Our Spiritual Nutrition

This website presents the process by which to become spiritually self-aware.
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Section 9 - Spiritual exercises

These exercises have been designed to enable and promote spiritual healing. Start with learning to meditate in a new way. After you have practiced for a week or two, you will be able to get centred fairly easily. Being centred will help these exercises to be more effective and meaningful.




Apologizing and releasing guilt
Guilt creates a need to apologize, as well as a need for forgiveness. Apologizing helps us to release guilt, but more is needed to really become guilt-free. After doing the Apologizing exercises, proceed to the Guilt-buster exercise.


Exercise 1

How can we tell if we are feeling guilty about something?
Pay attention to our thoughts. Habitually saying words like, "I am so bad" or "I do not deserve nice things" can indicate guilt. Another way to find out is to get centred and ask our guide "What am I feeling guilty about?" Note: Saying "I'm sorry" for anything that ever goes wrong is not meaningful apologizing.


How do we get rid of guilt?

The goal of this exercise is to rid self of any guilt we might have over things done or not done, or said or not said throughout our life. A crucial part of releasing guilt is to apologize, to face up to our role in whatever happened. Apologizing is a tool to help us regain respect - both from others and from ourselves. To do it, simply be willing. Sounds too simple, right? But it really is just that easy.


What does it feel like to offer a sincere apology?
Sometimes it can feel as though a great weight has been lifted from our shoulders. We might feel like laughing or crying, or maybe like dancing, or maybe as though we have a new source of energy. Aches and pain can stop, sometimes immediately.


How often should this be done?
Get rid of guilt whenever we fail or harm someone, before shame and despair set in and before the need for self-punishment becomes irresistible.


Self-test
Think of the person to whom we are apologizing. Try to picture them in our mind's eye. Do we feel differently than we did before this exercise? If not, then the exercise is not yet complete. Ask our guide for more information about the situation. The exercise is complete when we can think about the person and the situation without having any negative thoughts, attitudes and emotions.


Action
After apologizing to several people in meditation, it will be time to move on to Exercise 2.

Whatever happens, try to record the experiences in a journal.





Exercise 2

Now that we have apologized in our heart, it is time to put it on paper. Write down whatever we feel needs to be said to express our regret to the person we have harmed, and tell them that we would like to make amends.

If the person is no longer in our life but we do not wish to re-open a toxic or co-dependent relationship, hold a private ceremony to dispose of the letter. Just try to be sure about the reasons for not wanting them in our life; try to be sure that it is not because we are still angry. If the person is still involved in our life, and if we feel right about doing so, mail the letter to them or call and read it aloud to them.
 

Action
Leave it up to them to decide what to do about our apology. It is their choice whether to forgive us. If they choose not to forgive, that is okay. We have done what we need to do to move forward, so let it (and them) go. Be sure to record your experience in your journal. Remember, apologizing is like a muscle, and exercising it regularly will help to ensure strong spiritual health. Holding onto guilt helps no one. Refusing to apologize can create all sorts of health problems for us.

Whatever happens, try to record the experiences in a journal.





Guilt-buster
Do in conjunction with Apologizing exercises.

Feeling guilty?
Wouldn’t it be great to live life free of guilt and shame? Is that even possible? Yes, it is.


Find the source of guilt
The first step toward living a guilt-free life is to identify the exact cause of our guilt. Was it something we did or did not do, or something we said or did not say?

Get centred and in a state of listening. Ask for assistance from the Universal Intelligence. From that centred space, think of someone we think we have hurt - could even be ourselves. Ask the Universe to help us understand our reasons for making the choices we made. They likely formed in childhood as our particular ways of dealing with life. Understanding our actions along with apologizing to the injured party should enable the release of guilt and shame.


What can happen when we do this?
The pain can stop, sometimes immediately. Changing our automatic responses is likely to take some time though, so patience with self is crucial. Sometimes we will behave in the new way, sometimes the old, but the frequency of responding the old way will gradually decrease.


