“Wow, Jason, the ‘ultimate’ guide?” I know, I know – I’m really swinging for the fences. But I really do think this guide will be a powerful resource for you.
Why? Because I’ve failed and learned a lot in my pursuit of truth, wisdom, and happiness.
At 23, I hit rock bottom. I got fired (again), my girlfriend broke up with me, I got evicted, was almost homeless…I didn’t like my life, or who I’d become.
Over 10 years of research later, I’ve turned my life around in a big way. I achieved a successful career at multiple marketing agencies, got married, become financially successful, and respected by my peers – And I have some wisdom to share about what I learned. I learned not just how to live a successful life, but live a life of joy, peace, health, and wisdom.
I learned that our spiritual and emotional health is the critical foundation for our life:
- How kind, patient, discerning, and joyful we are to the people we work with affects our career success
- How our spiritual health affects our relationships, both friends, spouses, and family
- How much stress, anxiety, worry, fear, overwhelm, or doubt is in our life
- How we treat ourselves
Our physical, spiritual, and emotional health affects everything!
Ok so you probably get that already – Why else would you be here? You understand that your spiritual health is hurting your results in life, you’re not happy about it, but you want to fix it.
So let’s get started.
Here’s an outline of what you’ll learn:
- How this guide will help you
- An overview of the tools needed to achieve more peace, joy, health, and wisdom
- How discovering your purpose and mission in serving others is key to feeling fulfilled and joyful
- That nutrition and sleep is the foundation of our spiritual health (it’s not just about deeper spiritual practices)
- That there is physical suffering and spiritual suffering. Many times we resort to spiritual solutions when we’re actually experiencing suffering from physical or nutritional causes.
- How to use sleep and nutrition for better spiritual soil – Including foods to eat and avoid, and how to optimize your sleep (It’s hard to plant seeds of spiritual fruit without good soil – And that comes from sleep and nutrition)
- Key prayer and meditation methods: Letting go, transcending, and contemplating infinite goodness, joy, love, and peace (aka God)
- The hard part: How to let go (it’s WAY harder to let go when we don’t do it every day)
- Practicing gratitude for in all areas of life (everything is holy)
- Critical thinking, journaling and logic as an ingredient of our health and wellbeing (hard to truly be at peace if we can’t understand what’s happening around us or within us)
- Icing on the cake & rounding it out: Self-care practices – Journaling, music, walking, outdoors, friends and family, therapy, hobbies, meditation apps, following growth-minded teachers
How this guide will help you:
- Decrease stress and anxiety
- Achieve lasting peace, joy, and love
- Achieve focus, a positive mood, happiness, energy, and be more effective
- Make better decisions, have better discernment and judgment
- Achieve centeredness and groundedness – Less confusion, overwhelm, doubt, uncertainty, worry, anxiety, stress
An overview of the tools needed to achieve more peace, joy, health, and wisdom
In order to achieve a sense of deep ‘completeness’ in your life, you will need: Good nutrition and sleep, a sense of purpose, spiritual practices, gratitude, critical thinking, and self-care practices.
This may seem like a long and intimidating list, but it’s really quite easy. Reading and applying this short guide to your life will give you the tools you need. There is a bit of a learning curve, but it will get easier, I promise. Feel free to come back to this guide often (or bookmark it for reference).
Quick win: Practice gratitude.
If there is one thing you do today to feel more peace, joy, and wisdom, it is gratitude. No matter what your situation, there are things to be grateful for – The ability to breathe, the infinite awareness of the present moment (or God), friends and family, a roof over your head, your own strengths and abilities…the list can go on and on.
It’s easy to wake up in the morning feeling anxious about all the things we need to do, or all the things we lack. But waking up in the morning practicing gratitude – starting with whatever small thing you can think of – puts us in a much healthier cycle of positivity throughout the day. And that small change affects our mood and energy, which plants positive spiritual fruit at our job, in our relationships, and everywhere we go.
And those seeds return back to us.
Gratitude also clears room in our spirit and minds, giving us a better ability to discern, make decisions, and be emotionally intelligent with others.
Ok, let’s go deeper.
1. Discover your purpose and mission
There are few things in life more gratifying and fulfilling than the feeling of making progress toward a goal or mission.
If you already have that, great – Feel free to skip ahead.
If you don’t, stay with me.
Our life’s mission and purpose is like our core programming, the code we live our life by. If we have it, everything becomes a little simpler and clear. As we repeat our core programming to ourselves, it’s amazing how quickly we can get results in life.
My mission is to spread wisdom and help us all become better humans. It took me years to create a clear, simple mission statement like that.
It may not take you that long, so don’t get discouraged. But it could take a while.
The reason for that is because it takes time to tinker, experiment, and try things that could potentially be your purpose in life. You don’t know until you try. And there’s the rub, many people don’t try much – They are stuck in doing the same old, same old until they die. That took a slightly dark turn, but it’s true.
