wellbeing-brand-logo

Inspired living

8 ways to nurture spirituality on a shoestring


Woman burning sage

Credit: istock

When was the last time you hugged a tree, watched a sunrise or held hands with someone you love? Nurturing your spiritual health doesn’t have to equate to spending money. And it’s just as well. These days, with the escalating cost of living, there’s often little left over once the bills are paid.

Embracing a healthy spirit is a way to live your life. It’s a profound inner knowing that we are all at one with the universe; it’s loving and accepting ourselves and others unconditionally. Spirituality is living a life with an ethos that embraces seeking inner truth and wisdom. Every day, make time to tap into your spiritual self, to cultivate your spiritual being.

Here’s a start with some ways to nurture your spirit — and they won’t cost you a cent.

Just breathe

Suck it up. Oxygen, that is. Oxygen is essential to life, but all too often people breathe far too shallowly. Breathing properly has physiological benefits (it slows the heartbeat, lowering or stabilising blood pressure) and it also connects us on a deeper level to our spirits.

In fact, Kate James, mindfulness coach from Total Balance, says engaging your spiritual connection begins with learning the art of breathing properly. “It’s a way to centre you, to bring yourself into the present, and it’s easy to do,” she says.

To breathe properly, place one hand beneath your belly button. As you breathe in you should feel an expansion in the tummy, similar to a balloon blowing up, without your shoulders lifting, says Kate.

“Breathe in very slowly for the count of four, hold for the count of seven, then breathe out for the count of eight,” she says. As you breathe in and out imagine a place of quiet calm and focus on your breath. Get into the practice of tuning into your breath between daily activities like checking emails and making phonecalls, and before long it will become a habit.

Once you’ve got the hang of it, try meditation. There’s no right or wrong way to meditate and there are many and varied meditations available. You can find a guided meditation at Total Balance online.

Food for the soul

Connecting with nature aligns your inner energy with Mother Earth. It can transcend you to a place of quiet calm and introspection. Take the time each day to immerse yourself in the natural world. Watch the Beauty of dappled sunlight as it dances through autumn leaves, feel the soft tickle of grass between your toes, listen to the soothing rhythmic dance of raindrops on a tin roof.

Even simply taking a stroll through a fragrant flower garden can facilitate feelings of stillness, relaxation and happiness, connecting you to your spiritual self. A growing body of research shows that getting out in nature is good for the soul. Research by the State University of New Jersey in the US shows the presence of flowers triggers happy emotions, reduces stress-producing cortisol and heightens feelings of life satisfaction.

And, if you’re feeling really stressed, go and look at a tree in your Garden. That’s the advice of Professor Virginia Lohr from Washington State University in the US, who says that just by looking at trees you’ll feel far more calm than if looking at inanimate objects like the stapler on your desk. The more spreading the tree form is, the better you’ll feel.

Make it a daily habit to get outdoors: to boost your vitamin D levels, surround yourself with nature and soothe your soul. It’s free.

Be your authentic self

It’s hard work trying to be someone else — and even harder still to live up to others’ expectations. What is the worst thing that could happen if you decided to become your true self? Honouring your spiritual self means taking ownership and responsibility for the decisions you make. It’s being who you are. Be committed to being your true self and awaken your sense of curiosity and playfulness by exploring things you’ve never considered before.

Spirituality is living a life with an ethos that embraces seeking inner truth and wisdom.

Don’t be afraid of change. English poet Alfred Austen said, “Tears are the summer showers to the soul.” It’s OK to give yourself permission to let go. People can hold on tightly to their emotions, fearful that if they let go they’ll crumble. In the natural world, nature shows us you need to shed one skin as you grow into another.

Cultivate your spiritual development by giving to others: volunteer your time and skills to those who need them. Honour your beliefs and values and live by them. Be generous in your actions and cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

Practise the art of being time-savvy; you don’t have to be time-poor. There are 24 hours in everyone’s day. How you spend them really is up to you. Learn to prioritise what is important to you, and spend less time on things that don’t bring you joy or inner wellness.

Smudge it

To connect to your spiritual self, be mindful of the energies within your home and workspace. Regularly cleansing trapped negative energies brings balance and positive qi (energy) into your home. Use a smudge stick, which is a tightly bound mix of woody herbs that’s lit to purify and restore spiritual balance; most commonly, white sage (Salvia apiana) is used. You can buy smudge sticks or, better still, make your own free smudge sticks by growing and harvesting the leaves from the plant. Cut leaves to the same length, around 6–8cm, and tie together in a criss-cross pattern from top to bottom using organic cotton twine or string. Place on a sunny window sill to dry.

Light the smudge stick and move from room to room moving the stick in a circular motion.

Once you’ve smudged your home, do a feng shui inventory. Caroline McCallum from Feng Shui Harmony says the key to promoting positive feng shui is to ensure the entry to your home is enticing. “Remove clutter and shoes from the front door, add a welcoming doormat and a beautiful leafy plant,” she says. To encourage positive vibes to zip around your home’s interior, clear out clutter, toss out broken items, fix leaky traps and peeling paint, and remove any unpleasant smells to dispel negative energy.

