Mindful Living: Everyday Practices for a Sacred and Happy Life

Mindful Living: Everyday Practices for a Sacred and Happy Life

by Katie Manitsas

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Overview

Everyday Spiritual Practices from Yoga and Ayurveda draws from yogic philosophy and foundations to invite you to bring conscious spiritual practices into your life.

In this heartfelt and inspiring book, author Katie Manitsas shares sacred practices to help cultivate a spiritual life focused on meditation, intention setting, prayer and chanting, and daily rhythms to soothe the soul. She also provides routines for honoring the energy body, working with the elements, and eating food with kindness. Even adopting just one or two of the practices will create lasting change in your life and deeply transform the state of your soul.

Everyday Spiritual Practices offers tools for growth and reformation that will allow you to experience deeper self-confidence and a powerful intuition arising in your life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781925682854
Publisher: Rockpool Publishing
Publication date: 04/01/2019
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 1,236,098
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author


Katie Manitsas is an advanced level Jivamukti Yoga teacher and a Wise Earth Ayurveda master teacher. She is also qualified in Kundalini Yoga and as a doula and holds the highest possible accreditations with Yoga Alliance and Yoga Australia. She has been teaching yoga for over 20 years, and her passions are yogic philosophy and the seasonal practices of sadhana, bringing devotion and a sense of the sacred to everyday life, and compassion for animals and a deep reverence for nature. Katie is the author of several books, including The Yoga of Birth. She is the mother of four young boys and lives with her loud and busy family in Sydney's Inner West. Visit her at www.katiemanitsas.com.au.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Steady foundations

The practices of non-violence and devotion as a foundation for spiritual life

The practices of sadhana and ahimsa

Wise Earth Ayurveda describes sadhana as 'remembering and knowing what we do, say and think'. Sadhana reminds us of our innate relationship to Mother Nature. What is the point of yoga practice? Many people who come to a yoga class for the first time come for a physical benefit, to overcome injury or improve strength and flexibility – but these are just side benefits. The real point is to find ourselves closer to Spirit in all forms, to go deeper into life and stop skimming the surface. The practices of yoga asana (the physical poses) actually have a special power (siddhi) in them, which I have noticed unfolds in even the most hardened cynic given enough time. In yoga asana practice a hardening or calcification in the body and mind starts to dissolve and a psycho-kinetic transformation takes place as the body moves with the current of breath (life force or holy spirit) flowing through it. This is the internal practice that Pattabhi Jois, founder of the Ashtanga Yoga system speaks of. On the outside the body is moving, the breath is flowing; on the inside radical change is happening, deep transformation, breath by breath.

The application of sadhana in everyday life works in a similar way. Sadhana means 'conscious spiritual practice', and it really has little to do with what you're doing on the outside and everything to do with what is going on inside. Just like the asana practice, when our daily lives embrace sadhana radical change starts to unfold. For example: you might be drinking a cup of tea; you're rushing around because it's morning and you're trying to get out of the door; you're looking for your keys and packing a bag as you gulp the tea down. The outer action is 'drinking a cup of tea', while the inner experience is fragmented and disconnected. If you were to drink a cup of tea as sadhana it would be a completely different experience. There would be mindfulness. You would give the tea your full attention, sitting quietly and enjoying the taste and warmth. There would be gratitude and elegance in your approach, such as we see in exquisite Japanese tea ceremonies.

Sadhana can be applied to anything you do that is uplifting and elevates your intention beyond the mundane or selfish. Sadhana is always anchored in ahimsa (non-violence, or kindness), because for a practice to be spiritual – filled with spirit – it must not harm another. We know this because we know we are ultimately all one. The Buddha explains this in his teaching of the 'web of life', often depicted through Buddhist iconography such as the 'thangkas' created in Tibet. As yogis we might call it oneness of being. We know about this web of life in our hearts, not our minds. If you eat a steak, some part of you knows you harmed not only the cow but your own spirit. It might not be conscious, but the knowing is there.

Spiritual practices help us to get closer to the knowing (intuition) of our own intrinsic kindness and compassion. This is why generally the practices get easier the more we apply them. They become second nature, or really an unfolding of our true nature that we forgot or have buried because of the non-conducive cultural conditions around us. We can replace those cultural conditions with satsang (spiritual community) by making our homes sacred spaces and by seeing all who we come into contact with as opportunities for satsang. Satsang, or creating spiritual community and friendships, brings the quality of compassion into action.

At this time in history and in our culture the application of ahimsa means to step up more than ever and remember our power as spiritual warriors. Now is our time, the time that kindness and compassion are most needed. We shouldn't get caught up in thinking that our efforts must be heroic or awe-inspiring. We can make a difference in the everyday – it is in the small moments of the everyday that transformation takes place. It says in the Bhagavad Gita, the ancient scripture from India named the 'Lord's Song', that if we offer something as small and unassuming as a leaf or a flower to the Divine in humility and love, that offering will be accepted and rewarded. It's not about grand gestures but rather patience, persistence and kindness in the small moments.

