When are we not being Spiritual, if we are a Spiritual Being?
Sat Nam and Namaste friends!
Some juice now for you from what all of this experience has squeezed out of me, after being home for three weeks! Â Embarking to India, I thought I was open, ready for anything that the journey could deliver. After 10 years of solid yoga practice and 8 years of Kundalini yoga, I thought I was ready.
Guess what, it did not matter, I don’t think I could ever be eady. It is more like,ready or not, here it comes. From my first night in Delhi, feeling a little spooked, trolling our way through what appeared to be a prettysketchy area to my hotel at 2 am to three weeks later, traveling that exact route in the daytime, to the same hotel,felt like another world. I felt no fear and a complete acceptance of â€œoh, this is Indiaâ€. The insane traffic and total lack of lane control or signal recognition, and the cows, horses, carts, people, rickshaws, bicycles just seemed so œnormal to me then. Â Now, with a kind driver, I immediately remembered how I had felt that first night, and had to crack up at myself, wow, how I had already grown
I went on this journey seeking a deeply spiritual experience. Â I wanted to immerse myself in the culture and people that had brought all the teachings to me from my last decade. That was my plan. First lesson of India, make no plans, just do your best to stay open, only God knows what is really going to unfold in/for you. I did not know this yet. How could I forget, to just “be present!”
That first leg of the journey delivered me to Amritsar, deep in the Punjab (northwestern) region of the country, where over time, the Sikhs were relocated. Understanding the history became important to me. I learned that the eldest son of each Hindu family became a Sikh, and would grow a beard and long hair, live in the jungles and practice deep meditation to prepare as a warrior. That is how those customs developed. It was this sonâ€™s responsibility to protect his family. Â I could feel a strong level of intensity in these people and in that town.
Over time, and sadly due to the horrific and brutal invasions of the Moguls, thousands of these gentle people, both Hindus and Sikhs were horrifically murdered for not surrendering to the invading Moguls and their religion, Muslim. These invaders were adamant about enforcing their religion and those that would not succumb were eliminated, and thus, after a period of time, the Sikhâ€™s were finally led to defend themselves by the 10th Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh.Â He lost his three sons in this battle and the brutality was inhumane. My vision of spirituality began to receive its first œreadjustment with this information.
Sitting in the Golden Temple to meditate at 4 am I could hear the reading of the sacred sounds and was filled with a mix of thoughts and feelings. Sitting next to the Akal Tuket (my spelling is wrong, it is the building that houses some of the weapons used to defend the Sikhs) I felt so polarized between the ideas of living with non-violence and then considering defending my life (had I been one to be attacked back then).
How does one reconcile within oneself living ahimsa, non-violence, when your village and family are being brutally slaughtered by invading Moguls? Do you stand by meditating and praying as your babies are cut in half and hung around your neck? (I am not making this up.)Â This was my quandary and agony. What would I do? Would I be willing to forsake my religion and bow to another to save myself or my children? Suddenly my sublime spiritual journey had taken a turn into the reality of the world we live in and what has gone on before us, so that we may experience our freedoms today.
I was incredibly conflicted and felt extremely at odds and uncomfortable so much of the time as we toured many Gurdwara’s, what is this religiousness doing on my spiritual journey??? How does it fit into Kundalini Yoga and what is it all about? A feeling of overwhelming energy, frustration, pressure and irritation filled me a lot, especially as I strived to absorb and process it all.
I understood that Yogi Bhajan was a Sikh, and as the oldest son, he had literally led his family and their entire village to a safe haven when he was very young. Now, in this part of the world, I could see how he did it.Â And those ten Sikh gurus, and their stories of enlightenment, like how Guru Tej Bahader sat in deep meditation in his little underground cave for 27 years and was finally recognized as The Guru (we all acknowledged the grace his wife must have had!!!). And the story of Guru Amar Das, and how he healed and consoled so many people and worked tirelessly to upgrade the life standards of women of his time, removing some of the ancient practices and beliefs, like if a womanâ€™s husband died, she was supposed to throw herself on his funeral pire and die with his burning body! So, Guru Amar Das is one of my favorites! Chanting in his home in the very room he meditated in created the first authentic state of bliss of my journey.
There was much religiousness here, and the continued remembrance of the horrific violence and bloodshed, that I had a very hard time while there. Â I was able to see the devotion in the people, the humility, their love and kindness.Â My head and heart bowed with reverence to the sacredness of the realm that these Gurus attained. I could relate to what the Gurus reached in terms of their consciousness much like what many paths speak of referring to Christ Consciousness. Yet it was never far from my thoughts, how many people all over our planet have and continue to die in the Name of God and/or to be able to choose which way they would like to worship.
