What does being spiritual really mean?

What does being spiritual really mean?

The rise of modern spirituality for self-empowerment.

Someone asked me recently what my motivation was, for the work that I do. It was a great opportunity to pull back from the activities of teaching, healing and mentoring and fold into my ‘why’ that glows underneath and guides my ‘what’

The big invitation that is being relayed to every single person on the planet currently, through the experiences of COVID and #BlackLivesMatter is to personally examine where we hold division and judgement within ourselves, and therefore, in our world and life views and actions. 

I believe I’m welcoming so many new people into private sessions and course communities as a response to this invitation. A major shift is taking place within all of us. There is a search for the missing piece of self, a deep desire to connect with our Spirit, and through that, the Spirit of life and others. 

To live a ‘Spirited life’ requires a dismantling of our reliance on evidence, measurable phenomenon and control – in other words, total reliance on the intellect and physical reality. It requires learning a new language of meaning beneath words into the felt, intuitive language of symbols, synchronicities and sensations, and finding synergies with the intellect and actions. We are designed for it. It is how we are supposed to operate; dwelling and operating within our entire human system which comprises our physical aspect, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual aspects. And why? Because our essential nature is CREATIVE! We are creating our life experiences all the time. However, without the deep, felt and conscious connection with the causal field of our being – our Spirit, we are creating life, unconsciously. 

Unfortunately, the word ‘Spiritual’ has a pretty bad rap in our modern context. It is often confused with religious dogma or new-age terminology. Or, it is associated with the whole ‘love and light’ meaning which makes little sense when we are in the throes of hardship, illness, trauma, or indeed, witnessing a world in chaos.

For centuries the view of ‘Spirit’ has been associated with a requirement of agency…that is, as individuals, we are unable to connect with this causal power within us without some form of trade or ‘guru’. Living a Spirited life doesn’t mean pure continual bliss and butterflies. What it does mean is engaging with life from an entirely different perspective, and therefore perceiving the hardship, illness, and chaos as useful, transmutable and way-finders to personal wholeness.

So the answer to the question of my ‘why’ – it is to enable and empower others to connect deeply with their own innate spiritual core. To do this takes some deconditioning of paradigms, some tools, and mostly, new expanded perspectives on who and what we actually are. For some, it requires healing to come into wholeness. 

But the essential message in all pathways is that everything we experience in life is happening for us and being generated by us. Our inner being and our outer experience is one self-organising system. When we experience dissonance in ourselves or in our experiences, it is that one system messaging to us that somewhere on the inner, we have separated from our Spirit. 

A big part of this enablement and empowerment is to de-woo-woo-fy what Spirit actually is. To open up a conversation about ‘Spirit’, how it feels, its dynamics. And it doesn’t take much, because as soon as someone makes the choice to connect with their innermost nature and core, that intelligent core starts to guide through intuitive senses, clear patterns within information and events, dreams and the drawing-in of like-spirited people.

So how do I describe ‘Spirit’ for me? The experience of Spirit is so subjective that it’s almost impossible to define it in a way that would work for everyone. So, I’m going to express my experience of Spirit the best way I can, and if you can sense a little voltage in there that puts a light on your experience of what it is, then go with that.

Spirit is the vibrational force that holds this whole shebang in place and keeps it cycling through its manifestations. It is the animating force within every single one of our seventy-two trillion cells and the spaces within and in between.  

I feel Spirit most keenly when I am in the wilderness, or around children. I feel it in the energy field of a loving, free person and I can especially feel it (and work with it) in group practice. It is the energetic current I feel when I meditate and engage in meditative ritual. It is the vibrational power I feel when I fully forgive or choose love and compassion. And, it is the activating force that enables me to put those choices into action. It is the palpable vibrating energy that moves through my system when I am healing or seeking revelation for a client.

It is the movement or flow through my body, mind, heart and life, that carries with it abundance, health, opportunities and true friendships, and it is protective. It is the force within my creativity, my words, my teaching. It can be summoned and raised within my physical body and energetic system and it can be directed to situations and others, for healing and change.

