Engaging, on a regular, scheduled basis, with a community of people who embrace the same truths and value the same ideals as you can be a wonderful thing. Whether that means you plop your bum in a pew or gather with friends to talk philosophy once a week, you most likely leave these interactions feeling kind of warm and fuzzy. Recent research has even shown attending a spiritual service may help you live longer.
That said, a chat-in with a select group of like-minded folks definitely isn’t for everyone. Some people don’t have time to set aside an hour or two at the same time each week, some just don’t care for hanging out with other humans, and still others simply haven’t found their niche community. But just because you don’t attend a service each Sunday doesn’t mean you can’t reap the same physical and mental benefits from other activities.
1. Take a walk.
It’s no secret that for many people, a stroll down a forest path or along the crashing surf is the epitome of spiritual. Breathing in sea-salt air and hearing the crunch of autumn leaves underfoot can be relaxing, invigorating, and reflective. If the breeze through the trees sounds like a sermon to you, spend as much time as you can spare immersing yourself in nature.
2. Go somewhere crowded.
Sometimes getting lost in a different kind of sea – the one made of other humans – can be a miraculous and freeing experience. When you’re relieved of any requirement to smile and say hello or make painful small talk, being surrounded by the buzzing white noise of a crowd can clear your mind and help you relinquish control for a few minutes.
Whether you spend the time people-watching, eavesdropping, or enjoying some expectation-free human contact, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like silence, the sound and crush of a touristy venue or shopping mall could be your perfect way to commune with a higher power – or at least enjoy a moment of anonymity.
Like taking a walk, meditating is hardly a new way to find your spiritual centre, but tried does have a tendency to prove true, at least for some. A lot of folks unfamiliar with the practice think meditation has one specific incarnation: sitting perfectly still on the hard ground for an hour, not moving and completely shutting down your brain (possibly while striving for Nirvana).
But in actuality, there are countless ways to meditate (a possible future ‘7’ article, even!). You can sit up in bed in the morning and deep breathe for five minutes, or perch on a chair for a mere 120 seconds. You can aim to clear your mind, or you can accept the thoughts that come to you as you sit (or stand, or lie), simply acknowledging each one and gently setting it aside; the latter is known as mindfulness meditation, and it’s growing very popular.
Whatever style of meditation you choose, countless studies have shown that even just a few minutes a day can ease stress and calm down a frantic mind (and in our modern, split-second world, whose mind isn’t frantic?). Those highly desirable qualities are less than a skip and a jump from spiritual realization, wouldn’t you say?
4. Go for a run.
If you love to pound the pavement, you’ve probably noticed the clarity, happiness, and sense of peace you feel after a jog. You already know the inevitable influx of endorphins can crank up your cheerful, so it’s not much of a stretch to acknowledge that your “runner’s high” might just be raising you up spiritually, too.
5. Make bread.
The absurdly pleasurable sight of the yeast as it thrives. The unrivaled feeling of kneading your fists into elastic dough. The mouth-watering scent of the loaf as it grows and browns in the oven. Baking bread is a multi-sensory experience that reminds you of grandma, how lucky you are to have access to fresh, healthy food, and that you have the glorious power to create something nourishing from a few random staples. Sounds pretty darn spiritual to me!
6. Weed the garden.
Like each of the activities on this list, this one isn’t for everybody. If you stress for hours about dirt under your nails and the potential for west nile, you can probably skip this one. But if you’re a fan of #1, a few hours crouching in the garden can serve as a wonderful alternative to organized sacred-seeking.
You might come inside achy from squatting, covered head to toe in mud, and perhaps a little bit sunburned, but that will remind you to appreciate that big glass of iced tea so much more. And when you dig into that feast you picked and plucked yourself, you’ll be prompted yet again to think of the ethereal glory of your strong hands and bountiful earth.
7. Have a cuppa.
It might just be that simple. Make the consumption of your favourite coffee or tea a mindful experience: breathe in the scent of the ground beans, marvel at the crystal sparkle of the tap water, enjoy the anticipation you feel at that first gurgle of the machine or kettle. Wrap your hands around the warm mug and close your eyes as you take that first sip, and you’re pretty likely to feel just heavenly.
You may have noticed these potentially spiritual activities have something significant in common: each one requires you to take some time for yourself.
Whether you spend your “me” time completely alone, with one or two favourite folks, or among a throng, spiritual experiences are all around you – you just have to remind your mind to notice them.