Sunday Service: The Spiritual Lessons from Packing


Week of Aug 16 – 22, 2015

Since it is almost September, my mind has started to think about my next trip to Asia. I visit Asia every year, spending up to six months there; last year I spent time in India, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Malaysia, Australia–and Turkey for good measure. Most of the travel is Vedanta-based, and you can follow my journey by getting my personal email newsletter.

It is about time for me to start planning my 2016 visit, which will begin some time in January. That got me thinking about an essay I wrote back in 2011, not long after setting out on a visit to India. At the time, I was struck by the similarities between good packing and spiritual routine.

So, this week we bring you that talk, which first appeared on this site back in 2011.


Peter Kowalke


My bagsThis Week’s Spiritual Talk

Packing and the Value of Spiritual Routine

By Peter Kowalke

This morning I packed my bags and flew to Delhi from the Mumbai exurbs of Pune, where I had been staying with a wonderful unschooling family I met during my time in India last year. While packing my carry-on and laptop bags, the only two bags I have during my six months in India, I was struck by the similarity between my packing style and the routine of good spiritual practice.

My bags are very organized and precise. Some might say too organized; the contents of my carry-on is packed into six smaller bags of various sizes that precisely fit into the larger bag like blocks in the game of Tetris.  Each garment is folded according to specially-sized folding boards that travel with me, used or wet clothes are vacuum-packed using compression bags, socks act as shoe trees for the pair of loafers I keep in the bag, exercise bands wrap around the loafers, and the Turkish Delights I share with my hosts are sealed and protected in perfectly-sized Tupperware.

Some laugh at the packing system I employ, and I admit that it feels like overkill when others quickly stuff a few items in their bag while I fuss with mine. The fact remains that I tote a remarkable amount of supplies within one small carry-on, however: hot weather clothes for the days, cold weather clothes for Northern India’s chilly nights, formal wear, backpacker garb, custom-made “Teach me Hindi” shirts, exercise clothes, quick-drying clothes, and—because I typically lose 20 to 30 lbs when I visit India—clothes in several sizes. All in one carry-on. Along with exercise equipment, gifts and business cards.

Assembling my stuff is more than packing. The organizational system maximizes space, but it also makes it a routine. This is where packing my bag evokes the benefits of spiritual routine.

(read more)


Video of the Week

The Hidden Influence of Vedanta on American Ideas

This is a talk given by Jon Monday given at the San Diego Vedanta Center on June 3rd, 2012. It traces the Western exploration of Vedanta scriptures and Philosophy from the earliest translations in the 1700s to our founding fathers, Jefferson and Adams, to the Transcendentalists, to the explosion of religious pluralism in the 19th century, to modern times through great thinkers such as Carl Jung, William James, Aldous Huxley, J.D. Salinger, Joseph Campbell, Christopher Isherwood, and Huston Smith. All this led up to the explosion of interest in Eastern Religion in the 60s – which continues today.

Finding lasting happiness. Applying the Bhagavad Gita to daily life. Learning about the history of Vedanta in the U.S. These are some of the topics covered at American Vedanta’s YouTube channel. We curate a list of spiritual videos that will help advance your spirituality and expand your mind. When wanting spiritual videos, give our YouTube channel a look.

We also recommend other resources such as Booksaudio lectures and web sites, among other resources.


Spiritual Fitness

Do You have a Spiritual Routine?

Vedanta, if not practical, has no other relevancy. The key to practical Vedanta is an individualized spiritual routine.

There are six components of a good spiritual routine.

Swan1. Find a Community. If you have an existing church, temple or mosque, attend regularly. If not, join our Facebook group and see our list of recommended spiritual organizations.

2. Seek Guidance. Find a mentor within your existing spiritual community or contact us for a referral.

3. Attend Spiritual Services Regularly. If you don’t live near an appropriate spiritual community, we offer a weekly spiritual talk delivered by email, Facebook and Twitter. We also host a regular Vedanta Dinner for those who live in the New York City area.

4. Incorporate Individual Study. We keep a list of books and resources for your individual study needs.

5. Take Responsibility for Your Spiritual Life. Read our talk about listening to your own inner compass and contact us when you have a question that your spiritual community isn’t answering adequately.

6. Leverage Rituals Thoughtfully. As an example, read our essay about the power of saying grace.

Our longer talk about spiritual routine can be found here.

Happy Sunday! Peace be unto you. Peace be unto all.

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