I began to ask myself, what is the difference or even similarity between being Religious and being Spiritual? How do I define that? What is it that I seek? What would be a spiritual experience? Â If I am a spiritual being, how can I ever be anything except spiritual, and then what role or need is there for religion? Does it not really just divide us? Or is there a way it can bring us together?
How can a human mind, which is finite in thinking understand that which is infinite? How can we think any of this when it is only able to be felt? If we feel it, then isn’t each experience only personal then, and is not my spiritual experience unique to me? So then, when I am practicing my “spirituality” how am I not just “being”? When do I stop “practicing” and begin “being”? Aren’t I really doing it all all them time? Or am I?
Next stop, Anandapur Sahib, a cleaner small town in the hills east of Amritsar. This is where Yogi Bhajan built what he intended to be his â€œretirementâ€ house. There is a beautiful and modern retreat center here, with a cozy and tranquil area forÂ yoga and meditation. This part of the trip, now became our â€œWomenâ€™s Campâ€, and we began each day with Sadhana at a 4 am. More tours of Gurdwaraâ€™s, now with more reality on the battles of Guru Gobind Singh defending his people and the loss of so many more.
We were able to dive deeper into the yoga and meditation now, and I could connect to my heart here.Â So many thoughts.Â If yoga is meant to yoke us, to unite all aspects of us, body, mind and soul, then where and why for Religion? If the entire idea of religion is to provide us humans with a form of worship, a form for us to connect to the Divine Creator, yet in every single form, rules, dogma and doctrine get developed and suddenly division comes.Â Within the doctrine, there seems to exist or develop a sense of division.Â Not everyone will ever agree on one way of doing anything, and certainly not something as personal and magnificent as relating to Divinity.Â So, why have so many always fought over this?
Control. Of course, control. Okay, you dont need to be a Rhodes Scholar to figure this out, and I am certainly not trying to sound like I have made some astounding discovery here at all. It was just an astounding moment for me, to see so brightly how this is in our world.
When I began to practice yoga, I felt I had finally found a path, a way to the God in me, without religion or rather, dogma or doctrine. Which you might have noticed by now, seems to be important to me, to live and be in a spiritual way without the hindrance, guilt or complexity of exterior controls.
My personal desire since I was very little, has always been to know God. From early Sunday school classes and hearing stories of how Jesus healed and loved so many, to singing with tears streaming down my cheeks in the Church choir at the age of 8, to summer camps in NC with the Baptists, where my brother and I would get â€œsavedâ€, to our conversion to Catholisism, my â€œre-baptismâ€ to the Episcopal faith during college and finally my realization that God is within each of us, I just have to learn how to see him/her in all. All of this has been my â€œmissionâ€. Tolerance!
Thus, India for me represented that Spiritual journey, not one into Religion, that I imagined I would finally have.Â Beginning our trip in a very â€œreligiousâ€ part of the country, I now realize was perfect! I was thrust right into the thick of my own head and ideas, my limited, finite way of thinking and being.
After two weeks, we headed to the deepest southern part of India, warm, relaxed and very open, both in ideas, practices and customs. Â At Bethsaida, our Ayurvedic hermitage, a complete release of physical, mental and emotional holdings took place, thankfully! I had time and space and great warmth to unwind my body and mind and my heart began to expand and literally become connected to Mother Earth and the whole universe. Feeling deep within my physical body, I could integrate the experience and I began to learn about what it is I really care about.
I think a lot of people do not relate to â€œreligionâ€ and question the dogma and doctrine, thus the path of Yoga calls to them.Â Patanjaliâ€™s Yoga Sutras outline a very realistic and applicable means for living our lives â€œdharmicallyâ€ which means without creating more karma.Â I love that.Â The yamas and niyamas are NOT commandments, and you wonâ€™t burn in hell if you go against them, but you will suffer from what you do or donâ€™t do. The writings of every great saint and sage, from the Buddha, to Christ, to the Sikh Guru’s,(and many more), Â do parallel each other, teaching and reaching to LOVE. Â To live our lives in a state of conscious awareness with attention to our free will, choices and reactions as well as to our devotion, humility and truth.
In other words, deception, violence, greediness, lack of self control, etc, will certainly result in consequences for us that are rather unpleasant, to say the least. This is not God â€œpunishingâ€ us, but rather us reaping what we sow. I like that. That gives me the understanding that when I use my heartfelt devotion and self- discipline, I am sowing positive seeds and when I do not, I will have a consequence to experience.Â This puts the â€œcontrolâ€ in me, not outside of me, and this is what I began to call â€œspiritualityâ€, a practice and experience of me being able to realize Me, by calling into action my own actions.