But it is more than simply energy. It is sentient, benevolent, living, responsive and intoxicating. It is the true nature of consciousness and it is present in everything. Everything. It is what brings it to bear. It spirals through all manifestations of life, from things to processes to experiences to relationships, to rocks, fire, trees, oceans and wind, and the human body and individual consciousness. It is a living information field. And when we live connected and aligned with it, when we embody it, truly knowing that we are it, we are steered to our highest possibility. Lots of people call it lots of things. I simply call it Spirit.

Over the years for me, being Spirited has come to represent a state of being rather than any set of actions. It’s a way to live ‘in Spirit’; to have an ongoing interaction with the invisible dynamics that underpin my ordinary reality. To achieve this state, there are things that we must do, of course. But I see a lot of people getting caught up in the ‘doing’ and not so much translating it into the ‘being’, or spending a lot of time on social media presenting themselves as spiritual. I also see a lot of people give their power away to others who present as having exclusive access to Spirit.

To be Spirited, we need to loosen our identification with our outer reality and who we have previously perceived ourselves to be. We have to question it all. I have found the easiest way to help people do this is to give them knowledge in clear modern terms that makes sense to the mind and shifts perception to enable a move into the heart and energy realm. With mind, heart, and energy body working as a coherent team, the gates to Spirit are flung open. What we believe to be true about ourselves and the nature of life, determines our experience of life. And we need to navigate consciously.

As we become Spirited, we open our channels to communicate with Spirit itself. To do this effectively we need to learn how to recognise when Spirit is communicating and guiding us and not something else, like our ego or someone else’s ego.  

Spirit uses the hologram of life experience, any and all forms, to answer our calls and guide us into alignment. It can be through different teachers, books, courses, dreams, intuitions, gifts, meditation circles and chance encounters. It is always through triggers, discomfort and illness. It is reliably accessed through the wilderness. 

Spirituality For Self Empowerment - Danielle Van de Velde

The best way I have learnt to communicate consciously with Spirit is to maintain my energetic circuitry through practice and observe in stillness and keep my awareness firmly pegged in the mind/heart/energy union. Spirit talks to me through my coherent system and in patterns. When I am meant to take notice, I have a distinct feeling in my heart, a knowing in my mind and a new resonance in my cells. When I call to Spirit, I do it through spiritual demonstration; meditative ritual; an energy act of the heart, mind and body, and then the dialogue is on. It is the only way to roll. It is also extremely cool.

You will see that you have a Spirited instinct in your life already, without realising that you are working with the invisible dynamics that underpin your external or ‘ordinary’ reality. The way we adorn our homes, our connection with colours, the slightly frenzied spring cleanouts of our space, the way we heal our children when they’re sick, or touch a friend to soothe them and the call to the wilderness, for example, are all spiritual expressions. Even the least woo-woo of us do it because Spirit is universal and innate within our physical and energetic design and it corresponds with the true nature of life.

This dialogue is intensely personal, gentle and often, simply an inner whisper or vibration. If we are distracted with the madness of modern life, dissipated thoughts, reactive emotions and the outer noise of modern living, then we miss it. That soft inner voice needs some inner space around it to reverberate and be heard, and this why meditation is key.

And it is equally important not to give power away in the process. If your system isn’t humming and beating ‘yes’, then walk away, close the book, switch off the podcast. With the resurgence of inner practices and so many people searching for meaning in a whacked-out world, being on some form of spiritual path or better still, appearing as some form of spiritual guru has become very trendy. This is not to discount the real thing. Modern-day mystics and amazing spiritual teachers are around, engaged and in service. And believe me, you will know it when you meet one. But, also in the fray are many more, who aren’t.

I have the pleasure of friendships in the UK, the US, Europe, Australia and now in Asia with active seekers like me. Over many years, I have been to my share of readings, rituals, ceremonies and channelings, churches, ashrams, pilgrimages and temples and I have developed an excellent radar for cosmic BS. The underlying theme is, and always is, get to know your Spirit Self, your mind/body/energy system and listen to that. It’s the only way to connect with Spirit and live a Spirited life! 

Begin your spiritual journey through my online meditation course. You can also sign up for my fortnightly meditation sessions and guided practice. Seasoned Spirit-seekers looking to deepen their explorations can book private Intuitive Healing and mentoring sessions. 

