A common misconception about cultivating a spiritual life is the belief that in order to do so one must give up or deny the “real world” in favor of a shaved head, saffron robes and a remote dwelling place surrounded by others following the same path. The notion that a meaningful spiritual life is not possible unless one practices asceticism is untrue and, in its extremism, can alienate those of us who have no desire to radically change our identities or the way we live. We can, in fact, live comfortably in the material world and simultaneously develop a deep and meaningful connection to Source and abiding contentment and peace.

The Zen proverb above is one of my favorites. I sometimes add to it: with enlightenment, chop wood, carry water . . .
We can bring spirit into everything we do. Spiritual practice is not separate from our every day activities, and even the mundane can be imbued with mindfulness and meaning. While we appreciate the moments of bliss or connection we find in specific places and activities that are considered sacred, it’s how we think and act when we’re inconvenienced, challenged, or facing the very mundane that determines whether our lives are informed by spirituality.

In Yoga, we learn to be mindful – this involves recognizing and tending to the preciousness of every moment. We slow down and focus the mind enough to pay attention to subtlety: how does it feel to deepen the breath, spread the fingers, set and stay committed to an intention or attitude? When we train the mind this way, it can translate into daily life so that we can then pay attention to things like our tone of voice as we talk with our child or spouse; how our feelings shift when we adopt an attitude of appreciation; how we cope with seemingly unbearable traffic or stress or heartbreak – all these small moments are threads in the fabric of a whole life, and each of these threads inform the quality of the tapestry we weave.

Approach your Yoga practice with these things in mind. Instead of letting your focus wander, bring it forth to the present moment. Give yourself the gift of paying attention; of training the mind; of finding the value, peace and integrity of every little thing you do. The simplicity of spiritual life is available for anyone – there is no religion, no specific belief system, no saffron robe required. Stay present. Welcome your experience with love and compassion. Clear your mind. Chop wood, carry water ~