Excerpt From Relationships That Work: The Power Of Conscious Living
– By David B. Wolf

As spiritual beings, a balanced and complete life includes cultivation of spirituality. Research has shown that spiritual practice correlates positively with better physical and mental health. Building spiritual habits entails scheduling time for spiritual practice, whether in the form of prayer, meditation, reading, attendance at congregational gatherings, silence or time with nature. If spiritual life is relegated to something we do if there is time after responding to our emails or completing household chores, it won’t happen.

A spiritual program that has worked for me for the past twenty-five years begins with rising early, by 4 or 5 a.m. This practice is itself invigorating. When I don’t do it, I definitely feel the difference. Another staple of my spiritual diet is about ninety minutes of early morning meditation. I have found that mantra meditation is most effective for me. The senses are centered around the mind, and mantra chanting engages several senses and abilities—including hearing, speech and touch, if the mantra is counted on beads such as a rosary. This makes it easier for our minds to focus on the vibration of the mantra. A mantra is a sound vibration that frees the mind (“mind” is derived from the first syllable of “mantra”) from material entanglement, from the modes of rajas and tamas, and elevates our existence to the spiritual platform. We have explored how we create our life with our words, and how our mode of speech determines the atmosphere of our internal and relationship world. Attentive mantra chanting is another means to spiritualize our life through sound vibration.

Jill Bormann has conducted research on mantra meditation with various populations including military veterans. She describes meditative time with a mantra as a “Jacuzzi for the mind. It’s something you can use to focus and calm yourself at a moment’s notice, and it doesn’t require money, it’s non-toxic, it’s inexpensive—a person just needs to practice it and make it a part of their lives.” Jill and other researchers have found that regular recitation of selected mantras significantly helps manage psychological distress and increase life satisfaction. The veterans with whom she worked chose from a variety of mantras from diverse traditions, such as Ave Maria and Ohm Shanti Rama.

My personal favorite mantra for meditation is one of India’s most beloved, The Maha Mantra, which goes Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Quantitative group and single-system research conducted by Dr. Neil Abell and myself has shown that chanting this mantra correlates with reduced stress and depression as well as with increased sattvic qualities such as peacefulness, fulfillment, emotional balance, mental clarity and sense of life purpose. Recitation of this mantra has been shown to be compatible for realization of our spiritual identity, supporting us in connecting with the innermost stratum of the living soul.

People are sometimes surprised that I spend more than two hours per day in direct spiritual practice, thinking that this would not leave sufficient time for other endeavors and projects. My experience, for over a quarter century, is that if I don’t devote at least two hours a day to activities such as chanting and reading spiritual literature, that connect me directly to spirit and to the source of my existence, then I actually have less time and energy to do things. My spiritual practice vitalizes and strengthens me, fills me with a sense of urgency about life, of not wanting to waste a moment. Also, spiritual practice, or sadhana, helps me to view and experience all my efforts in relation to God and spiritual development.

Each type of food has its characteristic mode. With reference to diet, sattva guna is complemented by foods that require a minimal amount of violence to obtain. Thus a vegetarian diet tends to increase our sattvic consciousness. There is a Buddhist aphorism— ahimsa paramo dharma—non-violence is the highest virtue. After witnessing the slaughter of an animal, Leo Tolstoy wrote, “This is dreadful!…that a man suppresses in himself, unnecessarily, the highest spiritual capacity—that of sympathy towards living creatures like himself…” To help us cultivate empathy and actualize refined spiritual consciousness, awareness of what we consume is vital.

We are influenced by the people we associate with, perhaps more than we realize. Developing sattvic habits and refining our character is facilitated by developing close relations with others who are similarly committed to the cultivation of self-realization. If we want to grow, to play a big game with our lives, it helps to surround ourselves with people who will support and challenge us to be the best that we can be. These are true friends who will not sell us short, and who actively encourage us to live in excellence. Just as a medical student will closely associate with other medical students to help achieve his or her goal, just as a businessperson interacts with other businesspeople, so an aspiring spiritualist seeks out the affiliation of like-minded spiritualists.

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