Creating the Foundations of a Spiritual Lifestyle

I had long wanted more “Connection to the Holy” out of my life, yet it took me a while to figure out that it was not religion I wanted, nor a philosophy, but to establish lifestyle foundations -a daily practice- that would contribute to my meaningful, purposeful existence. From day to day I could not find the means toward contentment. I had to first establish what contributed to my discontentment. It was easy to blame other people, but dishonest. Only I could honestly decide and take charge of those daily activities which give me fulfillment and purpose and hone the connection I sought.*

I have explored several spiritual traditions in order to find what feels right to me. I also understand that what feels right to me might not feel right to someone else, because of the uniqueness of individuality. Yet I believe that in our humanity, we have more in common than not in common, so in order to be of service today, I am sharing my thoughts of incorporating strong foundational practices into my daily activities in order to develop a lifestyle that works to honor my individual, unique, life purpose. Whether you are a young person starting out by exploring different approaches to the spiritual, or a crone, such as myself who has tried many things and still putting it together, these thoughts may contribute something to your efforts.

I have only been able to arrive at these ideas by sorting out conflicting ideas within myself. So (1) allow yourself time everyday to be with yourself and consciously examine feelings, emotions, and thoughts that arise that offer conflict to what you want out of your life. Then bring them together, best you can, even if it’s challenging. Dissatisfaction can point the way toward having what you want instead. For example, for years I conflicted over the time my family needed me and wanting self time to grow a creative practice. I also blamed the need to go to work. I had to examine the roots of the emotions that triggered my resentment before I saw the lie in them. I had time for my self, but I gave it away freely in order to feel loved and needed. My need to feel loved and needed had its roots in childhood abandonment. The result was that I started freely giving my love and my nurturing, and in doing that I was able to feel loved and nurtured in return. I no longer needed my resentment as an excuse to not having what I wanted. The further result is that the time I have for myself is now better structured and channeled into more focused creativity.

(2) Let go of any need to be right. Not everybody falls into this category, but if you do, wow! An honest self examination in this regard revealed how my need to know everything put walls up between myself and people I’d hoped to learn from or befriend, preventing true connection. I believe that other people can present characteristics that mirror something in me, and when I find myself strongly liking or disliking something in another person, there was a lesson for me in that connection. A case in point: I have had classes I was teaching on horsemanship, and more than once there was a person who had to challenge what I said with some certainty of their own. “But I do it this way…” Not only did their need to be right put a damper on the flow of my teaching, but if I got triggered into discussion on that point, the other participants in the class did not go away with anything of value from what I had to teach.

(3) Let go of any need to be in control. “What?” I hear you exclaiming. Our efforts to control our life by controlling the actions of other people closest to us is huge! It stems from our ego’s need to remain in our comfort zone. And when we truly become aware of our own efforts to manipulate others, it can make for some really funny life moments. My husband accuses me of telling him what to do, and I accuse him of the same thing. We’d been arguing. I was quite mad over his frequent instruction on how to do something I’d been doing very well my own way. I told him that he was controlling, yet he rejected what I said. He was meditating one morning, came downstairs, and then announced, “Honey, guess what? You’re never going to believe this! I have had the insight that I am controlling!” His ego was not stroked when I doubled over laughing, and said, “What have I been telling you?!?”

(4) Respect other’s free will. The self awareness that I am controlling does not automatically change my manipulative behavior. I have to carry that awareness into the moment I want to be manipulative, and ask myself if I am respecting the other person’s free will. I had been encouraging my son toward different colleges that I thought would lead to satisfying careers for him based upon his likes and dislikes. I wanted my son to be happy, but when he told his father and I that he was thinking about joining the military, that was a huge emotion for me. I grew up during the Vietnam War when so many sons did not come home. My imagination presented me very real seeming scenarios of losing my son in a military engagement. Those visualizations triggered grief within me over something that had not happened and might not happen. I had to recognize that my fear was prompting me to discourage my son from something he wanted to do, that in fact his soul was calling him to do. With my new self awareness that this presented a trigger in me to manipulate my son away from his free will, I did the work on myself of facing down the grief and fear his choice brought me. Instead I told my son that I was supportive of his choice, and that I would be supportive of whichever branch of the military he felt drawn to. And in fact it was a conversation with me that led him into the Marines. He conquered “The Crucible” in 2019 and became a Marine. His choice was a good choice for him that matured him into manhood in a positive way.

