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Spiritual Benefits of Fasting

What are the spiritual benefits of fasting

How many of us in the 60s and 70’s did fasting as part of our spiritual experience, notwithstanding that fasting has been a part of spiritual life forever? However, it seemed that along with meditation and colonics, fasting was a necessity. There was always that feeling that you are purifying your body.  You wanted  a cleaner and more perfect vessel for God. That was one of the true spiritual benefits of fasting.

Unfortunately, some people are not prepared to fast and some actually become ill. There were others who did 5, 10, and even 30-day fasts. They were what we called the Fasting Warriors; there even seemed to be some kind of competitiveness attached to it. So, whatever spiritual benefits of fasting were to be gained, they quickly went out the window.

spiritual benefits of fastingCleaning up negativity one of spiritual benefits of fasting

At this late state of my life, I feel inner cleanliness is an inside job. What I mean is it’s good to clean up one’s negative thoughts and perceptions to await the Holy Spirit. The book The Sacred Art of Fasting by Thomas Ryan gives some good historical perspective for fasting and reasons for the spiritual benefits of fasting that can be very helpful.

Spiritual benefits of fasting  for different faiths

Whether fasting is done within the Jewish, Muslim or Christian faith, the spiritual benefits of fasting seem to be quite rewarding. Fasting, abstention from food and often drink for a designated period of time, was practiced for centuries in connection with religious observance. You might justifiably conclude that any spiritual practice embraced so universally has to have true spiritual benefits of fasting.

Those who fast have called it a seeming emptying of the personality and immersion into the soul. When one is no longer compelled to eat, some have said that there arises within them a kind of solitude also. The quiet that accompanies fasting is quite compelling and rewarding.

On the other hand in today’s secular society more people than you might guess engage in rational fasting.  It is understood to foster health through the purification of the body. However, the focus of the Sacred Art of Fasting is not just about fasting as a rational method of cleansing the body, but as a religious act.

In the religious experience of humankind, fasting has always been a prelude and means to a deeper spiritual life. Failure to control the amount we eat and drink can disturb the inner order of our body-spirit. Fasting is a chance to focus our attention on something more important to us than ourselves.

Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Latter-Day Saints each have a different desire and perspective when fasting. This book marvelously explains the spiritual longing in its unique form of these different religions. It also gives great clarity as to what purity of body and clarity of mind can bring about.

Collateral spiritual benefits of fasting

In the chapter devoted to the sacred art of fasting, we are treated to the multitude of spiritual benefits of fasting. Some see it as a way of identifying with all the suffering people of the world, especially those dying of hunger. Also, through the centuries fasting was used to draw communities of people together. It also provides them with a common experience and the opportunity to share these experiences. These fasting days are Lent, the Day of Atonement, Ramadan.

Fasting was also used to organize groups around social change movements. Many leaders of such groups have fasted as an act of exemplary sacrifice and a way of bringing attention to an injustice. See Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Caesar Chavez, etc.

A spiritual benefit of fasting is that we can feel what others feel in people’s struggles for hunger. For a short time we can feel a community of interest and shared love for them. That is a truly worthwhile aspiration.

If you have a question about “spiritual benefits of fasting,” or anything else, you can write me at Ask The Spiritual Explorer

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9 Spiritual Connection Tips

Part Two: 9 Tips to Foster Spiritual Connection

spiritual connectionMany times when people think of marrying, they feel they have met someone to whom they can be married forever. However, spiraling divorce rates do not support that way of thinking. If you are lucky enough to feel that strong spiritual connection, you naturally feel it is going to be forever. What some ignore however is the hard work that it takes to keep a spiritual connection vital and working. It is not a given.

Spiritual connection challenges

After sometime has passed from the marriage ceremony, there comes that inevitable time where you think this person to whom you committed to for a lifetime may not be as special as you had once thought. And for some that means a slow decline. That is when you must remember what a true spiritual connection is. You must foster it to regain that spark and appreciation for the person living with you.

