Thursday, October 11, 2012

do you have a spiritual practice?

Sarah recently joined me at Sonoma Ashram where she was a part of  our most recent yoga teacher training. Sarah is near and dear to my yogini heart and I just knew she would love this sweet place as I do. Please enjoy this thoughtful post from her. It's pretty perfect. I'm especially thankful that she got to spend some time with Babaji, the monk who founded and resides at Sonoma Ashram. Sarah also took these pretty photos around the property at the Ashram.

Many yoga students have asked me about my time and experiences at the Ashram. It is my hope and plan to share much more about this sweet place. One questions I get often is about taking a personal retreat at the Ashram. If this is something that interests you, you can read more details here. Enjoy Friend.

“Do you have a spiritual practice?” was the gentle question posed to me by Babaji as I sat with him at the Ashram just four short weeks ago.

My six days at the Ashram out in California were transformative.  I got to meet Babaji.  I got to slow my pace of life down, to simplify and un-complicate the schedule of my day. 

I got to spend time practicing yoga,
teaching yoga,
connecting to the people around me at the Ashram through seva (service),
meditating and practicing Puja at sunrise and sunset.
I had lots of time to just be.

I walked through the labyrinth and gardens.
I rested.
I reconnected with myself…

…as I disconnected from the busy-ness of my everyday life back in Kentucky.

And you know what? Turns out that all of that rest and simplification of my day allowed space.

Space for peace
And space for joy
To settle deeply into my heart.

Space to connect with my spirit. 
To shyly wave and smile at that part of me that transcends the do-to list, and all the other small things of my day to day.
The part of me that reminds me that I am whole.  I am complete.  I am perfection.

Back to that question…“Do you have a spiritual practice?”

My mind raced.  “Well, sure… I meditate, I do breath work, and I have my yoga practice…” I trailed off.  Babaji smiled a patient smile as I floundered to explain.

But the truth is I didn’t have a spiritual practice.  And I had no idea what it would take to start one.

How does one start a spiritual practice, exactly? And why is a spiritual practice important?

A few days after returning home from the Ashram and California, I started to understand the importance of a spiritual practice.

A few days after that deep peace and joy had settled into my heart in the sweet space of the Ashram, I found that I started to lose that peace back in Kentucky. 

I felt downright grumpy.

The busy-ness of my days was trying my patience.  I started to “sweat the small stuff” again.  What the hell happened? I asked myself.  How could I have so quickly lost my way again?

I felt like I had toppled off a mountaintop experience (my time at the Ashram), and found myself looking up trying to figure out just how I’d managed to lose that peace and joy so quickly.

And, in the midst of my internal questioning, I remembered Babji’s question to me… “Do you have a spiritual practice?”

Oh yes.  That’s right.  Hm.  Perhaps there might be something to that…

Reflecting back on my Ashram experience, I had this opportunity for simplicity. And this simplicity created the space for me to connect to spirit, to realize how whole and complete and perfect I already am, and to allow my natural state of peace and joy to bubble up and spill out of me.

Whoa.  So how could I possibly bring what I learned at the Ashram into my daily life here in Kentucky?

Babaji encourages anyone interested in starting a spiritual practice to commit to a very simple daily practice.  Here it is: three mind-full breaths.  Three mind-full breaths, you say…that’s it?

That’s simple, Sarah, you say to me.

Not so fast, I say to you.  I carried this intention home with me from California.  Three mind-full breaths, I thought…piece of cake.

The idea is that upon waking in the morning, to pull yourself into a seated position (in bed is fine), and to take three mind-full breaths.  That’s it.

In the first week I was home, I think I managed to remember this about 5 out of the 7 days.  One morning, I was driving to work before I realized I’d forgotten to take my three mind-full breaths. Whoops.  At the stoplight, I took my breaths.

After two weeks of this practice of three mind-full breaths, I was craving more. 

I remembered how when I was at the Ashram, upon finishing my dinner, I would find myself really looking forward to sitting down in the temple and getting quiet to meditate as the sun set and twilight rose.  Those sweet moments to connect to my spirit before settling down to sleep.

So I have established for myself a daily spiritual practice.

It doesn’t matter what I do (Although I put some though into it before beginning.  For me, it involves incense, a mudra, my prayer beads, and some time with my breath).  It doesn’t matter how long I do it (For me, it is averaging about 10-15 minutes) or when I do it (For me, it is first thing in the morning upon waking).

What matters is that I connect to spirit.  That what I do has meaning to me.  And that I make the space to do it every day.  No excuses.
And I am once again finding that peace and joy within me.  And I am remembering my wholeness, my completeness, and my perfection.

My spiritual practice becomes the thread that I can return to when I start to forget my peace or my joy.

So, I ask you the same question…Do you have a spiritual practice?

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