How to Find Spirituality Where You Are (without ditching your job, moving to an ashram or living the life of a monastic)

Is it too late to go back to Brooklyn?
Is it too late to go back to my regular life in Brooklyn?

If you’re a spiritual-seeker hunting for the truth, you might feel like you’re regularly letting yourself down.

You don’t have enough hours in the day to play chauffeur to the kids, be a fabulous manager at work, and super-volunteer in your church and community.

You may feel like your spiritual pursuits go to the wayside. You’d like to live a more spiritual and religious life but you’re just not able to do it ALL.

Wouldn’t it be nice to give it all up, move to a local mountain-side commune and spend the rest of your life seeking self-realization?

Should you disappear into the forests once and for all until you’ve become an enlightened human?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Learn to find spirituality in the world you live in.

You don’t have to pack up the suitcases, sell the house, abandon your family and hit the closest mountain resort to live the monastic lifestyle with a religious community.

You can be just where you are and continue to seek the spiritual life.

Learn to live in the ‘real’ (ok, “illusionary”) world.

You will learn many spiritual lessons in the world you live in today.

You want to move to the ashram, mountains or cave to find enlightenment. But you’re not going to find it there. Well, you might find it there but you’re not going to get to realization if you can’t conquer living in the places you do now.

You’re not going to get traffic jams, lawsuits, suspicious neighbors, antagonistic supervisors, penny-pinching landlords and rebellious children in the ashram!

You’re not going to get offended, heart-broken, crushed, pained, lied to, saddened, depressed in a mountain setting.

No money worries, loved ones dying, divorce, bankruptcy, failure, when you’re solely in deep spiritual pursuits.

Balance your spiritual life with your material life.

Your life gives you plenty of opportunities to practice spirituality: it allows you to confront people and circumstances who will hijack your peace and test your patience.

Not wanting to punch the motorcyclist who just cut you off on the freeway is a divine practice.

Choosing to forgive the man who just duped you of your life’s savings is a spiritual exercise.

Your life allows you to tame your ego, perfect your character and make choices about how you accept your life’s circumstances.

You will also have time for inner spiritual growth, mindfulness and prayer.

You can bring in spiritual practices into your life if you simply prioritize the importance of them.

Start small spiritual habits and be consistent with them.

A little spirituality every day.

Become a better person every day. Build your character every day. Find the spiritual answers to your life’s problems and circumstances.

Take the high road. Take the spiritual road. Give. Forgive. Love.

Be mindful. Peaceful. Thoughtful. Generous. Soul-Centered.

Use every situation and encounter to practice love. 

Build up small spiritual practices daily that recognizes the divine. Practices which allows you to reflect on your mind and see through the illusions of the material world.

Stop the “I don’t have time excuse”

You may want to move to the ashram or commune of your dreams because you’ll have all the time in the world there to pursue your spiritual desires.

Pursue those desires right from where you are.

Make time for the things that matter in your life.

If you’d like to seek God, wake up earlier to reflect upon Him.

If you’d like clarity, be mindful throughout the day and spend a few minutes each day watching your thoughts drift through your mind.

Breathe.

Find the time. Make the time. Schedule the time.

Refuse to live by the “all or nothing” strategy some realized beings have taken.

You DO NOT have to go all in. You DO NOT have to spend every minute and every hour in prayer and meditation. You don’t have to do that remotely, in silence or by yourself.

You can chose the middle path. You can straddle the world you live in with the spiritual world.

You can be in the world. You don’t have to be of the world.

You don’t have to choose between the normal life of suburbia and family against the spiritual world of realized beings.

You can seek your best self and find your highest source of inspiration in daily life and everyday moments.

Forgive yourself for imperfections and keep trying every day.

If you’re human, you’ll have a bad day. You’ll fall off the fire-truck when putting out a fire.

You’ll blow half your salary on the roulette table.

Commit perjury, adultery, forgery, thievery and find yourself with all kind of other quandaries.

You might not have time today for silence, meditation, prayer, divinity.

Intentionally hurt someone else.

Refused to forgive a parent who’s wounded you.

