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.

The 4 Ways of a Spiritual Seeker

For the casual spiritual aspirant, where a few hours a week is dedicated to the Spiritual Path, then a spiritual organization is very necessary. It helps them with a framework that they can use to have a sense of purpose, to have the benefits (and pitfalls) of belief or faith, to remain dependent on an outside agency (like a deity, God, or Gurus) to help guide when errors or mistakes are made.

For the more serious spiritual seeker, that actively practices and settles at nothing but the highest attainment of moksha (liberation) then the path of the Mystics is important. The function of an organization, centered on an individual or a group becomes a massive hindrance along the way. Therefore, this seeker must carve their own path.

***

Non-Dependency

A casual aspirant will not benefit from non-dependency, but the serious seeker will benefit the most. The seeker doesn’t depend on their own experience nor the experience of others. All experiences are fleeting and this whole world is transient. They understand that nobody can guarantee anything without one’s own effort. The spiritual aspirant, with their few hours will depend on the good graces of the philosophy, ideology, group or figurehead and will always dance according to that tune. It is even alluring that you do nothing but grace is given. Now, the spiritual seeker cannot understand why we should depend on that grace alone. When we have to get rid of duality, then why add more to that duality with the other? It is better to focus on the One alone and upon our own effort. No need for anything else. Yes, right now for the seeker, duality feels real but they understand that what feels real is actually transient. I don’t like to use the word ‘false’ because this world is beautiful and isn’t wrong or a mistake. In every quark, there is the essence of the most beautiful yet, Formless Ultimate Reality.

The seeker instead goes up the levels of reality, where they see their life and everything connected to it as a transactional reality and they are not to depend on any transaction. They are to work through these levels of reality until they reach that Reality where there is no difference, no separateness and is a complete, perfect Oneness. In fact, if the serious seeker does depend on anything then it is the Formless Ultimate Reality or the Self alone.

Philosophy or Ideology

For the sake of this discussion, when I mention philosophy, I am containing both philosophy and ideology in this. For the serious spiritual seeker, they cannot do with a fixed philosophy that someone else has developed. They always seek to deepen any existing philosophy or look to develop their own. Their efforts and their experiences leads to a higher state of being where they start noticing the ‘devils in the details’ and cannot adhere to such conventional thinking. They then choose to transcend those details and conventions much to the disappointment of the group that they belong to. The group of casual spiritual aspirants or the figurehead may look at the philosophy as a great template from afar. But even the genuine figurehead knows the conventional wisdom template needs to be erased and written with the seeker’s own wisdom, therefore, they truly give that seeker the freedom to develop. This has always been done and the reason why we have Mystics like Rumi and Kabir.

As much as a philosophy is a great starting point, it is not the means and it is not the end. The seeker recognizes this and moves forward. They spend time analyzing every philosophy, their own thoughts and continue to evolve. This is why I admire Hinduism as a religion for its amazing diversity of philosophy – you can be a theist, an atheist, an agnostic and still be called a Hindu. You can even reject Hinduism and that is still a very Hindu thing to do! The Buddha rejected the Vedas and is still considered an avatar! For the Hindu sees evolution and celebrates it. For this reason, Hinduism has created a strong philosophy called Advaita Vedanta, which is now being considered as aligning with Science on the basis that reality is non-duality or a unified field. What the mystics found within, scientists are finding with their equations and formulas. Hindus accept that philosophy is not meant to stick around but it is meant to be molded and created into something new. In fact, each individual is a religion in their own self. For this reason, there is neither dependency nor one single philosophy. The seeker must find their own.

Universal Mindset

Even though, a group may claim that they have a universal approach to spirituality, you will find a nuance in their thinking. Only their approach is universal, anything else is not universal. What is really funny is that most spiritual organizations claim the monopoly of having the only way. They are the chosen ones with the Chosen One to lead. They have been picked out of the billions for this sacred journey that they dip their toes in once in a while.

Even though, they may claim to be open-minded, but anything that is different to the Group’s philosophy is rejected and considered to be false unanimously by everyone. Like I mentioned, whenever we start to think that we have a better path than everyone else, we automatically close our minds to the universality of wisdom. The wisdom that we start to associate with becomes incredibly narrow and is never the focal point anymore. Hence, we start worshipping one god, guru or group only and cannot go beyond that scope.

