Guideposts For Daily Spiritual Practice

These were inspired by the writings of Jon Kabat Zinn. I hope you find it useful on the path.

1. For any spiritual practice to flourish and take root in your life, it is essential that you know why you are practicing. Otherwise, you cannot have the patience, the discipline, the aspiration and the effortless effort that it needs after the short honeymoon of initial practice.

2. The maps we get and learn from are not the territory. They can guide and serve you but you have to live the journey yourself.

3. You need to have a clear personal vision for why you doing what you are doing. This will be the only support during the harsh winters of the spiritual journey.

4. Your vision will be influenced by your personal beliefs, values and life circumstances. But it is important to let everything, yes everything in your life become your teacher. Then you will come to realise that the whole of life is a spiritual teaching and journey.

5. You have to have a life-long commitment to continual inquiry and willingness to modify your perspective as you gain more insight, understanding and knowledge regarding the path.

6. You have to practice what you decide to practice. Nothing else can take the place of it. Just like food nourishes only the person who eats it, you have to practice for the practice to nourish you.

7. The right attitude is important. You should be committed to the practice and be energised about it. At the same time you should not try to forcefully relax yourself and want something to happen. Non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind,  trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go are the essence of the practice.

8. Mechanically following the rules is not enough. The whole being has to be open and receptive to the practice for learning and change to occur.

9. The spiritual path is a entirely different path. You have to have a new way of looking and not want to control things and make things turn out the way you want.

10. The practice will not change what happens to us but it will change how we relate to what happens to us. It can sometimes cure things but it will always heal. Healing is coming to terms with things as they are.

11. Awareness requires that we pay attention and see things as they are. It does not require that we change anything. You have to be receptive and you have to accept. You have to let go.

12. You should not practice with a negative mindset that it will not work. It does take time and we need to be patient. Otherwise we will quit too soon and that is a pity.

13. Be an impartial witness to your own experience. Be aware of the constant stream of judging and reacting to the inner and outer experiences. Learn to step back from it.

14. The habit of categorising and judging our experienced locks us into mechanical reactions. This robs the peace out of our minds.We need to become aware of  the automatic judgements and see the prejudice and fear and liberate ourselves.

15. Recognize this judging quality of the mind when it appears and intentionally assume the stance of an impartial witness by reminding yourself to just observe it.Do not stop the judging or judge the judging. Just become aware of it. This means becoming aware of thoughts like- “This is not working”, as judging and remind yourself that the practice involves suspending judgment and just watching whatever comes up without pursuing or acting on them.

16. Be patient. Understand and accept the fact that things must unfold in their own time. You cannot force a butterfly to come out of the chrysalis. If you do, it will die. Similarly, be patient with yourself when you practice and nothing positive seems to happen. See each moment as life unfolding in that moment. Don’t rush through some moments to get so-called better ones. After all, each one is your life in that moment and moments make minutes and minutes make hours, days, years and your whole life.

17. The mind often wanders into the past and the future and thinks painful and pleasurable thoughts. But these take you away from the present moment and you lose connection with the present. Be patient, accept this wandering tendency of the mind and be open to each moment, accepting it its fullness, knowing that things will unfold in their own time.

18. Cultivate the beginner’s mind. Be willing to see everything, as if for the first time. Thinking and our beliefs about what we know prevents us from seeing things as they are and we take the ordinary for granted. Do not do that. See the miracles in the ordinary. Then we shall be receptive to new possibilities and not stuck to the rut of our expertise. See everything with fresh eyes and not with eyes contaminated by past thoughts and feelings. Look at nature with fresh and uncluttered eyes and see how wonderful they are: the blue skies, the white clouds, the green trees, twinkling stars, sparkling water and the rough stones.

19. You cannot become somebody else. You can only be fully yourself. Teachers and guides can be signposts but you have to live your own life, every moment of it.

20. Trust yourself. Then you will be able to trust others.

21. To become successful in the practice, you need to have a strong commitment, self-discipline and need to practice regularly. It is not easy and takes time and effort. You have to practice regularly, whether you like it or not, whether you feel good about it or not or whether the goal seems worth it or not any particular day. You do not have to like it. You just have to do it.

