Spiritual health, although not widely practiced in the medical profession, is a contributing factor in the overall health of the physical body, as well as the health of the soul. Your spiritual health charts the progress of your spiritual development. Without this navigational aid you may feel at the mercy of the bewildering pageantry of life sprawling around you, as if you're sailing through life without a rudder.
As you succumb to this fear, you may react defensively to the experiences you encounter rather than turning your sails into the wind and steering your life in a direction of your own choosing.
The following seven steps were then chosen to help challenge the obstacles that prevent you from realizing the fullest potential of your soul.
1) Face Your Pain
Escaping from the emotional pain in life is impossible, of course, and unless you plan to join Sisyphus with his rock for the rest of eternity, it is better to face the pain you encounter, learn from the experience, and let it go. Like an emotional Geiger counter in your body, non-physical pain typically indicates your unmet expectations and disappointments.
Although intense and unpleasant, emotional pain serves you best as a tool, not as a vehicle for despair.
When used as a defense mechanism against stressful energetic imbalances in the body, emotional pain alerts you to release unproductive energy that, if allowed to fester, could materialize physically and cause damage. As it spreads into psychological realms, emotional pain can literally act like a cancer that feeds off your misery, trapping you in the throes of martyrdom.
To avoid this brand of self-imposed victimization, learn to face your pain and release it. Simply let it go. Instead of fighting or denying its existence, allow it full reign over your body. Let the pain resonate through you as if you were a human tuning fork, and hold nothing back till the vibrations fade.
In a surprisingly short time the pain will gradually disappear. Once the emotional ripples have subsided, you are free to process the experience with the intellect, and take appropriate physical action, if required. Depending on the severity of the pain, however, this exercise may require several attempts before the pain is completely released.
When you face your pain you embark on a journey that doesn't offer an easy way back, so it is not a decision to take lightly. Once you make that decision, however, and choose to face your pain without remorse, you enable yourself to see beyond the dusty facades you have constructed around your fears. These false fronts often resemble dilapidated ghost towns in your soul and serve as decaying reminders of your refusal to face your pain courageously and with resolve.
Since the neurological wiring in your brain cannot differentiate between pain that results from a failed relationship or the emotional scarring of watching a family member murdered, there is no difference between pain that's resolved in three days or pain that lasts a lifetime -- pain is pain. It is a choice if old wounds from the past are allowed to fester for years. The intensity, of course, may vary in these circumstances, but once again, emotional pain alerts you to an imbalance that needs to be addressed, not sequestered.
The choice then to heal old wounds is a conscious decision that only requires the determination to do so. We do not wish to seem callous to the very real suffering that can plague fragments living on the physical plane, but we remain firm in saying that the road to healing always begins with that first step.
2) Learn From Your Mistakes
Mistakes should not be feared. They are necessary stepping-stones towards what you wish to accomplish in life and where you most need to improve. Mistakes are simply cracks in your veneer that may later be polished out; they're not blemishes in your past or painful experiences best forgotten, but opportunities for greater understanding.
Every mistake you make is rich with potential. Every wrong turn, every setback, every blunder you kick yourself over offers the potential to see firsthand how choice shapes your path in life. The potential in every decision you make is a ripened fruit that bursts with the flavor of new experience. Mistakes are not emissaries sent to remind you of your failures, but simple reminders that you live your life without fear of the occasional misstep and make no apologies for it.
Continuously making the same mistakes, however, indicates a reluctance to examine the underlying reasons behind your choices. It may be helpful here to think of your choices as a reflection of your emotional state. An emotional world clouded by irrational impulses, for example, negates your ability to make decisions from a center of balance, and creates a loop that limits your choices and drives you to repeat the same mistakes. You can alleviate this by knowing when you make choices from a state of imbalance.
Making choices during times of stress is a fundamental lesson of the physical plane, and split-second decisions can be a life or death necessity. In many situations, however, you have the luxury of making choices with greater deliberation. In such cases it is helpful to gauge your emotional state before making a decision. If your stomach churns or surges of anxiety race through your body, for instance, take some time to re-center yourself. This can be as easy as clearing your mind with a brief meditation.
In the grander scheme, choices are neither good nor bad, but some choices feel better than others. Therefore, to learn from those choices you deem as mistakes, you need to recognize they were mistakes in the first place. With that realization it's then a matter of tracing the progression of choices that led to the mistake, and identifying where in this train of decisions the derailment occurred.