How often should this be done?
This should be done as soon as we recognize that we have failed or harmed someone, before guilt, shame and despair set in; before the need for self-punishment becomes irresistible. Understanding why we feel guilt can enable us to come to terms with our so-called failures. If we really did cause harm to someone or something, then we need to acknowledge our role in the experience and do what we can to make amends. Sometimes apologizing is sufficient, but we should also be prepared to provide restorative justice.

The final step toward living our life free of guilt is to develop the habit of admitting our mistakes and making amends before we start to feel that we are “bad” and deserve to be punished.


Notes
Sometimes we might apologize to someone who chooses not to forgive us. What then? Does that mean we should hold onto guilt? No. Choosing whether to forgive us is up to them, just as choosing whether to forgive ourselves is up to us.

Sometimes we feel guilty even though we were not responsible for something that happened. This happens all the time, especially with young children. In that case, we need to find out or figure out who really was responsible and then deal with the new information so that we can let the experience go. Grieving and forgiveness are crucial if we are to find our true selves, our true life path and gain profound spiritual awareness. See Section 11.

Whatever happens, try to record the experiences in a journal.





Forgiveness
Practicing forgiveness is like exercising a muscle, and exercising it regularly will help to ensure strong spiritual health. Apologizing, letting go of guilt and forgiveness are crucial if we are to find our true selves and our true life path, but being trustworthy is just as important in building strong, healthy relationships. Visit WikiHow and learn how to build trust.


What does it feel like to forgive?

The challenge is to realize that holding onto negative thoughts, attitudes and emotions and directing them at whoever hurt us do nothing to hurt the other person. Non-forgiveness can create all sorts of health problems, but not for the other guy. When we forgive, it can feel as though a burden has been lifted, or as if someone has put out the fire inside of us.


Exercise 1

How do I do it?
Simply be willing. Sounds too simple, right? But it really is just that easy.


What can happen when I do it?
The pain can stop, sometimes immediately. There may be an overwhelming urge to cry (see grieving exercise below).


How often should this be done?
Practice forgiveness whenever someone fails us, hurts us or makes us angry, before resentment sets in and before the urge for revenge becomes irresistible.


Action
Think of the person we have forgiven. How do it feel when we see his or her face? Is it different to how we felt before this exercise? If it is the same, then the exercise is not yet complete. Ask the Universe for more information about the situation. The exercise is complete when we can think about the person who hurt us without having any negative thoughts, attitudes and emotions.

After we have forgiven several people, it will be time to move on to Exercise 2.

Whatever happens, try to record the experiences in a journal.




Exercise 2

Now that you know how to forgive others, it is time to start forgiving yourself. For this exercise, you will need a question or two. Here are a couple of questions to ask:


Remember to ask for assistance while getting centred, then ask your question(s) once you are centred. Listen to your thoughts for at least 15 to 30 seconds after each question. Pay close attention to your body too, for your guide may use physical signals to communicate with you.


Action
What happened? Were your questions answered? Whatever happens, try to record the experiences in a journal.




Exercise 3

Now it is time to forgive everyone. Think of anyone, from any time in our life, for whom we are holding a grudge. Forgive them - now - because not doing so would be like storing one rotten apple in with the good ones.





Grieving
What is it?
Grieving is the process of coming to terms with life's difficult losses and traumatic events. No matter what the experience, if we are ever to find peace, we must find some way to let go of that which was lost. It is holding on that keeps us stuck in a feedback loop of sorrow and self-pity, or of anger and hatred. If we look at staying in that loop as a behaviour, we can start to peel away the layers and get to the root cause of it.

If we are ever to escape the pain, we must change the responses we learned as young children and learn to grieve in a new, healthy, productive way. Before we can change anything though, we must first understand how we are currently grieving, and how it is keeping us stuck.


