The thing I most want to share from the heart this week is my spiritual practice — and how it has changed my life. The saying goes that “practice makes perfect.” When it comes to spirituality, however, I believe that practice makes peace.
For years I struggled with bouts of depression, OCD and anxiety. It wasn’t until I committed to and connected with an ongoing spiritual practice that I found relief — not a practice prescribed by someone else with rigid rules and limitations but one that resonates with me.I think of my personal practice as a living, breathing thing that can shift as needed to keep it fresh and relevant.
Spiritual practice can include reciting the same prayers you’ve been saying your entire life, or it can include searching for new ones from unexpected sources ... ones that speak to your heart. Prayers that are expressed with feeling and authenticity and not just from rote memory invite us to experience the intimacy of hearing the real meaning behind the words ... maybe for the first time.
Spiritual practice can take place in your traditional house of worship, or a different one without the pressure of worrying that you are betraying the religion of your upbringing. It can be liberating and enriching to experience a different perspective from time to time.
Spiritual practice doesn’t necessarily need to even take place in a physical building at all. There were no churches in Jesus' time. It can happen under a starry sky, or underwater in the sea. Contrary to what many of us have been taught to believe, “God” loves us everywhere.
One of the mainstays in my practice is prayer, which I think of as connecting to love. Prayer can take various shapes and forms.
Praying with others especially keeps me centered and in touch with what’s important. I have two prayer partners — one I pray with daily, the other once a week. I wouldn’t want to maneuver life’s challenges or celebrate the joys without their wisdom, love and support.
(Next week’s post will focus on the prayer partnership — how it starts, how it works, and how to find the best partner for you.)
Spending time in nature also is a form of prayer for me — and something I try to experience in one way or another on a daily basis. It might be as simple as taking a moment to look out the window and allow the beauty of what I see to fill my soul.
Recently I began to think of my (near) daily walk as practicing a kind of prayer in movement. I remind myself that the simplest and most powerful prayer is to say, "Thank you." With each step, I try to notice one detail for which to express my gratitude — a leaf on a tree, the person responsible for putting lettering on a truck, the unique song of the Egyptian geese flying overhead ... even the garbage, knowing how lucky we are to have people who take it away without us even asking.
My practice involves walking. Yours can happen while you are painting, cooking or bathing the kids. Whatever you happen to be doing, take a moment to look at your surroundings. There are lots of beautiful details we take for granted in our homes and environments. Notice all of them. Use all your senses. Express thanks with each step ... with each action. It connects us to love.
Writing and reading things of a spiritual nature — poems, prayers, quotes, books and more — are also a regular part of my daily practice. For you, though, listening to music, contemplating a work of art or a flower, or maybe watching ballet may fill you with the knowing that there is something so much bigger than we are. We are all different and yet the same.
Perhaps you feel moved to create some kind of an altar as part of your practice. It can be in a room you designate as a sanctuary in your home, on a kitchen windowsill, or even the dashboard of your car. Wherever it is and whatever shape it takes, place objects on it that stir your heart and fill you with gratitude. Gaze at this testament to your faith. Talk to it. Make it part of your life.
Set aside sacred time, even if it’s just a few minutes, to really immerse your senses and connect to whatever “love” means to you. It’s a practice you will not regret.
If you find it challenging to develop and maintain a spiritual practice that feels alive and transformative, work with a spiritual counselor or director who is trained to cradle and companion you to experience the divine in your own way. If you do it anyone else’s way, or for someone else’s reason, it is likely to be put on the shelf — and you deserve more than that.
My blessing for all of you today is that you connect with a spiritual practice that may not be perfect but brings you deep inner peace.