Spiritual Practice – How much is enough?

I was reminded this Friday during a Spiritual Discussion about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule in his book Outliers. Gladwell guides that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills and materials. Let’s take a look at what this looks for the casual spiritual aspirant and then for the serious spiritual seeker for them to achieve spiritual mastery. In the end, I will look at what other activities we can do to increase our hours to reach this 10,000 hour rule.

First of all, 10,000 hours is a guide. We may have to put much more hours in or we may have to put less hours. It is not that once you reach 10,000 hours, you will achieve spiritual enlightenment and all the secrets of the universe will be revealed in the most majestic fashion. Our honesty, intention, passion and sincerity will matter when it comes to spiritual attainment. So as I go through these scenarios for the casual spiritual aspirant and the serious spiritual seeker, I believe it is best to understand that these people are honest, compassionate, genuine, sincere and have good intentions. They are not fake in any way. To me, faith, devotion, worship and reverence means nothing if we do not have the basic decency of being honest and genuine.

Casual Spiritual Aspirant – 10,000 hours

The casual spiritual aspirant probably spends a couple hours a week. Let’s say they meditate for 30 minutes every day. They may attend a satsang or a spiritual meetup for 2-4 hours a week. They may do the occasional listening to a spiritual talk on YouTube or reading spiritual content for an hour in the week.

  • Meditation – 3.5 hours
  • Satsang/Spiritual Meetup – 2 hours
  • Watching, listening or reading spiritual content via social – 1 hour
  • Studying Scripture or Spiritual Texts –  30 minutes

The total will be 7 hours in the week. In one year, this will be a total of 364 hours. To reach the 10,000 hour level of mastery, it would take the casual spiritual aspirant around 27.5 years.

Serious Spiritual Seeker – 10,000 hours

The serious spiritual seeker will definitely be putting in more hours. Let’s say they meditate for 1 hour every day. They may attend a satsang or a spiritual meetup for 2-4 hours a week. They will most likely study scripture or read a spiritual text for a good 2 hours a day. Like the casual spiritual aspirant, they may listen to a spiritual talk between 1-2 hours a week.

  • Meditation session – 7 hours
  • Satsang/Spiritual Meetup – 4 hours
  • Watching, listening or reading spiritual content via social media – 2 hours
  • Studying Scripture or Spiritual Texts – 14 hours

This would amount to 27 hours in the week. In one year, this will be a total of 1404 hours. To reach the 10,000 hour level of mastery, it would take the serious spiritual seeker around 7.1 years.

These are basic scenarios and it will differ person to person and the above spiritual activities will be interchangeable for example, someone may meditate more or attend more spiritual meetups per week. Someone may be living in an ashram and that can change things dramatically. The below examples may be something they do instead of the activities I mentioned above.

Examples of Other Spiritual Activities

There may be other spiritual activities that I will now mention and can be added into the above examples too. For example, someone may do yoga but doesn’t do meditation.

  • Walking in Nature or Gardening
  • Being aware of the present moment
  • Jap or Kirtan – singing/listening to devotional songs or reciting mantras
  • Yoga
  • Contemplation
  • Volunteer work
  • Retreats – weekend, 3 days or 5 days
  • Writing in a journal like a gratitude journal

Consideration

As I mentioned earlier and I want to emphasize that one’s sincerity, honesty and humility is important when it comes to attaining anything spiritual. Our behavior is transformed and if we are still harboring hatred, if we lack compassion or empathy, I doubt we have attained much spiritually regardless of the hours we put into spiritual practice.

Some may even claim that they have attained the highest in spirituality because of some sacred knowledge and even if that is the case, I do believe there is still a refining process. Plus this individual would always be interested in spiritual activities so this would still apply to them. Spirituality is interwoven into their life.

Death needs to be considered here and our awareness of it. If I know that I can die at any time, then would my outlook change? Would my spiritual practice be more intense hence an increase in hours each day? Our understanding of death has a correlation with the hours we put in. If we believe we can do it in future lives, then we should consider it could take us an eternity. If we believe in one life alone, then how many years can be guaranteed that we will live to? If there is no guarantee, then all I have this moment now – so what do I want to be in awareness of during this moment?

Comments

Let me know your comments on this post below. What spiritual activities do you do that I may have missed? If you want, you can let me know how long it will take you to reach the 10,000 hours.

Distractions

Life is an incredible experience when one is grounded in the present moment. When each moment is lived fully, when we approach the moment with absolute vitality, life becomes extraordinary. Even what would be considered an ordinary experience like taking a walk, brushing your teeth, taking a shower can be seen as extraordinary, it just depends on how present we are, how invested we are into that one moment.

