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Spiritual development

I have recently become interested in mindfulness based practice in both a therapeutic capacity and on a personal level. Having begun to feel the gains of spiritual development I have found myself feeling hungry for more. I do, however, find it confusing when considering what direction I should take as there are so many spiritual books, versions of meditation, types of yoga etc. I wonder if the panel might be able to share their views on how to go about choosing which approach or type of work that I could concentrate on initially. Possibly there might also be a particular resource that would be useful when starting out.

I have recently become interested in mindfulness based practice in both a therapeutic capacity and on a personal level. Having begun to feel the gains of spiritual development I have found myself feeling hungry for more. I do, however, find it confusing when considering what direction I should take as there are so many spiritual books, versions of meditation, types of yoga etc. I wonder if the panel might be able to share their views on how to go about choosing which approach or type of work that I could concentrate on initially. Possibly there might also be a particular resource that would be useful when starting out.

Asked by Katharine .

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Answers (5)

Rasheed Ogunlaru

Coach - Speaker - Author

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Dear Katharine,

The lovely thing about your question and the journey that you are on is that there is not one single answer – and that all sorts of books, CDs, talks, courses and practices may well help you on your journey. The thing about mindfulness, self-awareness and self-discovery is that you are the key.

So my tip is to see what feels right for you, trust your instincts and follow your heart. Some people find practices like yoga and meditation that quieten the mind and re-centre us mind/body/spirit useful. Others find that books, talks and so forth are valuable. Many find that a blend works for them. Or for others this journey happens with other friends who are walking a similar path and these other tools, techniques or routes to your self may play a role too. Some feel right for a while or a long time. If you do find that you select courses, teachers and so on check that you it feels right for you. Like shopping see which clothes fit best, some may be a little tricky at first, but move on if the fit isn’t right.

But above all trust your heart and continue to listen to your own inner voice and that which points to it. With best wishes, Rasheed

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Leanne Lowish

Coach

Hi Katharine,

I am coming into this conversation late so it all may have changed since you posted this especially as you have had such wonderful guidance from team team.

I followed a similar approach to my colleagues in that I did a whole range of things – guided by what sounded exciting, interesting, heart felt, hopeful, inspiring and I also did some things I didn’t want to do just to get a range and I had a lot of wonderful amazing moments and a lot of fun as well as some disastrous experiences which in hindsight are now funn and that was part of the colourful mix of it all. So I echo the others do it all and see what comes out in the mix – reminds me a bit of panning for gold!

I then read Jack Cornfields book in which he said ‘take the one seat’ it doesn’t matter which seat just take one. So I eventually chose a path to commit too and that has enabled me to deepen and given my journey another dimension.

So hope his helps and good luck with it all.

Warmly
Leanne

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Helena Clayton

Coach and Facilitator

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Lovely question, Katherine. I started exploring my own spiritual path about 15 years ago and I’m still exploring, still feeling I’m only at the start.

I’d agree with Rasheed and Karim in that I found there was no one way…just some trying stuff on and seeing how it sat with me. So here are a couple of things that have helped and shaped me along the way…see if there’s something in here for you…

Many years ago, I spent some time at the Findhorn Community which really got me off the starting blocks. The website is below – it’s an extraordinary place. They require you to do a one week Experience Week as a sort of spiritual primer and introduction to their community and how it all works there and then that opens up a whole range of possibilities. Everything they do is rooted in the spiritual – it’s just stitched into everything they do – but, among many other wonderful things, they also have a week-long programme called Spiritual Practice which I found gave me heaps of space to explore what my own practice might involve.

Personally, I’m finding that my own practice doesn’t particularly follow any –ism: it’s a bit of a mashup (or an eclectic approach, if you prefer!). There’s a part of me that would like it to be part of one particular spiritual school but it’s not happening that way and I’m finding that’s fine. So for me currently, it’s about silence and stillness, including mediation to connect to my ‘still small voice within’ – which may well be within me but equally is probably outside me. It’s also about putting love (well, trying to put love …) at the heart of everything I do. And the other thing I’m noticing is that the concept of being of service is becoming much more important to me – and that comes directly from my time at Findhorn all those years ago. The phrase that has stuck with me since my time there is ‘work is love in action’ and that is increasingly very helpful in guiding me in my work today. I’m increasingly feeling that what matters is how my practice gets enacted in the world.