Ignored your friends who desperately seek your help.

Refused to let go of your ego so you can salvage the friendship.

When you fall off the path to self-knowledge and enlightenment, keep going. Start over. Start again.

Do not move to the woods, mountains or your favorite religious order in search for the truth.   

Friends, if you ever tell me you’re moving to the woods to spend the rest of your life trying to reach enlightenment, I’m going to do three things. First, get a hold of my ex-wife, a psychiatrist, to give you a special rate on weekly therapy. Second, contact the local police department to try to stop your planned-escape and finally, spend the rest of my time trying to track you down and bringing you back to your regular life.

Don’t take the easy way out.

Refuse to disengage completely from people, circumstances and the pressures of the world around you.

Listen, you’re hearing this straight from someone who would be first in line to join a monastery, new religious order or cult. If there’s a promise of free meals and self-realization, I’d get in line like your zealous holiday shopper, setting up a tent overnight to purchase my flat screen tv.

I’m not going to join the order. The brotherhood. The nunhood. Or any ‘hood’ with anyone wearing robes, saffron sheets or sunbathing in the nude.

I’m going to stay and fight. Fight, you say. Fight what?

Fight to come to terms with your human self. To become a better version of you.

Fight your anger, ego, desires, imperfections and all of your human qualities. Fight to become a better person.

You can’t fight in isolation without other humans, without worldly problems and without being challenged. In my opinion, that’s the easy way out.

Let’s confront our nemesis, face our ego, work on our shortfalls. Let’s work on loving our Creator more every day while we’re fighting the battles of our daily lives.

Ever thought about living the life of monastic? (Oh, you haven’t. 🙂 )

To pick up my book, Is God Listening, about God, spirituality and resiliency, click here

Photo credit radhanads

28 Comments

  1. Dear Vishnu,
    thanks a lot for this article…made my mind clear of many doubts that were clouding me everyday…
    Also, need your thoughts on the two most popular forms of achieving salvation viz. Karma & Bhakti (Work & Devotion)
    Your this article primarily focusses on those who are planning to take up the Bhakti Marga full fledgedly…
    I am more inclined to follow the Karma Marga to know the true meaning of life..and I honestly feel that a corporate job that I am into can hardly be the medium for that..

    Can you pls let us know your thoughts for those people who do not want to renounce the day-to-day wordly activities and go to mountains but instead be in this world but turn this life as a means to do social work..

    Keep up the good work..

    1. Ajay, I appreciate your comments and glad the post could provide some clarity.

      Your second inquiry, I can’t wait to answer. Thanks for asking it. I think in my own life, I’ve made some changes to be able to do work that really impacts people’s lives. So how do you save the world (or at least do charitable and social work) when you have family and financial commitments? Give me a couple of weeks and I’ll write a post addressing that very issues.

  2. V – this ‘all or nothing’ attitude is applied to many things – usually using the line ‘I’ll start when [insert excuse here]’.

    I’m going to apply your doing-a-little-everyday theory to learning French. Step by step…

    But wait! What about Mohammed? And Buddha? They went into a quiet space and then founded major religions. OK, so they didn’t have estate-stealing thugs or drivers high on road-rage to deal with, but surely they did something right?

    – Razwana

    1. R – glad you’re going to apply this small-steps approach of spirituality to French learning. I’m pretty sure your French ability is at a pretty high level already, just a little every day and you’ll be fluent.

      Oh, now you want to bring some prophets and realized souls into this, I see. LOL What if I said, for argument’s sake, they took the easy way out? Of course, I’m not going to make that point exactly in the comments. It is something to think about.

      What about realized souls who did go all in? Can we fault them for that? Did they do something entirely wrong and inspired entire religions?

      Maybe there are exceptions? If you get a wake-up call in the middle of the night from God with specific instructions about your spiritual life and a mandate to visit a holy site, you should probably do it without thinking too much about it.

      Anyway, food for thought which I’m going to think about more and maybe do a follow up on.

  3. Vishnu, thanks for a thought provoking post.

    In his twenties, my brother went to India for a year and lived on an Ashram here in the US for a while. In his thirties, he became a monk and lived in a monestary in northern CA for a few years.

