At the end of my yoga workout at home this morning – done to a lovely DVD a friend put me on to, Ali MacGraw, Yoga, Mind & Body - a definition of Namaste (the salutation often spoken in a yoga class) appeared on the screen that I hadn’t heard before: “The God in me salutes the God in you”.
I’ve been dropping in and out of yoga classes for a few years now and joining in when the teacher and pupils say Namaste, but I think it’s the first time I’ve heard that definition. Or perhaps I’d heard it before but had forgotten. Whatever the case, it’s fitting that I should be reminded of it this morning, just as I was preparing to write this blog.
I scribbled an outline to this post in a notebook just before bed last night. This happens on occasion – sometimes I’m suddenly inspired to write and I have to get the words down before I forget. On this occasion, I think I was inspired because I’d had one of those days that had left me feeling content, peaceful, in touch with my spirit, connected to others and proud of myself.
I’d done a 30-minute workout in the morning – not yoga this time but some hand weights, sit-ups, cardio and stretches, followed by a bit of Pilates and then 10 minutes of meditation, rounded off with a healthy breakfast. I’d then done a full day’s editing, called a family member at lunchtime who I hadn’t spoken to in a while and who I imagined would be very happy to hear from me and who needed a bit of support, submitted a long-overdue blog post on perseverance to JustCharlee, the Canadian women’s lifestyle site I write for (it’s not published yet but earlier posts are here) and, after work, got myself to an outdoor pool for a swim in the last of the evening sun. After dinner, I left a message for a friend who also needed some support, had a nice chat with The Guy (that’s the one I mentioned in the previous post) and took myself to bed at a reasonable time to write in my notebook and flick through the pages of a vegetarian cookbook to find something nice to cook for a friend this evening. Eight hours of peaceful sleep followed.
In many ways, it was a pretty uneventful day, but one in which I got in touch with my spirit, my body, Nature, God and other people. And that’s what led me to the title of this post - the answer is spiritual.
If I’m looking for peace, for a way to lead a contented, happy existence, the best way to go about it, it seems, is to connect with my own spirit – the God-given spirit inside me – and with the earth, with Nature and with others – with the God-given spirit inside my fellows.
I can do this by putting to good use some of my natural gifts and talents (writing being one of them, I believe; compassion, understanding and empathy being others, perhaps); by getting in touch with my body, feeling its strength and its internal spirit, through exercise, stretching, breathing and meditation; with God, through prayer or simple chit-chat; with Nature, by being outdoors, standing on grass, swimming in an outdoor pool with the sky above me and leaves floating on the water, feeling the wind or being rained on (even if I get wet); and with other people, by connecting with them, preferably in person but if not, on the phone.
If I can do some or all of those things, I think I’m in for a good day.
Of course, it’s all too easy for me to cut myself off from this spirit – by being too busy, by not connecting with myself, God or others, by not putting my talents to good use, by not spending time in Nature and not exercising my body, by living in my own head, over-thinking and over-analysing, or by spending too much time on the computer, the iPhone or watching TV.
Technology, I reckon, all too often breaks this spirit-to-spirit connection. How many opportunities to chat to people have been wasted because we’ve sat on a train staring at our phones? How many chances to connect with strangers have passed us by because we’ve followed Google Maps to get to our destination rather than ask for directions? (I’m a big fan of asking for directions and also seem to be one of those people who always gets asked, even if I’m a tourist in an unfamiliar place – I must look like I know where I’m going!). And how many hours have we missed out on exercising our bodies, enjoying Nature or stilling our minds in meditation because we’ve been glued to a computer or TV screen?
The good news is – as I’ve discovered recently – it takes just a small amount of effort to get back in touch with this spirit: doing something we love, something that makes our heart and spirit sing, or putting our gifts to good use; going for an outdoors swim, a stroll or a bike ride; sitting still for 10 minutes and focusing on our breathing; or spending time connecting with friends, family members or strangers.
And I have to say after a few weeks of trying to do a bit of exercise most mornings – either yoga or a workout – and meditating for at least 10 minutes most days, I feel much more peaceful, in touch with my spirit, and connected to the world and the people around me.
My body and mind feel lighter, my legs and my core feel stronger (I can stand in tree pose without wobbling too much) and I feel like there’s a solution to my poor posture and my lower back pain, even if I’m not quite there yet.
I’m more peaceful, more content, more tolerant and accepting of myself and of others and more open to love and life.
In short, I’m a long way from the person who pondered taking anti-depressants last Autumn and a very long way from the woman who used to binge eat and binge drink, starve, punish herself with exercise or endless work and harm herself in other ways. Yes, I’ve come a long way since those days.
Now, I realise that all this talk of meditation, God and getting in touch with one’s inner spirit may not be for everyone. We all approach life differently and have our own ways of making sense of the world – while some are fortunate enough not to think too much about it.
But I believe those of us who are looking for meaning can find a way to connect with something that gives us that. This could be anything from that sense of fulfillment we get from discovering and using our natural gifts to the joy we feel when we’re free-wheeling downhill on a bike to that feeling of connection we have when we’re with someone we love.
I’m also aware that not everyone has the same amount of time on their hands to meditate and exercise that I seem to have right now, particularly those of you with young children. But I imagine, amongst all the exhaustion and frustration, young children offer an amazing opportunity for that spirit-to-spirit connection and for love and joy. (And given the choice, I’d rather have the child than the hour to do yoga, although I’d love to have both!).
No matter our schedules or circumstances, however, there’s one thing we all have in common and that’s the fact that we breathe. Sometimes I find just listening to my breath, for a few minutes at the start or in the middle of the day, is reassurance enough that everything – in that particular moment – is exactly as it should be and that I have everything I need to find my way in this world.
Last night, I scribbled these words in my notebook: if I stay in touch with my spirit, with God and with Nature, I know I’ll find my way. If I use my gifts, I know I’ll find my way. And if I connect with others, I know I’ll find my way.
And then this morning, I heard this Anne Frank quote on the radio, which seemed quite fitting given what I planned to blog about: “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the Heavens, Nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.”
Postscript: I’ve been reminded recently that it’s good to do something every day that frightens us a little or challenges us. It’s pretty much guaranteed to build our self-confidence and raise our self-esteem. I don’t always adhere to it myself but on the days I do, my spirits are lifted.