It feels like the whole point of spirituality rests on a single moment. Everything leads to that single moment, and that moment becomes eternity.

However, the biggest problem today is distractions from actually living. It seems like if we have a day doing nothing, then it has gone to waste. In the drive to create experiences, sometimes we forget that we are alive in this moment. As we bend our necks to stare at our phones, swiping all over the screen and we sometimes forget that our world can be right in front of us, our family members, our friends and colleagues. We distract ourselves from life so easily . I wonder if we were on our deathbed, I question whether we would place value on the time we spent mindlessly on our phones than spending another moment with our loved ones.

For me, my main purpose in life is to live in the Truth. I am not there yet, and have quite a journey to travel! However, anything that I do that is not in pursuit of this is a distraction. Anything linked to this pursuit is not a distraction. For example, my day job is necessary for me to pay my bills, to live comfortably therefore, it is helping my pursuit towards that. This means that instead of thinking of how I will get my next meal, I can focus on living moment to moment in awareness of the Truth or to seek knowledge about the Truth.

Therefore, it is best to keep our minds away from distractions if we want to live a spiritual life or live a life based on the Eternal Truth. If we want to live mindfully, if we want to live moment to moment then distractions must be kept at a minimum. Otherwise, who are we fooling other than ourselves when we claim we want to live a more spiritual-based life.

Toxic Positivity

Can positivity ever be considered negative? Simple answer is YES! I know, wait a second, let’s understand what I have just answered. Am I saying that it can be negative to be positive? Yes, I am exactly saying that. What are my reasons? Well, let’s dwell on this.

Have you ever faced a time in your life where you feel sad? Or you are going through a traumatic time with an illness? Or you feel trapped in a relationship? Just had a break up? Lost your job and been out of work for months? Got bad grades? You decide to tell somebody about it because you want to be listened to, you want to be heard. What is the response? You may have had the following responses:

  • There must be something good in your life?
  • Don’t worry, you will get better, be positive.
  • Be positive, at least you are in a relationship.
  • Look, there are more guys/girls out there.
  • Don’t worry, you will find a new job, stay positive and keep applying.
  • You can ace the next exam, be positive and keep working hard.

I know that I have said the above to people in the past and it is only recently, that I realized that maybe I am not being helpful to people when I say such things. Okay, I may not be in the ‘stay positive’ or ‘positive vibes only’ crowd but I am guilty for sometimes saying something uplifting when someone only wants to talk. They just want me to listen to them deeply, without judging, without thinking about what to say, just being absolutely present with them.

The most powerful responses I have ever received have come from people who stay quiet for a good, few minutes and then they offer some advice or sometimes they just give me a hug. Sometimes, that is all we need or someone else needs. We don’t have to coat our every advice with positive statements or affirmations, we can sometimes just state things as they are and deal with it as it is. We can advice according to the situation and work out together how best to deal with the situation.

The toxic positivity crowd has grown with social media. We now have social media personalities who spew out how positivity is everything and if you aren’t having a good life, it is because you are not positive enough. They talk big but life shows that it delivers flatly. Trust me, I have read my fair share of self-help books, followed self-help gurus on social media, followed their advice somewhat and realized I haven’t been helped at all. Everything I am doing is based on my circumstances and my analysis of my circumstances. I take time to look at what I am going through and meditate on what the best response is. Yes, it may not be the approach of anyone that wants fast results but sometimes, being slow and steady helps us to address the problem or issue fully. It is best if you allow that feeling of positivity to arise within you naturally.

Sometimes, we are told that we aren’t grateful enough and that gratitude is the best attitude. But if I am feeling stressed, I am not going to be grateful for anything else. Am I to be grateful for my stress? How does that make any sense? So this is what it goes back to, we have to face what we are dealing with and really look into it. See the root of it and observe the root of it. We need to spend time on what disturbs us, and then we can direct our minds to find ways out of it. We need to allow each thought, positive or negative, to flower completely, to travel with the thought so it can express itself completely. If we end up cutting that thought short, we may be repressing emotions or thoughts that may lead to a greater sadness or depression later on.

Tomorrow, you may listen to some positive thought and it helps you tremendously. And a few days later, you face a situation and to overcome it, you use that same positive thought and it doesn’t help anymore. Don’t ever put yourself down if that positive thought isn’t working. Whatever you are going through has become bigger than that positive thought. Life gives us situations so that we evolve, so we see the deeper truths of life and if we mask it with positivity, it is still a veil. Therefore, find new ways of dealing with issues or problems, most of all, try to understand the problem.

