How to develop a spiritual practice

I have slowly come to understand that deep peace and and a strong, long-lasting happiness in life grows only from a solid spiritual practice. If we can follow a spiritual practice every day that reflects and follows the laws of time, nature and the universe, then our ability to be happy in life will increase. We begin to generate the strength to be happy. And if we so desire, if we are so inclined, we will also be blessed with spiritual gifts and insights too. I have learned all this information from Dr. Torsunov, a spiritual teacher of Vedic knowledge that I respect deeply and I am happy to share it with you today. There is so much information available in Russian and not as much available in English, so I hope to be able to share with you some of the things I come across in English for those of you who are interested in this form of spiritual wisdom.

Here are a couple things to consider before we get into the details of what our daily regime should entail.

1. Time

When developing a  spiritual practice we must first understand that our practice must run along the axis of time. It must complement time. That means that everything must be done at the correct time or the benefits  of certain practices will be lost.

2. Intention

The intention behind our practice is very important because it sets our spiritual trajectory. It sets how high you will go, or how far you will fall. The ideal intention behind following a spiritual practice should be for God and out of a sense of duty (that it is your responsibility to live correctly – and that by living correctly you have greater opportunities to make other people happy).

Waking up before the sunrise

The first step of your spiritual practice is to wake up before the sunrise. In this way you can be ensured that you will get the maximum energy of the sun throughout your day.

Many saints and yogis can wake up at 3:00am with the purpose of spiritual practice. In many spiritual ashrams around the world, the wake up time is between 3:00-4:00am. However, only those who are quite spiritually advanced can wake up at this time, as it can cause health problems for those who are not. When a person wakes up between 3:00am-4:00am, this person is given the ability to know the deepest spiritual secrets of the universe.

In the temples in India, the first puja (spiritual ritual/practice performed by the priests) of the day begins usually at 3:00am, which they regard as the time that the Gods wake up.

If a person wakes up between 4:00am to 5:00am every morning, they are able to develop strong leadership qualities. They are also blessed with the ability of being joyful, capable, and spiritually advanced. They will be given the strength in life to overcome hardships and being successful, not only in the spiritual world but also in the material world.

If a person wakes up between 5:00am to 6:00am in the morning – they will be given the ability to get, at the very least, what they need to get by and live happily in life. They will be able to avoid great suffering in life and they will avoid great illnesses and diseases. They may not taste great spiritual joys and depth but they will be able to avoid many problems in life.

(Source: Dr. Torsunov)

When a person wakes up later than 6:00am they lose the ability to influence their destiny and faith. They also begin to lack the strength to be happy. Their day runs on autopilot. You just sort of go with the flow, riding the ups and downs of life, without the ability to take much control. For the purpose of this  post I will refer to 6:00am as the appropriate time to wake up. According to the Vedas, 6:00am is the latest a person should wake up if they want to influence their destiny.

Has anyone else noticed that the best time to decide that you want to wake up at 6:00am the following morning is at 6:00pm the night before? In the evening time, it seems like such a great idea to wake up at 6:00am the next day. You can’t think of anything that could be harmful about waking up so early. You can only think about how good it will feel, how much more productive you can be during the day, how waking up before the world does will give you a chance to greet your day in  sweet spiritual silence. You can meditate, pray, practice yoga, prepare a blissful breakfast . Everything about it seems like such a good idea. And then along comes 6:00am and suddenly for the first time you conveniently begin to consider all the “negative” effects of waking up so early. Suddenly 6:00am doesn’t feel like such a good idea anymore. “It’s too early” or  “I’ll be very tired all day and therefore won’t be able to be that productive after all so I may as well sleep and get some rest and then have a really productive day” or “It’s way too early. What am I even going to do now with all this time?  I don’t have anything to do. I might as well sleep till a more reasonable time to wake up. 6:00am was a silly idea.” or “I couldn’t get into bed early enough last night/had a very restless sleep so it isn’t a good idea to wake up at 6:00am. I’ll definitely get into bed tonight by 9:00am and then tomorrow I will be able to wake up at 6:00am”

Isn’t it funny how our mind works like that? We can be so predictable sometimes. It’s almost like we have to sign a contract to ourselves stating that “I will wake up at 6:00am tomorrow and IT IS GOOD FOR ME” so that even when you wake up and start thinking about why it is a bad idea, you can remind yourself that IT IS GOOD.

