The 5 Pillars of a Good Spiritual Practice
After 20 years of study and self-experimentation and 10 years of teaching and healing others, we, at the vagabond temple yoga and meditation retreat in Cambodia, realized that there are five areas of practice that, will guarantee expanding awareness and happiness that a genuine spiritual path provides.
By ensuring that all of these five areas are covered, we will not get stuck, discouraged, or head in the wrong direction.
We found that there were times in our life when he would practice very intensely but without making real progress. Spending many weeks in silent meditation caused us to become withdrawn from the world. Carrying out many powerful energetic practices caused us to build up a huge amount of energy that we didn’t know what to do with. Focusing on the needs of others and opening our hearts to the suffering in the world caused us to lose hope. Dedicating purely to our yoga teaching in our yoga and meditations retreat in Cambodia caused us to become tired and consumed with everyday business tasks. When we studied too much, we became too intellectual and neglected to our practice.
However, combining all of the above aspects, we found that we could experience ever-deeper insights, improving our own lives and the lives of those we came into contact with in the Vagabond Temple, yoga and meditation retreat in Cambodia.
Here is a bit more on each pillar to make your Yoga and Meditation practice more beneficial:
These are practices that are designed to tame the mind and show us the true nature of reality. For example, in the Buddhist tradition, Samantha (calming the mind by focusing on a single object) and Vipassana (examining the mind once consciousness is stable). These have a parallel in Yoga with the concepts of Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation).
This area can also include prayers, mantras, breathing exercises, and other practices designed to focus and calm the mind. These practices can be challenging since our minds are very chaotic, but our focus will improve with time and gentle effort. We find that this is such an important issue and we put a lot of emphasis on it in our yoga and meditation retreat.
Many people in the modern world are now aware of the benefits of these practices. But by themselves, they are not enough. If we purely focus on the mind, we can become disconnected from other people and the world around us when the spiritual path should really be about connection.
To keep our hearts connected to other people and ensure our intentions to practice remain pure, we need to cultivate loving-kindness. We need this connection because we cannot escape the illusion that we are separate from others without it.
This can be practiced by using loving-kindness (META) meditation. First, we can learn to love ourselves, extend it to our friends and families, then to strangers, and finally to those we perceive as enemies. This is a powerful practice, but it should be performed regularly without expecting immediate results.
This sets the correct intention for our other practices, for example, ensuring that we are not practicing mindfulness for purely selfish reasons – we practice for the benefit of all. In the Vagabond Temple yoga and meditation retreat, we created a community that follows this principle of caring and loving-kindness. We practice META meditation regularly.
We cannot ignore the fact we are embodied beings. Our bodies (and therefore our minds) are subject to tiredness, restlessness, and fluctuations that can take us off balance. Fortunately, we can increase our energy and have more vitality. This includes the Asanas we may practice in Yoga classes, various breathing exercises, Kriyas from the Kundalini tradition, and many other options. In our yoga retreat in Cambodia, much time is devoted to raising our energy through these practices.
There is a danger that we create a split between spiritual practices and daily life. Therefore we need to act. The word Karma means action. Every action has an effect, so we should strive to take positive actions.
Taking action keeps us grounded in the real world. Some people mistakenly see spirituality as an escape, but often true freedom comes from finding a sense of purpose in life. This way, we can manifest our divine potential here in the physical world for the benefit of all humanity. We want to be spiritual and the best version of ourselves not only in a yoga and meditation retreat but wherever we are.
We can take many actions to work toward our life path. Examples include working on your livelihood, a personal project, a creative endeavor, or something to help others (ideally, these can be combined).
One of the advantages of the information age is that we have access to the world’s spiritual knowledge. For example, if we wish to learn about yoga and meditation in Tibetan Buddhism, we do not need to travel across the world and climb freezing mountains in search of monks. Everything we need is available right now.
To keep studying is essential, as you progress with the other four pillars, spiritual teachings will make more sense. First, you listen to the teaching, understand it, and then finally, embody it.
Being constantly exposed to new information can prevent us from becoming too stagnant and becoming attached to ideas that comfort us but may not reflect the truth.
Attending a yoga and meditation retreat and meeting with masters of meditation and yoga could bring the opportunity for oral transmission of the knowledge in a traditionall way.
Putting It All Together
This teaching is nothing new. It is based on principles that have been understood for thousands of years in the Buddhist, Hindu, and many other traditions. However, by presenting them this way, our retreat hopes to make them more relatable to a modern audience.
The five practices are essential parts of an interconnected whole; they can be thought of as the internal organs of a living organism, each communicating with and supporting the others.
For example, the Meditation practices cause us to understand ourselves better, this gives us more compassion for others since we see they are just like us. This makes it easier to extend love to them in the loving-kindness practices. Loving-kindness will give us the correct intention for our Karma practices – we will take actions to benefit others, not just ourselves. This will motivate us to practice the energetic work since taking positive actions requires energy.
In the vagabond temple yoga and meditation retreat in Cambodia, we teach according to these principles, and we provide with all the tools necessary for a holistic beneficial spiritual practice.