How do we develop that spiritual connection into a lifelong commitment to spiritual values? Ancient teachings of Buddhism suggest that we can do so by transforming our relationships into spiritual partnerships. A spiritual partnership can take any  projection, disappointment and quarrel and use it as material for spiritual growth and enlightenment. If one can distill any of those occurrences into adventures of insight into the self, a marriage can be rewarding.

Agreement necessary in spiritual connection

I like this concept of marriage anyway. This concept is called a marrying of the ways. It doesn’t mean that you both have to have the same jobs or hobbies. It means that you must agree on the most important thing in your life, and that has to be the fostering, creating and sustaining of your spiritual connection. You must both commit to work together to become the highest and most loving beings to each other and those around you.

Here are tips for fostering a spiritual connection:

  1. Speak of this agreement before your marriage. Be clear that what you are looking for is spiritual evolution. This means that the two of you will actually support each other in promoting this ideal, no matter the challenges that occur.
  2. Be clear and honest about some of your flaws, perhaps if you are inclined to jealousy, stinginess, raising children, discomfort about affection in public and your true views on what a spiritual life is about. Tell your partner that these are things you wish to work on in your marriage.
  3. Take responsibility when choosing to point out some flaw in your partner that you do not have the same flaw in a different cloak than his. Do this with as little reactivity as possible.
  4. Be upfront about your past relationships and see clearly how you might project some of those disappointments in love with your present partner. Those times are good times to think about forgiveness for past slights and hurts.
  5. Be able to tell your partner in a very kind, non-confronting way about how your partner might have inadvertently hurt your feelings. Be very careful about holding things back and shoving stuff down. It will come out anyway in some sort of resentment.
  6. If necessary, consult some kind of therapist or mediator if you feel you have reached some kind of impasse in your relationship.
  7. Cultivate a daily meditation practice that you can do for yourself and perhaps share one with your partner. Try to do it in the early morning or in the evening before going to bed; it will inspire you for the day or settle you for the night.
  8. Don’t be afraid of the change that sometimes arises as relationships evolve. That is a necessary happening; be sure to speak about it and make it real for each other.
  9. Commit to a daily exercise or yoga practice to make you feel happy in your body. A happy body truly does produce a happy mind and vice versa.

We Don’t Go to God Holding Hands

Finally, a wise person once said to me that we don’t go to God holding hands. What that means is that you yourself are ultimately responsible for seeking your spiritual source. We’d like our mates to go to the same church, meditation course or yoga studio that we frequent, but we are all different in our preferences. All these difference can expand your universe by appreciating differences in your partner, which can make them even more interesting to you.

Just as we cannot expect our partner to be the source of everything, we cannot expect them to grow at the same rate we do or see similarly the way we do. We can only hope that we can develop tolerance for each other’s differences. In so doing, we will extend compassion and tolerance to others in the world.

If you have a question about “spiritual connection,” or anything else, you can write me at Ask The Spiritual Explorer

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Random Acts of Kindness

Just How Random are Random Acts of Kindness?

Dear Spiritual Explorer: How did the phrase random acts of kindness begin? Rollo M., Dubuque, IA

random acts of kindnessDear Rollo: I think a random act of kindness is spontaneously felt in the moment as a situation arises. For instance, a friend of mine saw two people who were very unhappy. They were not being able to attend a play that had been sold out. My friend convinced her husband to give up their two tickets. This couple is still amazed at their being able to respond in such a kind manner, but oh so proud.

Another, retired, friend of mine looks for a daily random act of kindness she can be be part of. She calls it doing her mitzvah for the day. A mitzvah is a good deed practiced regularly not only by everyday Jews. You will also find Orthodox rabbis who see it as a practice to be followed because of their beliefs that “the world is built on kindness.”

