It is common to think of ourselves as different from others, and, all too often, religion becomes one more way to separate ourselves from others rather than bringing us together. Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way. Our religion, our spirituality, can be a unifying force that helps us include others and celebrate the diversity of all people. It just takes a change of perspective.
Underneath all of our beliefs, cultural differences and identities, we all share the same humanity, the same love, and the same being. When we connect from these more essential aspects of ourselves, we connect with all people.
So how do we do this? It’s easy. All we have to do is what is natural for us. Perhaps not natural for our egos, but rather for what’s more essential within us.
Recently, Swami Veda Bharati, a teacher in the Himalayan Yoga Meditation Tradition, wrote that "applied spirituality is to feel all hungry children’s hunger and loneliness of the bereft; to fill these empty spaces with selfless action." In this brief statement, Swami Veda captures the unifying force of acting from the heart: We open our heart; we feel the needs and pain of others; and act from love to ease their pain. Doing so is as natural as breathing. We know what to do without a lot of thinking and analysis.
This heart driven loving action can take many forms: Feeding the hungry; educating those whom education would lift; helping and serving our elders; visiting the sick; and so on.
This loving action is a form of worship, and it brings us together.
Love underlies all of our religions. Though the words may differ in our prayer books, all true religions exalt love, and when we are motivated by this essential force, we come together, grow spiritually, and make the world better.
Besides connecting with the love within us, we can also unify ourselves with others by connecting with our essential being through contemplative practices.
Modern life is so busy and it’s easy to get caught up in all of the doing. We rush around so much that our actions almost seem to define us, as if we were human-doings. However, we are called human beings for a reason: We exist, we be, and this being aspect of ourselves is perhaps the most essential part of ourselves.
The great contemplative traditions of all times have pointed to this being part of ourselves and guided us to experience it. When we do so, we find an identity for ourselves that is more central to us than the usual body-centered ego-identity, and we also find our oneness with all people and all life.
To experience our being, we quiet the mind and become aware. This sort of contemplative practice is common in all spiritual paths, and has been refined to an art in the meditative traditions. The following is a simple practice from the Himalayan Tradition that can be practiced by anyone. It’s called a “Two-Minute Meditation”. Here’s how you do it:
Sit with your spine erect and head, neck and hips aligned. You can sit on the front edge of a chair with feet on the floor and hands on your thighs. This makes it easy to have your spine erect. Relax any muscles not needed to maintain this sitting posture, and breathe deeply and smoothly. Let the body relax, letting go of any tension.
Close your eyes, turn you attention to the breath, and strive to breathe smoothly and continuously, minimizing (and with practice eliminating) any pauses that might appear in the breath.
As you exhale and inhale, be aware of the breath flowing out of and into your body. Sense the feeling of the breath as it leaves and as it enters your nostrils, and observe how your belly contracts as you exhale and expands as you inhale.
Let your attention remain on these sensations of breathing, allowing your body and mind to relax. When thoughts come into your mind, briefly notice their presence and quickly return your attention to the sensations of breathing.
After two minutes, you may choose to extend the meditation longer, or you may open your eyes and take a few moments to remain still and notice how you feel.
Try this brief meditation and notice your experience. This is a first step toward communing with your being. You may find it very relaxing.
There are many ways to feel our oneness with all people, all beings. These are two examples, both emphasizing experiences common to all religions. We humans truly are all flowers in one garden.
Randall Krause is Director of the Himalayan Yoga Meditation Society of Los Angeles. Please see our website www.hymla.com for articles and information. Also, if you’d enjoy Yoga and Hiking in Switzerland in July, 2011, please see our site: www.yogahiking.info and join us in the Alps!