There is a lot to say about sleeping at the correct time, and it is something I have not yet mastered.

The Sun and Digestion

Part of what waking up early allows us to have is the maximum  energy of the sun during our day. The energy of the sun can influence many aspects of our day to day physical, mental, hormonal and spiritual functions. When the sun rises it causes a rush of energy in our psyche, compelling us to be active. If a person is sleeping during this time, their sleep transitions from a deep to a superficial sleep. They begin to feel uncomfortable, start tossing and turning, their soul begins to wake up as a new type of energy begins to flow through their body – but of course, out of the force of our conditioning and habits, we can and usually do, choose to stay in bed.

According to Vedic philosophies, the sun emits three types of energy that can influence our psyche and consciousness. The first kind is the energy that causes our skin to burn when we are outside for long on a hot day, and which can cause problems for us such as cancers of the skin.

The second type of sun-energy is a type of energy which enters within our body and stimulates digestion and immunity. This is part of the reason why according to our natural body clocks, we eat our lunch at noon. The sun is at it’s highest, and emits it’s energy rays very powerfully. We are stimulated to eat lunch around noon time, and our digestion is very efficient at this time due to the energy of the sun. It stimulates our appetite and our digestion.

The third type of energy that the sun emits is a the force of joyfulness or optimism. A person can only receive this energy if they are able to wake up at the right time. It is a very subtle form of solar energy.

I am certain that from our own personal experience we can see how much the energy of the sun can affect our mood. Personally, when it is a beautiful day full of sunshine, I feel most inspired and productive, and it somehow becomes harder to do the same things on a dull day. And I have also noticed that if the sun’s energy becomes too strong, and it is just simply TOO hot one afternoon, it can overpower us and make us feel a bit overwhelmed and tired.

There is also much more to say about time and the power of the sun, but I will save that for another blog post.

Taking a shower

It is also important to take a shower in the morning. This helps you wash away the dull energy that accumulates in your consciousness and body as you sleep. For women, a cool shower is advised in the mornings. As I am sure many of you ladies can relate to the fact that washing our hair every day can be a huge hassle, so luckily we don’t have to do that! It is fine to wear one of those (very glamorous) shower caps, but still allow the water to flow from head down. Taking a cool shower can literally wash away many impurities from our material and spiritual (subtle) body.

Morning and Evening Prayer and Meditation

We should try to begin and end our day with prayer. Sometimes we can find it hard to relate to prayer. Or if we do, we often imagine prayer as something we do in the evening before bed. But prayer is very important to do in the morning, at the beginning of the day. You see, prayer in the morning fills us with strength to go through our day properly. It gives us the strength to be happy, to act properly, to fulfill your duties. Prayer at the end of the day can help bring forgiveness for the times that need healing from the day, but does not give you strength to do something good. It can only heal the bad. So prayer in the evening by itself is not enough to create happiness. It

We should try to pray for a 40 minutes in the morning and the evening.

If you don’t believe in God, then you can try to sit in meditation for 40 minutes and wish happiness to all beings. Try to think of everyone you can and wish them happiness. It might not feel genuine at first but keep doing it. Keep on doing it until you start to feel happiness from wanting others to be happy. It will be genuine then.

If prayer is very new to you, maybe my own experience with prayer can help you. I first wish happiness to all people (Which takes a while) and then I ask that I am given the strength to create happiness in my day for all those around me. I ask for the strength to always do the right thing.

May all beings be happy, content and fulfilled.

May all beings be healed and whole.

May all have whatever they want and need.

May all be protected from harm, and free from fear.

May all beings enjoy inner peace and ease.

May all be awakened, liberated and free.

May there be peace in this world, and throughout the entire universe.

(From here)

According to Lama Das, by saying this prayer with sincerity, you will “sleep easily, wake easily, have pleasant dreams, people will love you, celestial beings will love you and protect you; poisons, fire and other external dangers will not harm you, your face will be radiant, and your mind concentrated and serene; and you will die unconfused and be reborn in the happy realms.”

