Albert Einstein is famous for saying "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." Lately, I've been making a conscious effort to see the holiness and divine in everyday things. It has greatly increased my level of joy. The first signs of spring (which came REALLY early this year) filled me with a sweetness that I then could share with Grace (5 years old.) And the steam rising from my tea in the morning is a beautiful reminder that letting the small pleasures really sink in feels so good. By imparting spiritual meaning in the everyday and mundane, I am living a spiritually fulfilling life even though I don't attend church or go to an ashram as much as I would like (actually close to never.)
Some ideas for how to find the sacred in ordinary life:
1. Begin a meditation practice. Countless studies have shown the positive effects of meditation on individuals who practice regularly: a profound state of physiological rest, heightened awareness, an improved immune system, reduction in depression and many other benefits. If you are new to meditation, schedule a 10-minute window of quiet time with zero distractions in the morning or in the evening--some time in the day when you are not feeling rushed or busy (I can already hear you saying "HA!" but really, it's worth the effort.) Close your eyes and focus on your in-breath and out-breath. If you find yourself going on a train of thought, be the observer of the thought with impartial judgment. By getting in touch with your inner silence on a regular basis, you will strengthen your mental faculties and feel much more connected to the flow of your life. I really like this meditation app.
2. Start exercising. A flood of research emphasizes the benefits of physical exercise for health, well-being and happiness. Some of the benefits include but are not limited to: decreased stress, the reduction of disease risk, builds muscles and bones, improves sleep, controls weight and reduces clinical depression. What are some ways to begin and maintain a regular exercise routine?
a. Start slow--in the 60 to 65 percent range of your maximum heart rate.
b. Decide ahead of time on specific dates, starting times, and durations of your exercises, treating them like fixed appointments.
c. If possible, choose a time to exercise during the day when you feel most energetic.
d. Current guidelines recommend thirty minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. But better to exercise for ten minutes than not at all.
e. If you already engage in regular physical activity, up the ante. Run faster and longer; lift heaver weights; join a more advanced yoga or dance class.
f. An exercise is like a diet. It's okay to break it, but don't let guilt and shame so overwhelm you that you give up the whole thing.
If you are local to the bay area, I am planning on walking around Lake Temescal on Thursday mornings with Ben and Bacchus (my dog) and we would love some company. Email me if you'd like to join us.
3. Act like a happy person. Studies show that simply acting like a happy person can make you feel happier. Taking on the facial expressions and postures of happiness can go a long way to make you experience joy. The next time you are feeling sad, anxious, stressed--simply not happy--make an effort to act, feel and sound like a happy person. Put on a smile, speak in a cheerful tone, straighten your posture and act kindly towards others. You may notice a lift in your mood and even better--you will feel happier in seeing how your happy actions are reflected back at you when other people respond to your positive energy. In other words, regularly act like the happy person you want to be and you may find that over time, it will no longer feel like acting anymore.
Post an intent on how you plan on finding the sacred in ordinary life. (Example: My intent is to write in my gratitude journal every morning and evening for 5-10 minutes to get in touch with my spiritual side.)