May 29, 2012
Benchmarks of spiritual practice
Here is a list of 12 benchmarks of spiritual practice (Saskia Davis’s Symptoms of Inner Peace) with examples of how I work with them. This list is also a way to know that our spiritual practice is bearing fruit.
1. An increased tendency to allow things happen rather than make them happen
As a mom of two children I spent many years trying to make things happen. I wanted my children to act in certain ways, eat certain foods, choose certain clothing, etc. etc. As they got older and I watched myself trying to be “in control”, I realized I could trust them to be themselves. I realized I could allow them to make choices and guide them when necessary. This realization brought feelings of relief and a sense of freedom. I brought that realization to my work and relationships and have enjoyed watching the process of things rather than trying to control them.
2. Frequent attacks of joy, unexplained smiling and random bursts of laughter
Real joy and comes from delighting in simple pleasures and acts of kindness. Happiness is inherent in being mindful during each and every day. As a result of enjoying simple pleasures and the beauty that surrounds me, I do not chase after excitement through traveling, attending the latest retreat, purchasing the newest technological toys or other material possessions.
3. Feelings of being closely connected with others and nature
When I feel reactive to someone I remind myself that we are all connected. We all want to be happy and in most situations we do the best we can. This does not mean that I accept everything everyone does, but it does help me to soften when I realize someone might be coming from a sense of their own pain when they do something that results in causing pain in others.
4. Frequent overwhelming, almost dizzying, episodes of appreciation
I have kept a gratitude journal for several years and I share my weekly writing with two friends each Sunday. Making the commitment with friends to share the journal reminds me to write in it daily or weekly. There have been some weeks that seem to be marked by difficulty and sorrow. When I write what I am grateful for, I realize even the challenging times have moments of beauty and offer things/people/situations to be grateful for.
5. A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than from fears based on past experience
When I react habitually, based on past experience, rather than being mindful of the present circumstances, I am acting on automatic pilot. All situations, even if we think they resemble past situations, are really new situations. Coming into situations with an open mind brings new possibilities for creative responses.
6. An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment
The attitude we bring into situations can determine our responses to them. Being open to each moment, bringing mindfulness to each moment, allows us to experience enjoyment in even mundane tasks.
7. A loss of ability to worry
I have learned that worry is not helpful and often what I worry about does not happen. Recently I was experiencing pain on the right side of my mouth. I thought my bottom right molar was the source of the pain. I called my dentist and made an appointment. I was thinking I might need a crown or a root canal. I worried that it would be expensive and painful, especially since the tooth is in the back of my mouth and difficult to reach. I decided to have the tooth extracted. I worried about the procedure. How is a tooth extracted? Will there be cutting and bleeding? How long will it take for the gums to heal? Will I have to postpone my appointments? I went to see the Dentist. He took an ex-ray and asked me a couple questions questions. Was there throbbing pain? Were my gums swollen? The tooth, it seems, was fine. The pain I experienced was due to an infection which could be cleared up with penicillin. All that worry about crowns, root canals and extractions was for naught. I have not yet lost my ability to worry, but I worry less now, so there’s progress.
8. A loss of desire for conflict
Does anyone actually desire conflict? Perhaps. I don’t! When I see an opportunity for conflict, I remember two things:
a. There is another way of looking at things. When I bring lovingkindness to situations, there is no need for conflict.
b. Do I want to be right or happy? When I let go of needing to be right, I also let go of conflict – and that makes me happy.
9. A loss of interest in taking things personally
Sometimes things people say or do feel so personal. At these times I remind myself that people do what they do as a result of their conditions (upbringing, personalities, life circumstances and perspectives) that do not have anything to do with me.
10. A loss of appetite for drama and judgment
The drama I enjoy is found at movie theaters. Drama in life is tiresome and unnecessary.
When I find myself judging others, I look inward and find my judgment has to do with what I want to change in myself.
11. A loss of interest in judging yourself
As a result of understanding the importance and power of kindness I am much kinder to myself and to others.
12. Prone to giving love without expecting anything in return
I find giving love to be the most satisfying thing I do. When I am loving, my heart feels open and expansive and I am truly happy.