More succinctly, when you realize your choices have been the result of random impulses, you then learn to make your choices more consciously. Unstructured thinking, irrational impulses, or a lack of focus, are the most common reason for repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
Regarding the application of an exercise here, the best way we know of to learn from your mistakes is to MAKE them. There is no intrinsic value in frantically trying to avoid all mistakes, as mistakes are part of the physical experience and in most cases your life will not be extinguished if you make one.
The duality of success and failure is an illusion of those who find more comfort in relying on what they fear than what they trust. Allow your life to unfold naturally -- there is no need to force it. You have more than enough time to get things right, so savor the moments when you get things wrong. You may one day cherish those moments more than you currently realize.
3) Don't Blame Others
When you blame others for the way you feel, you rarely accomplish what you hope to gain. Although another person may indeed be the catalyst for your suffering, continuously torturing yourself over what they did is a self-inflicted agony that both hinders your efforts to heal, and drives away friends or family that try to lend a sympathetic ear. Choosing to suffer is a choice, not a law.
On the other hand, the emotional upheaval of being a victim is oddly seductive for some fragments, but the adoption of this mantra is an insidious distraction that only obscures the truth. Victims are created, not born.
Fragments can only walk all over you if lay down in front of them.
Blaming others, then, only cements you more firmly into the pavement, so to speak. When you stand and face the moving crowd, however, you put one foot in front of the other and actively make your own decisions about where you intend to go in life. Obvious exceptions are fragments trapped in untenable situations, like the holocaust. But even then, fragments who realized the indefatigable nature of their soul could never be imprisoned were often the ones who survived the ordeal.
We offer the following exercise:
Try to find your complicity in all situations that have ever caused you dismay.
We realize, of course, that some events in life are beyond your control, but in many situations, if you follow the breadcrumbs, so to speak, you can spot where your choices intertwined with others and played a direct role in the outcome. We do not mean to imply that you should make yourself wrong, but it is instructive to see how your own contributions fanned the flames, or at the very least, enabled the result. Once again, the purpose is not to turn the blame onto yourself, but cast some light on how the event took shape.
Let’s say, for example, that your dog digs a hole under your fence, harasses the postman, and eventually bites him. In retaliation, the postman then insults you and later convinces the post office to stop all delivery of mail to your address.
Justifiably you're upset by this turn of events, and while you realize your dog should have been managed better, you blame the postman for everything else. But closely examine the role you played in this drama: was it wise to argue with the postman when he complained earlier that your dog was routinely getting out and he felt threatened?
He was, after all, only doing his job. Yes, the postman had behaved rudely when he confronted you, but what if you had realized his true anger stemmed from negative experiences in the past when he had been attacked by other dogs?
Although it's easy to blame others, we find it rare in these cases not to find levels of complicity between both parties. Even in fragments who have been victimized, we often find evidence that warning signals were clearly ignored. This is not to blame these fragments, but merely point out that when they take responsibility for their life they are better equipped to accept the outcome.
To conclude, when life seems hopeless and you feel at the mercy of others, try the affirmation: I am the master puppeteer of my life, and I hold the strings.
4) Release Judgments
To release judgments and honor the differences in others, you must first honor the differences in yourself. What sets you apart from people that makes you different? Are there any traits in yourself that you feel ashamed of or try to conceal?
When you learn to love yourself, including those parts of self you feel do not deserve your love, you also lay a foundation for accepting and loving those around you. For the majority of our students we would be remiss in saying that this is an easy task, so we offer the following:
Choose someone currently in your life and identify a trait about them that annoys you (if more than one trait exists, just choose one for now).
Try to record in your mind a scene where the individual displays their offensive behavior. Play it back in your mind a couple times and relive the experience; try to analyze the source of your annoyance (we don't mean the action of the person, but the actual trigger). If, for example, the person constantly interrupts you, try to identify the charge you have about the behavior. Can you trace it to any other areas of your life?
When you discover the origin of your discontent with another, you often find it's not their behavior that disturbs you, but a deep-seated part of yourself that needs to heal. Unless personal boundaries are violated that need real protection, the mark of a spiritually healthy person is one who reacts with neutrality to the actions of others. If you find your level of tolerance wearing thin, look within for the answer.
The other person is often not the cause of your unrest; they merely removed the veil and exposed your fears and vulnerabilities. After all, a nerve, when exposed, certainly feels raw, and the natural reaction is to protect it from further damage. But understand that your reaction says more about you than the other person.
You can easily practice this exercise without the need of a real world situation. Using the illustration of our interrupter, once again replay the experience in your mind, but this time practice having different reactions to the event. Where before you felt annoyed, see if through practice you can tinker with your reactions till you find a neutral response. The goal, of course, is not to condone bad behavior, but to learn tolerance for idiosyncrasies in others that have, till now, held your emotions hostage.