How to start figuring out your mission and purpose: Make a list. List out all the potential purposes you could have.
The key here is to list out your passions and how those could be of service to others. Frederick Buechner said it best:
“Your vocation in life comes from where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.”
So, make a list and start trying things out. Your purpose will clarify over time.
2. Nutrition, exercise and sleep
Have you ever tried relaxing or meditating when you ate junk food last night or didn’t sleep well? It’s hard – Almost impossible.
So before you delve into some deep contemplative spiritual practice, make sure you’re taking care of your body by eating well and sleeping well. Doing so will improve your energy, focus, mood, and more.
Eating well all comes down to:
- Eating foods that reduce inflammation
- Avoiding foods that cause inflammation
- Keeping a healthy weight
You may want to check out my other article with a full treatment of how to eat well, but in general you need to:
- Eat whole, unprocessed foods
- Eat vegetables and fruits
- Eat organic, grass-fed, and cage-free meat and eggs
- Avoid carcinogenic foods like processed meats and alcohol
- Avoid processed foods and especially foods with hydrogenated vegetable oils (like french fries – Vegetable oils are like setting off tiny little chemical bombs in your body, R)
Get better sleep
Another quick fix for better energy and mood – Get a better night’s sleep.
- Don’t drink caffeine too late
- Take melatonin if need be
- Keep your bedroom cool
- Wear a sleep mask if necessary
- Get a comfy mattress and pillow
- Keep your bedroom dark
- Keep your sodium levels low
- Get into a circadian rhythm
- Get a full 7-9 hours (R)
Sleep is crucial! Being tired or sleep deprived affects how we treat others, our anxiety and stress, our mood, our ability to navigate life…everything. All the prayer and meditation in the world probably won’t be able to make up for poor sleep.
Meditation is not always the answer
This might be uncomfortable to hear for some, but prayer is not always the answer if you have poor nutrition and sleep. Many times we sense there is suffering in our lives, and assume that we need prayer, meditation or some spiritual practice to relieve it. But research is pretty conclusive that what we eat and how well we sleep affects our anxiety, stress, and even depression.
3. Prayer and Meditation
Hopefully you didn’t skip ahead on the nutrition and sleep section – they are vitally important!
Either way, onto some specific prayer and meditation practices.
A bit of history
But Christianity has a rich tradition of deep contemplative spiritual practices, like the desert fathers, Thomas Merton, St. Ignatius, Teresa of Avila, Thomas Keating, Brother Lawrence, Adolphe Tanquerey, A.W. Tozer, J.I. Packer, and still-alive teachers like Richard Rohr, Richard Foster, Pete Scazzero, or Cynthia Bourgeault.
If you aren’t familiar with some of these pillars of contemplative spirituality, I strongly encourage you to check them out. Answering the Contemplative Call by Carl McColman is a great primer on some of these teachers and contemplative spirituality in general.
Start small. Start simple.
Some of Christianity’s mystics and monks go into some pretty intense spiritual practices, like St. Ignatius of Loyola and his prayer of examen. I have personally found you don’t necessarily need to go that deep right away.
No matter what spiritual path you come by – Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or otherwise – In order to gain more peace, joy, mental health, and wisdom, you only need to learn one simple spiritual practice:
- Let go
- Contemplate God (or in Buddhism, rest in infinite awareness)
Here are a few profound quotes from some great spiritual teachers:
“All great spirituality teaches about letting go of what you don’t need and who you are not.”– Richard Rohr
“Action, then passivity; striving, then letting go, doing all one can do and then being carried . . . only in this rhythm is the spirit realized.”– Pete Scazzero
In Christian circles, they say just “let go and let God”. Seems easy enough, right? Except it’s not.
Letting go of what we get attached to is hard.
I have found that our worries, anxieties, fears, overwhelm, ambition, even our to-do list, literally attach themselves to our brains. I can feel them – You probably can too. They are like barnacles on a boat.
Everything in life can attach itself to us, and then we have to scrape them off and let them go, one by one.
Sometimes we don’t even realize how many things weigh us down, until we stop to rest in the moment. Then we can feel overwhelmed, confused…we can’t pinpoint actually what is holding us back from experiencing peaceful awareness, but we know it’s something heavy.
My recommendation: Make a list.
Make a list of all the things that are weighing you down right now – Every worry, care, anxiety, stress, every task on your to-do list. You’ll find just how much is weighing down, and more than likely…it’s a lot.
This practice of listing out the things affecting your spiritual health helps you control them. When you understand that you have 10 specific things that have been weighing you down over the past two weeks, for example, you’re better able to manage them and perform Step 2: Transcending them.