Exercise
In meditation, recall the first experience of loss that was ignored or minimized by our caregivers (usually in early childhood) along with the thoughts, attitudes and emotions that we had at that time. If we can manage to recall our real reaction to the loss, along with that which we were taught, we can begin to understand why we behave the way we do whenever we experience a loss. Only then can we begin to change the pattern.

After learning and practicing the new way of grieving, it becomes gradually easier to let go of our losses at ever-deeper levels, thereby letting go of the need to endlessly replay our memories and repeat the old patterns. Changing the way we grieve is a process that takes time. It does not change just because we want it to. We learned how to respond to losses when we were young and have kept on repeating the learned behaviour, so it is going to take time to adapt. We have to be patient with ourselves, or we will just keep on creating more reasons to keep stuck in the old ways.


How do I do it?
In meditation, recall the first negative experience that was ignored (usually in childhood) along with all the thoughts, attitudes and emotions that occurred when it happened. By remembering it and under what circumstances it happened, we can begin to understand why we do certain things, and we can begin to validate our experiences.

Again, in meditation, gain full understanding about why it was ignored and/or written off as being unimportant. As adults, we can look at our childhood experiences and find understanding that is not possible for young children. This is not to place blame, but to recognize that everyone who was a part of the experience played an active (or passive) role in it.

Next, feel the emotions and think the thoughts that were suppressed or repressed at the time of the event. Grieve the losses that were felt as a child. Say the angry thoughts out loud, if possible. Cry, cry, cry. Let it all out, as scary as that may sound, for crying is an important part of the healing process. Acknowledge the pain or cruelty that was suffered, without ynderstating the importance of it. The events were important, for they have made us who we are today. It does not matter whether anyone else thinks that our experiences were easier or worse than theirs were. What is important is that they happened to us, and they hurt us. All of our experiences have helped to create all the thoughts, attitudes and emotions, belief systems and inner conflicts that we have now.

Then it is time to forgive. Forgive self for developing the behaviour - forgive others for making us do it - forgive God.

After all this, it becomes gradually easier to let go of the experiences at ever-deeper levels, thereby letting go of the need to endlessly replay our memories and repeat the cycle.


What can happen when I do it?
We might feel pleasure or satisfaction. If we feel guilt at the thought of releasing a person or an experience, let it go. Holding onto guilt or remorse will keep the grief pattern firmly in place.


How often should this be done?
Do this as often as needed until all thoughts, attitudes and emotions surrounding the experience that we think about most often, that causes the most pain have been recalled, recognized, and released after gaining full understanding.


Action
Practice, practice, practice.

Whatever happens, try to record the experiences in a journal.





How to raise self-esteem

What is it?
Self-esteem is the ability to accept our good - and not-so-good - thoughts, attitudes, emotions, belief systems, desires and behaviours without judgment, criticism or condemnation. Self-esteem and self-respect go hand in hand. Believe it or not, we are born with these qualities, but we can lose them all too easily. The challenge then, is to regain them. Good news! We can learn how to do just that. Once we learn the spiritual component(s) of why we withhold self-esteem and respect from ourselves, we can begin to earn them back. How? By accomplishing small tasks that help us to see our worth. Gaining self-esteem and respect is not a quick process, but, as with apologizing, forgiveness and tolerance, can be learned and strengthened by practicing.

Here are some of the causes of low or unstable self-esteem:

Poor self-esteem can lead to feelings of guilt and shame, and guilt and shame can lead to:


How do I build self-esteem?
Start small: Set a goal for self that is easily achievable. Could be something like, "I will not complain today." Throughout the day, every time something fails to go quite right, remember the commitment. Do not let go of it, no matter what happens. At the end of the day, meditate about how it felt to achieve the goal and record the experiences in a journal. Record all of the experiences that made you want to complain along with the reasons.


What can happen when I do it?
There may be a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction. As each day without complaining passes, we might feel a little less angry. (If you find yourself feeling more angry, then there is an inner conflict that needs to be resolved.)


