Welcome to episode #175 of the Own Your Best Life Podcast. We have moments where we feel a sense of peace or wholeness in our lives. Yet, they can sometimes feel fleeting and far and few, in between. How do we bring more of those moments of clarity and calmness into our days? Through our spiritual practices. Today, I’ll share with you how I chose my spiritual practices.
Spirituality became important to me when life started getting more challenging and harder. I started meditating when I was young – at the age of 8. When I began meditating then, it was because I had experienced meditating at a Buddhist monastery when I went there for a week of camp. I didn’t fully comprehend what and why I meditated, but it felt good to me.
As a child, it was mantras that I would recite during my meditation. I would also wish people well. I remember having a consistent set of names that I would recite as I wished these people well. They were my parents, my brothers, my grandmother and even my pet hamster, Dottie.
As time went on, I fell away from these practices as my life grew busier, but there were moments where I tried to bring them in during the day.I was doing a lot of extracurricular activities at school, and had started playing sports like field hockey and lacrosse. I remember running around the field and just reciting mantras throughout for any insects I may have crushed on my run. If I saw dead or dying animals that were hit by cars on the road, I would recite some mantras to wish them well.
I also believed that my thoughts meant something and that my intentions were important. It was as if I felt that people could see right through me to my thoughts, so one of my spiritual practices – although I didn’t see it as such at the time, was trying to think well about others and have positive intentions behind all my actions.
For me, spirituality was about others. It was about being a kind person and cultivating a sense of compassion towards others. It wasn’t a practice that was about developing my own sense of inner peace or cultivating focus and concentration. I didn’t know the science behind mindfulness meditation and how it could train your brain to make better decisions and reduce stress.
I didn’t see any of the spiritual practices as performance-enhancing tools. If I did, I probably would have meditated more as my life became more and more achievement oriented.
It wasn’t until college that I felt like I needed meditation again, but it was in the form of wall-staring. This sounds strange, but it’s one of the recovery practices for people who have so much on their plate they feel overloaded. I was in a semester where I had an extraordinarily high load of classes morning through evening. I remember vividly saying to myself and others that all I wanted to do was stare at a wall. It is also a flow hack that helps decrease stimulation to your brain, the same way that meditation can as well.
Spiritual practices as a way to handle life came back during my summer internships in college. I remember a particular summer when I was working at an investment bank in New York City during my junior year in college. After work, I would go to the gym and work out on the treadmill and I wouldn’t put any music on. It was my form of mindful movement and connection to quiet. I remember saying to myself, “I just need quiet.” I wouldn’t put any music on. I was over-stimulated and I just needed time where there wasn’t any outside noise filling my mind.
Then when my father died the summer I graduated business school I came back to my meditation practices. I had finished my second yoga teacher training certification – which was a spiritual practice on its own. Yet, I needed and craved a sense of peace when I felt the grief and waves of sadness strike me at night after a busy work day where I was distracted. Alone at night in my hotel room, I felt grief, sadness and more emotions than I expected. I was so surprised by how I felt – as if I had thought that the cognitive understanding of death would prepare me for the feelings I felt. It didn’t.
So I meditated as a way to understand and be at peace with death. Meditation is a way to prepare for death and the final moments. When you’re at a place of transitioning from being alive in a body to no longer being alive – it can be difficult to handle the thought of no longer being in this body, with loved ones – and meditation practices can help you practice stilling all those thoughts and feelings in the mind and body to become less detached. To become more of an observer.
Now, when I think about spiritual practices, I think of them as anchor points throughout my day. I ask myself, “how can I bring more spirituality into my day?”
For example, I meditate in the morning and sometimes I’ll also meditate in the evening before I go to bed. I practice mindfulness meditation, but I also have practiced kundalini, loving-kindness, mantra and chakra meditations. Guided and non-guided.
Whether it’s to heal my body, still my mind, solve problems or create more goodwill towards others, my spiritual practices remind me that there is a world beyond me that I can tap into. It connects me to others and my higher self. It brings more meaning into the moments in my day and it gives me a sense of purpose.
The more time I spend in my spiritual practices, the more my life improves. It’s the way to create a set point that I can anchor into for what I want to feel and create in the world so that when the harder and busier moments come, my spiritual muscle memory is still strong and running. I don’t have to leave my life to be spiritual. Spirituality is everywhere.
Now, let’s delve into how to select the spiritual practices you want to integrate into your day and how to align them with your schedule.
It’s important for you to first identify your priorities and what matters to you. Spend time reflecting on your spiritual goals to determine the practices that matter most to you. If you haven’t had any spiritual goals or aren’t sure what they are, think of them as ways for you to remember what’s important to you throughout your day, week, months, year or life.
My first spiritual goal was to be kind to others, to notice my thoughts. Then it became meditation and wishing others well. It included retreats and studying with spiritual teachers. Then it was to develop my own knowledge of spirituality. Yoga teacher certifications, researching spirituality in the workplace. Infusing it into my work and life even more.
Examples of Spiritual Practices
If you don’t have any spiritual practices, I would start with anchoring moments of your day.
For example, morning rituals, mid-day recharge and evening reflection. Morning rituals would be starting your day with intention and mindfulness to set a positive tone. Mid-day recharge looks like incorporating breaks for reflection, gratitude, or a quick meditation. You can even go on a quick walk or look at nature. Your evening reflection could be to end your day with practices that promote relaxation and self-awareness. A quick meditation, breathing exercises or journaling can all help you connect with yourself and others in a deeper way.
No matter what you choose to do, start with one thing and build upon it. You can also consider the alternative. If you’re not spending time on spiritual practices, what are you spending your time doing?
I want you to really reflect on that question. If we’re not connecting to what’s most important to us, what are we connecting to – and how are we spending our time.
Of course, you’ll also want to join the Spiritual Achiever® Coaching program. We help you infuse more spirituality in your life. To build your own spiritual practices and define your own personal understanding of what’s most important to you – so that you can have more days and moments of connection. This includes your work, the way you work, your mind, body and relationships as well. There are modules now, that you can dive into to help you decide who you want to be and how you can show up more as you – your highest self – across your whole life.
Reach out at www.mayempson.com/contact for more information on my Spiritual Achiever coaching program. You’ll figure out what’s next and actually go and do it.
If you like this blend of both practicality and mindset, you will love coaching. You can schedule a consultation at www.mayempson.com/contact to learn more about working together and joining this community of like-minded, open and curious seekers. It is the powerful group and private coaching hybrid experience for achievers who want to expand their vision of what’s possible. Twelve months of support, individualized guidance, community and retreats. We will help you build your confidence, trust your intuition and make decisions that you love.
That’s it for this week. Have an amazing one and I’ll talk to you next time.