In the last of this series of articles I would like to share some thoughts and tips to help to spring clean your spirit.
Not all matters spiritual are to be backed away from in fear, there does not have to be a pervasive scent of patchouli or a tinkle of wind chimes accompanying the subject.
Spirit is a combination of everything we have talked about in the first 6 articles, plus that indefinable thing that makes each of us unique.
What is it that sets some people apart from the rest? When you say ‘there’s something about him, he has a calmness that is magnetic’ or ‘she just makes you feel good, she’s so happy and positive’. Often these are people without particularly remarkable job titles, bank balances or physical beauty. They just have something.
I think this is spirit.
I believe we can develop our spirit, but first we need a little old spring clean. Out with the old, in with the new.
How you go about this will be a very personal thing. Some of us will have issues that need to be tackled with the help of a professional, be that a therapist, a coach or a counsellor. Some will be able to manage with a book or two, some with a chat with a friend and some will be able to manage their own de-clutter without any help.
There are some practical strategies to help with this process by filling your spirit with good positive stuff you can eliminate a lot of the negativity and anxiety that causes stress and distress.
It’s a hot topic at the moment because we live in such a hectic world. There is a lot of talk about mindfulness and meditation and with good reason. CEO’s and business leaders, politicians and professors, actors and artists, store assistants and care assistants – all coming to the realisation that they need to take a little time out now and again in order to be sharp and stay ahead of the competition. As they say when you fly “put on your own oxygen mask first before attempting to help others”.
If you have never meditated, then it might feel like something odd and mystical that you need to be taught to do in a purple room with a joss-stick and a new age soundtrack – not so. All you need to get you started is an app and a pair of earphones.
Guided meditation is the easiest way to start. There are loads of apps to choose from, have a look in your app store. Or download from the web and play on your stereo. Sit or lie down somewhere quiet and listen, you will be guided through the process.
You can also learn to meditate with a ‘proper’ meditation teacher, or learn by reading how to do it and following those instructions. Whatever suits you – give it a try, 10 minutes is enough but longer is better!
Whether you unfurl your yoga mat, don your ‘Sweaty Betty’ and run through the full sunrise salutation, or just have a little stretch in your jimjams on the sheepskin rug by your bed in the morning – stretching your body is a really good way to centre yourself.
In Delhi I watched as crowds of people went through their morning stretch routines, on any green patch or space they could find, as the sun rose over the city. It was magical and brought into sharp focus how different cultures approach the start of their day… a Costa and a 40 minute drive compacting your spine and filling your system with caffeine – or ‘oiling your joints and feeding your spirit’ as they do in India, the choice is ours – and it is a choice.
It doesn’t take long, 10 minutes is enough. And you will feel better, more composed and ready for the day. If you can include a period of meditation after you have stretched out – doubly beneficial.
Yoga, stretching, Pilates – there are lots of options and tuitions on YouTube.
3. Do something for nothing
Feed your spirit with altruism. Think about what you can do that would enrich or improve someone else’s life without costing them a penny.
Perhaps you could:
· Mentor someone who is just staring out or working for a not for profit organisation or charity.
· Do something for charity or raise funds for a cause that means something to you.
· Spend some time with the elderly, invite your lonely neighbour for a cuppa, offer to get them some shopping or give them a hand with their garden.
· Volunteer at your local animal sanctuary.
· Organise a community initiative, clean up the streets, have a street party, raise money for a new playground.
Some things will take a lot of time and energy and some will take very little. Remember that the payoff for you is feeding your spirit with a sense of fulfilment, of community and of adding value.
4. Do something creative
Photography, since discovering amateur photography my ability to be mindful has increased exponentially. Everywhere I go I see things differently now and I pay attention to everything.
I don’t necessarily always take a picture with my camera, otherwise my Instagram feed would be ridiculous! But I take thousands with my mind. That feeds my spirit.
Writing, if that is your thing, do it. Share your thoughts, your feelings, share tips, teachings, knowledge… Fiction, non fiction, articles, blogs, journals.. Just write.
Music, if you are musical you will know how much joy it brings you. Immerse yourself in playing, composing, singing or just listening!
Art, you don’t have to be very good at it to enjoy it..! If it makes you happy – do it.
Cooking, creating new dishes or following recipes, cooking is very creative and great fun. Even better when shared with family and friends.
5. Be in nature
Not everyone loves walking in muddy wellies, not everyone loves playing on the beach, not everyone loves being in the mountains in the snow. But very few people don’t like to do anything at all in nature.
Whatever your preference is, make time to get outside and breathe. Lift your head and look around you. Notice the changes the seasons bring. Get into or onto the water, walk in the mountains, lie in green meadows, sit in the park.
6. Interact with animals, children, or both!
There is something wonderful about the innocent curiosity and unconditional love you get from animals and from children. You can learn a lot from both! Have fun, play and be curious.
Give yourself a break from your phone/laptop etc. An hour, a day, a week – whatever you can stand. Leave your phone downstairs when you go to bed (assuming you have a down stairs!)
If you were put in a cabin up a mountain with no tech at all – what would you do that would make you happy? If you have no idea then I urge you to think about it, if you know exactly what you would do – then do it!
Don’t neglect that indefinable spirit. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there – and it is probably the most important part of you.
I hope this has given you a little food for thought and even if you only make one tiny change and it benefits you – it will have been worthwhile.