(5) Appreciate the freedom that stepping away from manipulative behavior toward others brings. Once I stopped trying to manipulate other’s free will so that I could be happy, I stopped accepting manipulative behavior of others toward me. Instead I initiated a lifestyle practice of an honest “Yes” or “No” to requests others made of me. In being truthful with myself, I could be truthful with others. The rewards of this behavior of being honest with my word meant other people regarded me as reliable and trustworthy. Reliability and trustworthiness carry me farther forward in my day job. Although I am not seeking to move any higher “up the ladder” these practices do gain me more in terms of having my own needs met on the job. I experience more reciprocity and consideration from others as I am more reciprocal and considerate in what I do for others.

(6) Giving a true Yes or a true No, practicing mindfulness of my word, has become a pillar for me in my practice of integrity, as integrity has become a part of my lifestyle practice. Have you ever met a person who lies frequently and then cannot remember which story she has told to which person? Sometimes we lie to please others, but this undermines the truth we hold within our Being. I had an employer once who was a creative sewing and artistic genius, but she always had to be in control. It could be funny watching her eyes dart back and forth as she tried to remember which story she had to keep straight with who, but it was not so funny on pay day when only the first one or two employees to the bank could cash their checks. Her checks had “Rubber” stamped on their backs, they were always bouncing and boomeranging. Not so funny when a co-worker had to pay for food for her children, or I had to meet my own bills. Life is much less complicated and I have more peace of mind when I have been truthful with others.

(7) Honest activity in the small things keeps me honest in the big things. I used to hate doing dishes, but then I discovered that doing dishes could be a useful meditative practice. Eventually I learned that getting those things done that I hated to do, got them out of the way and cleared the day for more fun, meaningful activities, and took the “chore” out of the chores. If I procrastinated on the morning and lunch dishes, a huge pile waited for me when it was time to fix the more dish accumulative meal of the day, dinner. Once I was shopping in the grocery store. A fruit had rolled into the aisle and a passing youth picked it up and put it back on the shelf. A passerby commented to me that if he was the store manager that was the applicant he would hire. Taking care of the small things consistently proves our trustworthiness for the larger things. Today I find pleasure in maintaining my environment in a clean way, as it creates a more restful mood in me when I sit down to write.

(8) Taking care of my body prolongs my life, health, and mental clarity. I credit Hela with this, as it was her first teaching to me. Remember the first point? Bringing together conflicting thoughts and emotions? Yes, that point. My Christian upbringing was great for teaching me the forgiveness practice Jesus taught, but horrible about caring for my self or my body. One of the biggest downsides to the Christian faith of my childhood was that a “better life” waited for us after death, when it was assumed “we (the select)” would go to Heaven and “they (everybody else)” would go to Hell, and, wait for it… Bodies are sinful. (I guess “they” did not read the Bible enough to pick up Jesus’ point that “Heaven is among you.”) It took Hela, the Death Goddess of the Norse, to point out to me that my body was important for me to experience Heaven while I was still on Earth, in Life, and not yet dead.**

In the Gurdjieff Fourth Way method, and in shamanic practice, we honor all aspects of our human nature – the physical, the emotional/mental, and the spiritual. The body gives the spirit the opportunity to interact with the physical dimension in sensual and perceptual ways that are not available to us on the spiritual side of life. Hela suggested that I pursue exercises designed to help my body move with more fluidity and less pain as age (and excess weight) led to painful twinges in joints and less flexibility of movement. To this end, I combine a practice of Dan Hahk Yoga, weight lifting, and simple walking. The Goddesses of the Nitty Gritty further led me in a process of deep, inner emotional healing that has led me to greater clarity in my waking life. My efforts are further motivated since I developed type 2 diabetes, and keeping my blood sugar low definitely improves my mental clarity. I have learned to find gratitude even for those things that happen to me that push me out of my comfort zone into better self care.

