When we hear the word spiritual, we may think of religion. The true definition of spirituality is …. THE QUALITY OF CONNECTION WITH THE HUMAN SPIRIT OR SOUL, AS OPPOSED TO MATERIAL OR PHYSICAL STUFF. It is the connection towards god and the spirit world.
With religion, it is more of a sharing of beliefs and practices within a group. Spirituality is more of an individual practice aimed at having a sense of peace and purpose.
It is about discovering the meaning of life and joining the union of the universe and one another.
Unlike religion, spiritual practice has no strict rules or practices, as it is an individual and unique journey of personal growth and discovery.
BENEFIT OF SPIRITUAL PRACTICES
Spiritual practices have been around for hundreds of years and are done on a daily basis. There are many areas such as health, self, wealth and social, that need to be in balance, to really become happy in our lives.
This is why so many famous millionaires are not happy…. they may have lots of money and stuff but if their relationships and self awareness is lacking, their overall happiness will be one of unfulfillment!
This disconnection with self can then cause unhealthy behaviours, such as addiction, poor relationships, loneliness and so on.
The emphasis of spirituality is to form a connection inside the self, the universe and other people.
The world seems to be overwhelmed by stress, mental health and anxiety issues, which has been even more prominent by the current health and financial crisis that the world is experiencing. If we had ways of coping in times such as these, then the devastating effects would be far less.
By practising inner peace and calm within the self, the outside world will have little effect on ones emotional distress…. why?…. because, it is in the knowing that we are connected to something much bigger than ourselves.
When we feel this connection to all things, we know that nothing happens out of sheer bad luck……. everything created on this planet, is created by us!
Ok, so this may sound hippy dippy to you, especially if you are hearing these concepts for the first time. It is also not something I feel the need to push down anyone’s throat.
Ask yourself…. am i happy and fulfilled in my life? If the answer is no, am i willing to be open to new ideas that have been around and practised for many many years?
Just like the law of gravity, there are the laws of the universe… that’s a scientific fact. We already know, that our thoughts, alter our brains chemistry. When we are thinking positively and feeling optimistic our body increases in the feel good hormone, serotonin .
DANIEL GOLEMAN, arthur of “focus, the hidden driver of excellence“, states how thinking positive thoughts affects the frontal cortex of the brain.
This means that many areas of the brain are benefiting which results in more focus, ability to pay attention and a focus more on others than just ourselves!
NEGATIVE THINKING however, which causes stress and anxiety, actually take away resources from the this prefrontal cortex, so focus and rational are greatly impaired!
With negative thoughts, the brain cannot perform at its normal capacity, with creativity , reasoning and attaining new information becoming near impossible.
“Stress can alter plasticity in the nervous system, particularly in the limbic system” (Sapolsky, 2003).
SPIRITUAL PRACTICE EXAMPLES
Mindfulness and meditation has gained in popularity over the past few decades and as a result of this popularity, science has also taken an interest.
Studies have shown that meditation has an impact on both emotional and physical conditions, such as anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis and post traumatic stress disorder.
MINDFULNESS ~ Is a well known and popular form of meditation and one that has been embraced by the mainstream. Alcohol addiction centres are using this technique alongside acupuncture to ease the symptoms of living medication free.
Depression and mindfulness have been studied and have also shown positive results. As mindfulness is all about focusing on the present moment and moving away from negative thoughts.
Mindfulness does not show to be more effective than conventional treatments but are… as effective, up to date.
The option to use mindfulness instead of medication, in some cases, maybe beneficial for the individual and financially for the health service.
As stress seems to be prevalent in today’s society, it is extremely beneficial to us all to be using some form of meditation.
Studies indicate that practicing meditation can improve our ability to recover from stressful events and triggers in our lives.
Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson write in their book, Altered Traits, “These changes are trait-like: They appear not simply during the explicit instruction to perceive the stressful stimuli mindfully, but even in the ‘baseline’ state” for longer-term meditators, which supports the possibility that mindfulness changes our ability to handle stress in a better, more sustainable way.”
I have a ten minute mindfulness practice that i use, especially if im feeling tired or unable to concentrate and it really does the job. Even after only ten minutes, i feel refreshed and relaxed.
Yoga is not just an exercise routine to keep in shape. Originated in India, yoga is a combination of physical, mental and spiritual practice, which has become a western phenomenon over the past decade. There are numerous yoga studios set up worldwide, with the online space also vastly growing.