Breakfast

According to the Vedic philosophies, the best time for breakfast is between 6:00-7:00am. The sun has risen and it’s energy is strong, which allows us to digest our first meal of the day with no problems. Naturally our appetite is awakened in the morning time, after our night time sleep where we are deprived of food. There is also another spiritual explanation for our morning hunger. As the sun rises over the horizon, the wind begins to pick up in the surroundings – a fresh morning breeze. They say this movement of the wind is due to the rising of the sun, and the energy it emits, stimulating the wind to start moving. Similarly, the element of “air/wind” is also stimulated within our bodies. It is most active in our stomach area- stimulating our appetite. It has the greatest speed within our intestines, which causes that “sucking” feeling in our stomach that we often consider as hunger, or a feeling of emptiness that should be filled. This force is not just hunger alone though, it is a sign that our psyche has come alive.

It is good to eat foods that will impart upon you good energy for your day. Sweet products are good to eat in the morning, especially for women, because they invoke a sweetness in her nature. The Vedas recommend only eating sweets in the morning though, while you still have sufficient sun energy to digest it properly. It is advised to avoid sweet foods in the evening time. According to Dr. Torsunov, he says that even diabetics can tolerate sweet food products as long as they eat it before 7:00am in the morning.

Dairy products have great power in the morning time as well (milk, yogurt, butter). It is good to drink a glass of milk in the morning and in the evening. Milk is a very powerful drink that builds optimism and joy in those who drink it.  Milk can warm you up (warm milk) or cool you down (cool milk/ buttermilk). You can even add some sweet spices to your milk such as cinnamon. According to the daily regime, milk should be consumed either before 6:00am and after 6:00pm. When consumed in between those times, it can cause problems for susceptible individuals, because they can have a hard time digesting it. It is linked to the energy of the moon, which is calming.  Because of milks calming properties, that’s why many parents give their children warm milk before bed time. Also due to it’s connection with the moon, it digests best under the influence of the moon, which is at night time – which is why it is recommended to drink a glass of milk before you sleep. Women and children are greatly under the influence of the moon, which is why milk digests better in women than in men, however, Dr. Torsunov does mention that by the evening time, milk digests equally well in both men and women.

Fruits are sweet foods of benevolence and should be eaten in the morning.  If you have a busy day ahead of you, nuts are good source of energy at breakfast time.

Yoga

Here you can do your morning yoga practice. This should of course be yoga completed with spiritual intentions, a time to reconnect with your body and bring your spiritual and physical body into alignment before you begin your day. I don’t know much about Yoga to comment on it a great deal. I have practiced yoga in the past, but never seriously enough to understand it’s true impact on our spiritual practice! If you are interested in Yoga, I would imagine the best thing to do is to find a yoga guru in your area, who practices not only the physical act of yoga but the spiritual aspect of yoga too, and learn from them.

Reading spiritual material

I have come to understand that in order for me to consistently better myself, I have to be constantly reminded of my ideals. Even though I have been interested in personal and spiritual development from a young age, it is always so easy to let it slip from the forefront of my mind, and then I forget my focus for life. We must be constantly reminded of our ideals. Even the things you think are a “given” can always be reinforced. For example, something as simple as “being kind” is something I need to be reminded of. It is very easy to degrade, to slip back into comfortable bad habits, but it is very difficult to move forward and develop good tendencies in life. This is why we have to try to rearrange our life so that we are constantly reminded of higher goals. Our higher goals are what will lift us out of murky waters. Our ideals are what will keep us growing. I heard a very valuable quote by Radhanath Swami a few months back that has really stuck with me: “If your ideals are strong, then the tests in your life will only make you stronger.” I understood this as: If you have weak ideals such as that the highest vision you have for yourself and your ideas of self-perfection are weak and full of doubts and confusion, then every test that you have along your path will make you weaker. If your values and ideals are strong in life, then the tests will make you stronger.

