In my many years of spiritual practices, and the study of various religious and spiritual traditions, I find myself offering three basic practices to those who come to me for psychological or spiritual guidance:
- Practicing Presence (meditation in the midst of everyday life and activity)
- Thought-busting (challenging all thoughts for truthfulness)
There are so many other practices and experiences and accessories that we could have in our possession to make us look spiritual or feel spiritual but, these are all unnecessary. I don’t even consider one particular guru, or only one particular path to be important or ‘the way.’ People wake up using the resources of many gurus and many paths.
Bottom line: the simpler the practice, the more widely you can apply it to your life, and the more impact it has. Complicated things might be helpful for a while but, you will forget them during stressful times and then they will be useless.
Let’s look at each of the three practices that I’ve mentioned above briefly. Much more can be said about each practice but, this post serves as an introduction.
To begin with we have meditation. Meditation is deceptively easy: it is simply the act of moving your attention from your thoughts and emotions, and directing it to the physical sensations of breathing (usually focusing on the sensation of breath in the nostrils). I say it’s deceptively easy, because that seems like a simple task to do. However, the body-mind’s attention is addicted to listening to the thought-generating capacity of the mind all the time. To break the fixation of attention on thought takes a tremendously strong intention. However, it is worth it. Once you have a continuing experience of a level of awareness or consciousness deeper than your own thought-feeling processes, your whole view of yourself, the world, and life will change. For a breathtakingly excellent book on how to meditate, I recommend a book by Culadasa (also known as John Yates, PhD,) The Mind Illuminated. I’ve been meditating for nearly 30 years and this is the clearest set of instructions I’ve ever read.
Practicing Presence, or Staying Present, is another essential practice. It is essentially a form of meditation in which you are standing up, walking around, and doing things. However, while in the midst of all of this activity, your attention is NOT focused on thought, it’s focused on the simple perceptions of your five senses: smelling, tasting, touching, hearing and seeing. When in conversation with another person, staying Present means simply listening to the other person with total attention, rather than paying attention to your own thoughts OR trying to formulate a response to their comment before they’ve finished making it!
Thought-Busting is my name for the process of challenging the truthfulness of your own thoughts. In psychology, this is sometimes referred to (in a more complex form) as ‘Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.’ Most of us never learn that our thoughts are inaccurate, or just plain lies. We accept that whatever thought arises in our mind is true! Upon a simple examination, we find this is not the case. First, all thoughts are merely mental representations of reality, not reality itself. Second, the content of most thoughts is false. If you have a thought about the future, it’s not the absolute truth, and therefore it’s false. How could you possibly know what’s going to happen in the future? Thoughts about what other people are saying, thinking, or doing when they’re not in your presence, speaking to you, are also false: they are simply your fantasy about the other person. Even most thoughts about yourself are false. In coming to the ground of Being, we need to eliminate every falsehood from our experience. While we can’t stop the mind from generating whatever thoughts it does, we CAN STOP LISTENING TO THEM and treating them as if they’re true. If your thoughts aren’t absolutely true, then they are lies; plain and simple.
I have made a lifetime spiritual practice out of these three varieties of practice. I highly recommend them to you. You can awaken to your True Nature as the Absolute with only these practices, plus a little guidance. Try them for yourself and find out if what I’m writing is true or false!