http://www.findhorn.org/aboutus/community/#.UsmJKfaYa1s

And of course, if you’ve discovered mindfulness, then you’ll know its source is Buddhism and I’m guessing that you’ve already started to explore there too. The approach and practice of the Triratna community has been a constant background to my journey of the last 15 years. I learnt to meditate with them and I still go on regular retreats. Here’s their website and they have centres in a range of places around the UK. In particular, the meditation practice of Metta Bhavana (Loving Kindness) is strongly spiritual.

https://thebuddhistcentre.com/

Reading is a huge source of learning for me, as its spending time with people who are also exploring their spirituality – and those who are way ahead of me. And so on that note, a wonderful author and retreat leader in the Triratna tradition is Paramananda and links to a couple of his books are here …

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Change-Your-Mind-Practical-Meditation/dp/1899579753

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Deeper-Beauty-Buddhist-Reflections-Everyday/dp/1899579443/ref=pd_sim_b_2

So enjoy exploring – there’s much to discover – and I hope you enjoy the journey.

Helena

  1. Katharine says:

    Thank you Helena for sharing the beginnings of your spiritual journey. There is much in the links you provided which helps to further clarify things for me.

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Karim Hirani

Global Head of L&D, Leadership Coach and Facilitator, Author

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Hi Katharine,

Thanks for your question. I would echo Rasheed’s comments, about choosing what feels right for you.

I would also add that if you have been inspired by mindfulness, then this draws on the Buddhist path – and a local Buddhist centre might be a place to include in your exploration.

I had a similar quest for spiritual path a few years ago. For me, it was a move from dabbling to being more committed to my development. Key things that I learned:

1. ensure any teacher you might find is psychologically healthy. There are many teachers who have had some advanced spiritual experiences, but with an unhealthy psychological development. This can show up as arrogance, power playing, a lack of humility…in the extreme, abusive patterns. This is sometimes referred to as ‘spiritual bypass’ – where spirituality is used to bypass the necessary work on our ego/mind

2. having access to a good community, which helps to sustain your practice

3. knowing that there is no ‘right’ path, and that your practice is key. There may be times when you will move from one path to the next

4. Reading Ken Wilber really helped – he looked across at many different spiritual traditions (Buddhism, Sufism, Kaballah, Gnosticism, Hinduism etc) and showed their parallels. It was really useful information that helped me to see the similarities and where they were different. He also goes into more detail about the different types of Buddhism (Mayahna, Vajriyana,Theravada), Sufism etc so that you can make a more informed choice about what is right for you. Some say he is quite hard to read. He is a pioneer in integrated spiritual development. I would recommend ‘Integral Psychology’

5. Asking and inquiring is the right thing to do, just as you are…speak to people who are on a path, teaching a path. Also, decide if you would like to make a commitment to a path or just find a path that supports you in your own practice. For a few years, i did the latter, until I became clearer. I use the analogy of education: at first you focus on many areas, you narrow down in A levels, you narrow further at degree level, and then get clear and focussed on what is right for you in advanced studies.

I hope that helps, and I wish you well in your inquiry and finding your path.

Karim

  1. Karim says:

    Hi Katherine, glad it was helpful. If you have a psychological background, then Ken Wilber’s book i suggested, Integral Psychology, will be right up your street! Warmly Karim

  2. Katharine says:

    This is very helpful, thank you Karim. I’ve almost finished my training as a psychologist and was thinking about how I might reconcile spiritual and psychological growth in my practice. Possibly the book you suggest will help me to get a clearer idea. Katharine

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Simon Matthews

Psychotherapist

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Dear Katharine,

Apologies for being so late to reply! I appreciate that the whole spiritual path thing is very diffuse, and with such a range of books, approaches and techniques it can be hard to know where to start.

I have found this book enormously helpful, and John Welwood clearly describes a way of integrating Western Psychology with Eastern Mysticism and why this is so important. Each approach needs the other!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Towards-Psychology-Awakening-Psychotherapy-Transformation/dp/1570628238

Further to this you might want to consider taking yourself off for a week or so on a personal development workshop that combines personal enquiry, meditation and spirituality. I can think of two such workshops that offer an array of different approaches and techniques, and you can then find which worked best for you and take it from there:

http://www.hoffmaninstitute.co.uk and
http://www.pathoflove.net

Enjoy the journey!

Love, Simon

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