For example if you enter marriage believing that “Well, I guess divorce is alright. I hope it doesn’t happen for me, but if it does, no big deal, life goes on, I guess I’ll try find someone new!” then every single argument with your husband will make your marriage weaker, and you won’t even understand why. However if you go into a relationship with strong values and the belief that divorce is not an option at all, then the trials you and your husband face will build strength.

Just to share a funny quote I read once: “My wife Mary and I have been married for forty-seven years and not once have we had an argument serious enough to consider divorce; murder, yes, but divorce, never.” – Jack Benny

Anyway, so how do you surround yourself by your ideals? Well first of all we should try to read something or listen to something or watch something every day of a spiritual nature, that reminds us of our higher aspirations. It could be listening to lectures online, or reading a spiritual book, or going to hear someone speak on important topics (I understand that this does not happen every day though). Secondly we should try to be friends with people who also have similar ideals and lifestyles.

You can also play spiritual music/mantras while you work (if you can) or in your home. This can not only serve as a reminder, it can also purify your surroundings.

 A daily focus

The morning is a time of happiness. If you want to experience true blissfulness, joyfulness and happiness in your day, we must begin our day in the morning – a time of happiness. Our day must take root there.

The majority of our day is allocated for work, studies, fulfillment or our duties and service. This is where we spend the most of our time. Here we have to focus on fulfilling our duties properly, to do our job well, to work hard. We can orient our day so that instead of rushing through our work day – looking forward to getting home to relax, we can try to make the most of our day by reorienting it towards service. We should try to go through our day with the right intention – to serve all those around us, to serve the world, to serve God. We should try to somehow help people in our day, volunteer, engage in charity – at the very least, we should do our job well.

The evening is a time for calming down.  After 6:00pm in the evening, a person should try to move away from work, and try to calm down. We can do this by listening to something pleasant and uplifting, or by creating an atmosphere of happiness and care in your home. You can spend quality time with your children, your husband or wife.

…And don’t forget your evening prayer and getting into bed at a reasonable time so that you can be well rested before your early morning start, and so that you can also have the maximum calming benefits of the energy of the moon.

—-

This was a very long post, but I think that there was a lot of information to share. Thank you for reading.

Malavika

10 thoughts on “How to develop a spiritual practice

  1. Maat says:

    Give Thanks and Praise for your Divine Essence..Thank you for the Intention of Love and Service, giving of your time and life force energy..My soul is asking to wake up, cuz I keep falling to sleep. So, again I committed to re-member and practice on last shadow hour (night)…and this post is what I awakened to…Divine protection to your mental, emotional, and physical being.

    Peace

    Like

  2. J A C says:

    Thanks Malavika for this article , i love it so much 🙂 I want also to share with you my personal experience. I have really start to live when i discover Islam , it brings me peace and a great happiness in my life.
    Islam also makes me more self confident and loyal beacause it improves my relation between me and God. All things that you spoke in your article , i find it in Islam. For example, we have to make a prayer 5 times a day. So afer we accomplish each one, we felt very happy and relaxed. Besides, before we pray, we make an ablution which helps us to be cool and energitic.
    In addition to that, Islam teaches me good things. I learnt how to be honest and sincere. I am doing my work more and more well. It helps me also to be truthful and stay away from lying.
    Unfortunetly, our media makes Islam as a source of terrorism , but you can discover by yourself in Coran (the Holy book) that it is a great religion which complements and comes after Judaism and Christianity.
    A great religion whichs calls for tolerence , generosity and peace (external and spiritual) 🙂

    Like

    • Malavika says:

      Hello! And thank you for your thoughtful comment. It was a pleasure to read! I am happy that you have found Islam and that it has spoken to your heart. Isn’t that wonderful! And it seems you are unearthing the true essence of the religion and putting it into practice, and for that you have my respect and support. Good luck on your journey, my friend. And please feel free to continue to tell me about your progress.

      Like

  3. Yulia says:

    This is a post I will be reading at least once a week. Need a constant reminder about the importance of waking up early and this is a wonderful one) Good job!

    Like

  4. kaladevi says:

    It was interesting what is written is in the HINDU PURNAs.
    Shows that you had done a lot of homework.
    HINDUSIM IS THE ESSENCE OF LIFE.

    Like

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