What I want to emphasize is that if you feel sad, I am here to look at the sadness with you. If you are happy, I am here to look at the happiness with you. Whatever you are feeling, whatever you are going through, I am here to go through it with you.

I believe we should look at our thoughts and our emotions as they are and deal with them as they are. Yes, some thoughts will be painful to look into but sometimes it is that looking, that observing that helps us to drop that thought. This is what has helped me in my life.

Motivational quotes and sayings may be nice to look at and nice to hear but do they transform us? Do they really make you get up to conquer the world? How about we aim more locally and look to conquer our minds. This can only be done, if we spend time and go through the process with our undivided attention.

Mirages and Spiritual Awakening

adult background beach blue
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Growing up with a thirst for spiritual awakening was not easy as I had to study and build a life thereon. Studying for me was boring because it was forced upon me and inside I knew that I would probably never use half of the things I learned in high school. I was right about that but my thirst for spiritual awakening was also growing, as I became more thirsty, several mirages appeared in my life to distract me – whether it was women, intoxicants, wealth etc.

Eventually these mirages were ignored after several years of going through these experiences as if they were true. I look back at the past and think I was so sure I was doing the best thing for me and now I almost regret some of it. However, what has been done has been done. I have to move forward.

As several mirages appeared again, I knew it was right to let them be as they were but not be allured towards them. I was then clear for spiritual awakening, so I thought but such experiences never come easy even if you have the tool to instantaneously get it.

The mirage of concepts was very heavy and while I got rid of some concepts through careful analysis on their validity, I ended up created some more concepts and down again I went down the rabbit hole. From saying there is a god to know saying there isn’t a god – I was firm on both these concepts at one time and now – I don’t know even though the answer is very, very clear to me.

Two things I had never let go of: One was my love for my Spiritual Master and two was my meditation. Even though, I tried to stay clear from my Spiritual Master, I understood that something else was being played. Even though I disagreed a lot with some of the philosophy that His organization taught, it was later discovered through my own meditation that those were my philosophies and not His. This was when I realized that our perception had to be cleansed in order to truly understand a philosophy as it is and not how you interpret it.

Let’s just say that the way I see the philosophy now is very simple – the realization of the Formless Self, is the realization of your True Self. The Spiritual Master just points at that Formless Self. It is up to you whether you look at the Formless Self or take a little detour with looking at the Spiritual Master. If you do take the detour, it becomes dangerous territory because you may love the Master but your mind has not realized it’s true self so therefore, your Master will be judged by you – even if it is a positive judgement. Any judgment will not let you see something clearly.

As I mentioned, I stayed away from my Master while I was going through this major analysis, but I was very devoted to meditation and meditated a lot. I was working and would wake up as early as 4am and meditate for an hour, then read for two hours and then get ready for work. It so happened, that on a Saturday, I started meditating again around 9am and as I was focussing on empty space for a while, I saw the tiniest dot of Light appear and I was amazed at this. I floated in this empty space and went near it and I heard a sound that simply said ‘Before this, I am,’ and I just saw this dot expand and the whole of creation was presented to me. I couldn’t contain myself and took myself out of the meditative state. I didn’t know what I experienced other than there had to be something before creation.

I have never forgotten this experience but it came back to me three weeks ago. This time, the tiniest dot was not seen but empty space was taken away from me and I came to an absolute stillness and centered my whole focus on that stillness. I was so taken aback by it that it felt like I had been there for 10 minutes when in fact, it had only been around 30 seconds. It was an intense experience. I realized one major thing – it didn’t matter whether this is god or not – there is only stillness. Call it whatever you want now to personalize it. I totally understand why we name it. Yes, it certainly dilutes what It Is but people need something to relate to and the easiest thing to do is to name it.

I enjoyed this experience and I have noticed how it continuously presents itself to me without any desire from my side. It’s presence cannot be ignored by me. It only then occurred to me that my Spiritual Master had told me about this around 5 years ago. He held his right hand out, His palm facing His stomach, maybe 15 cm away from His stomach and with His left hand waving in between the right hand and the stomach said “You have to be aware of this, it is stillness. Keep focusing on this awareness.” Little did I know that after almost 3 years of His departure from His physical form would this golden nugget of wisdom make sense to me and I would understand it.

The mirage I had then was that a Spiritual Master is only the physical body, this is a massive illusion. The teachings are of an eternal nature and so is the presence of the Master. It is now that I truly appreciate everything that has been taught to me. I am still learning, discovering and in fact, I am more eager to learn than I probably was in my teens. Spirituality has no end in terms of literature but in the end it is your own experience that matters. Use the literature to inspire you, refuse to let it be a concept.

