For most people, there’s a dichotomy between their religious life and their regular life. Folks get religion at church on Sundays, or at temple on Saturdays, or at the mosque on Fridays – “God gets a weekend day, the rest of the week is mine.” Even for spiritual seekers, the question arises – “How much of spiritual practices should I do vs. my regular life activities, what is the right balance?”
This perceived separation between the spiritual and the material only arises in those who are still not quite spiritual at their very core. If one pursues spirituality as another way to bolster the ego, or as the fashionable thing to do, then it becomes just another activity. When there is activity to be done, then there needs to be time to set aside for it. But when one is spiritual through and through, everything is spiritual – it pervades the whole being. Even mundane tasks are performed with spontaneity of spirit and with full awareness. One is alive and present – fully on – no matter what is being done wherever.
Let’s take an example from the ocean. Viewing the ocean from the beach, each wave seems separate and distinct. So the waves are like our life endeavors. Each seems its own entity and needs its own time, its own space. If we practice spirituality as such an endeavor then yes, it needs to be balanced along with everything else in life. But when there is true spiritual realization, then we realize in fact we are ourselves the ocean. The waves are just an expression of the ocean. Our material endeavors fall into a more holistic context of a spiritual being that’s always been there.
Consider another example. Think of a saint or a prophet you admire, or just think about Jesus or Buddha. Did they not perform everyday tasks, take part in normal life that you might call material? Yet can it be said that they were not spiritual every second of their life? We are physical bodies living on a physical planet, everything we do with our bodies is material. But spirituality and the material don’t have to be exclusive of each other. One is arises as a physical manifestation of the other. It’s just that we are under the illusion that all we are is the material – that all we are is the body and the mind. Spiritual beings have been telling us for thousands of years that we have gathered the body and mind, they are ours but not inherently us.
As Swami Vivekananda said, “What is material and what is not? When the world is the end and God is the means to attain that end, that is material. When God is the end and the world is only the means to attain that end, spirituality has begun.”
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