Expanding Spirituality: The Inner Path to Peace
What does it mean to “expand spirituality” and how does that relate to being in peace? Being spiritual means that one is attentive to things of the spirit or soul. Spirit, as defined by the American heritage dictionary, is “the vital principle or animating force within living beings… The part of a human associated with the mind, will and feelings… from the Latin root spiritus, or breath.” We have been gifted with this spirit, this breath, inside each one of us. What you decide to do with this gift is entirely up to you, as you have also been given the will to choose your way of being.
We humans are complicated creatures, with a wide range of emotions we might experience on any given day. We feel joy and anger, love and fear, peace and worry, compassion and jealousy, but ultimately there are really just two ways of being: open or tight. Your body and heart know that this is true. Just recall a time when you gave freely of your time or money, or when you truly felt loved. There is a relaxed happiness, an open-heartedness in those times.
Now remember an experience of feeling lack, or being in competition with someone else. These emotions bring a sensation of tension in the body, a tightness in the heart. It is hard to imagine peace within ourselves or with our friends and family when we are coming from this place. There are many well researched scientific papers now that document the damage to our physical bodies from this kind of negativity – increased risk of heart attacks in men who are prone to anger, stress as a cause of increased blood pressure and decreased immunity. On the other hand, meditation, laughter, and prayer have been shown to decrease stress hormones and improve cancer outcomes!
Religious texts and scientific studies may tell us that it is better to live from this place of peace and open-heartedness, but we have only to look at our own experiences and feelings to know that this is true. So when you have decided that you want to have a deeper, richer life, to feel more kindness to yourself and to others, how can you make this happen?
The answer is, you expand your spirit, you pay attention to your soul. Thankfully, there are many tools to help you. Books by authors also committed to this way of life can give you direction. Uplifting music can make your heart sing. Sermons and seminars can make you think and reflect, and resolve to take ownership of your life. Quotes can distill basic truths. Meditation can help still the mind. Counseling can uncover wounds from which we are reacting. Conscious movies help to make us aware of social and environmental issues, and how our choices make a difference.
All of these tools open our spirit up to changing from old patterns of negativity to a life of potential and peace with ourselves and with others. The challenge can be in taking what you see you want, and making that the way you actually live day to day. A book cannot give you personal feedback or tell you if you were off in how you responded to someone. Counseling can reveal much about ourselves, but does it always lead to healing the wounds? Do you still notice that you react in anger to people and situations that remind you of those wounds?
The solution for many people wanting their lives to be transformed in a more solid way is to find a spiritual teacher. Jesus, Buddha, and Paramhansa Yogananda were all spiritual teachers with their own groups of disciples. Each of these Teachers had experienced the path and knew the obstacles and the joys along the inner road to peace. This experience made it possible for them to guide their disciples, just as a Sherpa knows the way up the mountain. A person that is seeking to have this kind of student-teacher relationship would be looking for more transformation. This desire from their heart would open up the opportunity, and “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
A real teacher in this lifetime will have been through their own transformational work, and will be able to guide their students as far as they have gone themselves. A real teacher will see their student right where they are and where they have the potential to go. The teacher will give guidance and insight with spiritual exercises designed to help their student see the truth in themselves and in their world. Some of these lessons are difficult, some are easy and joyful.
Anything that is worth doing well takes effort and practice, whether it is rebuilding an engine or learning calculus. It is no different when we are learning a new way of being. Often a teacher will see things about you that you are completely unaware of, bad habits and patterns that are causing you a lot of pain and suffering. A spiritual teacher will have ways to help you see these patterns and let go of them if you choose to, leaving you free to grow and deepen as much as you want.
Now that you have expanded your spirituality inside your being, wouldn’t it be wonderful to expand it out into the world? Our true human nature is to be kind and compassionate. You can see it in the faces of people when they are helping others in need, like the images of rescue workers giving aid in Japan after the tsunami, and the soldiers off the coast of Haiti wanting to help so much that they traded away privileges in order to help with the earthquake clean-up.
We light up when we are giving selflessly. Unfortunately we fall short of our real nature in horrific ways all over the planet. Greed and addictions are driving many to commit incredible atrocities such as the sex trade, drug trafficking and Ponzi schemes. If the spirituality of the human race were expanded and deepened into peace, compassion and love, none of these crimes would be committed. There would be no desire to do it.
The peace you gain inside makes a difference on a global scale. We can see from our own life experiences that this is possible. Remember a time when you were at home or at work and someone else walked into the room. If they are really hostile, afraid, or happy, everyone else can feel it. It can even be a trigger for others to feel and act in the same way, good or bad.
When you can go into any situation with peace and confidence, others feel it, and more and more they will relax around you. Conflicts lessen, people are more inclined to want to understand each other when they feel seen and accepted. Then they are more able to “pay it forward” with their own random acts of kindness, like letting the guy get over in front of them on the highway, or helping someone with a door. If you are peaceful yourself and conscious of bringing in more peace for others, your intentions will be even more powerful. Your thoughts and prayers, being cleaned up through your desire and dedication to transform, will be open channels for great changes. Have we ever needed to expand spiritually in ourselves and our world more than we do now?
Search your heart, and blessings on your path to peace.
“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”
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Thank You Christine Andrew