How often should this be done?
Every day for a month, live up to the commitment. After that month, set a new goal for the next month. The goal needs to address some negative behaviour within self. Maybe we are always running late, maybe we are always making excuses for not being on time for appointments ... could be just about any behaviour at all that affects your life negatively. Choosing one that bothers our friends or family members is a great way to involve others in our self-improvement efforts.


Next step
Continue setting goals for yourself that are gradually more challenging to meet: Today I will work on one of the tasks I have been dreading (even if it is only for 15 minutes) → Today I will not judge myself harshly → Today I will not criticise others


Action
Practice, practice, practice.

Whatever happens, try to record the experiences in a journal.





How to stop sniping

What is it?
Verbal sniping is the pattern of taking every single opportunity to point out someone's flaws to make them feel bad and to make self feel big and powerful. It is judgment, criticism and condemnation, and a passive/aggressive act of manipulation. It is NOT done out of a desire to help someone.


What if I do it?
Meditate to find out which thoughts, attitudes or emotions make us feel the need to strike out.


How do I stop doing it?


What can happen when I stop?
At first? Probably not too much. There might still be the desire to strike out verbally, but resisting the temptation really can be its own reward. A feeling of pleasure arises when we take the moral high road. Self-worth grows along with self-esteem. As those traits strengthen, the need for the old behaviour decreases - often dramatically. Eventually, we will find it hard to believe that we ever sniped.


What if someone does it to me?
First of all, look within to see which of our words or actions might have caused the individual to react in such a way. Check with our guide to see whether we have some negative beliefs about self. Do others often treat us disrespectfully? Do our thoughts continually repeat past negative experiences? If so, the root cause may well be an inner conflict. Once the issue has been resolved, new behaviours and beliefs become easier to adopt.

Next, call them on it. Let them know that what they did was hurtful, and that it is no longer acceptable.

Whatever happens, try to record the experiences in a journal.





How to build tolerance

What is it?
Tolerance is the ability to observe people or to have experiences without having negative thoughts, attitudes and emotions. When we see something we do not like, the tendency is to have a negative thought about it. Sometimes the dislike can even become an obsession if we focus on trying to make that thing change, when, in reality, changing it is completely beyond our control.

Tolerance is like a muscle, and exercising it regularly helps ensure strong spiritual health. Having negative thoughts, attitudes and emotions harms us all. Intolerance creates much of the turmoil on this planet, because we usually try to change the things we dislike - and when we try to change someone else, we get into trouble. Why? Well, we all know how it feels when someone tries to "correct" us. It feels like control, right? It feels like we have been judged, criticised and condemned. We then get angry - maybe with self, but more likely with the one who is trying to change us. So maybe an argument erupts, or worse, communication ceases. It is far better to focus on our own negative thoughts, attitudes and emotions - things we can actually change.

Becoming tolerant is neither simple nor quick, but, as with apologizing and forgiveness, can be learned and strengthened by practicing.


Exercise 1

How do I do it?

What can happen when I do it?
The thoughts become clear. A feeling of pleasure arises.


How often should this be done?
Start with once a day and keep practicing until we can observe self with loving eyes. The goal is to have no negative thoughts about self - the ultimate goal is to have no negative thoughts at all, about anyone. While that may sound impossible, the important thing is to keep practicing.


Action
Look at self in the mirror and listen carefully to our thoughts. When we can watch for 15 seconds without having any negative thoughts at all, it will be time to lengthen the duration of watching and listening. Increase to 20 seconds, then to 25 and then to 30. (Until we have become adept at staying focused on hearing our thoughts for any longer than that, the exercise becomes difficult to self-monitor.) Practice, practice, practice.

Whatever happens, try to record the experiences in a journal.





Exercise 2

Now that you are accustomed to looking at yourself with love, it is time to enlarge the picture.

