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Living the spiritual life... where?

    One of the most persistent of errors is the belief that the spiritual life is separate from our daily life in the home or office. The truly spiritual mind sees no difference in the two. Differences in geography seem to make them different in psychology, but the wise mind sees them as one world. A businessman is doing spiritual work when he refuses to waste his energy in feeling disappointed. At the same time that Ralph Waldo Emerson was writing his victorious philosophies, he was also raising the best commercial apples in his home town of Concord, Massachusetts.

    I wish I knew where I found this great quotation, but at the time of writing its source escapes me.

    However, its intent is very similar to another of my favorite quotes,

    Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

    In other words, despite the existence of hermits, a spiritual life does not have to mean a life separate from the rest of the world. It may mean a life that is less complex than much of the rest of the world. Nonetheless, even the most cloistered of monks, nuns, and other contemplatives around the world - of whichever religion - usually work for their living. Some cultivate a garden or farm, some teach, some run one or another form of business, some of which call for a considerable amount of physical work. Some produce greeting cards and other printed products - a heritage of the days when monks were among the few who could read and write. Some do specialized breeding of livestock. In Buckfastleigh, in Devon, England, the monks have bred strains of honey-bee that are coveted by beekeepers throughout the world. Other work done by contemplatives includes woodcarving, making cheese, making candles, creating stained glass items, painting, and, in a more modern day slant, developing and cataloging databases for the internet and creating and maintaining Web sites.

    There are two aspects to spirituality in such a life. (Of course, there are many more - what I really mean is that there are two that I want to write about at this moment!)

    One is setting aside time in which to focus one hundred percent on spirituality. Prayer, meditation, contemplation - those activities that so many of us say are high on our list of priorities, but which are not put into action nearly as regularly as we would like. I will return to this problem later.

    The second aspect is the consistent and constant maintenance of an awareness of one's spiritual connection, regardless of what else we are doing, however hard we are working.

    You may say that this last is difficult. If it were easy more people would be doing it already. However, consider:

    Must of us can (probably) drive a car at the same time as we listen to the radio or other audio device or carry on a conversation. Most of us can do whatever we do around the house and still be aware of what young children are doing, of the traffic in the street outside, and, when necessary, of changes in the weather as they occur. We can and do split our attention in many directions, even though some people do this better than others. Why, then can we not go about our daily life and maintain an ongoing awareness of our connection with the Creator? I've written before of this ongoing conversation, which can serve to make us so much more aware of our surroundings, ourselves, AND the Creator. What is difficult is to maintain the focus, just as we would maintain the focus if we were working and yet listening for something outside of our work.

    Sometimes an internal sound may help, a mantra or simple prayer of some kind - nothing complicated. The Sufi mantra To-ward the One is a perfect example. A well-known Buddhist mantra is Om Mani Padma Hum. Sometimes translated as "Behold! The jewel in the lotus," this mantra is too hugely complicated to be so simply interpreted, and serves at many levels (for examples, see Om Mani Padma Hum.

    A Christian mantra used by many is "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me." Mantras much longer than that can become too complex and may defeat the object of the enterprise.

    Another quiet reminder, if our hands are free, is a mudra - a rhythmic repetition of finger positions. For example, one might touch the little finger tip to the tip of the thumb, then the fourth finger to the thumb, then middle, then index finger - and repeat. Or one might use the same pattern but touch the finger tip to the palm of the hand. This can be coupled with a mantra so that the two go (if you'll pardon the pun) hand in hand, particularly if you can use a four syllable mantra. Unfortunately, because we tend to habituate to routine very quickly, after a while these things become automatic, and no longer serve to keep us self-aware and Creator-aware. For this reason we need to change them from time to time.

    How important is it to you that you remain spiritually aware at all times? That is what it comes down to. If it is important enough, then you will find a way to encourage yourself in a gradual increase in the amount of time when you manage to maintain this thread of awareness regardless of what else the world calls upon you to do.

    I mentioned earlier that I would return to the fact that not only do contemplatives attempt to maintain Creator-awareness at all time, but that they also structure their lives so as to allow time for pursuits that are solely spiritually focused - such activities as prayer, meditation, and journaling. This is where, for many people, "the world" gets in the way of spirituality. We feel that it does not let us stop. It does not give us time to go within. However much some people attempt to build these activities into their routine, many (including this writer) find it extremely difficult not to leap into the activities of the day, setting aside both spiritual and physical disciplines as having less priority than all those looming "to-dos" that keep coming at us.

    Although time management usually seems to belong more to my personal effectiveness e-zine, Work in Progress, than to a spirituality-oriented work, this just demonstrates the extent to which our lives are all one. If time management issues prevent us from our chosen spiritual practices, then time management IS relevant to spirituality.

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    The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle

    One of the most powerful and popular of the books that focus on the theme "be here now!" that is so important for the spiritual path. I cannot conceive of how one can maintain the kind of Creator-awareness discussed above if one is not "in the now." We may choose to live in the past, or in the future, but the Creator can only be connected with in the now. This book is a useful guide to being here, now. To learn more and/or order, click on Power of Now

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    � 2003 by Diana Robinson, Ph.D.
    Choices Success Strategies Coaching
    Work in Progress may be reproduced in its entirety only, including this copyright line. Disclaimer -The contents herein are solely the opinions of Work in Progress owner, and should not be considered as a form of therapy nor advice. There is no guarantee of validity or accuracy. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, services of a competent professional should be sought. TO SUBSCRIBE to Work in Progress send a blank e-mail to workinprogress-On@lists.webvalence.com. To offer feedback e-mail Diana.