As a child I sang in the choir of my local church, which was a small, very traditional, beautiful but cold and musty building in the village I grew up in. I loved that place because it was the first sacred space I ever went to regularly, the first temple. My favourite Christmas carol that I remember from these times is The Little Drummer Boy. It tells the story of a poor child who goes to see the baby Jesus in Bethlehem but has nothing to offer so he plays his drum, and baby Jesus smiles at him. This is sadhana in action. Our task is as simple as picking a flower or two, lighting a candle and filling our homes with the sweet smell of incense or natural oils and devotional music. Make some fresh herbal tea. Sit down and journal your dreams and wishes for the year, keeping it simple and kind. Ask yourself, 'How can I give more?', 'How can I step up?' Our efforts do not have to be perfect, which is why we call them part of a practice in yoga. For me, more patience, less distraction and more presence are clear goals at the moment, especially with my young children. I wish to sit in wisdom, the vast world of intuition, dreams and mystery; this is to live in yoga.

The practice of ahimsa, non-violence, is a practice of alchemy. Alchemy means to transform one substance into another, usually more valuable substance, for example, turning base metal into gold. Through the practice of ahimsa or non-violence we transform not only ourselves, but the world around us. The ancient saints and sages who developed and codified the yogic practices we still do today knew this. They retreated into quiet spaces such as caves and forests to get very still and grounded in order to figure out how alchemy was possible. They realised that we are all part of one energy; we are all one thing together – separateness is an illusion.

They called this realisation 'enlightenment'. But they also knew in their great wisdom that it would be very difficult for most people to feel this connection, as most of us feel we are separate. So they made a suggestion: start with being kind. This is the secret formula to fixing almost any problem. Kindness is the magic ingredient that makes alchemy possible, turning lumps of lead into gold. Through the practices of yoga – starting with ahimsa – we start to see the oneness of being in the world. We stop seeing ourselves as separate. My teacher Sharon Gannon explains it like this: 'Yoga practices alchemically transform our perception of who we are. The body of the enlightened yogi houses the light of truth. The yogi lives in the world as an instrument for this truth. There are many yoga practices that can guide a person along the way to that magical remembering of who he or she really is.'

The practice of bhakti

Narada was an enlightened sage from ancient times who offered his sacred teachings through kirtan, or devotional song. In Narada's scripture, the Bhakti Sutras, he outlines a four-stage process for developing bhava, or true devotion. Narada goes into a great deal of discussion in his sutra around which path is the best for getting close to God or for attaining deeper advancement in yoga. He particularly explores the contrasting paths of Jnana Yoga, or wisdom seeking, with Bhakti Yoga, or devotional practice. In simplistic terms, we could think of jnana as the path of the 'head' or intellect and bhakti as the path of 'heart' or feeling. In my own personal experience both are needed to progress, but the bhakti (devotional love and feeling) is most important and unfortunately many of us place far too much value on thinking to the detriment of this bhakti connection. Regardless, Narada places his emphasis on bhakti and gives us some clues as to how we might develop what he beautifully describes as a 'dynamic spiritual magnet of love in our hearts'.

Narada's four-step plan for bhakti

1. Worshipping state of mind (puja): the essence of this first stage is in ritual or remembering our connection to the Divine through sacred action.

2. Praying state of mind: prayer is our conversation with the Divine.

3. Meditative state of mind: in the meditative state of mind we start to move out of longing and into a state of deeper connection. The journey moves from effort toward grace.

4. Mind merging with the Divine: this stage requires no effort and is the manifestation of grace arising through previous effort.

Narada's teachings remind us that progress on the spiritual path is not all up to us. We apply effort and at some point (who knows when; that is part of the mystery!) grace will arise. The effort is applied though the practices of puja, prayer and meditation. The rest is a process of swaha, or letting go, offering up your efforts to something higher than personal gain.

If you have never done a puja (devotional ritual) practice, start very simply. There are some beautiful ideas and instructions in Radhanath Swami's book The Journey Within, but you could start with simply lighting a candle, burning some incense or making a small sacred space in your home such as on a windowsill or mantelpiece. Place some sacred object there along with images of your teachers and perhaps a fresh flower. Honouring this space is the beginning of puja, and having such a space in your home will transform it.

Next the invitation is to pray. First you've got to know what you're praying to, but don't get too caught up in that. If you think you need a very clear image of God and a philosophically reconciled understanding of what God is before you start to pray, you might never get started! Let go of the need to intellectually understand and just pray, somehow to something. Even if you are cynical that God exists or feel silly, what is the harm in trying? I was taught to pray as a child in the Church of England, and my form of prayer to this day remains quite traditional. Sometimes I imagine I'm picking up the telephone and speaking to God, downloading all that's going on in my head, particularly my spiritual struggles, and being patiently listened to by a very wise and very kind friend. I also find my daily mantra recitation practice (japa) is a method of prayer. When I pray I ask for a lot of things; I'm petitioning. Ninety per cent of what I'm asking for is an increase in my own positive qualities. Often I ask for more patience or to be kinder. I ask for the clarity to act well and with skilful discernment. I never ask for material things, because I feel that my needs in that department are more than taken care of and it's a waste of treasured prayer time. It's actually a distortion of what prayer is to ask for 'stuff'; very few of us really need more stuff. I don't subscribe to the school of thought popular in manifestation circles that it is all right to ask for a Ferrari or diamond ring if that's what you want. That's a waste of your precious time with God. Ask for something that will actually make you happy, such as a peaceful heart or the ability to help others.

