by Rob Stucky
There are a few things I have found consistently and inescapably helpful in dealing with the “big issues” of life. One is a firm conviction that there is a higher truth greater than our human egos, a consciousness or energy, by whatever name we choose to call it, that keeps this complex universe moving along with astonishing precision and harmony- the deliberate embrace and acceptance of which results in tangible improvement of our quality of life. The other is doing some basic practices that come under the rubric of paying attention and living consciously, that significantly increase our ability to embrace that higher truth and reap its benefits.
Breathing fully, using the anchoring rhythm, sound, or even remembrance of a mantra, sacred name, or an uplifting thought, continually contemplated, to keep us on an even keel during our daily activities; being selective about keeping positive company- both physically and mentally; eating healthy food; taking reasonable care of our bodies- all these are tools for living more fruitfully, and for confronting life’s difficulties more effectively. They constitute the essence of spiritual practice. There is nothing inherently mystical or mysterious about them- they are the basic curriculum of the “School of What Works”, the practical, “applied spirituality” available to anyone who chooses to learn them.
Being conscious may sound like a dumb goal, because we assume we already are. But how aware are we really- from moment to moment- of all that is going on, both around and within us? Take a step outside, stop what you’re doing, and pay attention: just see how many things your can see, hear, smell, taste or touch. I can guarantee that you’ll suddenly become conscious of just how unconscious you were five minutes ago!
But do you really want to be fully conscious of everything all the time? Isn’t that a sort of exhausting, circuit-breaking sensory overload that would just become overwhelming? Perhaps. But even becoming briefly aware of the sensorial wealth within and around us can make us appreciate life, and shake us out of our mental habit of finding ourselves, our relationships, or our world disappointingly lacking. With practice, that awareness incrementally shifts from brief glimpse to habitual state.