At 4.30am each morning the monks commence their 4-hour spiritual workout. Each and every day, 365 days a year. To an onlooker it may seem like a monotonous and mechanical regime; somewhat of a holy ‘boot camp.’ Seasoned practitioners, however, will testify that these tried and tested external practices open up an internal world of bottomless depth. There is something beautiful about simplicity and sameness. With the proper attitude, it can help one become more conscious, more tuned and more reflective. When activities and surroundings remain consistent, it opens up unique opportunities to invest energy into the quality, purpose and consciousness with which one functions; simple living high thinking. Having practiced an identical spiritual discipline and lifestyle for some years now, I’m beginning to appreciate how much depth it can create. Spiritual technology is timeless and limitless.
Yet the mechanics of spirituality can also degenerate into ritual and monotony. When we neglect to invest quality time and attention into performing these simple acts of devotion, we start tending towards the religious more than the spiritual. Here are some classic symptoms of mechanical spirituality:
- I ‘fit in’ my practices as opposed to prioritising a suitable time of day
- I ‘multi-task’ my practices as opposed to giving them exclusive focus and attention
- I have no serious plans (or desires) to increase and enhance my practices
- I look for excuses and justification to neglect my spiritual practices
- I have no quality remembrance of the goal while performing my spiritual practices
- The mind frequently wanders during my practices, and I happily let it travel
If we answered an affirmative ‘yes’ to more than a few of these questions we may well be in danger zone. I’ve just returned from Vrindavana, where great saints demonstrated the pinnacle of spiritual consciousness. Complete immersion in their daily practices rendered them indifferent to the external world. Their living quarters were not formal brick or wooden structures, but temporary arrangements like the hollow of a tree, a clearing under a thorny thicket, or an underground cave. In these austere and solitary settings, these mystics would settle into spiritual trance and have their conversations with God, continuing for hours and hours on end. Their spirituality wasn’t a casual activity. It wasn’t a ritual. It wasn’t simply a discipline – rather, it was full of emotion and feeling. Sentiments from the core of the heart. Though we can’t imitate such exalted states, its imperative to invest time and energy to make a deeper connection. Attention leads to attraction. Attraction matures into attachment. A casual approach, however, may well render one a casualty.