A few weeks ago, I had my second spiritual awakening, the sight towards enlightenment is also on the horizon. All gratitude goes to my Spiritual Master.

 

 

Guest Blog by Niharika Ahuja

Hello everyone!

Today, I am very happy to say that Niharika Ahuja, a very dear friend and a fellow traveller in spirituality has written a blog for me and the readers of this blog. I have known Niharika for years and her wisdom and spiritual understanding is truly remarkable as you will discover when you read the post she has written. She has reached some amazing spiritual heights despite her young age and has been a continuous inspiration

. I have learned a lot from Niharika and I am sure with this blog, you will also learn from her. Niharika also has a blog and catch up on her insightful posts on https://livinginyourlight.wordpress.com


Awareness:

Research indicates as per majority’s beliefs, the average person has 70,000 thoughts
in one day. How crazy is that? That is 70,000 times a day that the average person is
not living within the moment because she or he is thinking about something that
happened in the past or dreaming about something they desire in the future. This
explains why the topic of mindfulness has gained so much interest in society.

Most people will argue why it even matters if they are engrossed in their thoughts?
It matters because the more we let our minds wander to the thoughts of the past or
future, we are taking THAT very moment away from us and our loved ones too. A
second or even an hour after, we will also regret losing those moments we spent
pondering on what could have been or could be, rather than enjoying the
opportunities, people and beauty that surrounded us in that very moment.

Call it awareness, being cautious or more mindful, when every act is done with your
attention in whatever you are doing, you live life in the most enriching and beautiful
way. One may think that doing the dishes, walking your dog, drinking your tea or
even eating may be ordinary things or obligations that do not require our undivided
attention. However, I believe if we do even these smallest acts with our whole heart
and mind, we will start to fully experience the beauty of life and cherish all that it
has to offer.

Research indicates that when we become mindful in whatever we are doing, hearing,
seeing, speaking, eating etc., any depression and anxiety that one may have may also start to diminish and heal. The more I practice mindfulness in my own life, I realize how
many hours on end I wasted being absent from my present moments and a slave to
things I have no control over now. Some moments that are lost can never be
recovered again and soon enough, that will be another grief we will mourn or
ponder over in another present moment, in the future.

An example that I have personally witnessed is where a loved one may be sitting in
front of us trying to engage in a conversation. That person could be going through a
mental illness and may be yearning for a person to talk to for support or any last
sign of hope or love to hold onto. When we don’t give that person our attention and
are too focused on what happened in our own past or how many likes we got on our
picture posted on instagram, we could be giving them (and even ourselves) another
reason to go home and feel worse about their situation and feel more alone than
ever. Every moment and time of ours and others is precious and the less we remain
aware of that, we may be exposed to an entire lifetime of never really living our life
and becoming inspired by things that other people have to offer.

The truth is, we never really know when our last moment will be. It is in our hands
what we choose to spend our last moments doing- living in something in the past, or
could we say that we were fully enjoying and celebrating the greatest present- the
present moment…because it is another opportunity for us to start anew and
experience and create more beautiful memories to hold on to.

The simple habit of putting away our phones when we are meeting with someone,
looking at the smile on your dog’s face when you walk him/her and the sound of the
a loved one’s laugh or nature, mindfulness then becomes not a forced practice or
ritual, but a way of life and an excelled art of beautiful being and living.

people festival sitting freedom
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Some rules that I keep for relationships

There are times when we make a decision and we may not be appreciated for it even though it makes total sense to ourselves. We may choose to limit a certain relationship of any kind to avoid any further misunderstanding or mishap. It is better to save yourself than bring harm to yourself. Keeping someone at arm’s length is a worthy suggesting if someone has a record for creating disturbance or has a knack for rudeness. By doing this, we keep our peace of mind.

I have had to make decisions about my relationships with people and some have fizzled away and some have got stronger. Some relationships carry on in the background strong and resilient despite the irregular conversations. There are a few rules that I keep and I will let you know them.

  1. Forgive everyone that makes a mistake to you, if they have hurt you in anyway. It heals yourself first before there can be  healing in a relationship, if the desire is there to do so.
  2. Respect people for who they are, for their character and never for their position or title.
  3. Remember that love stems from you and that is what you share with the world. Just because someone loves you, it doesn’t mean you can just strive on that.
  4. Work with those that disagree with you and maintain balance even in the most trying of times.

I have added one rule since yesterday because this is very much needed in my life.

  1. Try to keep a calm mind even when the energy of disturbance is super strong. Be mindful when disturbance smashes into your peace.