Patanjali also organized yoga into an easily understandable 8 limbed path, and this also has given me a beautiful way to live my life.Â As simply as he has explained it, is as complex and unpredictable as it becomes to live. In other words, it may sound easy when you read it, but living it is a whole other world. The unpredictable part is my mind/ego, which without devotion, meditation and humility, can lead me into creating more karma or negative consequences in my life, because without bowing head beneath heart, I can easily begin to think I am running this show!
It is not enough to simply apply this eight limbed path and think you will reach enlightenment or even an â€œeasyâ€ life. There must be a foundation relating to something much higher, larger, bigger and more than us in our human existence.Â I call this God, or Supreme Consciousness, that all pervading energy, for lack of a better term, that has, will and always creates, destroys and sustains the Universe as we know it.
This may now begin to sound religious, but it is not. Can we all relate to the idea that perhaps there is an energy, a supreme intelligence that is pervading all, and it is our devotion acknowledgement of that existence and thus our connection to â€œitâ€ that fulfills that hunger, that longing that wails inside every one of us?
Is it possible that everyone is having their own unique “spiritual” experience, regardless of what another may think “should” be happening? Because as a spiritual being, how can we not be spiritual?
One morning, as I completed my devotions and meditations at the Ganges, I was walking along, in a sort of state of bliss, and an older Indian couple stopped me. They said they had watched me the last two mornings and were struck by my â€œconcentrationâ€.Â Where was I from? Why did I come to India? What is it that you seek? They asked with great respect to not pry into my personal life.
The man told me he was an aethiest, but did believe that there is a supreme power that guides all, but he did not believe in â€œGodâ€, per se. They had actually been sitting nearby meditating while I was.Â I told them I had come to India for a â€œspiritual journeyâ€ and to experience that land where all that I had been studying had been birthed.
Now the man asked me, â€œWell, what is a spiritual journey to you?â€Â Can you believe it!? This is exactly what I had been asking myself for the last four weeks?!!!!Â I paused, and felt my heart, my throat nearly choked as I said to him, â€œWell, all I know now is that, I am learning to see God in all, and when I cannot do that, I know I have to work a bit more on that. To me, every day was now being realized as a spiritual journey.â€
He thought about that for a moment, and he said â€œI think that if you can do that, you are doing it ALL. That is all there is.â€
I thought about how I had heard that phrase from Yogi Bhajan years ago “that if you can’t see god in all, you can’t see god at all”, and had a faint clue what he meant, but not completely, because how could you see God in a murderer, in a child molester, in someone who is so brutal, cruel, evil or nasty (like those Moguls)?Â Now, I actually understand, it is not that God is not in them, it is just that they are so misguided, so filled with pain, suffering and darkness, that they cannot even begin to feel or see the Light in themselves. It does not mean that they should be excused for their actions, nor allowed to continue to perpetrate the pain and suffering that they do. And, living within our own integrity so as not to create more karma for ourselves, we must do what we can to stop their harmful actions.
I still donâ€™t know how I could raise a sword or any weapon against another, and I pray that in this lifetime I am not challenged to do so. But I do know that my thoughts and words can be far more dangerous than any sword or gun, and that what I can and must do, is to monitor with great awareness and devotion all that I think and say, and thus do.
And that, if each one of us can simply do just that, PAY ATTENTION to our thoughts, our words and then our deeds, and intertwine our devotion in them, then we are being purely SPIRITUAL, we are remembering we are a Spiritual Being.Â Because to me, being spiritual is not something that I DO, it is what I AM.Â It is who we all are, all the time, only sometimes we do forget!:)
It is like meditation, it is not something that I just DO, it is how I live. The separation between me â€œbeing spiritualâ€ or â€œdoing meditationâ€ cannot in reality exist when I recognize that I am a spiritual being, because it is what I am. As I live my practice, which is what yoga is, it is becoming whole, then each thought, word and deed is meditative!
Of course, I still am in this human form, and I am sure to fall â€œout of awarenessâ€ when stress, constraints, challenges and such present themselves, but with devotion, surrender, acceptance and awareness, that other force, bigger than me can help to guide me to remain â€œSpiritualâ€. With the gentle cultivation of my neutrality and calmness, I gain momentum daily in loving myself and understanding myself.
I am aware, paying attention and devoted to that, which is always, has been and always will be, to that which I feel creates, destroys and sustains all that is.Â I feel it in every cell of my being, in my heart and in everything that I see and experience. For that, I am a â€œspiritualâ€ experience, and for that I am eternally, forever, always grateful and hopeful for all beings.
Well, thanks for making it through this blog, I would love your feedback, ’cause we are all in this together, and I learn from you! So share!!!
Filled with love, peace and light,
Denise Kirpal Kaur Lapides