Letting go will be hard at first. But I promise, it gets easier. Letting go is only hard when we don’t do it regularly. When we don’t let go regularly, a lot of things attach to us, which makes it harder to let go. Practice letting go every day or every other day, and it will be near-effortless.
Often it helps to center yourself on specific things that arise in the moment, like the movement of your breath, the weight of your body against the chair, or the sounds that surround you. Becoming aware of these things help ground you in the moment. Eventually, you can let even these events dissolve, and you can rest in peaceful awareness. Peaceful, boundless awareness is the goal of all meditation.
As you let go of yourself and what’s weighing you down, then as you set your sights on resting in infinite awareness instead – That limbo, that middle ground, is transcendence.
And then Step 3: Rest in peaceful awareness (or in Christian contemplative prayer, contemplate God).
This is the good stuff. When we contemplate all the infinite attributes of God – Her goodness, love, joy, peace, kindness, and wisdom – we are truly creating heaven on earth, right here, within us. God’s presence is here with us. It is then truly “well with our soul”.
You don’t have to have a religious concept of God, either. God is infinite conscious energy. If you meditate on infinite love, joy, peace, goodness, and wisdom, that is meditating on God.
These writers say it best:
“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”Pema Chodron
“There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.”– Brother Lawrence
“The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One.”– A.W. Tozer
“Real prayer comes not from gritting our teeth but from falling in love.”– Richard Foster
Ah, these words are a sweet balm to the soul, are they not? Wow.
But the basic spiritual practice that should be at the foundation of our daily lives is truly so simple: Let go, transcend, and contemplate the Infinite. The Divine, the Ultimate, the Absolute is above all our cares, worries, insecurities, anxieties, fears, overwhelm, envy, jealousy, pride, ego, lust, ambition…it is above it all. When we rest in boundless awareness and fall in love with it, we will have infinite joy, peace, love, goodness, kindness, and wisdom (all the attributes of God).
Bonus spiritual method: Practice gratitude
At it’s core, our relationship with the Infinite is based on gratitude – Gratitude for all that is. I promise life just tends to get better when we practice gratitude. Somehow gratitude tends to attract blessings and miracles to us. If you have goals and desires in your career, relationships, finances, giving, or your contribution to others, the universe wants to make those happen when you’re already grateful for what you have.
I like starting to practice gratitude first thing in the morning. When I wake up, I’m grateful for breathing, I’m grateful for Divine presence, for a warm bed and roof over our heads, for the ability to check the news or listen to music from my phone…the list is endless. No matter where we are, even in hard times, we probably have a smorgasbord to be grateful for. When we are faithful and grateful with little, we will be given more.
4. Practice critical thinking, logic, and sound judgment
This might sound like an unusual ingredient to achieve wellbeing, joy, and peace, but critical thinking is essential. Critical thinking affects our judgment, and how we discern both what’s outside of us (like politics, our career, etc), and inside of us (our spiritual and emotional health).
I have another article on the basics of critical thinking, but it really comes down to this:
Open-mindedness is the key ingredient of critical thinking. If you’re a Republican, be open minded to the opinions of Democrats. If you’re a progressive Christian, be open minded to the opinions of the orthodox. If you’re an anti-vaxxer, be open minded to the research of scientists.
We can not get closer to the truth unless we’re willing to be wrong.
Read the works of other thinkers
In order to learn how to think accurately and clearly, you need to think through the writings of other thinkers. Learn how they dissect a problem, what evidence they present, the conclusions they come to and how they got there.
Writing, Journaling & Thinking
The way we become better thinkers is…by thinking. Practice may not make perfect, but it will get us close. As we think through how to get better results in life – get a better job, start a business, become marriage material, invest, etc – we get better at solving problems.
Keep your information inputs balanced
It’s important to get your information from multiple, opposing perspectives, but mostly from moderate perspectives. Biased sources are more likely to rely on clickbait, and spread fear or misinformation, which directly impacts our peace and wellbeing.
When it comes to the news, I’d suggest getting your information mostly from moderate sources like the BBC, Reuters and NPR. Both CNN and Fox News are equally guilty of severe bias. I’d also recommend The Factual to get a daily flow of highly credible, rigorous reporting from mostly center, but also left and right perspectives.
5. Self-care and hobbies
Meditation is not the only spiritual practice than can help us attain peace, joy, health, and wisdom – There’s also TV, movies, hobbies, listening to music, dancing, talking with friends and family, giving and serving others, journaling…and much more!
I’m a musician so I personally love letting go by jamming out to some music, and maybe even having my own personal dance party. Find what works for you! If you can fill your life with a multitude of tools and methods that refill your spiritual and emotional tank, the happier you will be!
And that’s it for this guide. It was my joy to put together some information from what I learned over the years – I hope it was helpful for you.
As you apply some of these principles, let me know how it goes! What worked for you or didn’t work? What did you learn along the way?