22. In the beginning when the practice is fragile, take support from practicing at a specific time and specific place. Try to protect it from interruptions and commitments so that you can just be yourself without having to do or respond to anything. Shut your telephones off. Let go of all distractions.

23. Commit yourself to practicing this way. This is easy. Keeping to the path that you have chosen when you run into obstacles and may not see the results straight away is the measure of your commitment. To do this you need to have conscious intention and practice no matter what happens, each day, irrespective of whether it is convenient or not for its own sake because this moment is your life. Regular practice is not as hard as you think if you make up your mind to do it and pick an appropriate time. Having a reason for doing it helps you keep committed.

24. When you practice, you take time to be yourself. Taking time to be yourself is intelligent because ultimately you cannot help others if you cannot nourish yourself. Once you take the time to just be, the quality of your life takes on a whole new different dimension.

25. Do not practice in a sluggish state. Be awake. Do not become unaware or sleep. Mindfulness is being fully awake.

26. Confusion, fatigue, depression and anxiety can bog you down. At such times, commitment to the practice is invaluable. It helps you maintain mental stability and resilience.

26. Remind yourself to be mindful even in the midst of activity. This gives balance, perspective, relaxation and well-being. Practising mindfulness in this way makes us more mindful and busyness and pressure then seems to disappear.

27. Meditation is a non-doing. It is being where you are. It helps us stop and observe the incessant activity of our mind. Otherwise “doing” takes over our life and we become robots. When we are constantly ” doing”, we are not aware of ourselves and the not aware of the transience of life. Meditation helps us to “be” and reminds us of what is really important. We just observe whatever comes up.

28. Just keep your attention on the breath, in your belly or the nostrils. If the mind wanders to the past or the future, just gently bring it back. If it wanders a hundred times, we gently bring it back a hundred times. You make your mind less reactive and more stable this way and you make each moment count. You strengthen you mental muscles of concentration and awareness and insight into the nature of the mind. Accept any pain or discomfort or ache without reacting and they will further teach you about mindfulness. Practicing this way builds inner strength, patience and non-judgment. You welcome whatever comes up and be with it and accept discomfort without reaction.

29. Do not suppress your thoughts or feelings. Be aware of them, make room for them and let them be while keeping your focus on the breath. The key thing is to be aware of whatever is going on. Be attentive to each thought but just let them be. Do not act on them. Then you will find you can prioritize your life better. This makes your life calm and peaceful. Each time we become aware of our thinking and come back to our breath, we strengthen mindfulness and awareness of who we really are.

30. Adopt the attitude of not trying to get anywhere. Be where you are and accept yourself. This helps build non-striving and acceptance. Then we will not have preconceived ideas of what success or failure means. We will accept this moment and this helps growth and healing. Whatever is, is. If we want it to be something else, it is just wishful thinking. Accept the actuality of each moment and each moment will then teach you and help you grow. You can only be where you are. The only problem is we do not accept it. Once you accept it you feel calm and mindful.

31. Meditation goes beyond success and failure. You are. Just like a flower is. Just like the skies are. You live each moment and you let it go. You honor each moment, whether it is wanting something, getting somewhere, avoiding failure or pursuing success and see it what it is- a thought, and let it be and let it go.

32. Walking meditation can help you know who are. You walk and you are aware that you are walking. That is it. If you thin about anything, you bring your attention back just like you bring your attention aback to the breath. You are just aware of the felt sensations of walking, nothing more. You will then appreciate this wonderful ability of ours to walk. The trick is to be completely be with your walking. Then you turn this daily activity into a rich and nurturing one.

33. All this is not easy. So be gentle with yourself and do not try too hard. You need to regularly practice and be consistent. This is reality, not some romantic thing.

34. How you relate to a sensations you experience makes a big difference to the degree of pain you experience. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. The way we see the pain and react to it determines the degree of suffering we experience. Being mindful of our pain gives us insight and understanding that distraction and escape will not give. View the pain as sensation and be aware of it give it space but do not react to it with suffering. Do not want it to disappear. Just explore it attentively, watch it and let it go. Be with the pain. Do not be elated if it goes off and do not be depressed if it comes back. Do not confront it. Just observe and accept it. Try to find more about it and do not try to get rid of it, Be aware of your breath. Each moment. Every moment.

35. You have only moments to live. Live it with awareness.

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