If you have any questions about spirituality and self-empowerment, do get in touch. You can also visit my website to explore courses and useful content to guide you along your journey to healing, self-discovery and mindful living. 

If you enjoyed this post and would like to share it, I request that you please credit Danielle Van de Velde as the author. I do not authorise repurposing or republishing without my written permission. You may email me for the same.

A return to True Sight and True Breath

A return to True Sight and True Breath

The unexpected blessings of COVID-19 masks

The mythic proportions of COVID-19 across the world and yet, the highly personal changes it has mandated for each and every one of us, is yielding what I believe are some very specific pointers to where we can focus our spiritual enquiry. I talk about this in my blog ‘Ostara’s Crowning’, written when the full scale of the pandemic was yet to be realised. 

With all inner enquiry, the key is to observe what’s happening around us with ‘symbolic sight’, that is, to rise up from the literal and obvious, and observe the thematic and the patterns. In this article I explore an interesting emerging pattern. The requirement to wear masks is pointing us towards two key spiritual and energetic functions of our system that we so easily take for granted – which, however, link us to the wider, more dazzling aspects of our systems.

True Breath

The current happenings in the world have put a real emphasis on the spiritual importance of the breath. COVID-19 attacks the lungs. The entire world is currently masked, reminding us of how much we take free, clear open breaths for granted. And while the world is suspended in the throes of recalibration, and the activities in main industries that contribute to atmospheric pollution have been suspended or slowed, our planet is measurably cleaning her atmosphere. 

In Singapore, we are in the steamiest part of the year. Humidity is very high, which makes wearing masks when out and about a very uncomfortable experience. The awareness is drawn to each and every breath and the ache for a free, deep fresh breath is palpable. Coming home and peeling off the mask, my body is taking in deeper, more nourishing breaths as if they were the first breaths it has ever taken. 

This renewed relishing of free breath for all of us is generally, highly significant. Why? Because the breath, when worked with consciously, is one of our key spiritual superpowers. 

The activity of the breath is directly linked to the activity of the nervous system. When we are not in the present, and our minds are either projecting forward into possible future scenarios, or cycling back over past events, we tend to take thoracic breaths. Thoracic breathing only utilizes 20% of our lung capacity and when under high stress or threat, many of us tend to hold our breath. This shortening and suspension of breath deprives the body and brain of vital oxygen and life force, and interrupts the connection between the nerve impulses generated by the breath to balance the brain and nervous system activity. The ancient Vedic practices of Pranayama (Prana meaning vital life force; Yama meaning breath), and the current trendy versions like Wim Hof’s breathing method for example, all work with these connections that are inherent in our design.

Covid 19 Masks and Mindful Breathing - Danielle Van de Velde

The breath is the only function of the autonomic nervous system that we can control. Placing our full concentrated awareness on the act of breathing is called ‘mindful breathing’. Mindful breathing naturally produces deeper inhalations and longer exhalations. Breathing is one of the physical body’s most important detoxification systems and mindful breathing is our subtle body’s most important clearing and energy raising systems.

When we breathe mindfully and with various breath-techniques (Pranayama) we are able to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system. Autonomic activities such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestive activity and the flight or fight response are calmed and soothed. The body’s systems start to synchronize and work in flow. MRI scans during mindful breathing show calming of the amygdala which is responsible for anger/stress arousal.

With regular meditation, the amygdala is shown to actually shrink as a calm state becomes the default. With regular mindful breathing, the brainwaves shift from Beta waves, to Alpha and eventually Theta waves. This means that the brain calms frenetic thought activity and enters a state similar to a deep dreamless sleep, although the meditator is awake and acutely aware. Alpha coherence is more predominant in the right hemisphere of the brain allowing the experience of timelessness, visioning and interconnectedness. 

For this reason, all of my meditation courses – the introductory course and fortnightly drop-in via Zoom- include instruction and guided meditations in Pranayama or meditative breathing techniques. They can be powerful meditations on their own, or fabulous pre-meditation practices to settle the awareness into presence and readiness for other practices such as mantra, mudra, contemplative or creative meditations for example.

