary roadblocks to shake off the boredom that accompanies too much ease and get your creative juices and motivation flowing. Your faith inspires you to keep taking action, continually moving toward your goal through small steps.
However, the Bible also reminds you that you came into this world with nothing and can’t take anything with you when you go. It reminds you to stay in the here and now, appreciating the rich bounty with which the Lord has already blessed you.
Loving-kindness is a feeling of universal compassion and acceptance. It reminds us that we are all human and extends the empathy we might feel for a friend or loved one to all living creatures.
Nearly every faith preaches gentleness and respect toward your fellow living beings. You can incorporate your mindfulness practice with your spirituality by practicing loving-kindness meditations to generate a feeling of metta, extending it to all you contact.
To practice, take a comfortable seat or lying position, focusing on your breathing. Gradually concentrate your energy on your heart chakra, which you may visualize as a ball of green energy swirling in your chest.
Recall a time when you deeply loved another person or living creature. Allow yourself to bask in the warm feelings — it’s okay if your eyes leak a bit. Then, hold onto that emotion as you visualize someone else you love dearly and extend that metta to them. Move on to spread it to someone you love but have a conflict with, eventually to the world as a whole.
Many mindfulness practices have their roots in religion. However, these belief systems may not follow the Western model of a single all-powerful God passing judgment on human beings, depending on whether or not they follow the right rules written in the correct book. Many Eastern religions focus more on individual soul development and becoming a better person not by following specific edicts but by cultivating qualities like compassion, patience, and acceptance.
For example, many casual yoga practitioners believe it stemmed from Hinduism, which is partially true. It also has roots in Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, and even Sufi ascetic practices. A fun meditation is to study the five principle tenets of Jainism — non-violence, non-attachment, honesty, refraining from theft, and sexual restraint — and how they correlate with the Christian Ten Commandments or the 75 good manners in the Quran.
When Western minds hear the word “karma,” they often associate it with retribution. However, the concept envelopes much more than hoping that the bully who was mean to you in high school gets their comeuppance.
Karma means “action,” reminding you that each step you make leads to consequences. Some of them are desirable, others undesirable. According to many Eastern religions, this karmic seed continues from lifetime to lifetime.
However, you don’t have to believe in reincarnation to embrace karmic principles and connect your mindfulness to your spirituality. Instead, think of it like a seed. Let’s say you want happiness in life. Then, you need to plant seeds that bring the conditions that spark joy.
That includes being kind to others so that you have friends and performing kind deeds because they make you feel good. Science now supports the idea that acting in alignment with our highest nature by volunteering gives us impressive health benefits — how is that for instant karma?
Many people in Western society feel disconnected, even a sense of existential dread. This discomfort often stems from how we compartmentalize our lives, keeping our spiritual beliefs separate from our daily lives, even our meditation practice.
However, we can take clues from Eastern thought and connect our mindfulness practice with spirituality using the four methods above. Doing so reinforces our sense of connectedness and improves our overall health.