Understanding the overleaves of another can certainly add greater insights into patterns of behavior here, but with practice you can remove the negative charge you experience around certain fragments, learn to accept their differences, and bestow upon them the honor they deserve.
5) Learn To Forgive
Forgiveness is a relatively simple act, with little or no preparation required, yet it remains one of the most daunting lessons our students face. Indeed, if every fragment on your planet performed just one act of forgiveness a day, the entire world would benefit. But the evolutionary process of your civilization follows a natural course, and fragments will awaken when they are ready to do so.
Learning to forgive is vital to your spiritual health for several reasons:
Forgiveness releases you from the ball and chain that tethers to all the wrong you have suffered from. Violations to your being, either karmic or mere annoyance, continue to inflict pain and damage till you forgive the fragment in question and release the negative charge or imbalance initially created. As long as you nurture feelings of anger and resentment, you relive the injurious act and continue to fall victim to it.
Forgiveness does not mean you condone the act. You simply release your negative attachment to it and stop any further victimization by its memory. You also release the perpetrator of the energetic bond created at the time. We wouldn't necessarily call forgiveness a divorce, per se, but there are elements of the unhealthy marriage between two fragments in need of forgiveness.
Each act of forgiveness is another step to Agape. Forgiveness blooms like a flower in your soul and the sheer number of blossoms are directly proportional to the acts of forgiveness performed. Similar to the honeybee as it pollinates neighboring flowers, one act of forgiveness can literally pollinate hundreds of flowers.
Another interesting aspect of forgiveness is the healing element. When someone violates your trust, for instance, you feel like you have an emotional flu; forgiveness then serves as the antidote. In this case forgiveness works like a natural antibiotic against the contagion.
Finally, forgiveness teaches you how to love those around you who act unlovable. It breaks down barriers erected around insecurities, prejudices, and fears, and exposes you to the truth that love is the Universal constant. We have said before that adversaries are your greatest teachers, and much can be learned by forgiving them.
To use a business analogy, forgiveness is like a contract you write that releases you of any negative bonds you have with either yourself or another person. This contract is your intention to let go of fear and replace it with love. Over a lifetime you will collect a substantial inventory of unresolved fears and you could say your soul becomes a warehouse for these goods. The shelves, so to speak, may indeed be stacked high with boxes and dust curls, but there is no expiration date on the fears you have boxed away. And reviving the potency of what lies in a box is as simple as opening the lid. Forgiveness, then, is your way of liquidating your inventory and redistributing it in a more positive manner.
As yet another instrument in your arsenal of spiritual tools, forgiveness simply helps you release negative energy. Anytime you harbor this kind of energy you limit the fullness of your potential. Forgiveness is your means for clearing the pent-up energies of resentment, frustration, anger, annoyance, betrayal, hate, and a host of other spiritual maladies that act like parasites and prevent you from finding more joy in your life.
Many tools are available to teach you about forgiveness, but we've tried to distill some of the concepts into a single exercise.
First, realize that forgiveness is not an effective tool if you don't sincerely believe in it. In your society, such glib attempts at forgiveness are no better than a band-aid if sincerity and determination are not part of the RX mix.
In this exercise, then, instead of focusing on a specific individual, look for something within yourself to forgive. It should come as little surprise to you that no greater test of sincerity exists than when you focus the healing lens on your own life.
Starting at the age of six (if you can remember that far), begin retrieving memories from your past, scanning carefully for events that still carry an emotional charge. Look in particular for any incident where you felt shame and regret. Allow yourself to re-experience those feelings if you can, and similar to our previous exercise where you faced your pain, once again let the emotions surge through your body.
Now ponder the ramifications of your action and acknowledge how it might have affected other people. Don't judge yourself here, just understand the role you played in the incident. When the intensity of your emotions have reached a climax -- not dissimilar to the potency of sexual release -- forgive yourself. Use whatever affirmation suits the situation, but vow with as much intensity as you can generate that you are releasing the fear from this memory and forgiving yourself for the harm you inflicted on others, including the mistakes that you made.
Acknowledge the validity of the experience for what it taught you, but make a pact with yourself that once you have released this fear you are finished with it for good. Now allow the energy to dissipate and let go of the past.
Continue this exercise for the next couple of days (or however long it takes) and find more personal experiences in your life that might benefit from your forgiveness.
Especially uncover any memories that still haunt you today and give them special attention. Like neglected, homeless children, these are areas from your past that still cry out for your love.
After you have developed a sufficient amount of proficiency with this exercise, you are then ready to choose someone other than yourself to forgive.
