Everyday Life As Spiritual Practice

Often we think “Oh, I’d love to give more to my practices, but I just don’t have the time. Maybe someday, once ___ (fill in the blank) happens…”

It is certainly the case that more and more demands are being placed on our limited time, and that our tendency is to let the important things take a back seat to that which is more pressing. Since there seems to be no respite from the pressing things and there’s always something in the way when ____ comes, the dedicated spiritual aspirant must be increasingly creative in finding ways to do spiritual practice “in life” and not waste valuable time. Without daily spiritual practice to stay “tuned up,” we lose the momentum we get from retreats and workshops, we are more subject to mental fog, upsets, and crappy moods, and our progress on the path is in general very slow.

This is actually unnecessary. There is really quite a lot we can do to engage the basic principles of spiritual-practice-in-life. In this article, we will look at the habits and attitudes that can make daily life one’s spiritual practice, to be “in the world but not of the world.” There are many devices and little rituals that we can fold into our day that can help us greatly. These are not “shoulds,” not something with which to further beat ourselves up for not having done them. These techniques, when engaged in a spirit of experiment and inquiry, can bring awareness and aliveness to even the most mundane activities. There are some things which also have an effect at a subtle-energy level and help us to keep ourselves tuned up and also plug energy leaks.

Don’t try to remember or do all the hints and techniques in this article all at once; take one at a time and integrate it into your life, then another. In the process, you may discover other things that are useful. Share them.

Things that are around you in the house, the clothes you wear, the food you eat, the people you meet, all these things have an effect upon your life.

—Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, Githa ISadhana #5We ought to turn every day of life into meditation. Whatever our work may be, we must do it, but at the same time we should meditate. Then we will get to know the secret meaning of our work, and in this way we will turn life from a worldly life into a spiritual one. This applies to everyone, whether we work in a garden or in a factory, or elsewhere. As soon as we know the appropriate meditation for the work we are doing we will develop, and all our work will become a meditation for us. And if we achieve this, the wages we earn will be nothing compared with the reward we will gain. When the mind is concentrated, one does one’s work well, and even better than others. In a station in Rajputana I once saw a telegraph clerk accepting telegrams. While he was doing his work he was meditating at the same time. When it was my turn I said to him, “I have come to give you this telegram, but I marvel at you, it is wonderful how you are keeping up your meditation during your work.” He looked at me and smiled; and we became friends.

If it were not for the spirit, work would be a nuisance at a time when life’s needs are so great and when people have so little rest. Thus the best thing for us is to meditate in everyday life. If it is done properly we will reap the benefit of it not only from the earth, but also from heaven. Meditation means the soul’s endeavor towards spiritual unfoldment, and this endeavor may be practiced in different ways in order to suit one’s profession and work.

—Hazrat Inayat Khan, Healing, Mental Purification, and the Mind World

Making daily life a spiritual practice mostly entails:

  • Keeping your attunement spacious, fluid, and refined under all circumstances
  •  Subtle-energy management, including plugging “energy leaks”

These support each other. The key is a certain mindfulness and precision that we call impeccability.

For the spiritual warrior, every moment is a challenge to be genuine, and each challenge is delightful.

When you let go properly, you can relax and enjoy the challenge.

— Chögyam Trungpa Rimpoche

A spacious, refined attunement is not necessarily dwelling in the angelic spheres while at your desk at work. “Fixed on God” (see page 15, Breath) does not mean becoming otherworldly; God is not other than inside everything you see, feel, touch, and think. It is not wise to become otherworldly, or you can become “split” in a way that actually inhibits your spiritual unfoldment. One can observe people on the spiritual path who make a fetish of their sensitivity, and it becomes an avoidance of engaging the issues and developing the Qualities that would make them more refined and elevated spiritually, but also less distressed by life itself. Daily life is the means by which the Divine Qualities are drawn into manifestation, through us/as us. “Fixed on God” allows you to discern the movement of the Qualities “between the worlds” with your life as the conduit, because the inner and outer are really one.

© Copyright 2014 Sufi Order Inayati — Seattle