Becoming my own master

Carolin Fraude

A spiritual approach to how we live means understanding that our relationship with the world around us – material and non-material – is of central importance. Our priorities, the choices we make, all have consequences for which we take responsibility.

Everything is connected. We are part of a complex system that embraces individuals, societies, the environment and natural resources. Whatever we do has an impact on the world and its systems – for good or ill.

If I have this deep awareness of my place in the world, then of course I begin to examine, and ask questions about, the way I live. I understand that what I do, and the choices I make, really matter.

For example, climate change is connected with how each one of us sees the world: Is it like a supermarket for us to take and use whatever we want? Or should we treat the earth as an interdependent system that we disturb, or care for, through our life choices?

Spirituality is fundamentally about learning to perceive in this subtle way. By practising meditation, we bring about a shift in our consciousness, becoming more aware, sensitive, compassionate. It enables us to develop a finer perception of, and sensitivity to, the other person, the environment and natural systems – everything around us.

When I first encountered the Brahma Kumaris as a young person travelling in India, I was impressed by how practical spirituality can be. I observed the community at Mount Abu quietly combining the inner work of developing a different awareness with day-to-day life, chores and work. This was especially true of Dadi Janki, whose qualities of deep perception and down-to-earth wisdom and practicality have influenced me greatly.

I have come to understand that we can consciously choose a simpler way of life. There need be no sense of deprivation. Following a plant-based diet, keeping material desires modest, travelling less than we used to, can bring its own reward. We do not need lots of possessions, activity and travel to feel fulfilled.

Inner spiritual work is the way to fill ourselves with whatever we need internally. Yes, we all wish for love, peace and happiness – but consumerism is not the way to find them: They are external props!

If we choose instead to connect with the Divine, a beautiful, sweet, powerful Being, then we experience a pure and true love that fills us with courage and happiness. A daily practice of connection in meditation brings a lightness and joy that no amount of possessions ever can. It frees us from dependency on material goods or other people’s company. We can enjoy being with others without being dependent on them.

This capacity to be “self-led” allows me to hear others’ views and yet make my own decisions. I am my own master. Far from doing whatever I like, I consciously take responsibility for myself and for how I impact the world. This is true freedom and empowerment.