In my last post I discussed how having a spiritual practice can be a huge catalyst for healing. I also know, from my own experience, that creating a practice and sticking with it can be challenging and even bit daunting. Today’s post will lay out some common pitfalls that can get in the way of feeling confident and how to find ways to meet your individual needs so that you can get started or be more consistent in tapping into the wisdom that is within you.
I believe keeping it simple (especially in the beginning) helps you stay focused and actually make time to practice. You can always add more later! Think of this as the foundation that will enhance your life.
1. Pitfall: Resistance to meditation
I hear this all the time with my clients! And I totally get it. I started meditating when I was 19 years old because I literally had no choice. I was so codependent and self-destructive that I thought I was losing my mind. I threw myself into a practice after reading Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The book was so easy to follow and reading it became my favorite part of the day. If you are feeling like you need a place to start, this would be a great resource. I am also in the process of creating a meditation series, so stay tuned!
I will admit I encourage everyone to have a meditation practice, but I also realize that meditation does not work for everyone. This is where mindfulness comes in! I have found that people assume that being mindful requires meditation, and it so doesn’t. There are so many ways to be more mindful. You could be more mindful in this very moment by being as present as you possible can. Just making a conscious choice to sit still for a minute is practicing mindfulness.
Solution: Creating a daily ritual that really lights you up
It could literally be anything, but you MUST do it everyday, no matter what. Whether it is drinking your morning cup of coffee sitting in the sun or singing in the shower, MAKE IT HAPPEN. I would challenge you to find rituals throughout the day and evening, but start with the morning. That way you start your day off on a good note. Even if the shit is hitting the fan in your life, make a commitment to be there for yourself for at least 10 minutes at the beginning of the day.
2. Pitfall: Spirituality is only a priority when things are going bad
I confess that even though I have been meditating since I was 19, it was an off and on practice. Without fail I would start to feel better and my interest in spirituality and commitment to prayer and meditation went out the window. I would get what I needed (new job, more money, new boyfriend, better friend, the apartment of my dreams) and turn my back on what got be there in the first place. I was a fair-weather friend and the worst kind. I used my spirituality as a way to get what I wanted, instead of becoming my best self. I have a lot of compassion for how I was because I do realize that I needed to grow up in order to make a commitment to living a spiritual life, but I would have appreciated the reality check back then.
It is so easy to get complacent when life is comfortable and so easy to get our shit together after something awful happens. It is so hard to make spirituality a priority when everything in our life is going well. Often we may need a spiritual teacher to help keep us on track because it can be so hard to stay disciplined all on our own when we aren’t faced with a crisis. My favorite resource would be anything that Gabrielle Bernstein does, literally any one of her products will inspire you to stay on track.
Solution: Easy times and hard times don’t last forever
Not to be a downer, but this is an important concept to accept. I hope that the hard times are few and far between for you, but come they will. Just as the hard times will eventually come to an end and be followed by much needed relief. If I am losing you at this point, just stick with me. The point I am trying to make is a simple one. Think of a spiritual practice as the one thing in life that you will always have no matter the circumstances. Whether you are super invested in it or flirt with it on occasion, it will always be there! All the more reason to cultivate a practice so that it is like a familiar friend that you communicate with regularly. Once you have a daily ritual down, add prayer, mantra or affirmation you say when things are going well. When things are lining up for me, I say a silent “thank you.” Then, have a prayer, mantra or affirmation you say when things are not going so great. My favorite is the Lord’s Prayer. I would urge you to do a little research or try a few phrases that feel true for you so that it will stick to you become almost automatic.
3. Pitfall: Overcomplicating, comparing and impatience
After I wrote that I realized that those three mind fucks could be pitfalls in anything you try to do. These are especially for all you perfectionists in the house, but also true once importance has been placed onto something. When something is important to us, we can approach it in unruly ways. The same is true for a spiritual practice.
Overcomplicating starts to happen when we are trying to learn everything we can by reading all the books ever written about spirituality, trying to follow complicated “rules” or finding that you are spending hours of the day solely focused on your practice. Before you know it you will be burnt out on something that is supposed to invigorate you. So STOP IT (hand slap)! The simple stuff is already hard work!
Comparing happens when we start to become competitive, envious and/or judgmental of another’s spirituality. No one way is better than another and there is nothing to win or a success to achieve. You may have more success in your life as a result of having a spiritual practice, but this isn’t necessarily guaranteed and misses the point. Do I wish that I was as wise as the Dalai Lama? Sometimes, but being someone I am not won’t bring me peace of mind. Feeling comfortable in my own skin (and no one else’s) will.
Impatience occurs when we want results. You may think to yourself “I am doing all this work and why is nothing happening?” This is a time when you may need to take a step back and evaluate your reasons for embracing a spiritual life in the first place. It is so important to be asking yourself what motivates you and what you value on a regular basis. When working with clients I always have what brought them to me in at the forefront of my mind and I remind them as well when I sense we are getting derailed. The same applies to impatience. When you notice yourself becoming impatient I want to encourage you to do some deep introspection about what you most want and why. The answer may surprise you and the clarity will be priceless.
Solution: Engage with life
When we are over-analyzing, trying to busy ourselves, focusing on what someone else is doing and judging everything chances are we are not truly engaged. I want you to take a minute to think about what happened to you today. Did you feel good today? Why? Did you feel bad today? How come? What are you thinking at this very moment? Are you distracted or focused? Are you worried or peaceful? Are you hopeful or filled with dread? What are you going to do after you read this? Something that you are looking forward to or something that feels like a chore?
Next I want you to think about how you can become more engaged with life as it is, right at this moment. If you are around people, what is one thing that you can do to connect? It could be as simple as asking them a question (and actually listening to the answer) or telling them how much you enjoy and love them. If you are alone, how can you be more connected to yourself and your surroundings? Maybe you could take a walk in a park or brainstorm possible daily rituals.
Engaging in life is when we put spirituality into practice the most. Are you in?