    At the time, I was living a very traditional, materialistic life chasing “The American Dream,” and thought he was weird and lost. Now, I have so much respect for him having the courage to explore, question, and learn.

    I used to sit in my big house with the swimming pool and Porche in the garage and feel sorry for him. Wonder if he felt sorry for me?

    Now, he has come back to mainstream owning a house in a typical, suburban neighborhood and sells and designs residential solar systems.

    He and I have come back to the middle from extreme ends of the spectrum, and I think we both would agree that you have to find a balance to successfully exist and reach happiness in this society.

    1. What a fascinating story Debbie. That must have been quite an experience for your brother and I am enchanted by the fact that people would give it all up and live the life of monastic.

      And glad you’re back to the middle from extreme places. You can appreciate the center now that you’ve been to the extremes. Yes, I think that’s where I am in this point – trying to find the happy balance, as much as I would like to spend some time in a monastery of some sort 🙂 I could do it as a temporary lifestyle choice – not do it for the rest of my life.

      Thanks for dropping by and adding to the conversation Debbie.

  4. I think Dorothy had it right in The Wizard of Oz. If you can’t find it at home, you can’t find it anywhere.

    Once again, you combine your wonderful sense of humor with deep wisdom.

  5. This is just right and write- and very true.
    When I was taking care of my dying mother and Angry daughter 24/7 and my kidneys and liver were failing me – exhaustion was constant – I started my practice of tiny meditations. I lost my job so there was no money for help, or counselors or classes and I quit the gym…
    I started to climb the stairs in my house 2 times for every needed round trip…replace the gym and get my exercise. I would focus on each stair and each foot and leg placement on the riser.
    Then I started fixing food with mindfulness to stop the tired stories growing. And I used the hours waiting for my child to come home in the middle of the night as time to read a passage and focus on the words and intentions of the writer. They were incredible gurus/teachers.
    I turned my daily life into that retreat center. I like it here – I think I should not be staying put since my mother has died and my child is at work in a great job for her….I travel in books…and walk the stairs and the hills …
    I write but think not many people read…it is still a good practice…
    So many holy books to study….I no longer believe I can save the world…just do my little practices.

    1. Thanks Patricia for sharing your inspiring story. And glad to see you writing and inspiring others.

      Looks like the post not only resonates with you but you’re actually already practicing small steps of spirituality in your every day life. No matter how hard or challenging that may be.

      Yes, turn our lives into retreat centers! And find the teachers and guides all around us. Thanks for your comments Patricia – they are much appreciated.

  6. Dear Vishnu, thanks for this post – this is truly brilliant. It happens to resonate with me nearly perfectly at this time.
    ‘Issues’ are not part of life – Issues ARE life. It’s the ‘issues’ that provide the platform for growth – without resistance, without contrast, what is there to do?!
    What good is enlightenment that’s available for use only at the mountaintop? How do you expect to use it?
    Merge the enlightenment with your daily life, and watch the good times happen. That’s when the fun really begins.
    Thanks again for this – appreciate.

    1. Rakesh – thanks for commenting and your feedback. You got it – issues (and problems and challenges) are life. Without life’s challenging circumstances, we won’t have growth or be able to practice our spirituality.

      Merge the enlightenment with your daily life, and watch the good times happen. Thanks for the nuggest of tweetable wisdom – yeah, I’m going to tweet you – you get the credit of course:)

  7. You know, I hadn’t thought of joining a monastic order until you mentioned free food and self-realization… 🙂

    Just kidding. I’m in total agreement with this post. Someone once told me: Everyone wants those “mountain-top experiences,” those spiritual highs. But if you look at mountain tops, nothing grows there. All the growth happens in the deep, dark valleys.

    However, having said that, I still think there is worth in “plugging out” once in a while. We all need retreats. But you’re right: Long-term isolation benefits neither that person nor the world. Mohammed and Buddha couldn’t have founded their religions until they came out of isolation and interacted with people.

