Too busy for spiritual practice

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Even a van halen concert can be a part of spiritual practice.

I tend toward busy-ness. If I let auto-pilot take over and I’m not paying attention, over-busy is what happens around here. I have a way of generating tasks and activities so that I get the satisfaction of checking something off of a list, even if the list is kind of lame. I guess this stems from an early-childhood belief that if I’m busy, I’m also productive, though this has not proven to be true.

Staying busy is also a way that I avoid stuff I don’t want to feel or I put off things I don’t want to do. “How can I possibly take on a self-improvement project?  I’m already overwhelmed.”  If I’m working under low-grade anxiety about getting everything done or always anticipating what comes next, then I don’t have much space to contemplate a conversation in which I was careless or to address the nagging feeling that I’m steering off my path. I just keep moving.

I received this comment from Sept. 17th’s post, ‘We are all trying to figure out how to suffer less.’ “At least for me, to find and follow a real spiritual path takes a LOT of work and time – sifting through all the stuff that gets in the way – with constant attention and discipline.” When expressed in this way, I think spiritual practice sounds too hard to tackle amidst what’s already a busy and full life. And yet, that hasn’t been my experience.

A balanced, meaningful, and spiritual life doesn’t come from generating busy work or accomplishing 100 tasks every day. More is not better.  I’m most satisfied with my life when I can listen and laugh with my girls or be totally tuned in when my husband comes in for a sweet hug and kiss. I get a really good connected feeling from pulling weeds and taking care of my garden. This stuff requires stillness, presence, and time and an ability to sift through all the stuff that gets in the way, as KP says so beautifully. Yes it does.

KP is right. Following a spiritual path does take effort. Some regular practice is necessary. A yoga practice, time spent in prayer, reflective writing… these are some of the ways we take to connect to something higher. Even though there’s some effort and time involved, there’s something special about time devoted to one’s spiritual life. Meaningful time spent in this way pays back by offering a more mindful, and present me during the rest of the day. Because I take the time to be conscious and intentional in the morning, I’m less likely to feel like I have to hustle. I have less anxiety. On the best days, I’m focused, present, and more aware.

This time spent connecting with a peaceful presence and in self-reflection sets us up to have days in which we are more peaceful and self-aware. We might aim for constant attention in our activities, but a gradual approach is probably a better way to develop a spiritual practice. We progressively develop patterns of attention so the reflexive and habitual responses don’t run on auto. This takes time and practice. But the practice is a part of the day.  How we spend our time and approach our daily tasks becomes a part of our spiritual path.

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6 thoughts on “Too busy for spiritual practice

  1. I am so glad to read your blog and to know you and to hear you remind me of this again and again. I need it. Thank you. It’s funny how important it is to remember (and how easy it is to forget) that the things we do every day are our spiritual path. The way we choose to do them makes one’s experience of that path more or less meaningful and connected. Following the past is not another task, it IS the task. The more I can hold that idea, the less anxiety I feel. My questions from the 17th were from a place of deep auto-pilot, I can see in retrospect. And a frustrated feeling that I just don’t have TIME for awareness. Hmmm. 🙂 I’m happy I can say I do this less as time goes on, but I hate the feeling of “waking up” a few days, weeks, or years down the road and realize I’m not really sure what just happened in all that time. A gradual approach, and friendly reminders along the way, can help me slow down.

  2. Not to split hairs, Amanda, just a little shift in perspective… I find that the spiritual is smooth as silk. It’s all the other stuff that’s putting up the fight when you try to break up with it.

    1. Ha! I hear you on this one, Bharat. smooth as silk. I love that.

      The effort I mention is along the lines of tapas– the heat or friction that’s created when we go against those patterns that go down fighting and aim for something new and something better. And that effort and friction is part of the tripod of kriya yoga along with self-reflection/svadhyaya and letting go of the results of our actions/isvarapranidhana. Kriya yoga is a spiritual path. Maybe there’s something sacred… even spiritual in the way we engage with the other stuff — the stuff that puts up a fight.

      I guess what we are talking about here is the difference between draṣṭṛ and drśyam — the seer or the true self and the material. The seer is perfect, clean, whole but it only functions through the material aspect and it’s because we are in a body and in the world that we have the ability to know (experientially) the difference.

  3. I know you are right. And it is a spiritual struggle on all fronts, and it is difficult. For myself, I try to be affirmative about the nature of the fight. In doing so, I try to assume the consciousness of the seer that I am to move toward. As you say, in this life we practice in a body with everything that brings with it. Tapas. Abhyasa. It is difficult, in my view, exactly because of what we have to undo, not because of what we are moving into. And I try to maintain that perspective. And as usual my friend I agree with all you say. You have a good conversation going here. Thanks.

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