I've also stopped asking for understanding. I used to spend much more time petitioning God for understanding, as in 'help me understand why this person is so annoying to me in this situation', or 'help me understand why I am so frustrated'. But I realised even when the understanding came it didn't help me much. Now I focus more on shifting negative and unhelpful mental states and actions: 'help me let go of my frustration with him and reconnect to him', or 'help me dissolve my frustration back into Your love'. This is a much more productive and transformative way to pray. Knowing the 'why' doesn't always help cultivate the shifts we need. Sometimes the why is helpful because it helps us to shift a pattern or habit, and for this psychotherapy or counselling can be useful for unpacking the why skilfully. But it only goes so far – therapy without bhakti can be emotionally draining and limited in its power. At some point we all have to surrender to God, hold our hands up and let go.

When you get good at prayer you'll start to go much deeper in your meditation practice; it just happens without trying. If you begin a practice of prayer every day you will automatically be more drawn to meditation. For me, my meditation practice is like brushing my teeth or drinking water: it is an essential part of my life and it happens automatically. The practice of prayer has overlapped with meditation so that it is much easier for me to drop into connection to Krishna's grace even in very mundane moments such as standing in line somewhere or falling asleep at night. One of the biggest blocks to maintaining this telephone connection with God is, ironically, your mobile phone. If every spare moment of quiet or 'boredom' is filled with scrolling on a screen, you miss precious opportunities to reconnect, to pray, to meditate. These moments can happen multiple times a day. Reciting a mantra might help you to quickly connect (that's like dialling God's number – it's a quicker way to get through!). For many years I avoided social media and smart phone distraction; it served my meditation practice deeply to do so. These days it's become more of a struggle, and I do find myself drawn to Instagram instead of prayer (even just habitually) and to scrolling instead of just sitting. I see it as a truly toxic problem, and I'm working hard to put very clear and limited boundaries around my phone use. I encourage you to do the same, especially if you have young children; look at their faces, not your phone.

If you don't know how to begin to pray, try using the same words each day. This is a translation into English of a beautiful Sanskrit verse you could start with: 'May all be happy. May all be free from sickness. May all look to the good of others. May none suffer from sorrow.' This prayer extends out not only to human people but encompasses animal, tree and sea people, elemental beings, Mother Earth and all the caretakers of the universe alike. When we broaden our perspective of what a person is our circle of compassion expands; we extend our own experiences of being and might begin to see the Divine Self in all. Use the English words for prayer when you start. You can add Sanskrit mantra later when you're more practised or when you need to really drop out of your head and into your heart, but this happens more at the merging stage and japa (reciting a mantra using mala beads as a focus) can help with that. In the prayer stage we need some cognisance. In the beginning you want to connect with the intention of the prayer, praying as a petitioning and conversing with God in your own language. After prayer Narada suggests engaging in meditation practice.

Simple guidelines for meditation

* Find a comfortable sitting position. Use a cushion under your buttocks and a wall or chair behind your back if needed. It will be difficult to meditate if you are distracted by discomfort in your body, so do all that you can to be set up to sit comfortably. Your spine should be as upright as possible, and ideally you won't lie down as this may make you too sleepy.

* Close your eyes, focus your attention inside and become still. Resist the tendency to fidget. It is usually a good idea to decide beforehand how long you will meditate for (ten minutes is a good start for beginners). You can set a timer and commit to being still for that amount of time.

* Bring your attention to your breath. Notice the inhalation and the exhalation as they enter and leave your body. You can focus on the tips of the nostrils where the breath enters and leaves the body to help you do this. Another good focus location in the body is the place between your eyebrows. As you sit in quiet stillness holding the focus in mind you will notice all kinds of thoughts coming and going through your mind. Try to let the thoughts flow through; don't hold on to a particular thought and build a story around it. Your breath will constantly flow through your body and your thoughts will flow through your mind. In time and with practice your thoughts will slow down and become less distracting. This is the beginning of the process of meditation. It's a lifetime's work, so don't get disheartened if it takes time to calm your mind in this way.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Mindful Living"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Katie Manitsas.
Excerpted by permission of Rockpool Publishing Pty Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Dedication ix

Introduction 1

1 Steady foundations 9

The practices or non-violence and. devotion as a foundation for spiritual life

2 Cultivating a sacred outlook 27

Some suggestions for your conscious spiritual practice

3 Mother Nature 39

Eating with kindness and protecting the food source: the mindful kitchen

4 Intention and manifestation 51

Your thoughts, words and actions; your routines and rhythms

5 Precious life path 77

Discovering your life path and honouring your family ancestry

6 Subtle energy 103

Mapping your energy body and working with the elements

7 Home 119

Spiritual activism begins with each of us in our daily lives and our homes

Glossary 143

Bibliography/acknowledgements 147

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