We typically do our spiritual disciplines like yoga, meditation, conscious eating, prayer, etc. because we want to improve our experience of life as embodied souls on the Earth plane. If we go on meditation or yoga retreats or if we attend daily yoga classes at our local studio, we find ourselves moving into a more relaxed and peaceful state of being. We become less involved in the chaos of our minds and more in touch with the intelligence of our hearts. We become more in touch with our values, goals, and priorities, and we wind up feeling so much better than before.
But then after the retreat, the yoga class, or the private meditation practice when we go back into our everyday lives, it sometimes feels like the work we did during our practice goes elsewhere. It dissipates and disappears somehow to the point where we might even feel empty of all the goodness we felt when we were in those blissful and contemplative states.
So how can we set an intention for our practice that helps us continue to feel full of heightened awareness and energy off the mat or off the cushion?
First we must realize and expect that even the most enlightened states of awareness have their ups and downs to them, just like any other state of consciousness or awareness. This is the first point. We need to expect and even welcome the fluctuations which will inevitably, and naturally, occur—between our more contemplative states and our ways of being in everyday life.
Let’s take an example: Say you come home from a meditation retreat and you’re feeling totally blissed out... Then just minutes after you arrive back to your home to see your partner or family or emails and those feelings of bliss seem to go away—almost instantaneously. You’re not feeling nearly as connected to your spirit as you were just minutes or moments ago. All the distractions of relationships, work, etc. start entering your awareness. Understand that these moments of transition from peace to aggravation or whatever it is—are temporary. Understand that this feeling of annoyance is part of a wave that you can ride back into bliss, or peace, or whatever state you want to call it.
Here’s the second point to consider: You must have the expectation that your experience of life back home is going to feel much different than your experience of life on a retreat or in a class. There are ways, however, to take our experiences from retreat or class and thread them into the more mundane goings on of everyday life. Instead of looking at our spiritual practice as separate from life, can we look at it as a training camp for it?
Here’s the third point: If we have a clear notion of what we want the fruits of our spiritual practice to be—if we know how we want it to serve our lives—then we can look at it as integral to our lives as opposed to something separate that we keep in a bubble. Then the spiritual time of practice and the time of everyday life become much more closely connected.
So take the time to ask yourself how you’d like your meditation, prayer, journaling, or yoga to positively affect your everyday life. When you do this, you know better how you want to be and why you do your practice in the first place. With time, you’ll slowly see your life begin to change for the better because of those times in retreat or in class or in private meditation.
Photo by Wael Chanab