To be truly open minded is to transcend all associations to an organization. Yes, we can belong to a group but we should never feel alpha about our group compared to others. We should have the humility to see the similarities and bond over that. Where there are differences, we should accept them as someone else’s journey and findings that are just as valid. Then again, I expect only a serious seeker to understand this and be able to differentiate on whether a difference in philosophy is based on experience or mere tradition. The more casual aspirant will want to stick to their way because it is the best way and the only way. It is comforting but not ego transcending.

Convenience

We can get too comfortable and start becoming lazy with our spiritual journey. Whenever dependency arises, the sense of comfort sweeps in and imprisons us. The spiritual seeker is not spiritual for their own convenience or comfort. They seek to disturb the current worldview that they hold. They look to dissect their ego to what it really is and to check if the ego actually exists! Spirituality in the truest sense is an inconvenient Truth. It doesn’t care about your feelings, your thoughts, your intentions, or what you want reality to be. It shows you reality and then you have to learn to deal with it and work accordingly to It.

When the spiritual aspirant get comfortable and lazy, we prefer to do the easy things that gives us the cloak of doing something spiritual. It helps our ego to think we are doing something towards seeking a Higher Reality. It fools us. It puts us in shackles and gives us the illusion that we are reaching great progress. Therefore, it is important to check if we are settling in the Ultimate Reality or are we settling in our ego that we have fashioned into some God or Higher Being.

***

The Possible Dissonance

There are some serious spiritual seekers that function within an organization/group and may also follow a figurehead. There may even be a deep reverence for the group and the figurehead and will share the collective teachings according to their understanding or findings. However, there will be a marked difference and that is they follow what is right according to their own being. They will not simply accept any idea, thought or action and they may even challenge anything that they disagree with. It is then dependent on the group or the figurehead if they want such a person. They may find that such dissonance is not welcome and it is with that understanding that I go back to the central idea that within each one of us is a religion waiting to be born.

Be a Spiritual Seeker

What you want to be is truly up to you. But if you want to enter spirituality, then there has to be a seriousness to it. I do believe that being a serious spiritual seeker is super fun and is a thrilling journey like no other but I can see how it isn’t for everyone. For some, the minimal effort is all they can do and they have other priorities which is fine. For them, a framework set by another, whether an organization or figurehead, does suit them and their lifestyle so why go further? It does help them at least live a good and moral life.

For the more serious spiritual seekers that understand that Liberation or Moksha is the ‘end’, they need to put some serious work. This spiritual work has to be done all on their own, after they have exhausted the help of others and all philosophy. This path is less traveled and no compass, no GPS can help because the GPS will always re-route you back to where you are and the compass will always point back to you.

Readiness for the Truth

There are times when I feel I am going round and round in circles for the Truth. Despite knowing how near It is, how close It is, I still feel like I haven’t got there. It is like the nervousness one feels in the stomach before you arrive at some destination that you were travelling to. Even if it is a place you go regularly, there is always a nervous feeling.

I often wonder on days when I feel that I am going round in circles about what more do I need? Do I even need to do anything more? Why can’t I just get it? What makes others so convinced but yet their arguments or their findings don’t resonate with mine? Am I just not ready for the Truth? How can I get ready for it? How can I be best prepared for it?

I don’t know if there is an answer. If you have one then please do share it with me. All I know is that the Truth feels so close, yet so far at the same time. Sometimes I feel I have grasped it and sometimes it sifts through like sand in my clenched hand.

I wonder whether it is the feeling that I am eternal that has become the hindrance. You know, nothing ever dies and that energy simply transfers. Or I would get another opportunity in my next life. At times, knowing all that isn’t enough for me and I begin searching again.

Is it that I think too much or am I not focussing on this Truth enough? Am I not enquiring into who I am enough? Do I need to make it a do or die type of event? I simply don’t know but somehow I feel I have to do this all alone. Nobody can take me there, they can get me to do the door and they can even open it. It is I that has got to walk through and the Truth is such that nobody can push you through to It either, it requires your own admission.

