In January, I created a list of ten personal and professional goals to accomplish during the year. These goals included health, family, writing, home improvement, financial, and spiritual aspects of my life. By far the most nebulous goal was to create a “satisfying spiritual practice.” As a goal, it is too vague and nonspecific. I knew this, but let it stand, because I felt that I had not been paying enough attention to this part of my life.
My first act in establishing a satisfying spiritual practice was to journal about it — to freewrite and word cluster in order to define what I meant. And, to do that, I needed to define all three core words: satisfying, spiritual, and practice.
First, the word spiritual. I’m not a religious person — haven’t been for many years. I don’t believe in a particular god or a particular path in life. I don’t believe there’s a divine plan out there, a preordained map that I’m supposed to follow. I don’t believe there’s an answer to the condition of mankind — nor that there needs to be one.
But I do believe in free will and that deep within me lives a soul that is, in some form, eternal. Whether that means that the person I identify as “me” stays intact or whether that “me” breaks up into little tiny energetic particles and merges with the greater universe, I don’t know and I don’t care. I believe that this deep-down soul is in some way connected to a greater consciousness that is full of wisdom and knowledge, that my conscious self can dip into and access that knowledge and wisdom like a butterfly dipping its proboscis into a flower and scooping out its precious nectar, and that doing so will bring me greater wisdom and peace in this life.
Where did I get these beliefs? I don’t know. Perhaps I created them from the weft and weave of my life, my proximity and experience with organized religion and nature. All I know is that, from a very young age, I have been aware of a great hum of power beneath my feet, a network of roots connecting all living things with one another.
So by spiritual, I mean That in me which connects to That (I guess you could call it Spirit) in all else. Because when I connect to That, I feel calm, centered, peaceful, empowered. I become better able to experience events in a larger perspective. I am wiser, more grateful. Happier.
Practice means an act I perform on a regular basis that helps me to grow more skilled at connecting with the greater Spirit. Practices that seem to work for me include sitting in and paying attention to nature — at the beach, beneath the redwoods, or even on a patch of grass in my backyard — meditation, and slow, attentive movements such as yoga or dance. Even simply paying conscious attention to the moment I am in, absorbing sensory details and breathing seems to work. The act of writing is also a deeply spiritual practice, when done with presence and intention.
How much time does it take to practice these things? Very little, really, yet I often find myself to be forgetful, rushed, hurried, irritable, and off center. I don’t think I have the time. Yet, what would it really take to practice just enough to be satisfying?
Satisfying means I am able to maintain that calm, grateful, happier place enough of the time to feel balanced. Oh, that elusive state — balance! Would five minutes a day be enough? How about five minutes twice a day, three times a day?
Maybe all I need to do is set a reminder on my cell phone — let’s say three times a day — to breathe deeply and pay attention for 5 minutes to whatever is going on. To stretch, if I can. To stand up and reach my arms to the sky. To stand beneath a tree and feel its energy. And perhaps every month or so to schedule a day long retreat for myself, alone somewhere in nature. (That’s more challenging, but doable.)
Do you have a satisfying spiritual practice that helps you feel calm, grateful, and balanced? Feel free to share. One request: I’d appreciate if you’d avoid including any particular religion’s doctrine and/or dogma in your sharing. Simply write what it is that you do on a regular basis and how it helps you.