The cacophony of sounds, intense stimulation and chaos of construction in the city; doesn't sound like a haven of spiritual peace, does it? Let alone a place to work on spiritual development. And yet major urban areas are growing steadily as a lifestyle option for live, work and play. Can an intimidating urban landscape actually transform into a paradise of inner peace?
Here are five tips for finding your center in the heart of the urban jungle.
A long peaceful walk in solitude is a fail proof method for those who seek inner calm. Slow pace and discussion between teacher and pupil (even when you are silently playing the role of both) can seem like a challenge in a crowd of rushing pedestrians.
But in reality, we almost never collide. There is a psychic energy space where our individual consciousness actually melds with those around us for a brief second of interchange. No matter how hectic the pace of the sidewalk on which we are walk, this psychic connection clears a path.
We know not to bump into people because we don't want to let our unconscious energies merge. So walk amongst the crowd. It's a refreshing way to cleanse your mind and your aura. A heightened awareness comes from being around others.
Tall towers or other massive structures have always played a central role in many spiritual belief systems. The minarets of the Middle East loom high above the ancient lands to lead the call to prayer. The spires of cathedrals and churches across the earth lift up to heaven. The great pyramids too. And don't forget the Tower of Babel, which is written about in the Old Testament.
The urban environment is dotted with immense skyscrapers. The purpose of these towers is far from spiritual, but that does not mean our psyches connect with them any less. There's a natural sense that divine energy is all around us, springing from the Earth into the heavens. Suddenly, viewing the urban skyline is a transcendent experience!
The Sound of Traffic
There is a profound but subtle chaos in the sound of traffic, the pulse of the urban environment. It is a patter, and ebb and flow of natural rhythms on par with raindrops or animal sounds out in nature. The chaotic sound of the streets becomes a pulse-like din; think of it as a white noise that helps you achieve a meditative state in an apartment, loft or office space. With your sense of place established, you might find that meditating, praying or connecting with universal forces becomes easier than it might be in complete, uncomfortable silence.
Most urban areas are built on a grid of sorts. Streets and neighborhoods spread out from the city center. As you walk and drive through the urban landscape, the simple grid upon which all activity takes place reinforces the structure of connectivity and networks within the macro and micro worlds of the universe. The forest has a complex infinity in the random growth of nature and the starry skies over a country path have a million points of departure. But you can easily know the map of a city in which you live and always be in tune with your place within it.
This grid binds you to your reality and eases your ability to harness and maintain a strong spiritual practice.
Natural settings have a consistency that brings a harmony to your spiritual pursuit. The incongruity of metropolitan areas, especially bustling downtowns, seems to be the opposite. But the connections between things that don't go together are precisely the sacred fleeting moments of the urban sphere that make downtowns such perfect places to renew your spiritual position in the world.
Seeing birds perched on manmade objects instead of trees is evidence of a range of possible existences. The consistency and harmony of nature allows us to rediscover the inner harmony that's always waiting within us. The urban experience reinforces an endless multitude of universes. While nature changes over four seasons, one's vision of the city can easily be altered four times in a day.
The disparity of wealth to poverty is always apparent in the homeless population's proximity to the business district. Coexisting populations in opposition can remind us that safety and security are beliefs that can be deconstructed in a moment; anything is possible. A spiritual path that fully examines the many interlocking facets of life may actually provide more realizations and insights than a journey into stillness.
Embrace the Vastness
The city may be the place where you actually find your connection to the universe. The vast array of possibilities can deliver a peaceful acceptance of the path you are on. The melody of the map and the step in the streets can become the pulse of your prayer on an urban spiritual journey.