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Perry Garfinkel

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The 7 Habits Of Highly Spiritual People

Posted: 12/28/07 12:56 AM ET

In truth, that headline is misleading. This list is merely a starter set, not the be-all and end-all assuring spiritual bliss. (And what's so mystical about the number 7 anyway, other than that it appears to boost book sales?) As the unofficial and self-declared Stephen Covey of spirituality, I add this encouraging caveat: just like bad habits you can't break, the same can be said of good habits. Try some of these, reap the rewards -- those would be love for and from others, love for
yourself, love in general -- and they will become addictive, giving rise to many other random acts of spiritual goodness that will take over your life. Happy holy days.

#1
Highly Spiritual People Give Rather Than Take.
To give is indeed divine. Some research on altruism suggests people commit selfless deeds precisely because such acts make them feel good, therefore refuting the notion of selflessness. Hogwash. Is breathing selfish? If we didn't give, and give generously, we'd die. I really believe that. Giving is human nature; it's just that we forget our own Spirit-Nature sometimes. Giving can take many forms; simply paying attention to someone is a gift.

#2
They Say Yes More Than They Say No.
Naysayers are a downer. "No" closes our hearts like cholesterol. (Naturally, this excludes saying "No" to drugs or other self-destructive, noxious or illegal behaviors.) "Yes" affirms life. People
always would rather hear yes rather no. Unless it's when you ask your doctor, "Do I have herpes?"

#3
They See Possibilities, Not Problems.
As Shunryu Suzuki writes: "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few." And this may be the only time you hear Norman Vincent Peale quoted right after Suzuki-roshi, but there is something to the power of positive thinking, if not "The Power of Positive Thinking." Spiritual people are optimists. They believe in belief. They are the lemon-to-lemonade folks, the problems-as-opportunites advocates, the positive spin
Masters.

#4
They Walk A Mile in Your Shoes.
They understand that empathy means feeling another's pain but not so much that they take on others' pain and become another's pain. With that empathy, they tend to know exactly what to say or do for you to make you feel better. In gratitude, we say to them, "You are a saint." Even when we do not mean it literally, it is true -- literally.

#5
They Count Blessings in Small Wonders.
They do not expect Spirit to appear accompanied by fire and brimstone and a big neon sign flashing in the sky. They are not waiting for the Big A-ha. Nor are they waiting for the cure to cancer, the job promotion, or the love of a lifetime. They appreciate the tiny details: the smile of a child, the sparkle in an old person's eyes, the morning's first ray of sunlight. While others have recommended not to sweat the bad small stuff, spiritual people savor the good small stuff.

#6
They Give Compliments Generously, Accept Them with Humility.
There is no limit to people's need for praise and appreciation. I suspect that even Donald Trump deep down is desperate for a compliment. Spiritual people do not see people's "need" for support as a weakness or flaw. They see it as a cry for love, and they comply without hesitation. On the other hand, those who respond to a compliment with grandiose objections and deflections, who cannot accept a compliment with grace, probably feel they are not worthy of it. But they are worthy of it. Even the Don is worthy of it.

#7
They Worship Where and When the Spirit Moves Them.
They don't need a temple or church to practice their spirituality, nor do they need a Sunday morning service at 10 a.m. They don't even need a rabbi or a priest or a lama or sensei. Their spiritual setting is a forest, a beach, a mountain top. Their setting is a movable spiritual feast, for they know the true spiritual setting is within. And it travels with, and within, them wherever they go.

And a year-end bonus:
#8
They Laugh a Lot
Have you noticed? Santa ho-ho-ho's his way down the chimney. The Dalai Lama giggles his way to enlightenment. Alfred E. Neuman has that eternal grin. The Laughing Buddha is, well, laughing. Spiritual people are happy. Not just the smiley-face kind of happy, but the deep-down-content kind of happy. If you have trouble getting to happy, try this trick I learned years ago from no less a sage source than the musical "Bye Bye Birdie": "Just put on a happy face." The act of smiling alone triggers a happy hormonal shift, from "gloomy mask of tragedy" to "spreading sunshine all over the place." And what could be more spiritual than that?

 

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