True Sight

Having lived all over the world, I have come to see that different cultures have different approaches to smiling. When we moved to Asia six years ago, I learnt very quickly that a ‘smile first’ strategy was best employed. In my observation, people generally don’t smile first here. However when you beam a smile in acknowledgment as you pass people, you are greeted with beaming smiles back. If you’re into those moments of human connection as you pass people in the street or nature trails like I am, it’s a ‘smile first’ game in Singapore. 

Now with masks as mandatory apparel when out and about, I have realised how much I relied on reading someone’s full face to communicate and gauge the response. I have also realised that I had become somewhat lazy with my smiles, relying on my lips to convey the connection, rather than the smile reaching my eyes. With my lips concealed, my smiles also were, and instead of beautiful smiles being returned, I was seeing wary and stressed looks.  

I have made it my daily mindfulness practice to allow my smile to beam from my eyes…and I have also brought back the wink and meaningful blink. It’s incredible, the response of relief, recognition and meaningful eye gazes being returned. Through focussing on communication through my eyes, I have tapped a sense of solidarity as we all get on with flattening the curve and being in this experience together; a new, silent and powerful form of connection.  

Covid 19 Masks and Mindful Breathing - Danielle Van de Velde

So much is communicated through the eyes, when we give them full access to the soul. And just as the COVID-19 masks have raised a refocus on the true breath, they have also raised a refocus on true sight. Is it possible that we are also being invited to ‘see’ the world, our human race, ourselves, and our lives as if we are seeing them for the first time?

As well as the social responsibility of vastly reducing local spread, masks mean greater silence – a window to observe, to listen, to feel and to lean into the miracle of sight, and in particular, perception.

What are we seeing around us and how are we allowing it to affect us? Are we seeing restriction, denied freedoms, doom, and conspiracies? Yes, these elements are in the mix. But equally present are new opportunities, a pause to change habits, to return to dreams and passions, to creatively express, to deepen relationships with family, to give and love unconditionally, to forgive, to cultivate altruism, to tap new and inspiring content, to reconnect with the planet and the wild. 

We can choose what we ‘see’, buy-into, feed with our awareness, and dwell upon. It doesn’t mean denial of what’s there, it means balancing our field of ‘sight’ and therefore our emotional responses…and these emanations vastly affect our life experiences.  Are you perceiving your COVID-19-cup experience as half empty or half full?

In Yogic philosophy, the outer and inner senses are expressions along one pole of the senses. That is, our inner sight or clairvoyance, dreaming, creative visualisation, is an expression of our wholesale sense of sight, just as our mechanical ‘external’ sight is. They are aspects of one field – true sight. So when we focus on one end of the pole and engage in practices that improve and strengthen it, we raise the whole pole.

This is the deeper, lesser-known result of meditations that focus on eyesight like Trataka, Mirror-gazing, Sun-gazing, Yantra gazing, Shambhavi mudra, just to name a few. These powerful practices are all proven to improve physical eyesight, yet they are also engaged to sharpen inner sight, and inner sight is key to spiritual living. 

Seeing life through the eyes of the soul means living intuitively, seeing things as they are without the muddy lens of reactive patterns, assumed meaning and judgements. With spiritual sight we are able to identify the synchronous patterns of meaning within our life experience and to work with them directly for spiritual expansion. A well-honed inner sight opens us up to our abilities of creative visualisation, or dream weaving, and shamanic journeying as powerful tools for divination, deeper enquiry and conscious creation.

In my upcoming online course Discovery, instruction and guidance are given in several of these practices to enable deep introspection and a new perception of self and life. You may subscribe to learn more. 

Covid 19 Masks and Mindful Breathing - Danielle Van de Velde

Given, the masks are here to stay for the foreseeable future, perhaps it’s a good time to engage with them slightly differently from a higher viewpoint, and actively respond to the invitation to return to True Breath and True Sight.
If you wish to start mindful breathing and meditation and understand the benefits of meditating regularly do get in touch and take our introduction to meditation course, ‘Return’. You can also visit our website to explore courses and useful content to guide you along your journey to healing, self-discovery and mindful living.

If you enjoyed this post and would like to share it, I request that you please credit Danielle Van de Velde as the author. I do not authorise repurposing or republishing without my written permission. You may email me for the same.

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