This is going to sound like an awful thing to say, but some of the least intuitive people you’ll ever meet are the gurus — individual men and women who do nothing all day but focus on spiritual practice.
This applies to gurus from all world religions, all cultures, and all places. Regardless of what you call these gurus — monks, priests, nuns, saints, shamans, masters — you should always bear in mind that people who spend more than two hours per day (day in, day out) on intensive spiritual practice are not living a balanced life. They can’t be, because they don’t have time to be.
Intensive spiritual practices may include fasting, meditation, prayer, journalling, energy healing work, reading sacred texts such as the Bible, chanting, dancing, or (yuck) tantric rituals. There’s a lot of interest at the moment in these topics, and you can find many books about them. You can also find workshops and seminars where like-minded people get together to hone their spiritual skills together. Apart from tantric rituals and voluntary fasting, both of which are harmful to your human brain, there’s nothing wrong with trying these spiritual practices in small doses. The workshops can be especially healing, not so much for the content, but for the chance to spend time with other spiritually-minded people.
You should be very wary of any spiritual guru who insists you have to spend more than two hours per day in total on practices that are specifically spiritual or religious and that have no other purpose. For instance, while you’re engaging in single-point meditation, that’s all you’re doing. You’re giving it your full attention. Obviously, then, if you’re meditating for three hours, you’re not at the same time cleaning your house or cooking your meals or caring for your children or reading the newspaper. You’re making a choice about how to spend your time. And time is the one aspect of Creation you can’t barter with. The clock keeps ticking, even while you’re lost in the Elysian Fields of spiritual bliss. Meanwhile, those dirty dishes keep piling up.
Anything in the human experience can become addictive. Anything at all. Pick a random topic, and with a little research you’ll stumble on the case of somebody who’s totally addicted to that topic, who’s obsessive and waaaaay out of balance around a topic that’s become “the centre of the universe” for him or her. These are the people who can’t hold a steady job, who can’t focus on higher education, and who can’t sustain long-term monogamous relationships. They drive the people around them crazy. Some of them end up on reality TV shows. And some of them end up as religious or spiritual gurus.
I’m a practising mystic, which means I have a daily mystical practice. I spend about an hour in the morning and about an hour in the evening on the intensive “mystical” aspect of my life. In between, I do normal, everyday things. I eat normal, regular food. I spend time on personal appearance and hygiene. I think about the people in my life. I go to work. I read, research, and write. I do my own shopping, my own cleaning, my own baking. I wash and repair my own clothes. I look after my car. I spend time with friends and family. Then I get my minimum of 8 hours of sleep to help me stay healthy. (I insist on a good night’s rest.)
You know how much time this takes?
Yeah, you know. Because you’re a normal person, too, and you’re wondering how the heck you’re supposed to fit time-intensive spiritual practices into your daily life.
Your guardian angels know all this. Their goal is to help you find some balance in your life. They know it’s hard for you to maintain balance when there are so many competing demands on you. They know you won’t be able to find and maintain the balance point unless your intuition is on-line. Therefore, they know it’s in your best interests for your biological brain to be as healthy as possible.
Right now you’re probably thinking, “Oh, no! Now she’s going to give a big long list of rules I have to follow and foods I have to eat and supplements I have to take and exercises I have to do, and I just feel so overwhelmed I think I’m going to barf!”
Actually, though, I’m going to suggest a very simple daily practice for you that even a busy family person can incorporate into the daily routine.
There are only four basic things you need to do each day in order to get your feet fully onto the Spiral Path of spiritual growth, healing, and transformation. These four things are designed to help you heal your brain’s intuitive circuitry as fast as possible. Of course, it should go without saying that this 4-part practice is not meant to replace the treatments your medical doctor has prescribed for you. It’s meant to supplement any treatments you’re receiving. Over time — and I stress that considerable time is needed for all forms of healing, whether allopathic, alternative, or spiritual — you may notice an improvement in your physical health.
Here are the Four Basic Steps — the cornerstone, if you will, of the new foundation you’re building for your brain and soul.
- Each day, eat three balanced meals.
- Each day, repeat the promise you’ve written to yourself for yourself.
- Each day, reflect on three things you’re grateful for.
- Each day, learn one new thing (excluding sports scores and entertainment news).
Notice that you can accomplish much of this list simply by reading the newspaper while you’re eating a balanced breakfast that includes protein, fats, and carbs.
Of the four things on this list, the one you’re probably least familiar with is No. 2: “Repeat the promise you’ve written to yourself for yourself.” You’re probably wondering what promise I’m referring to. Well, this is the promise that’s going to help certain important regions of your brain figure out what their job is.
Believe it or not, your brain is not a single organ in the way your heart is a single organ. Your brain and central nervous system actually consist of several different semi-autonomous sectors, each with a specialized job. No one part of the brain is in charge of everything. Each part relies on other parts for feedback and instructions. Other writers have likened the operation of the brain to a symphony orchestra, and I think this analogy is a very good one. All the sections are there and ready to play, but in order to create music that’s filled with balance, harmony, order, and rhythm, they need two important elements: the sheet music (perhaps memorized) and the conductor. The sheet music gives each orchestral section its instructions. The conductor provides the emotional leadership.
In the orchestra that is your brain, the promise you make to yourself each day is the sheet music.
And you yourself are the conductor.
A lot of people understand that they’re the conductor of their own thoughts, feelings, and actions. But not many people realize how crucial the sheet music is to the balanced, holistic functioning of their own brains. Take away the sheet music — the overall set of instructions that coordinates all the sections —- and you get exactly what you’d expect: an overall lack of coordination.
This may sound very simple and very obvious, but you’d be astonished how few medical doctors, neurological researchers, or theologians understand this principle. Neuroplasticity — the ability of the brain to change itself — works most efficiently when you give your own brain some sheet music to follow.
Having sheet music can be a good thing or a bad thing, of course. Neuroplasticity can work in “negative” directions as well as in “positive” directions. If you feed your brain a steady diet of grim, depressing, pessimistic, violent sheet music, the various sections of your brain will conclude that that’s their job, and that’s what they’ll play. They’ll play exactly what you’ve told them to play because that’s what they’re designed to do. Fortunately, these same regions of your brain will start to play a different tune if you give them a whole new folder of sheet music to focus on.
That’s where the promise to yourself comes in.
Your biological brain can and will make changes to its wiring patterns, but only if it’s sure you really, really want the changes. This apparent sluggishness on the part of your brain is intentionally wired into your DNA. After all, you wouldn’t want your entire brain to rewire itself every day on the basis of a whim or a passing fad. That would be counterproductive.
There’s a reason it takes about 6 weeks for a new neuron to grow inside your brain. You can’t speed up this process, but you can make sure your brain gets the message every day that it’s not a waste of precious biological resources to be building a bunch of new neural networks.
And make no mistake — you have to make sure there’s a steady supply of biological ingredients on hand if you want your body to divert resources into the energy-intensive task of building new neurons and glial cells. That’s why you need to eat three balanced meals each day.
This is also why I think voluntary fasting for more than two or three days is harmful to the brain. Put simply, you’re starving the brain of nutrients it needs in order to continually restructure interconnections between brain regions (or sections of the orchestra) for optimal “performance” (including optimal performance of your complex intuition circuitry).
I also find it most interesting that 6 weeks is 42 days — eerily similar to the 40 days of fasting and seclusion that pops up so often in the traditional mystical teachings of different religious movements. Forty days of fasting, prayer, and seclusion is just enough time to harness the power of neuroplasticity in negative ways that diminish the overall functioning of the brain.
I doubt it.