Also get into the practice of protecting your spirit from negative energies by surrounding yourself with white light — the safeguarding universal energy. Close your eyes, take deep breaths and visualise a divine white light surrounding you and wrapping you gently in a celestial protective embrace. Every time you feel fearful, or the urge to guard your spirit, let white light offer you protection.

Write it down

Take a note. In fact, take lots of them. Regular journalling is a powerful tool for gaining insight. Writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal clears your mind and helps to create order from the chaos of a busy mind that can be overwhelmed by the tasks of daily living. Journalling centres your spirit, allowing you to focus and to explore your inner consciousness.

You can even make your journal entries random and allow yourself to experiment, to play around with words, drawing pictures and gluing things into your journal. Add whatever you like. Set some time aside each day to jot down your thoughts and feelings. What inspired you that day? What made you smile? What do you feel grateful for?

Also note your thoughts on waking or dreams you’ve had. Janet Connor, author of Writing Down Your Soul: How to Activate and Listen to the Extraordinary Voice Within, says deep soul writing will enrich your spiritual life. “Writing focuses your attention so clearly on the wisdom within that you cannot help but feel guided and loved,” she says.

Laugh out loud

Take time to have a good chuckle and, while you’re at it, learn to laugh at yourself. But, of course, there are days when it seems nothing goes right: the washing machine’s overflowed so you’re running late for work; the dog’s just vomited on the carpet. The trick is to keep it in perspective. Ask yourself, “Will this morning’s seemingly disastrous start to the day really matter tomorrow or a few weeks from now?” Probably not.

The Dali Lama describes himself as a “professional laugher” and in his personal reflections in his book My Spiritual Journey shares his belief in the healing power of laughter to reach out to others. After all, laughter breaks down emotional barriers and it clears the mind because it puts us squarely in the moment. Life is unpredictable — learn to go with the flow and look for the humour in situations.

Embrace life and be playful. Promise yourself to do something fun that energises you each and every day to nurture your spirituality. Researchers at Loma Linda University in California, the US, have even shown that laughter combines mind and body to promote wholeness, happiness and general wellbeing.

Dr Lee Berk, the principal investigator of the study, says humour actually engages the entire brain, producing soothing brainwave frequencies similar to being in a meditative state. “This is of great value to individuals who need or want to revisit, reorganise or rearrange various aspects of their lives or experiences to make them feel whole or more focused,” he says.

Live in the moment

The art of slowing down is challenging in today’s busy world where multitasking is revered and the art of excessive busyness earns bragging rights.

Going slowly and focusing on one thing at a time allows us to savour life’s many unique experiences, to build on our spiritual growth. Living in the moment, or mindfulness, is simply a way of living by attuning your thoughts to the present moment. The practice of mindfulness holds the possibility of not just a fleeting sense of contentment but a true embracing of a deeper sense of wholeness.

Honouring your spiritual self means taking ownership and responsibility for the decisions you make.

Dr Craig Hassed, senior lecturer at Monash University, says the evidence suggests that checking in with yourself, and being present in the moment, is an important skill to learn. “A day is just like a book. If it isn’t punctuated, it becomes a blur and makes little sense. These punctuation marks are times of consciously coming to rest so that we can remind ourselves to be present and pay attention,” he says.

When you aren’t tuning into your surroundings and your mind is wandering aimlessly, it becomes easy to amplify or exaggerate injustices, even to see things that don’t exist, except in your imagination. According to Kate James, in this regard mindfulness is also about being non-judgemental of yourself and of others.

It can be helpful to develop a mindfulness mantra, such as “I choose peace”, in response to stressful situations, she says. “For example, if you have a work colleague who does something that gets on your nerves, you can think about it and escalate it into something bigger than it really is, or you can let it go and focus on something that will bring you peace.”

Feel the love

Embracing your spirituality is about loving others (yes, even those who might drive you a little crazy at times). You need to cherish your friends, your family, your work, the environment and yourself — all the things that make up the universe.

All too often we don’t think we are deserving of this love. As Brené Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection, says, we need to work on consciously embracing the fact that we are all precious and valuable. “It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night and thinking, Yes I’m imperfect, and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave, and worthy of love and belonging.

Forgive yourself and others for past wrongdoings, for we are human and everyone makes mistakes. Truly spiritual people operate from a divine place of love. They value relationships far more than material things. So surround yourself with people who energise you, and learn to love yourself. Self-love isn’t about vanity; it’s about self-acceptance and understanding, knowing you are where you belong and that you are at one with the universe and all its gifts.



 

Carrol Baker

Carrol Baker is an award-winning freelance journalist who is a passionate advocate of natural health and wellness. She writes for lifestyle and healthy-living magazines across Australia and internationally.