The Seeker must become the Mystic

mystical-1080x720

Wisdom has set me on fire,
There is nothing to discriminate,
There is no other,
But the One True Self.

Wisdom is one thing; the practical side is totally another ball game. In the life of a mystic, there are two journeys. One is seeking the Truth itself and the other one is action or application of the Truth.

The seeker goes out searching for the Truth. They do not know if they will achieve anything. Will they achieve liberation? Will they see God? Is there a God? All these are unanswered questions and the seeker is comfortable with these doubts. The seeker moving towards becoming a mystic is fully aware that the questions are not real. They don’t need answers because they are distractions towards the Truth. The Truth doesn’t need to answer any questions. If we do not accept the Truth then there are two reasons. One is that we have not accepted the Truth and the second, which regardless of the first reason is more important, and that is whether we have applied this Truth to our daily lives.

The Seeker goes out and with all of their life, with their every breath, with every bit of their energy they need the Truth. When they meet the One – the Master, the Guru, the seeker receives the Divine Wisdom, known as Brahm Gyan from the Guru and life is transformed if the awakening occurs. The Seeker now has the knowledge, what next? The application must be there. The Seeker must see the knowledge, the wisdom in every aspect of life. In nature, in nurture, in essence, it should see through the eyes of wisdom and then the Mystic is born. Every action carries the dust of the Truth so that whenever another seeker wants the Truth, it should follow the trail of dust that the Mystic leaves behind.

When the awakening has occurred, the Mystic, like their Guru will be someone who has patience for one and all, they go beyond their labels – their nationality, race and religion. They move beyond boundaries. They have compassion for everyone because they see the same Light within them in others. They do not discriminate, like the Sun doesn’t discriminate on what it give its Light to. The Mystic, like their Guru understands the importance of forgiveness. That means forgiveness of one’s own mistakes and the large-heartedness to forgive others. Who are we to judge on the severity of a certain mistake or mishap that someone has made directly or indirectly towards us. The Mystic is an example, and the Light that shines from them is because of the wisdom they received from their Guru.

If the Light that we shine differentiates and judges then is it the Light of God or Truth? Are we following the words of the Guru, if we are using our own mind over the Guru’s teachings? Have we truly accepted the Guru? If the seeker discriminates and judges then the question goes on whether the seeker truly feels that the Guru is someone worth following. If the Guru doesn’t judge but has compassion for all, then isn’t that the natural course of action for the seeker? The Mystic has to follow the Guru but the seeker has a choice. The seeker is at a crossroad, it can either choose to follow the Guru’s way or it can abandon the ship and carrying on searching. Therefore, the seeker can never claim to be a disciple of a Guru until they surrender their mind to the Guru and whoever surrenders understands the Guru and becomes a Mystic. This is the grace and blessing of the Spiritual Master.

This Light, this Wisdom, this God that is revealed by the Master is only for those that want to become mystics, who want to have union with the One. The One that has created everything is the manifest and the unmanifest. The One that has no end, no beginning and is self-existent. This One, which is the Truth, which is consciousness, awareness and bliss. This is the way of life for the Mystic.

The Mystic never wants to let go of the Guru’s path and everything for the Mystic is about being as the Guru so wishes. If the Guru says to love everyone, then love everyone it is. If the Guru says to be compassionate, then compassion it is. If the Guru says forgive under any circumstance, then forgiveness it is. The Guru has the final and only say in the Mystic’s life. The seeker will pick and choose whatever is said but will do whatever their mind says. The Mystic understands the Guru’s actions, whilst a seeker can misunderstand it.

The evolution of the seeker has to occur. The Mystic must be born and this is where having a Master is necessary or makes it easier. The Master will show you the way, they will be the example and they will liberate you from this earth. No longer will you be confined in the body and mind, you will become the vastness of this One. When the Mystic is born, this world becomes more beautiful. The beauty of the One can only be understood by those in the mystic tradition and the Guru has defined this tradition.

To move forward in one’s awakening, to truly feel free and liberated, the seeker must become the Mystic.