The benefits, when practised alongside meditation can help with conditions, such as stress and anxiety, both of which have studies to back this up.
A study of 24 women practiced yoga for a 3 month period, all of whom suffered emotional disturbance. After the three months, the women had lower levels of cortisol in their bodies. Not only that but they also reported better quality of life , reduced levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
It’s not only the emotional state of a person that can be improved through practising yoga. There are also physical benefits from engaging in this ancient tradition, such a reducing inflammation.
Excessive inflammation, if untreated correctly, can lead to more serious conditions, like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
A study performed in 2014 on people battling breast cancer, who practised yoga for 12 weeks ,showed lower inflammation markers and lower levels of fatigue.
Although more research is needed to gain more supporting, science based results, the studies performed to date are highly encouraging.
There are many areas where studies show that yoga may have a direct impact on lessening the severity of many physical conditions…. such as heart disease, chronic pain, breathing, migraines and balance.
A study of 66 elderly individuals we put in to groups. The first performed calisthenics and the second performed yoga for a twelve month period. After that time, those who used yoga where four times more flexible than the calisthenics group!
So it seems very clear that yoga has a benefit for an a-ray of conditions and it is encouraging that so many people are embracing and incorporating yoga into their daily routines.
MANTRA & PRAYER
Mantra is a form of meditation. Its is the use of a word or sentence that is repeated over and over, for a set period of time. The aim is to keep concentration away from inner thoughts and the outside influences.
The meaning of the word mantra is quite beautiful….. man meaning mind and tra meaning release.
Using a mantra during meditation may improve concentration and focus, which some people find challenging using meditation alone.As with meditation and yoga, the mantra can help…….. Lower stress Improved self approval Positive mindset Self awareness Inner calm
The mantra can be especially effective where negative self talk is an issue . Consistent negativity within the mind can contribute to conditions such as anxiety and depression, so by using a positive mantra, said many times daily, on a regular basis, may help rewire the brain’s negative programming. Its kind of similar to using positive affirmations.
Repeating a positive statement or merely using a sound mantra has shown to produce a great sense of calm which has a knock on effect for sleep. If the body is managing stress, is feeling more calm and serene, then sleep will also be impacted positively.
As with all of these practices, self awareness maybe greatly increased and with that comes self compassion and better ability to connect with others. When we feel stressed or anxious, the focus is very insular and aimed at escaping these undesirable sensations. The great thing is….. all of these things are within our own control and we have all we need within ourselves.
So using outside influences and behaviour will keep the momentum of unease or disease ( dis ease ) going. Until the focus is directed on calming and becoming still, nothing is likely to change.
MANTRA PRACTICE ~ provided by the yoga journal
The mantra: Om
Translation: The primordial sacred sound
Why chant it: Om is said to be the first sound heard at the creation of the universe. When each syllable is pronounced fully, you should feel the energy of the sound lifting from your pelvic floor all the way up through the crown of your head.
The mantra: Om śāntih śāntih śāntih
Pronunciation: a-u-m shanti hee shanti hee shanti hee
Translation: Peace peace peace
Why chant it: Because we could all use more peace in our lives.
Prayer is known to almost everyone on the planet and is practised in many different forms. Many use prayer through their own specific religion and it seems to bring security and comfort to those, especially in times of hardship.
No matter what each religion practice or what name they have for god……. it is all directed to the same creator…. as there is only one! Some call this god, soul….. the universe. This is of little importance but was is impactful, is the benefits this prayer creates within the self but also the benefits to the world.
As we have discovered, a negative mindset has an impact on the brain’s chemistry which may cause conditions such as stress, depression or anxiety. Now, if the brain is receiving positive stimuli, the mind and body will blossom. So what we put out there, will show itself in our physical reality.
This is the law of the universe or law of attraction. If we pray for all the things we do not want…. guess what, that’s what the universe will deliver…. more of what you don’t want, because that is what our thoughts are focusing on.
The same is also shown in our physical body, with prayer having a positive effect on people who have experienced heart attacks and cardiac surgery, with recovery rates being a lot faster. Prayer also helps to regulate the heartbeat.
There is still a way to go before spiritual practices are recognized and incorporated fully in to our society. But there is no denying that the benefits of yoga, meditation, mantra and prayer, do seem to have their benefits, not just emotionally but physically also.
With the health care system under such strain and people being so affected by stress and depression, it seems to make sense to use these practices so people not only gain the benefits but also take responsibility and control of being the antidote and solution in our own lives.