What makes Inquire Within: A Guide To Living in Spirit by James K. Papp a guide that anyone can pick up and use?
When we are at a crossroads in life, sometimes we don’t know what to do or which way to go. A guide can be helpful. There are masterful books on all of the spiritual practices highlighted in Inquire Within, such as meditation, prayer, gratitude, altars, ancient wisdom, and more. We dedicate a chapter to each of these longstanding spiritual practices, introducing them and providing suggestions for their use. It is easy to flip through the book to see what resonates with you. Inquire Within works as a guide for the beginner as well as for the practiced who wish to go deeper. I write about what we are really looking for underneath our worries – how to live a fearless, harmony-filled life that is led by Spirit.
Why does spiritual practice matter?
Living in Spirit provides a rudder which guides us in seas both smooth and stormy. A spiritual practice gives us a compass by which to navigate our lives. It brings us into the present, where healing occurs and where joy resides. Spirit is the one thing which is always there for us, regardless of the state of all the variables in our lives. A spiritual practice helps us awaken to who we really are. It moves us in the direction of awareness, of trust in the process of life, and of our own intuitive knowing. It helps us realize that our inner value is not at all dependent upon our life conditions or circumstances. A spiritual practice can put us on a course which generates compassion, peace, and love – building self-esteem and bringing many blessings to ourselves and to all beings.
Why did you decide to begin a spiritual practice?
For many years, as a young man, I wanted to have a spiritual practice. I tried meditation and yoga, but without a teacher or training, I was too unsettled to commit to them (and perhaps I didn’t know how to commit). I dabbled, moving in and out of various techniques, none of which stayed with me. Then at a critical point, when my life was in such disarray and disharmony, I found myself practicing meditation and prayer because I needed to. With my newfound focus and determination, I began to find my center. Spiritual practice calmed me and gave me more patience and clarity.
How did you go about creating a spiritual practice?
The first thing I had to do was make room for spiritual practice in my life. For me that meant first thing in the morning, after I’d awakened and showered, before I got on with my day. I had to put it first. I had already made an altar and started spending time with it each day, making prayers and meditation. I created a routine and that routine gave me momentum. Even a few minutes on mornings when I was in a hurry made a huge difference in setting the tone for the day.
Committing to a spiritual practice can be hard, especially when we are in a tough space, so it’s important not to be discouraged. It is okay and even natural if the beginning of one’s spiritual practice is caused by discomfort or unhappiness. Discomfort is a potential opportunity and can be a powerful, energizing force for positive change in our lives, as it wakes us up. No matter your life situation, there is hope!
Why is being with Nature so important?
One of the best ways to become more in touch with your spirituality and to develop a sense of your kinship with all things is by spending time in Nature. The feeling of harmony and joy received from being outdoors comes home with us and affects our lives in a wonderfully healthy way. Repeated visits in Nature increase this benefit over time and improve the way we feel in our home life, in our social life, and even in our work life.
Being outside makes us feel better. We have an unconscious need to be with the sky and the Earth because we are part of it. This is the world which relaxes and energizes us and gives us all we need to live. Outdoors, our luminous energy field, or aura – which extends beyond the skin of our body – is less compressed by walls or ceilings and less affected by mental stresses as well. Our luminous energy field is akin to our essence, our original, true being that resides always in Spirit. As such, this is profound medicine – tree medicine, rock medicine, sky medicine, water medicine. Almost magically it clears our minds and opens our hearts. Being in Nature reawakens within us the joy of experiencing raw, unfiltered beauty. With grace we may discover this same beauty exists also within us at the core of our being.
Being alone in Nature, we are not in conversation with other people. Our thought processes are able to naturally slow down and, with patience and grace, to dwindle significantly from how they fill our minds in day-to-day life. It is a form of meditation in which the environment is the object of our focus. A larger space within us begins to open and peacefulness blesses us deeply with its presence. We are subsequently more open to insights and self-realization. What we want to change and what we want to affirm in our lives becomes more easily self-evident.
How can we find balance and harmony during these challenging times?
First of all we can use the power of choice to help us. Pay less attention to your thoughts (so many of our thoughts are negative), go on a low information diet (turn off the TV, take a break from the smartphone), get outside, go for a walk. Making a choice to support ourselves empowers us.
Enlightenment, peace, fulfillment – whatever you want to call it – is not some faraway, pie-in-the-sky, seemingly unattainable thing. It is here at every moment. We can access it through simple practices and unassuming ways. The tried-and-true spiritual technologies developed and carried forward by our ancestors over the millennia are not only here for us in times of need but function as part of our daily lives. We may find our center and live within it to be nourished by our own wholeness.
This wholeness we are looking for is found within, in patience and acceptance. It is found in non-judgment and in the unspeakably vast spaces of communion opened up by vehicles such as prayer, meditation, gratitude, and kindness. We find the way when we take responsibility for ourselves and exercise the great courage it takes to be who we really are.
Healing is being who you really are.
Spiritual practice is our individualized way of learning to live in the ever-present now. When we are living in the present, we are living in Spirit.
How can a spiritual practice strengthen your personal relationships?
Gratitude, a foundational cornerstone of spiritual practice, is particularly helpful for strengthening relationships. Maintaining a grateful disposition improves virtually everything in our lives, including our health and well-being and our relationships with others. And, importantly, being grateful displaces emotions that do not serve us – such as greed and envy – as it opens our hearts.
Cultivating gratitude for those closest to you in your life – your partner, your family, your co-workers, your neighbors, your friends – the people you have a responsibility for or have chosen to be with – is a powerful tonic for your wellbeing. Relationships are like mirrors and have much to teach us about ourselves. So let us benefit by honoring those close to us and being thankful for their presence as companions, as teachers, as awakeners.
When I began earnestly giving thanks for those closest to me, it coincided exactly with an improved sense of well-being in my life. It helped me look past my previous experiences of instability and chaos to a more serene and peaceful inner landscape. The practice of gratitude had a stabilizing effect on my emotions and on key relationships – such as my marriage.
Putting Spirit first sets the table for the rest of your life. It enhances your connections with other people and the environment around and within you. It helps you appreciate what you have in life and to have compassion for what others are going through in their lives. This leads to harmonious balance and a confident calmness in life, bringing joy and peace to yourself and to all you share your life with.