How To Expand Your Spiritual Practice WAY Beyond Meditation
In my early 20s, I got into Eastern meditation. I read Autobiography of a Yogi and Be Here Now. I meditated with monks in caves in Italy, sitting on rock floors with no cushions under my bum and meditated for hours in the cold. I slept on the floor and renounced sex. And alcohol. I went for it. I was curious.
Was this my path to total growth and happiness and inner peace? The answer is a resounding NO.
I've spent the last 10 years studying the meticulous balance between a spiritual practice of ecstasy and embodiment and a spiritual practice of mindfulness and spirit.
When we eschew the ecstatic, we will always be searching for more.
So what does that really mean? Let me start off by saying that in meditation, we often attempt to transcend the body, mind, and emotions. And this can be so helpful in taming the emotions when they spiral out of control. But in my opinion, modern spirituality has left out some of the amazing ecstasy of being embodied in human form: having the ability to eat, dance, scream, and deeply enjoy the experience of being human.
When we eschew the ecstatic, we will always be searching for more. Practices that help us escape the human struggles and the body's wildness, hungers, and feelings often leave us feeling less connected to the earth and all she has to offer. They tell us to keep things neat and tidy and "acceptable." When we try to control the force of nature within us, we try to control the forces of nature on the outside too. This leads us to care less about the environment and climate as we are so focused on our enlightenment and ascension, and controlling and managing, while Mother Nature is offering us wild, open, and free-flowing ecstasy in the body, the wind, the trees, swimming, making love, kissing, smelling flowers, and being alive. Ecstatic symbiosis with her means embracing all sides of her and ourselves.
Until we reclaim this connection to our humanity, our bodies, and nature, we won't be able to completely connect with issues like climate change because a chasm exists between us and what’s happening. As we ecstatically engage with being human, we feel the in-depth value of Mother Earth, the joy and gift of being alive in nature.
So how can we find this kind of ecstasy in our lives?
A quick poll of my friends to find out what brings about this heightened sense of feeling showed that it can be many things: the creation of art, making conscious love, surfing, dancing, making out, eating great food, taking psychedelics, or discovering and destigmatizing pain as a way to ecstasy via some form of fitness or BDSM.
All it takes is an intention to make those things ecstatic! If you go in with focus and intention, you can even make eating a piece of chocolate an ecstatic act as opposed to something you do while texting that becomes one fleeting moment of pleasure lost in other moments. Here are a few ways to bring that intention to everything that lights you up:
1. First, look at your conditioning.
Are religious or strict principles are still ruling how you live and love, and are you willing to let those conditions and beliefs GO?
2. Take a baby step.
Maybe the idea of "finding ecstasy" feels way too foreign to you. Instead, phrase it as "following your bliss" as Joseph Campbell puts it. Is your bliss dancing? Singing opera? This bliss should be a little beyond your normal comfort zone, since ecstasy is at the edge of existence.
3. Look at what you're ashamed of.
Once you start following that bliss, notice where you get uncomfortable. Then, see if you can flip it to something you want to explore. Agony and ecstasy are mirrors, so use your detective skills to flip that agony into a way to learn more about yourself.
What it looks like in practice.
My favorite way to reach this point is through dance, most specifically 5rhythms ecstatic dance. I felt self-conscious going into these classes for an entire year at first, and it took quite some time to open and let go. That work paid off, and now I feel myself totally transcending the mind and fully embodying a wild and beautiful goddess every time I step into the class. But it definitely took practice.
Another powerful way to get in touch with the things that light you up is through Pinterest boards. Make a board of what makes you feel alive—what makes you scream with excitement. if it doesn't make you tingle and make you wanna jump up and down, it's not what I'm talking about! Even if you can't find much of anything, don't worry. Make the journey of exploration the fun part as you discover the books, classes, people, foods, and practices that make your whole body come alive.
Good luck and can't wait to see you on a dance floor sometime!
Wondering if you can reach ecstasy with the routines you're already doing? Check out these workout tweaks that can light your fire.
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