William James in his essay on habits says quite correctly that our daily habits can be allies or enemies. He elaborates further and says that if we want healthy bodies then we must exercise regularly and eat good, wholesome food. If we do little exercise and consume a low quality eating style, these habits are enemies to us having a healthy vibrant body.
What is true for our bodies is true in our spiritual quest. For sure, reading or listening to our spiritual teachers, meditations, chanting, journaling or attending seminars are all helpful guideposts.
One of the most fundamental questions is to how to become more conscious or present in our daily spiritual habits. Recently, I have discovered guideposts of using nature, a more effective meditation technique and, most important, becoming more loving each day.
When walking my dog in the park on early Sunday mornings, there is very little car or truck noise. There is an incredible quietness — actually an enveloping stillness where one finds themselves in a brief gap of no thinking.
Hiking each Wednesday through our incredible southern Oregon wilderness points to nature’s best lessons. I look up in awe and feel or sense the stillness or silence of these massive, majestic giant doug fir, ponderosa and madrone trees. It is the same stillness, silence (consciousness) that we are. Here too, as I looked, there was a short gap where my conditioned mind abruptly stopped its habitual thinking.
Meditation is another way of becoming more conscious or present. Because I kept falling asleep, I discovered the new technique of keeping my eyes open. During the meditation, I became very attentive in looking at four trees. As I felt a oneness with the trees, I again experienced these short or brief gaps of no thinking.
The most important way of creating these conscious gaps is to be more loving each day. An example is worth a thousand words: I finally decided it was time to heed my beloved’s suggestion and make good on my promise to actually help more in raising our beautiful 14-year-old granddaughter. We studied a recipe, wrote down the ingredients and shopped together. Rather than the usual suggestion to stir the ingredients, my wife gently guided me through each direction. There were no ego eruptions — just a calm, relaxed conscious cooperation. The dish was delicious and passed the acid test. Our granddaughter loved it.
This conscious giving and receiving carried over to our house cleaning. Again, no judgmental comments or questions like, “Aren’t you going too fast?” Or, “Did you miss this or that?” We were a cooperating loving team. There was an effortlessness and a gentleness which created extended gaps of no thinking.
These conscious gaps of stillness or peacefulness are available and can be extended only if you make a habit in expecting and looking for them in your connections with nature, being consistent, but open to varied meditation techniques.
Last, and most important in all your relationships, allow this always present consciousness to gently envelope and guide your actions and words to be kind, joyful and nonjudgmental. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it better than I have, “Get your bloated ego out of the divine circuits.”
Jim Hawes, a retired Medford school teacher, has published "Ageless Child" (Balboa Press, Amazon.com or Barnes and Nobles) and is working on his new book, "Ageless Living."