By Remez Sasson
People who are on the path of spiritual growth are sometimes perplexed and don’t know what to do. They want to advance on the spiritual path, but they cannot devote all their time to this quest and abandon the material world. Most of them have responsibilities and duties they feel they cannot ignore, and have material needs they have to take care of.
Some people say that in order to walk on the spiritual path, one needs to give up all material possessions and money and live in seclusion. To prove their assertion, they point to the swamis, monks, yogis and fakirs living in the East. True spirituality is an inner state, and is not gauged by external lifestyle. Living like them is not fit everyone, and it does not always leads to real inner growth.
Did you ever stop to think that there might be people living ordinary lives, with job and family, even people whom you might know personally, who are well advanced on the spiritual path, but yet neither you nor anyone else know about this? They just prefer to hide this fact and there is nothing in their external life to denote their inner state.
Most people won’t be able to live without material possessions of some kind, and it is also not necessary. One needs a place to stay and sleep, clothes, food, health care, and all this costs money. Without them, it will be more difficult to concentrate or meditate, because the mind and the survival instinct will continuously distract and disturb your concentration.
Spiritual growth is an inner path, and with some inner detachment, one can live an intensely spiritual life, wherever he or she might be.
Not everybody is willing and ready to leave completely the material world. Many have families to take care of, and it would be irresponsible and egoistical to leave them. Many don’t fit into a life of seclusion and abstinence, and they function better in society.
Living in seclusion and with no possessions does not necessarily bring spiritual growth and spiritual awakening. A person living this kind of life might be distracted and disturbed in other ways, and might still find it difficult to concentrate or meditate. It is the mind that has to be conquered and not material possessions. Spiritual awakening and enlightenment are not dependent on what you wear, what you eat and where you live. They depend on inner maturity, ripeness and on inner work.
It is true, in an ashram or monastery there are other people walking on the same path, and living with other like-minded people certainly helps. The atmosphere and vibrations in these places might be more harmonious and positive, and there are also spiritual teachers available there, who help and facilitate their development. These facts cannot be argued, but as said earlier, not everyone can afford to leave everything behind and live in such places, and it is not necessary.
It is true that in ordinary life it would be more difficult to find the time to meditate. There are many more distractions, and one needs more inner strength to overcome temptations and disturbances. Yet, if one is persistent and never gives up, he or she would ultimately gain more inner strength and power, than a person who lives in an ashram or monastery. He or she will have to overcome more external obstacles, but this will strengthen them, and if they are persistent enough, they will eventually be able to gain inner peace and concentration that cannot be disturbed by noises, distractions, people or anything else.
Nowadays there are many books, articles, Internet websites, retreats, and teachers who can offer information and help. One can continue living his or her life, and yet walk on the spiritual path. This is an invisible path. There will be people who won’t agree, but spiritual growth, spiritual awakening and peace of mind can be attained, without making any major external changes in one’s life. It is the inner attitude that matters.
Don’t say that you don’t have time and energy for spiritual growth. If you plan your day right, you can have the time and energy.
You can wake up one hour earlier in the morning, to meditate or concentrate. With a little effort you will be able to secure another, say 30 minutes, in the afternoon for this practice.
After a period of time, when you concentration grows, you will also be able to take advantage of spare and unused time during the day to devote to spiritual growth practices, such as while traveling in a bus or train (not while you are driving), while waiting in line, while walking, while washing, while cleaning the house or washing the dishes, and during other such times, when you don’t need to focus your attention on something in particular. If you add all these minutes together, you will find that you can practice a lot during each day, while continuing with your life and everyday activities.