The Importance of Regular Spiritual Practices
Here’s the thing about our minds.
They are gifted in solving problems for us. This is what they were made to do. Because of them, we have been able to create automobiles, computers, gluten-free cupcakes and other amazing inventions.
But sometimes, our minds make up problems in order to be useful and we end up being anxious, fearful, angry, worrisome and distracted as a result.
We need to be able to put our minds at rest in order to come back to the present moment and connect with our source energy, which is our never-ending source of peace, joy, abundance and love.
This is what spiritual practices do for us. They help re-ground us when our minds have worked themselves up into a flurry of emotions.
Spiritual practices disconnect us from the creative machinations of our minds and help us to realign with our souls.
I like to do some kind of spiritual practice every day and they are essential during critical junctures when I am especially prone to creating anxiety or fantasy narratives.
One of my spiritual teachers told me not to make an important life decision until after 30 days of constant spiritual practice. I tell you, this has been one of the best pieces of advice I have ever been told and has saved me from many rash decisions.
You may now be wondering what I mean by spiritual practices. They take different forms and have a multitude of expressions in almost every faith tradition I know of. But their aims and results are the same, in that they help us detach from the stories and chatter of our minds and reconnect with our souls. Here are some of my favorite spiritual practices. I do at least one or two each day. Sometimes I’ll do the same one for months and sometimes I’ll mix it up from day to day.
Meditate in Silence: There are numerous ways to meditate but I prefer the one that resembles centering prayer. In centering prayer, I breathe in and out in silence while I focus on one word I have chosen (i.e. love, hope, courage, etc.). The purpose of that word is to ground me when my thoughts wander, kind of like a paper weight.
Journaling: Sometimes, it helps me to detach from my mind by downloading all of the thoughts in my mind. This exercise is akin to cleaning out cluttered cabinets. When I am especially overwhelmed, angry or anxious, I will sit down and write the question, what thoughts are filling your mind right now? And then I will just let it rip and put every single thought down on paper. Afterwards, I do not judge those thoughts in any way. I just think with neutrality, ah, that’s what was in there and then I move on with my day feeling much lighter.
Gratitude Exercise: Get out a piece of paper and for five minutes, write non-stop about everything you love in in your life, from your family and friends to the chair you are sitting on to a hot cup of coffee. This exercise helps us to reframe our minds when they are stuck in a pattern of complaint, insecurity or scarcity.
I love the Buddhist Loving Kindness Meditation. It always, without fail, softens my heart and makes me more loving and joyful.
Taize Chants: While eastern religions are especially known for their mystical and contemplative practices, Christianity also has a rich tradition of mysticism and contemplation. One such tradition is Taize chanting, where you sing a simple chant over and over again.
Do a Forgiveness Practice: I will do a much longer post sometime on the importance of forgiveness but I believe forgiveness is one of the most powerful catalysts for living more joyful lives. We don’t even realize how much resentment we hold against e go throughout our days holding so much resentment against others and ourselves until we intentionally reflect on who we need to forgive. On days where I have at least a thirty minutes to myself, I might ask myself the question, what do I need to let go of and forgive in order to live a happier life? Naming is one thing but of course, actually forgiving is an entirely different issue. Compassion can help immensely in forgiving ourselves and others. In order to summon this compassion, ask yourself, what circumstances in this person’s life led them to do what they did? What else would I realize about this person if I was more conscious of them? This question and answer process helps us to take other peoples' actions less personally. This practice also enables us to extend compassion upon our own selves because we often subject ourselves to unreasonable expectations.
These are my favorite ones off the top of my head but I know of many more that helps others: walking meditation, hiking, praying, Lectio Divina, etc.
Choose the ones that work for you and commit to a daily practice. It doesn’t have to be lengthy, even just five minute of silent meditation is a great start.