What does it mean to be Spiritual?

Of late, urban beings have started to find it fashionable to be ‘spiritual’ and not ‘religious’. Very good, I say. But what exactly would you mean by that, I ask. Oh well, they say, I don’t believe in anything in particular… it’s like there is this you know, this feeling sort of thing… like ummm this connection you know, with a force… but I won’t call it a God or something… you you you meditate on it you know.

I know. It is about the connection you have with YOU. And how wonderful it is to discover that! Since the last 2000 years all mankind has focused on, is connecting outside – faster and further. Today video-chats take us halfway across the globe in an instant. But connecting inside? The energy within (you), with the energy of the universe (YOU)? No whatsapp for that yet! But there is a tool called “Awareness”. And that manifests spiritual connectedness.

Allow me to share some wisdom from a lady Tibetan monk called Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, author of several books including ‘Into the Heart of Life’. Quintessentially, she defines spiritual practice as something that happens not on the cushion or in the protected space of retreat, but moment-to-moment in daily life, particularly when we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations. How do we respond? Have we internalized the fact that everyone wants to be happy? Since that is all they want, kindness to others is a spiritual thing since it comes from understanding that.

Being kind and compassionate is born out of awareness. It connects you with YOU energetically… instead of connecting you with them. And having people around us gives us the opportunities to develop a fine awareness of our responses to them.

Patience is another quality. Anyone can be patient without a disturbing stimulus. With the stimulus do you respond with power and compassion, or with force and negativity? Your response-combination defines your level of spirituality.

Being generous is another. Listen to others, giving time. In awareness. That is generosity. And since each person loves themselves the most, being in awareness of that and acknowledging it by giving a compliment, is recognizing your spirituality in daily life.

“Everything done with mindfulness and attention is living the Dharma”, Jetsunma says. All Dharma is, is about taming the mind – to bring happiness to oneself and others. It is the nature of the sun to give light and warmth… without prejudice. And that is how one must cultivate the qualities of kindness and helpfulness as spiritual beings.

The word Mindfulness in Sanskrit is Smriti, or “to remember”; what we are doing… without commenting or judgment. Even in English, to “mind your head” refers to remembering the ‘low door frame’, lest we should bump into it. And you can only mind in the moment, in the present.

Which is why ‘spiritual people” meditate on their breath. You cannot breathe in the past or in the future. Breathing is a good awareness practice… to make a habit of it. Thich Nhat Hanh urges people to use mindfulness bells – for you to capture your state of thoughts and actions at the instant when it rings. An app can have your phone ring a bell every hour… to cultivate the habit.

In conclusion, the root of our suffering is not knowing our true nature. We identify with the wrong things. Our relation with ourselves is like a taut drum. Anything hits it, it makes a loud sound. So we must learn to relax. Forgive ourselves. And tame our minds with the instrument of awareness. As is evident today, the world is in control of people like you and me who are not even in control of our own minds. And that explains the craziness across the planet. Wisdom means seeing things as they really are. And to be spiritual, is to be wise.