So what is “spiritual” about all of these points, if they are not clarified sufficiently? Peoples who have lived close to the Earth throughout all ages have taught something that contemporary anthropologists have termed “Animism.” This is the belief that everything has life or, for those who have developed the energetic sensitivity to sense Life, or vibration, the knowledge that everything has life. Tom Brown, who writes often about his learning from a displaced Apache Elder named Stalking Wolf, calls it “The-Spirit-That-Lives-In-All-Things.”*** This idea is met in Physics with the teaching of overlapping energy fields – Plank’s Theory. Attuning our minds and our being to the energy fields around us opens the sensitivity of our awareness to things beyond the conventional ideas we are taught, and maybe even hold to be truth.

The “truth of yourself” is contained in your Being, a facet that we are not encouraged to pay too much attention to in our culture. But Being relates to Soul, to Spirit, and to those words in the Bible, “Be still and know I am God.” The steps I came to for myself and written above have kept my energetic commitments clear of the expectations, “should’s” and “ought’s” of conditioned awareness and helped me to discern when I am out of alignment with my own conscience. Conscience is something that goes beyond conventional morality, which is enforced by social expectations and written into the laws that countries form in order that humanity may get along better with itself. Conscience is your own inner law that keeps you in integrity with your Spirit and Soul. It may be developed over the course of many lifetimes as you gain experience from the consequences of your actions.****

The foundations we incorporate into daily life can become the pillars for our spiritual practice. It takes time to learn what those are for you. As previously mentioned, I was raised Christian. I also learned Reiki, studied the Gurdjieff method, became a Mesa Carrier, and was working with the elements when the Norns were introduced to me by the Nature Spirit who oversees care of the Creek and valley where I live. To the above I would add:

(9) Meditation and Prayer. I do not consider these separate practices, even though other writers have labeled them separately. I do consider meditation to be a receptive practice and prayer an active practice, in these terms: with an open mind to God, whatever you conceive God to be, Meditation is calm, quiet and open to receiving; as with an open mind to God, whatever you conceive God to be, Prayer is an active communication, speaking your need, worry, concern, or alternatively offering gratitude and devotion. Any time I personally engage in this/these activities I can flip from Meditation to Prayer and back again. My communications with the Most High are often a two way street. God will talk to you, the Gods will talk to you, especially if you are sincere, your need is sincere, and you approach the divine with humility.

By “humility” I do not mean cravenness or self debasement. I consider approaching the Gods as one who is Created to one’s Creator. This is a humility that does not demean myself, but comes as I Am, to my Maker. Through my biological lineage, the Creator(s) is/are the three God-brothers Voden, Vili, and Ve who created humanity from two trees. I consider great beauty in this Lore, to share my ancestry with the primal forests where my earliest ancestors made their lives.

But beneath the Mythological stories that craft our religious stories, I have experienced a feeling of God that transcends any image of God that humans hold. As a Seer, I have seen the silvery cord that people have that extends above their heads and “vanishes” upward into the atmosphere. Some people have really wide cords – these have developed their highest spiritual connections. Some people have nearly invisible cords. These folks usually are more focused on the material realities of Earth, and learning exists for all at the level they are ready for.

*I credit the ebook Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction by Laura Berman Fortgang to helping me see the value in my dissatisfaction. (I am currently, yet slowly, working its lessons into my three morning pages: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron).

**Since 2013 I have been “Spirit Taught” by the Norns, Hela, and other Norse Deities.

***Tom Brown operates a survival school teaching the indigenous methods of living with the land. His books and his work can be found at www.trackerschool.com.

****A great book on this topic is From the Universe to the Soul by Marcello Di Muzio.

Published by susanofthenorth

Susan Hintz Epstein is an author, Rune diviner, healer, non-academic scholar, and former Methodist Lay Speaker who was called by the Runes in 2013. The time since then has been a serpentine shedding of one skin for another, as Susan's spiritual practice with the Runes and the World Tree, Yggdrasil, deepened. Susan keeps company with the Norns and other like-minded women.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: