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Spiritual Practice - What is it really?

Updated: Apr 8, 2020


Not the high mountain monastery I had hoped for, the real face of my spiritual practice is this: the sweat that pearls on my cheek when I tell you the truth, my silent cry in the night when I think I’m alone, the trembling in my own hand as I reach out through the years of overcoming to touch what I had hoped I would never need again.

~ Kim Rosen

Practice by my teacher Kim Rosen, is really speaking to me at the moment. In a time when “spiritual” practice in its many and varied forms is growing in a  wonderful way. I feel it is increasingly important not to get stuck in an idea of what “spiritual practice” is. But instead to constantly take on the mind of a beginner and open to each moment, rather than attaching to fixed ideas.  I also feel it is best not to get caught in the dos and don’ts. In other people’s ideas of the right or wrong way to do things. It is astonishing how many articles I read at the moment, that are admonishing others for doing things the wrong way, be it how we practice yoga, what we eat, how we meditate, how we are all just part of a big commercial process.

What is really important is to build a relationship with ourselves that means that we practice because it is a way of connecting more deeply to who we are right now.  What I also know in myself and in so many of the people I know and meet, is that we are all doing the very best we can in every moment. I don’t know a single person who practices yoga, in all its varying forms, who is not doing things with good intentions. We all get things wrong, we all do things that, as we learn and develop, we may not repeat. But we are all learning and each part of our journey, if we let it, lets us open up more fully to our deepest being.

I used to practice yoga, chanting etc. because I was told that if I did, I may, in many lives in the future, attain enlightenment.  This was not a bad thing actually because it got me going, but I had no idea what enlightenment really was, I did however create a rigid picture in my head. I am actually extremely grateful to the beginning of my journey, because at least it got me practicing, and with that came the strength to change my life. But when I started to realise that enlightenment wasn’t a future living in a warm bubble of bliss permanently, but in every moment of my waking life, it was a painful shattering and I fought it hard. The last thing I wanted to ever do was accept that my current experience is it. All that has to happen is a turning towards myself.

Yoga, meditation, chanting and poetry are still my tools and I imagine may always be, but my understanding of why I do them is changing. They now are a solace, a diving within, an opportunity to be absorbed in something way more powerful and beyond my day to day dilemmas and processes. They are a reminder of something that is becoming more and more palpable to me , that is so much bigger than my mind’s limited concepts, that opens up to the richness of living this life right now.

Every day its strikes me that this is it. Tomorrow I may die. As my brother in-law (Mat’s brother) battles with reoccurring brain cancer, at the same time as awaiting for his third child to be born, it strikes me how important it is just to live. There is no point in focusing on the future in the hope that at some point our suffering might end. It is now. The majesty of life is in the sadness that I feel, in the love that I experience, in the battle with depression and anxiety that, just when I thought I had let it go for good, rises its head once more to remind me how volatile life is and may always be. But in this my heart opens. In this I find a love that I never knew before and each day step by step, my understanding of living is changing. Each step I take, I actually feel a little more free. A little less confined by my judging mind, a little less in need of making someone else wrong in order to be right. A little less scared that I am not good enough and a little more accepting that I am simply who I am, faults and all. 

So I invite you to open the doors to what practice is and let it be in every moment. Yes mediation, yoga etc are incredibly valuable, they are a doorway perhaps, but the real practice is in every minute of every day. In the humility of standing in all our vulnerability and learning to love who we are, as we are, right now.

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Frances Narayani Baker
voice facilitator, kirtan singer, teacher

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