Sunday Meditation Services @ 12:10 pm
Sunday Celebration Services @ 12:30 pm
Center for Spiritual Living Saddleback Valley
Located in the Unity Church Building
23181 Verdugo Drive, Suite 103-B
Laguna Hills, CA 92653

(949) 768-3545

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The Importance of Centeredness

Many spiritual people will tell you that they seek a higher connection to The Universe, to God. All seekers have their own way - prayer, meditation, church, time spent in nature, contemplation, service, and many others. All are effective and important parts of spiritual practice. In addition, there is a simple and powerful way to enhance and grow the connection we crave.

A current spiritual buzzword these days is "being centered." It can mean a number of things and be achieved a number of ways, but moving deeper into this concept may be the best way to build a lasting connection with God.

The feeling of centeredness has many characteristics: a relaxed body, an inner sense of calm, as well as confidence in yourself and your decisions. You are also likely to feel a heightened connection to your actions and life and find you are more in touch with your body. When centered, you are not easily frustrated by events and your responses will be less emotional, your thinking is less erratic.

Centeredness is both a mental and physical state. Sitting in meditation for five minutes each morning can help to put you in the right frame of mind. Focusing on breath, your intentions for the day, and the actual physical center of your body, if practiced regularly, can impact your emotional reactions to stressful events as well as your frustrated thinking.

This simple meditation does not have to be formal or complicated. Five minutes with your eyes closed before getting up in the morning is all that is required. Over time, you'll be able to recall these morning minutes throughout the day. When you feel yourself slipping into an overly emotional response you can return to centeredness and your good intentions by closing your eyes and refocusing.

In addition to intentionally returning to a centered mental state, it is important to regularly focus your attention on your physical center. Take a few minutes now to clear your mind and bring your attention to your body. Allow your mind to move naturally to the place that feels like your personal center.

Give yourself a minute to shift your focus around to make sure you've found your true center. Once found, you can return to this place as needed. When your stress level is rising or when difficult emotions consume you, focus on this place. When centered, ask for guidance to help you with your dilemma.

The main benefit of cultivating centeredness goes beyond the circumstances of our daily lives. Getting to and remaining in a state of centeredness is like tuning in to the right frequency on the radio. A little to the left, a little to the right, and the sound comes in clear.

The Universe is sending messages to us each day. Sometimes in response to our prayers, to point us in new directions, even to keep us safe. By staying centered - being in a relaxed physical, mental, and emotional state - we can ensure that we are as open to receive these messages as possible. Centeredness decreases the chance that we'll miss important information and increases our connection to God.

Developing a Spiritual Practise

When it comes to developing a spiritual practice there are two issues to consider. First, it is important to spend time contemplating your core beliefs. What do you believe about this life and what do you believe about God. These are existential questions that form the foundation of how you relate to others, yourself, and God. Once you have a clear sense of your beliefs and can articulate them, it's necessary to determine what elements make up your personal spiritual practice.

Most people feel they have a good understanding of their spiritual beliefs. But have you ever tried to explain your beliefs, in depth, to another? We so often surmise all we need to know about each other through labels - "He's a Christian," or "She's agnostic." This prevents us from defining and expanding our personal beliefs on a regular basis.

When starting to develop your spiritual practice, take time to journal your thoughts on what you truly believe. It is important to tackle some basic questions that we often take for granted until we try to verbalize them.

  • Who or what is in charge?
  • Who am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • What is the meaning of life?
  • What happens after death and what does death teach us?

These questions are deceptively simple. To create a truly meaningful spiritual practice it is important not to skip over them. Your daily practice will have much more meaning for you and will be easier to maintain if you are clear about your answers. It may be helpful to write a personal credo that mirrors the credo of your spiritual organization.

Once you have spent time contemplating these answers it's time to think about building a daily practice. This is a highly personalized process and can include activities such as attending church weekly, prayer, meditation, a form of exercise, spending time in nature, expressing gratitude, spending time in community, practicing silence, and spiritual education classes.

