Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Religion and Spirituality

I was at Barnes and Noble (a bookstore, a couple of years back, looking at some books. Curiosity got the better of me and I asked one of the employees to help me find books on spirituality. He took me to the isle that had books on religion and showed me several books on Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, etc. I told him I was looking for books on spirituality and not religion. To which he said, “This is all we have here.” After some time, I did find a few books on spirituality. This incident made me think of how people may confuse spirituality and religion. But the two are actually really different things. It also means different things to different people.
Over the last ten or eleven years, I’ve developed an inclination for spirituality. And have also seen how it has helped me. To be more clear, by spirituality I do not mean going to the temple regularly and reciting a long list of prayers. I have seen that meditation helps, especially over a longer period of time. Connecting with your inner self, knowing who you really are, what you are as a person helps. Just watching your breath, and keeping your eyes closed is so helpful. One can start meditation that way. This is spirituality to me - Connecting to the Higher Being through your inner self.
There was an Indian religious festival a couple of months back. In way of conversation, I was told that even early in the morning, there were so many devotees in the temple that day. And was told, “Seems like a lot of people are turning to spirituality.” So I said that, just because you go to a temple, doesn’t make you spiritual. You could be religious, and so, may go to the temple. In way of conversation, the person felt that you do need to go to a temple in order to be spiritual. This is where my point of view differed. My quest for spirituality began at a friend’s place. And over the years, I’ve found myself meditating in the living room of my house, on a lazy Saturday when am just lying in bed, or in the bus when am going to work. And this has been the case for other people also.
This doesn’t mean that visiting a temple is not needed to connect with your spiritual self. Different things work for different people. It could be that people need to go to a temple for connecting with the Higher Being. Silence works for people like me. And so temples usually don’t help, where there are lots of people, talking about things, meeting others, etc.
One technique that I have found useful to meditate – sitting, sleeping or standing, is to touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of your fingers one-by-one. If possible, close your eyes. If not, it is fine to leave them open. When you touch the finger tips with the tip of the thumb, and press very gently, you’ll feel your pulse. Feel your pulse on all four finger tips. And as you do that, transition to following your breath. And then visualize any image that calms you or makes you happy. See how it goes. Do it whenever you want, whenever you find the time and inclination for it.

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