Balancing Spirituality And Indulgence
by Susanne Kempken
Many people believe that in order to be ‘spiritual’ you need to adhere to a strict way of life. You need to live by a certain set of rules if you want to lay claim to being spiritual. If you are aiming to achieve ascension or enlightenment, then I agree that you need to fully commit and be disciplined.
But what about all the people who are just looking for a happier, more fulfilling life through spirituality? Should the same discipline be applied? Discipline is such a highly regarded trait in our society, but does discipline make us better or more limited? Is there a point where discipline does more harm than good?
Whoever said that you have to be a vegetarian in order to be spiritual? Where is it written that you can only listen to relaxing music if you are spiritual? Someone told me a few weeks ago that they are completely avoiding sugar because they are now on a spiritual path. Curious as to what zero sugar intake has to do with being on your spiritual path, I asked the obvious question, ‘Why?’ The person gave me a strange look as if to say ‘Isn’t it obvious?’ I never got an answer as the person turned away to start a conversation with someone else and the moment was gone.
That same week I participated in a group meditation on ‘indulgences’. In the meditation you had to think of something you indulge in. As you can imagine many, many things popped into my mind ranging from a good novel to eating a bag of chips, enjoying a glass of wine, coffee, chocolate . . . needless to say it’s a long list. It made me smile just thinking about it. It’s the little things in life that can bring me so much joy. So while I was sitting there smiling and feeling good about myself, the meditation shifted gear. All of sudden I was asked to imagine myself overindulging in my ‘indulgence’. For example, if your indulgence is chocolate, you eat yourself sick. It was at this point that I was beginning to struggle with the meditation. I have many indulgences that I allow myself because I am of the opinion that life should be enjoyed. I also know from experience that when I allow myself these indulgences and feel good about it, I never feel the need to overindulge.
In the end I chose to stop participating in this particular meditation because I did not want to imagine myself overindulging in anything. It just didn’t feel right to me. However, I can see the benefit in a meditation like this if you have a true addiction to something, something that you just can’t stop overindulging in. The keyword here is ‘over’ indulging. There is a big difference between a life-enhancing indulgence, and harmful overindulgence.
This is important to understand because thinking that all indulgences are bad for you is a very unbalanced approach to spiritualty.
What I have come to realise is that some people seem to think that if you restrict yourself from anything pleasurable, you become more spiritual. The foundation for this belief can be found in many religions, which teach us that discipline and suffering make you a more spiritual being.
In my opinion, to restrict or deny yourself does not make you more or less spiritual, nor does it fast-track you down the spiritual path. I believe that we are here to experience life, not take the joy out of it because we choose a spiritual path.
I am a great believer in balance. For example, now and then I listen to heavy metal music. At first I was reluctant to share this bit of truth about myself because I know from experience that some spiritually minded people frown upon this type of indulgence. And that is exactly why I decided to share this titbit of information. I know that I enjoy it, and so I refuse to deny this part of myself because I love and accept myself enough to own this indulgence, and feel good about it. Does it make me less spiritual? Certainly not! It just makes me someone who can appreciate spirituality in all things.
Do I become a less centred and clear person if I enjoy a good steak? Absolutely not! But I do spare a grateful thought to the cow. Do I become a less loving person if I allow anger or frustration to show? No way! We are multi-faceted individuals with a huge array of emotions that are to be experienced, not labelled as good and bad. You don’t need to suppress the so called ‘bad’ emotions simply because they don’t fit the worldly view of being a spiritual person. At our core we are all spiritual beings, regardless of how we live our lives.
If you are not pursuing enlightenment, then enjoy your spiritual journey with a healthy dose of balance. Stop being critical of yourself just because you’ve eaten two cookies instead of one, or because you’ve enjoyed a glass of wine. You’re not a less spiritual person if you enjoy dancing in a nightclub or reading a good thriller.
Personally I try to live my life by keeping these two simple rules in the forefront of my mind:
1. Harm no one
2. Spread love and light wherever I go
Everything else in life is open for discussion and available to be experienced – the choice is mine . . . or yours.
So in the spirit of being spiritual don’t forget to have fun and do whatever makes your heart sing. Take the limit off what it means to be spiritual. Remove the judgements. They don’t serve your highest evolution. Being balanced is a healthy and wonderful way to live.
Susanne Kempken is the co-founder of The Guided Meditation Site. Please click here to explore Susanne's guided meditations.
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