It is ok to change channels while watching, but remember to focus on hearing our thoughts. Here i a sample of what we might hear: "That's terrible. He/she should/shouldn't wear that colour. He/she is ugly. That's beautiful. How can they make crap like that? That's stupid. What a mess. How can people treat one another that way? Those poor animals. That hairstyle is ridiculous on her. Those people should know better than to let themselves get so fat." Most of these statements indicate that judgment, criticism and condemnation have taken place, and are just a random sampling of what goes on in our thoughts when we watch television or observe people anywhere. The challenge in this exercise is to watch television without having any negative thoughts at all.

When we can watch for 15 seconds with no negative thoughts, it will be time to lengthen the duration of watching and listening. Increase to 20 seconds, then to 25 and then to 30. The longer, the better! Practice, practice, practice.

Whatever happens, try to record the experiences in a journal.




Exercise 3

Now that we are accustomed to looking at our physical appearance and others’ without negative thoughts, it is time for the next step - learning to observe our negative behaviours without having negative thoughts, attitudes and emotions about them.


How can you possibly expect me to do that?!
As always, by practicing. Whenever we hear self say something like, "I should have/ shouldn't have done that", ask our guide what our motivation was. Find the root cause. With full understanding, it gradually becomes easier to let it go. The benefits of doing so are twofold: Firstly, the pattern will gradually change until it is no longer is repeated. Secondly, by understanding our own behaviours, we become more able to understand those of others. When we understand something, it becomes easier to observe without condemning it or trying to change it.


Action
Think of one of our negative behaviours. Maybe it is having a constant need to check and recheck that we have done something. Maybe it is a chronic need to spend money - could be almost anything. Think about the behaviour and listen carefully to our thoughts about it. We are becoming more when we can think about our behaviour without any negative thoughts.

Whatever happens, try to record the experiences in a journal.





How to stop worrying

What is worry?
Having busy thoughts; trying to figure out how everything is going to turn out; trying to plan everything; trying to figure out what others are thinking or how others will react (or are reacting) to our action(s) are forms of worry. Habitually reliving past experiences and trying to make them have a different outcome is another form. Worry is not necessarily thinking that something bad is going to happen; it can also be going over and over an idea in our thoughts.

Stopping worrying is neither simple nor quick, but, as with apologizing and forgiveness, can be learned and strengthened by practicing. Worrying is like a muscle, and exercising it regularly has helped to ensure a very strong negative pattern. Releasing it will take much dedication and practice.


How do I do it?


What can happen when I do it?
The thoughts become clear. A feeling of pleasure or relief might arise.


How often should this be done?
Start with once a day and keep practicing until we can hear the worry thought, understand the source of it and then stop it before it is even completed. The ultimate goal is to be worry-free. While that may sound impossible, the important thing is to keep practicing.


Action
Listen carefully to our thoughts. When you can listen for 15 seconds without having any worrisome thoughts, it will be time to lengthen the duration of listening. Increase to 20 seconds, then to 25 and then to 30. Until we have become adept at staying focused on hearing our thoughts for any longer than that, the exercise becomes difficult to self-monitor. Practice makes progress!

Whatever happens, try to record the experiences in a journal.


Notes
Anyone who has quit using an addictive substance will know how the thoughts keep returning to the idea of it. It is the same with giving up worry (the Universe calls worry "mental turmoil"). The worry is the addictive substance. Whether we are thinking about home, work, money, mate, future, past experiences, etc. the challenge in this exercise is to hear ourselves. Once we hear a thought, we can set it aside knowing that, right here, right now, there is nothing that can be done for it. Decide to deal with it when the time is right, rather than in your every waking moment. Just gently set it aside ... tell yourself that you can return to it tomorrow, or the next day, or whenever ... write it down on paper so that you do not have to worry about forgetting it. But for right now, you can trust that it is ok to leave it alone. Do the same for each separate thought that comes. Of course it takes lots of practice, but the results will make the effort worthwhile.

After we become somewhat comfortable with not worrying, and with having quieter thoughts, it becomes easier to communicate with the Universe. We become able to ask a question to which we genuinely do not know the answer, and then just let it go ... we can wait for the answer instead of endlessly repeating the question or making suggestions as to what the answer might be.

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