    I am still really interested in those free meals, though… 🙂

  8. hey Jammie – it does sound pretty good, doesn’t it? I may have been joking about it (like going off into a long isolation on a mountain top) but if you see me writing from a mountaintop, don’t ask any questions or post any follow up comments to this blog post.

    It’s very alluring to make a quick escape into the mountains or forests to find God and spiritual wisdom. But life regularly hits us up with spiritual wisdom at the wats, in the beaches of Thailand or the money changers of Argentina. lol

    Yes, temporary retreats make sense – maybe even longer ones but not sure about a lifetime of isolation. Unless, there’s free food, free cable, and Jamba Juice in the mix.

  9. Great post Vishnu! I especially like the lesson on forgiving yourself for impefections and keep trying everyday. I have a lot of time to grow spiritually recently:) And, when I do have the moments of peace and clarity, despite all of the uncertainty in my life right now, those moments are precious!

    1. Thanks for dropping by Lisa 🙂 You do have a lot of time for spiritual growth which you’ll come to appreciate later on. As you know or will come to find out, it’s probably during this period of uncertainty, you can find the most clarity in your life. And the most growth and insight. It may not feel that way but I am certain it will when you make it through this turbulent time 🙂 and reflect upon it later. And that clarity, I think they call wisdom!

  10. Hello, I haven’t introduced myself yet. This topic is right on for me as well. My name is Jnana and I’m a 54 y.o. woman living in Las Vegas Nevada. I am a convert (14 years now) to Kashmir Shaivism, a non-dualistic form of Hinduism. I am divorced with no children, which makes my current, profound focus on a spiritually centered life possible.

    A tremendous amount of spiritual growth immediately followed some recent, very basic changes in my life. As a writer, I felt inspired to create a blog exploring my new status as a “wandering sadhini.” I find that this conversation is my work and service, my “seva.”

    In a sort of organic recognition of “where I’m at,” I have recently identified as a renunciant without taking vows or donning saffron robes. I have renounced seeking social status and a “career,” and anything more than simple, day-to-day social interactions. I find that solitary is a feeling, a mental state, and re-arranging of my internal priorities and experience. For me, a solitary life has to do with turning inward as I remain active in the world, and with keeping my external activities as simple as possible.

    I haven’t renounced myself, or action. Only delusions and attachments. Ihave renounced anything that interferes with my new life of focusing on God in each moment and wandering through this materialistic and status seeking world “alone,” offering love and service in the moment.

    Thank you so much Vishnu for providing this forum for such wide-ranging experience and ideas!

    1. Welcome Jnana and thanks for your comment.

      I’m very intrigued and inspired by your story. How you continue to live in this world but still pursue a spiritual path. Yes, there is a way to do and you seem to be living proof of that; by turning your focus inward, keeping your external activities simple and living a life of love and sacrifice.

      I checked out your wonderful blog and will be putting it on my reading list. You cover many topics on spirituality, religion and the Hindu faith. I know i will have much to learn from you and your journey. Thank you for your visit.

      1. Hi Vishnu:

        I love your comment and your kind words about my blog. I am truly inspired by your ability to bring people together in such a real and productive manner.

        I am new at blogging, so I am so pleasantly surprised at how spiritually and personally empowering it is to create connections this way, including through comments. Please forgive how long it has taken for me as a newbie to respond to your comment. I realize it’s not required, but I am also realizing how precious these sorts of connections are. So, thanks!

        I hope the internet remains able to do this for many many years to come. Some aspects seem to have changed and been lost due to spammers and some aspects of commercialization, basically those who take without giving back to this virtual world of connections.

        May truth and light prevail!

        Much love to all,
        Jnana Shiva

        1. Hi Jnana – no worries – thanks for your comments. No expectation here of having to respond to comments or reply 🙂 We can keep the conversation going on both of our blogs! The internet is a powerful tool that fosters many relationships and connections. heck, maybe even spiritual growth and enlightenment 🙂 Thanks again for your visit.

  11. Hi Vishnu,

    Wow, what a powerful and moving article. Every time I visit your blog, I’m know I’m guaranteed to read something jam packed with amazing wisdom and truths.