Forgiveness is the only way we know to reach true inner peace. Like everything else, though, it is ultimately a choice if you choose to release your fears from the past and replace them with love.
6) Hold Life Sacred
We say with a certain irony that many fragments never realize the true beauty of life until they reach their final moments. In these fleeting seconds of consciousness, as they gasp to fill their lungs with one last gulp of air, the poignant realization -- at least in a physical sense -- is that in spite of incessant preoccupations with work, relationships, family, and a quest for a minutia of details that swallows up every waking moment, the meaning of life is simply life itself, and the only expectation for every fragment that inhabits a body, is to live.
Life, therefore, in its own definition, is sacred. No greater expression of the Tao exists than in the limitless pulsation of life that animates the body of every man and creature. To see life gazing back at you in the eyes of another is to see a reflection of the same life force that animates your own soul.
Indeed, sometimes you learn to appreciate the sacredness of life by coming face to face with your own mortality. For the fragments who know they have reached the end, life can suddenly surge with a vibrancy never seen before. All of the senses explode with a new realization of beauty, and there's often a desperate attempt to capture those sensations in mental photographs before the consciousness snuffs itself out.
The sad question then posed by the dying fragment is: why did I wait so long?
We do not mean to imply you should expedite your demise in order to come to this realization, but for the sake of this exercise, allow your imagination to take you there with the following:
Try to imagine you have just received word from your doctor that you only have one day left to live. Even attempt to feel the shock and dismay of the doctor's news. Pay particular attention, however, to your disappointments:
What things will you miss? What regrets do you have? What would you do differently if you were given a chance to start your life anew?
At first you may find these questions frivolous, but if approached seriously, your answers could be quite revealing. The goal is to learn about the things you take for granted in life, and learn how to make choices that are better aligned with the intentions of essence.
Some of our students have wondered about this, and have asked if life can indeed quench the thirst of the soul. But as a cup of water can hydrate the body and ensure its continued vitality, life is the vessel that replenishes the soul with the greatest gift the Tao can give: experience.
As we've said many times before, nothing is ever wasted; but nothing is gained, either, if the greatest gift you ever receive is squandered with little gratitude towards the giver.
We should clarify, however, that life is not sacred for reasons of religious exaltation; life is sacred because it is YOURS. And in your life it is a choice if you choose to be the creator or the destroyer. Although there is much that can be learned from either choice.
7) Live In The Present
Living in the present could aptly be described as a contented cat that's curled into a ball and warming itself by a fire. Much can be learned by observing cats. They live in the present more than any creature we know. All animals live in the present, of course, but cats in particular have turned it into an art form. Neither concerned about the past or the future, cats forever focus on the "now."
With a grace and agility in life similar to a ballet dancer, the cat dances through its existence as if the music never stops. This may sound exhausting to some of you, but understand that the cat is a creature of the moment; it never concerns itself with future moments or moments that have slipped away. The cat simply IS.
We see living in the past, on the other hand, as a giant canvas, splashed chaotically with the emotions of distant yearnings, lost relationships, and self-resurrecting fears. Much can be gained, of course, by honoring lessons learned in the past, but to escape those ghost worlds of former selves -- even selves from only five minutes ago -- it's important to release the shackles of WHAT WAS.
Conversely, living in the future is like hanging a frame on your wall without a canvas. You anxiously live your life concerned about the canvas not painted, yet continue to decorate your walls with empty frames. Only in the present will your painting -- one brush stroke at a time -- reach completion.
A suggested exercise (if you're not averse to taking a walk) can be found on your local park bench. First, find your bench. Then, quiet your mind and just LISTEN.
Imagine every sound you hear as a musical instrument and listen to the uniqueness of each rhythmic phrase. Every sound you hear sings the symphony of the present: you can hear it in the plaintive whisper of the leaves, in the festive interludes of birds, or the playful prattle of children. And if you listen carefully, a world that has long escaped you will gradually reveal itself.
Although it may not be convenient, the enterprising among you could try this with all five of the senses. The goal, however, is to tune your awareness to whatever happens in the present moment. For example, how many instruments in this symphony, figuratively speaking, can you hear, see, touch, taste, and feel?
After you have the musical score of this grand work stretched out in front of you, imagine yourself actually playing the instruments that you sense: be the tree that bends in an ancient posture of servitude; be the crow that mocks with pundits from above; be the muddy pond that patiently waits below; be the silence that drifts over the park in sleepy shadows.
To live in the present you only need to sense the pulse of everything around you -- this is the rhythm of life. And when you live in the present, YOU are the conductor.