Q & A with Anna Gatmon, author of Living a Spiritual Life in a Material World: Four Keys to Fulfillment and Balance

How did your personal background figure into your work?

My childhood was filled with emotional challenges, having grown up in an alcoholic family. I had undiagnosed learning challenges that were never addressed. I was lonely and overwhelmed by unresolved emotional issues and felt that my life at home and at school was out of control. At age eighteen my life changed dramatically. I was discovered by a modeling agent and spent the next decade working as a successful fashion model based in Paris, France. This sudden shift of fate offered me the important understanding that life could change for the better in an instant. Although this sudden shift of destiny may seem to be mere luck, anyone can intentionally change the course of their life. Therefore, all of these experiences, both the suffering and the glamour, have contributed to the development of these Four Keys to a spiritual-material balance, and the birthing of my book.

What was the purpose of including your personal story?

There is a common belief that if you write about spiritual matters, it implies that you have “figured it all out,” which means that you are immune to life’s many challenges. I wanted the message to be that we all face challenges, but can overcome them with the right roadmap. Just like me, anyone can change their life for the better and find the promise of spiritual fulfillment in their own unique way.

What inspired you to write this book?

One of the main inspirations was a talk I attended by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. A young woman asked a question that I myself had been grappling with for several years: “We go to many workshops and are introduced to many spiritual teachings, but how do we apply all these in our daily living?”
This book shares how to integrate spiritual teachings into our daily lives.

How is this book different from other titles on spirituality?

Most books on spirituality fall into the divisive trap of separating the spiritual from the material, and valuing the spiritual over the material. Living a Spiritual Life in a Material World challenges this common misperception and offers practical tools for integrating our inevitable material existence with our highest spiritual aspirations.

Why is there a longing for meaning, fulfillment and purpose in our culture today?

Our culture has fallen deeply into the material-spiritual split where we have chosen to pursue material possessions and ignore the spiritual values inherent in our material existence. People have an intrinsic longing to lead meaningful, purposeful lives, and contribute to making our world a better place. Neglecting this need has created a spiritual hunger in our culture, a great void needing to be filled.

Current trends indicate a movement away from traditional religion towards more inclusive views of spirituality. A 2014 Guardian article reported that 20% of the British and 25% of Americans describe themselves as “spiritual, not religious,” indicating a clear need for establishing a balance between our spiritual longings and our material needs.

Is the search for spirituality inherent in human nature, or can one find true happiness without it?

The search for meaning, purpose and transcendence is inherent in human nature. It is our birthright! It is also the essence of what we call spirituality. If you are experiencing such qualities as happiness, contentment, joy, compassion, altruism, etc., you are in a spiritual state of mind, whether you identify it as such or not. In other words, you cannot avoid being spiritual, but you can find true happiness without even knowing that you are in a spiritual state of mind.

Can you explain spirituality in simple lay terms?

You’re flying in a plane…suddenly there is turbulence and everything is shaking, with the plane bouncing up and down…To get out of turbulent air, the pilots often climb to a higher altitude, where the atmosphere is calm…That is what spirituality is all about––rising to a higher altitude of emotional and mental stability where there is no turbulence and you can sail over the disturbances of daily life with greater ease.

What’s the difference between being religious and being spiritual?

Spirituality is your personal beliefs about the Sacred and the Divine. Religion is a pre-organized and shared set of beliefs with guidelines about how to adhere to this set of beliefs. If you identify as being spiritual, you can create your own set of daily practices, and if you are religious it is recommended you follow preset practices. Because the Four Keys go right to the heart of sacred universal experiences they can be applied across diverse religious and spiritual practices.

What are the Four Keys to spiritual-material balance?

Expansive Presence – The Key to Sacred Awareness – makes you feel high on life.

Attentive Listening – The Key to Inner Wisdom – allows you to discover your life purpose, find meaning in ordinary daily activities, and make decision that are aligned with your life journey.

Inspired Action – The Key to Manifesting – gives you a sense of fulfillment and purpose.

Faith-Filled Knowing – The Key to Ongoing Co-Creation – gives you hope, clarity, and an inner knowing that there is more to life than what your senses can experience.

How did you come up with the Four Keys?

When I was a successful fashion model in Paris, I struggled with how to remain spiritually fulfilled while living a very gratifying material life. When I left the fashion world to pursue a doctoral degree in education and spirituality, I found myself equally frustrated, not knowing how to integrate daily material living with my spiritual values and aspirations. What I have discovered through decades of research and practice is that you don’t have to compromise one for the other. Instead, joy and fulfillment come from integrating our highest spiritual aspirations with our daily material reality.

Benefits of the Four Keys:

Get out of a dispirited mood within minutes
Shift from feeling alone to feeling that you are cared for and guided bya loving Universe
Enhance your impact on daily situations
Develop your intuitive decision-making skills
Gain practical tools for manifesting your true and authentic self

Feel passionately engaged in expressing your unique divine purpose

Find a greater sense of harmony, intimacy, and connection with people

Lead an overall healthier physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual life.

What are the biggest misconceptions about spirituality and spiritual teachers?

The biggest misconception is that spirituality exists separate from and exclusive of the material aspects of life.  Many “spiritual teachers” promote this misconception, leaving aspirants feeling either dissatisfied with their material experiences or ashamed that they still crave material affluence and gratification.

Another misconception is that spiritual teachers are a separate breed from the rest of us. This often leads to a passive attitude, where the teacher holds all the wisdom, and the rest of us hope to receive this wisdom by merely listening. Although spiritual teachers may be greatly inspiring, it does not advance the rest of us unless we apply and practice the knowledge ourselves. Using the Four Keys is a practical and accessible method with which anyone can gain access to the same knowledge and wisdom that spiritual teachers possess.

Give an example of how a seemingly material pursuit may be spiritually fulfilling.

Take a chef, whose calling may be to serve people by delighting their palette, awakening their spirit, and revitalizing their body; yet, if being a foodie is dismissed as purely material pleasure, then both chef and the people he or she serve are short changed from the full spiritual and material experience of nourishment.

Another example could be an accountant in a corporation. At first this may seem like a purely mechanical and material endeavor, but if you pay attention to the sense of peace that comes over the accountant when she or he organizes the balance sheets and their contribution is appreciated, you begin to see that any seemingly material career has a spiritually fulfilling and satisfying component.

Who would most benefit from your research?

For people who are searching for meaning and purpose but don’t want to buy into the spiritual New Age culture, this research provides tools to a fulfilling and satisfying life, without having to give up their so called mainstream material lifestyle. The novice spiritual seeker will find in this book a simple and accessible roadmap to spiritual development. And for the longtime spiritual seeker this information offers an opportunity to resolve the inner conflict around material attachments and can deepen their intuitive abilities to live in greater alignment between their highest aspirations and material reality.

What would you like your readers to take away?

Spirituality is everyone’s birthright and is accessible and practical in regular daily circumstances. Anyone who practices the Four Keys to spiritual-material balance can gain access to formerly hidden knowledge and wisdom that will align them with their higher purpose and guide them to a more fulfilling, peace-filled and joyous life.