03/15/2012 07:35 am ET Updated May 15, 2012

A Practical Approach to a More Spiritual Life

It happened about 10 months ago. It wasn't a moment, or even a revelation. It was a gradual intuitive feeling that something was coming to an end and a new way was quietly making its presence known. Once it reached conscious awareness, it felt natural to begin to act on it. A personal retreat to beautiful, mystical Sedona validated the process and a variety of spiritual practitioners helped give it enough shape and form to begin to practice.

Despite common belief that such practice must be a regimented discipline, it wanted to have more freedom. It wanted to invade every crack of each day, subtly changing the perception of each tiny thought and experience. There was great relief in its pervasiveness, producing a proverbial sigh within.

Reading enhanced the search for a mentor, a way of agreeing with someone who had already figured things out. But it was a thought here and an idea there that became the building blocks of a personal theology, guided by the voice that initiated the search.

A favorite yoga teacher enriches our practice by relating parables and offering simple thoughts to take away from the studio experience. Being present comes from breath, thought, and expression. A breath is a living prayer, each inhale an opportunity and each exhale a way to send unwanted energy out of the mind and body.

The Autobiography of a Yogi offers the notion that even those considered to be at the highest level of spiritual mastery are vulnerable to the temptations of power, fame and excess.

Martin Scorsese examines the spiritual evolution of George Harrison in his documentary, Living in the Material World. The former Beatle was aware that people had difficulty accepting his belief that material possessions don't matter when he had so many. But fame and fortune being heaped upon him so quickly at such a young age became the foundation of his search for something more. He dedicated himself to his spiritual practice and seemed truly detached from his earthly life by the time he died. His wife described his passing as an event that lit up the room. George said what he found was available to all of us. We simply had to switch focus and look within for the answers.

Most agree that meditation is enormously beneficial to the mind, body and spirit. Countless theories abound as to method and technique. But for those who desire a more practical, no-frills approach to the practice, the teachings of Chogyam Trungpa Rinproche can be appealing. In an article, "A Meditation Instruction," published in the March 2012 issue of Shambhala Sun, the Master speaks of presenting meditation "extremely simply, without metaphysical or philosophical overlay." He advises against preconceived expectations about the process:

"It might be best to look at meditation as a way of life ... not expecting that the technique is going to liberate you or provide flashes of excitement or mystical experiences. It you stick with the practice and go along with exertion and patience, you will have a chance to realize yourself, to understand yourself."

A gifted intuitive advises to imagine a faucet at the base of the brain that enables the mind to flush linear thinking straight down to the heart, where it can be processed through feeling and then released. The most important thing is not to be controlled by the mind where our personal history, anxieties and habitual thoughts get stuck. Negative thoughts are natural and should be given the freedom to exist but only temporarily. We are not designed to carry our history around with us forever. We are meant to exist in the moment, to be fully present. That is where peace and joy are found.

These simple ideas are profoundly life changing and yet do not require dramatic lifestyle adjustment to integrate into a modern existence. We can be still be spouses, parents, siblings, sons, daughters, teachers and bosses. We can still go to work and prepare meals. And while it may be subtle, it will affect those around us, those around them and so forth. One teacher said that it is enough to dedicate oneself in life to the practice of love, happiness and peace without judgment. It is simply enough. And, with all due respect to Chogyam Trungpa Rinproche, very liberating as well.