    After having got into spiritual practices, I’ve often had thoughts about what it would be like to live a life as a monk, giving up everything and everyone. As a lay person, I always think such thoughts are selfish on my part and why I could never do it.

    However, after reading your post, I believe the way you explained it, is just how it is. If can’t even develop more spiritually in the ‘outside world’ where we have so many opportunities to do so, how will we ever truly succeed in a monastery?

    I loved the three things you will do if we ever do decide to take the easy way out! It made me chuckle.

    Thank you.

    1. Hiten – thank you for your feedback and encouraging words. I don’t know if this is wisdom or simply life lessons and advice. I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts as I am enjoying your blog as well.

      You know – the monastic life is always an option. I almost feel like I would want to give it a try for a year or so to see how it is. But at the same time, as I mention in the post, I feel it might be the easy way out. The balance is trying to practice spirituality in our everyday life in the modern world. Try to find peace and happiness right there. THat’s what I’m planing to do anyway:)

      Glad you’re liking the humor too! I do try but sometimes take things over the top.

  12. What a great post Vishnu,

    I especially enjoyed your points about “Start small spiritual habits and be consistent with them.” I have learned the importance and value of daily spiritual growth. It helps me get through the daily life struggles.

    1. Thanks Dan, I appreciate your comments.

      You definitely understand the importance of your spiritual practice and faith. I’m glad to hear that you infuse them into your daily life – no better way to deal with life’s situations and challenges.

  13. I love what you’re saying about taking the easy way out!

    This was a topic of discussion during a mindfulness retreat I attended in 2011. Everyone noted how easy it was to be in that state of ease while out in the woods, with no phones, no agenda and nothing to do but watch your breath, chew your food and walk on the path (literally there was really awesome path through the woods.) All of the people in my group knew that it would only last a few days when returning to the real world.

    I could so rock it out as a MONK! That’s why I chose to come back to the real world….it’s more of a challenge to practice mindfulness.

    Thanks for your reminder Vishnu! I’ve been in a zone since our skype call.

    I think we need to make that happen again sooner than later my friend.

    1. Thanks for your comment Tim! Welcome back to the real world – or really, the illusory world 🙂 Yes, so much more to do here which is where we can really practice mindfulness and all of other spiritual practices. Here, real problems and challenges confront us and require us to turbo-charge our spiritual practices. We should be thankful for all the lessons and teachers around us.

      It was definitely a power-call! Let’s do it again soon my friend.

  14. I remembered our conversation this morning and I chuckled at the thoughts we shared.

    I always remember what a Jesuit priest told us. I remembered because he drew an arrow while trying to make his point. He said, the desert fathers went to those isolated places to pray and practiced “fuga mundi.” Jesus came to the world to be born and prayed and lived among us (Incarnation).

    I believe that people are called by God to do something radical at different points/periods of time. The desert fathers served well praying in those areas. The priests and religious serve God right where they belong. I think nobody has the right to stop someone from entering the religious life, if one feels that he/she has been called by God. It’s a vocation. I remember a popular priest friend who left his religious order to join the monks in the province. Everybody was shocked, but the Spirit blows where it wills 😉

    For us, perhaps, we were inspired by the Spirit to facilitate our own ministries right here (with the people/online).

    Now getting at the real point of the sharing and aligning my answer to your reflections ~ yes, we could pray right where we are. We have our own sacred tabernacles inside of us.

    Very wise dear friend 🙂

    1. Hey M – you’re right. Sometimes you get called – the spirit blows where it wills is true. If God is calling out to you and telling you to spend some alone time in the desert, by all means, go for it:) If He tells you to come back into the real world and get a job, then ok too. If you’re getting a divine message, you must follow divine will.

      If you just decided kicking back at the Vatican would be fun and the wine never stops so why not give that lifestyle a try, it may not be the best thing for a person to do. lol A monastic lifestyle should not be seen as the easy way out of living life. Some people do that. Heck, I think I want to do that. But I tend to find more growth and learning while I’m in the world.

      Thanks for your comments Melissa.

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