For those who have seen my my documentary film, Talking Story, or read the accompanying book that chronicles my journey around the world to explore healing practices and spiritual traditions, they will often ask, "How can I have some of the experiences you've had, if I'm unable to travel to exotic places or meet a shaman?"
My first answer is, "Well, the intention of the film and book was to capture the healing transmissions and wisdom from the teachers and healers I met and share them, so you've already received some of what I have, which is a start." But, I know what the seeker truly hungers for is something more tangible to take into their day-to-day lives.
Most people are not in a position to leave their jobs, homes or families for an extended period of time, to do a spiritual walkabout. I am blessed and I also made some extreme sacrifices to be able to do that, but the good news is that it's not necessary to leave behind everything you know to connect with your soul and have spiritual experiences. The trick is to take an external action that evokes an inward journey, so you can listen to your voice within, open your heart, and evoke a more expansive state of being.
Many people I've advised are surprised to learn that one of the quickest ways to the spirit is not through denying the physical body, but rather to engage its senses to create a pathway to presence. So, the first step is to make a list of things that you know trigger a relaxation response or a pleasant sensual experience for you. It could be simply shutting out the world and putting on your earbuds to listen to your favorite tunes or filling your home with the smells of cookies baking.
Make a list of five to 10 things — I suggest that you put them in order of easy to difficult, so that you have choices to reach for depending on how much time you have, or effort it will take to experience them. For example, when I feel stressed or am in need of a quick spiritual injection, the first and easiest thing on my list is to take one conscious breath.
Now, it may take me several breaths to get present enough to take that one conscious breath, but it's something I can do anytime, anywhere. Something that may be of medium difficulty, because it requires me to set aside more time, is to soak in a bath with essential oils, or take a shower with scrubbing salts that awaken my skin and get my circulation going. And things that may be most difficult include taking an excursion, whether it is a stroll on the beach, an overnight in the woods, or an unplugged-from-technology weekend in your own home.
The most adventurous way to take a "Spiritual Staycation" is to brave something you've never done before, such as trying a new coffee shop in your neighborhood, visiting a place of worship that is not of your spiritual tradition, attending a musical concert of a band you've never heard of, or taking a different route home. Not only is this great to help build your brain's plasticity, but because you will have to be alert to adjust to and take in the new experience, being out of your usual comfort zone will allow you to move through fear of the unknown and experience a new perspective, which is in essence the foundation of any spiritual experience.
If you need a little help getting started, here are 11 things you can do to take your own Spiritual Staycation:
- Take one conscious breath
- Sing along to your favorite recordings of sacred mantras, old school R&B tunes, or classic rock anthems
- Make a stew — because I'm not good in the kitchen it takes all my presence and focused attention to chop and prepare the ingredients, and then I'm rewarded with the comforting smells of the simmering dish
- Attend a yoga class — I'm particular to Kundalini yoga, which is done with eyes closed and requires an immense amount of inner focus, while chanting mantras and engaging in physical movements
- Go to a place that allows you to tune into your spirit, such as A Sound Garden — or for me, a sculpture that sits on the banks of Lake Washington in Seattle whose steel tower structure makes the sounds of a cosmic orchestra when the wind brushes against it
- Witnessing a sunset anywhere
- Seeing an inspirational movie, such as Awake: The Life of Yogananda or Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
- Browsing through a wonderful bookstore
- Curling up with a good book like Mark Nepo's The Endless Practice or Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth
- Immersing yourself in water, whether it be in the tub, in the ocean, or a floatation tank
- Visit a spiritual place — a Buddhist temple, a Catholic church, a sacred garden
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