Some choose to focus on mindfulness and awareness as part of their practice. By using these techniques, even daily activities become a spiritual practice. Sitting down to dinner with the family becomes a spiritual practice when done with awareness of the preciousness of your time together, gratitude for the meal you share, and of the loving kindness you express toward each other.

Regardless of what elements you include in your spiritual practice, it can be helpful to refrain from formalizing these elements. It is much easier to pause for a few minutes of meditation in the middle of a crazy work day than to set up a meditation space, time, and regimen. You are more likely to continue to deepen your practice if you fit it into your life, rather than try to fit your life into a strict practice. All too often we view spiritual practice as very formal or ritualized events. There is a time and a place for these in our lives, but mindfully expressing gratitude for a body capable of standing and washing the dinner dishes is just as meaningful as, say, a baptism.

Being Aware of Suffering

Suffering comes in all forms: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It can lay waste to our bodies and minds. But while the signs of physical suffering can be all too evident, many people walk around every day bearing the scars of a pain that lies deeper than the surface. Unfortunately, the modern world has taught us to focus on our own pain, but the truth is that we must also be open to the suffering of others.

Part of the problem is that we have become desensitized to the suffering of others. Our constant exposure to horrifying news reports and constant reminders of worldly greed and other ills has left us in a state where we simply do not want to hear or see more suffering that what is inside our own small world. However, suffering is part of life and closing ourselves to this side of humanity means that we will be unable to understand suffering, learn from it, or support others as they face it alone.

Being open to the suffering of others starts with developing a willingness to think about the pain that someone else is going through. Signs of tension, anxiety, or depression could manifest themselves in physical signs, like the way a smile seems forced, or it may be hidden in the words they use. A person's suffering can be dissected by thinking about what could be happening in their life and how you would feel in the same position. This isn't meant to be done to gain empathy, but rather to become more aware of the suffering and open to its presence rather than ignoring its proximity to your own life.

Sometimes, you will be given an opportunity to be more than just a bystander. When dealing with the suffering of someone close to you, being open means asking questions where necessary and engaging in real discourse instead of the usual pleasantries. What happens when you are open to the suffering of others is that you are better able to understand their pain and help with a resolution. Being a witness to suffering takes courage and acknowledgement is the first step towards easing the pain of others.

What It Means To Be “Spiritual But Not Religious”

Over the past few years, the phrase "spiritual but not religious" has been popping up more and more. It's appearing so often that SBNR even has its own Wikipedia entry and some polls have stated that a third of all Americans choose SBNR as their chosen identity. But what does it really mean and why are so many people connecting so strongly with these words?

At face value, it seems somewhat obvious - more of the population is concerned with their own spiritual growth as a higher priority than being identified with a particular church. This notion of being "unchurched" is further supported by decreasing numbers of church-goers who have chosen to pursue their path to a higher power without the standard structure of an established institution. At the same time, maybe there's something else going on and SBNR is reflective of a deeper feeling in the American psyche.

The ideas of spirituality and religion may be linked, but they are actually as different as night and day. The latter, religion, could be in and of itself sparking a push to the SBNR movement. The reason is that identifying with a particular religion inherently connects to both the positive and negative sides of that faith, including not-so-flattering stereotypes. Being Christian in modern times often comes with the association of being on the far right of the political fence. In the same vein, being Muslim has the reputation of fanaticism and Buddhists are sometimes seen as being lazy. While we know that these stereotypes are far from true, a person's decision to NOT identify with a particular religion could be in some part due to not wanting to be associated with these stereotypes or other negative aspects.

With these concepts laid out, spiritual but not religious starts to make sense. In a way, the SBNR movement may be more about personalizing both a person's spiritual and religious experiences. Instead of being identified with negative aspects of a religion or locked in with a particular church, a person who chooses SBNR is avoiding the labels and stereotypes that have come to be the dominant face of most religions. With this choice comes an openness and new level of tolerance that opens the door for a larger, collective spiritual growth.

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