What is spiritual practice? Furthermore, do you have one?
Simply put, I define spiritual practice as something you do every single day that draws you deeper into who you really are, by connecting you with your divine self.
Please don’t be put off by the word spiritual here! Spiritual doesn’t have to entail – though it often does – meditation cushions, prayer beads, chant books, yoga mats, or any other such paraphernalia. A spiritual practice might be baking, gardening, running, knitting, playing piano, painting, hiking, meditating, golfing, doing yoga, tai chi, or calligraphy. It is not so much about the form but about the profound and connective quality of the time spent within it.
The practice part means just that: you do it daily, over and over, not in a gross way, but rather in a this-is-what-makes-me-who-I-am way. Without the aim of ever stopping with it, you practice as contribution to your ever-unfolding life on this earth. It can feel beautiful and compelling, harrowing and agonizing, annoying, vexing, boring as hell, or as ordinary and routine as brushing your teeth. Above all it is your rock, the ultimate placating pillar, steady and reliable as they come.
There have been times when, driven by such desperation, my yoga, pranayama, meditation, and journaling practices served as literal life preservers, day by grueling day. In these pockets, practice translates directly as necessity. In the coasting phases of our lives however, or during the highly celebratory ones, spiritual practice feels as joyous as the spread of a bright authentic smile, or as easy to fall into as a hammock under the stars, in the perfect climate, and between the two most exquisite trees.
This is all great you say, but how do I actually do it? First you have to admit that practice is essential, and something you must do. Next, you must designate, carve out, and stick to the time for it, often letting go of something else in order to keep it alive. Many people find it easiest to maintain practice first thing in the morning. But what does that mean you give up? Sleep? Or is it the extra hour on the computer before bed the night before so that you don’t lose the time in bed? There are choices here. It is up to you.
In short, and for you to take as inspiration or affirmation, here are my top ten benefits of spiritual practice:
- It provides clarity in the midst of our overflowing and demanding days.
- It cultivates the attention required to complete our tasks.
- It lifts our mood.
- It creates a sense of steadiness and grounding in change.
- It keeps us afloat and even-keeled in even the most riotous emotional storms.
- It helps us see our lives on a macro level.
- It helps us understand our lives on a micro level.
- It draws us into the simplicity of the moment.
- It touches us so deeply that without it we would feel lost or downright not right.
- It connects us to and reveals true spirit.
Ultimately, we must summon the courage to make room for spiritual practice, and the experiment that it is, as instigator at any given time of peace, elation, chill out, aha, tears, or evocative reflection. We must be willing to face whatever arises within this uncanny vehicle and to touch the sacred in ourselves every precious day.
This article has been updated. It was originally published on June 28, 2012.