Conscious Breathing IV

The Heart of Spiritual Discipline

Charla Shamhart



I’ve been telling the students in my Breath of Life classes that the body, mind and emotions are like an unruly puppy dog that needs to be trained.   When they come to understand who is really in control, they will willingly come along.  But until the body, mind and emotions can be brought through discipline to a place of cooperating for the good of all, they will fight long and hard for control and can wreck the best laid plans for happiness and peace.

There are four basic disciplines that we apply in life for balanced learning: Physical Discipline, Academic Discipline, Creative Discipline and Spiritual Discipline.  These four disciplines serve to improve a person’s body, mind and spirit.  The physical discipline is for developing for our physical body and keeping it in good shape, the academic discipline is for developing our mind, the creative discipline is to cultivate our mind and heart.  The spiritual discipline is to nurture our spiritual connection with our inner self and with Creator.   

Spiritual Discipline is at the center of these four fundamental disciplines.  When we practice the Breath of Life on a regular basis, we are cultivating the very productive habit of a spiritual discipline.

A spiritual discipline is a habit or regular pattern in our life that repeatedly brings us back to God and opens us up to God consciousness.    It is a practice that we do faithfully and regularly because we either believe or know that such practice will make our life better and happier.   We undertake spiritual practice as we begin to awaken from a state of confusion, delusion and illusion.   

We continue spiritual practice as we begin to transform our minds and release the unevolved, unaware states of greed, hatred and ignorance.    We begin cultivating those more evolved states of love, generosity, wisdom and awareness because we feel whole and complete when we experience these enlightened places in our consciousness. 

The fruits of such a practice are love and abundant joy in our life, inner peace, patience with ourself and others.   We express kindness and generosity in our interactions with others, faithfulness and gentleness in our relationships, and calm self-control.

Through spiritual disciplines and practices we co-operate with Spirit in the task of remaking us into the image of God.  We begin to want to be like God.   In loving God, in seeking the Divine, we start to love what God loves.  We open ourselves to other people, to nature, to truth and honesty, to keeping our commitments, to acting from a place of loving compassion.   

We begin to be disturbed by things like war, destruction of the Earth Mother, personal and corporate greed, racism, power trips and all the things that show disrespect for life.   And that desire to be like God brings us into action; into service to our fellow humans; into a place of opening our hearts to loving ourselves and others.  

Spiritual discipline is a way of answering Creator’s calling within each of us to serve.   And it involves letting go and letting God. And the only way to let go is through trust.   And the only way to trust is to move into a place of Love.

However, Many on the spiritual path fail to understand that using the head or mind alone to drive our spiritual discipline is not going to work because the head will always think in terms of pros and cons, costs and benefits. 

Gautama Buddha said:

“I too, have slept on nails; I’ve stood with my eyes open to the sun in the hot sands of the
Ganges; I’ve eaten so little food that you couldn’t fill one fingernail with the amount I ate
each day.  Whatever ascetic practices under the sun human beings have done, I, too, have
done!  Through them all I’ve learned that fighting against oneself through such practices is
not the way.”  IN OTHER WORDS, practicing such austerity is the way of the head, not the heart. 

Carlos Castaneda said his spiritual master Don Juan Mateus asked him, “Does this path have a heart?  If it does, the path is good.  If it doesn’t, it is of no use.”

There is no use in acquiring all kinds of knowledge and performing practices, prayers and meditation if there is no Love in the heart.  It is Love alone that can save the world.

Meditation teacher Jack Kornfield says:

“We must make certain that our path is connected with our heart.  Even the most exalted states
and the most exceptional spiritual accomplishments are unimportant if we cannot be happy in
the most basic and ordinary ways, if, with our hearts, we cannot touch one another and the life
we have been given…

“If we are quiet and listen within, we will know if we are following a path with heart.   The inner
stillness we find within brings peace to the interconnected web of life, both inner and outer.  This
is the purpose of a spiritual discipline and of choosing a path with heart—to discover peace and
connectedness in ourselves and to stop the war within us and around us.”

The spiritual masters speak only of things that elevate and free us from desire, anger, delusion, pride, jealousy, etc.  They encourage us that love cultivates courage and enterprise and brings forth heroic qualities within us.  They say it instills the highest type of confidence and frees us from karma and the illusion of physical pleasure and pain. 

Most importantly, SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE, combined with the Path of Love, reveals our own identity.   Breathwork is a tool to focus awareness back inside, to illuminate within so that we can see the wholeness within ourselves.

As Ding Le Mei teaches in Mentalphysics:

“Your gladness is the fruit of your spiritual life.   But it is only within you that you can find the
source of gladness.   Your gladness is the fruit of your spiritual life and you dare not pray for joy
unless you bring others to share it.   When you are free in the Truth of your Being, gladness rises
within you as a constant undisturbed sensation in the enjoyment of Good.   When you are free,
gladness is your natural state of mind, a force universal in consciousness.”