Random acts of kindness defined

The phrase of composing random kindness and senseless acts of beauty was written by Anne Herbert on a placemat in Sausalito, California in 1982. It was based on the phrase “random acts of violence and senseless acts of cruelty” contained in her book Random Acts of Kindness. In her book published in 1993,she spoke about true stories of acts of kindness.

Random acts of kindness described

Random acts of kindness do not have to be accompanied by expensive or large sale gifts. It can be as simple as stepping into somebody’s universe at a moment where you see them having a hard time, perhaps sending moral support at a time. Or it could be if the person in front of you in the grocer line is having a hard time with her child and everybody is judging the child. You might decide to give her a wink or help her adjust her groceries, letting her know you are in sympathy with her difficulties.. Or how about allowing somebody looking to present their groceries ahead of you in line.

One of the best examples of a random act of kindness came from one of my friends who thought the position she was in would be the last place anyone would think she could offer any kindness. Marcia had open heart surgery and as luck would have it, shared a hospital room with somebody who became really angry at Marcia because Marcia liked to laugh a lot, a survival skill she recently learned. However, Marcia even though very uncomfortable and pained after her surgery, began to notice the pain her roommate was suffering also.

Marcia’s Random Act of Kindness

It appeared that this roommate had difficulty being bowel continent and the nurses had kind of given up attending to her the many times she needed so much attention. Marcia told me that when that woman’s doctor showed up, Marcia roused herself from her own discomfort, confronted the doctor of that woman and asked him to please speak to the nurses reminding them of their duty to this woman. A humble man, he told her he was grateful for her care and made sure that the woman was suitably addressed. Needless to say, this woman began to love Marcia, even though they were totally difficult on the political and social spectrum. She couldn’t believe that a stranger to whom she showed no kindness would still have responded on her behalf.

I know of someone who thinks she doesn’t contribute anything and in fact, every time she reads the newspaper insists on telling me how accomplished in charitable endeavors everybody is. She then supplements with the latest child prodigy who has invented something that can now feed or fill the water supplies of underdeveloped countries through their innovation.

While small projects seem meaningless in the face of extravagantly funded and well known projects, it has always been my feeling that God loves us for whatever we manage to do in any capacity that we have and doesn’t judge. It is we who judge ourselves.

I feel that an opening of the heart usually precedes a random act of kindness. And when one’s heart is opened, it is usual followed by a feeling of compassion for humanity in some form.

Random acts of kindness become necessity

In these days of  acts of violence and hatred,  random acts of kindness are not only wonderful but a necessity. We are truly mistaken when we think we cannot do anything to counter the violence or hatred in this world. It is our attempts to do these random acts of kindness that will be part of healing the world.

Keeping it simple, here are some random acts of kindness most anybody can do—and they add up.

  1. Smile at somebody.
  2. Pick something up off the floor and hand it to someone, seeing their gratitude.
  3. Let somebody know how important they are to you.
  4. Laugh at a joke somebody is gamely trying to tell, even if you don’t think it’s funny.
  5. Slow down your car and let somebody get ahead of you. Let somebody out of that intersection who is gamely trying to move ahead.
  6. A the supermarket take that extra dollar and help your community’s project.
  7. You’re with someone trying on clothes and they’re having a hard time picking out something. Help this person and give them some confidence in their choices.
  8. Apologize even if you secretly think you’re right, especially if that person is hurt.
  9. Show gratitude when someone does something nice to you.
  10. Hang a melon or mango on someone’s door.
  11. Hand a child five dollars and an adult ten dollars if you have it.
  12. Do some shopping for someone.

All of these seemingly small random acts can effect large significant changes on anyone. They can brighten someone’s day, keep them from falling into despair or encourage a movement forward. It’s really all about love; it’s feeling lack of love in any way that makes people feel discouraged. Love is the light; light shines the way; the way shows people the path and the path can bring people to themselves. A person brought to himself becomes joyous!

Amen.

If you have a question about “random acts of kindness,” or anything else, write me at Ask The Spiritual Explorer

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