In my last post, we discussed some guidelines for living a spiritually integrated life. The first guideline is to engage in a daily spiritual practice that suits you. There are many ways to live spiritually everyday, and I’ll share some of my thoughts on what that can look like.
My daily spiritual practice to write in my journal in the morning and to meditate before I go to bed at night. I try to do this everyday, but I’ll admit there are are some days, like when I’m sick or traveling or just depressed, that one of the two practices is missed. However, even if I’m in a blue funk, I’ll substitute getting on my knees at the side of my bed and saying a simple prayer for my meditation, or I’ll read a passage from a spiritual book instead of journaling. My daily practices are my commitment to self-care and the evolution of my soul. Without them, I am not very happy.
Here are some ways to engage in a daily spiritual practice:
Meditation: Experts say that as little as 5-10 minutes of mindfulness meditation, such as observing your breath, repeating a mantra or phrase, or observing an object, is enough to create positive benefits. Meditation has been cited as a way to reduce stress, calm emotions and improve concentration. It is also a way to get below the ego’s realm to your true or divine self. This is one way to commune with the Divine.
Prayer: Some say that prayer is a way to talk to God; meditation is how you can listen to God. Although I find meditation the best way to connect with Source, prayer can be a way to say what is on your mind, ask for blessings for yourself and others, and set intentions. You can pray and also listen for the still, small voice of God. Praying prepares you to hear it. To pray with the feeling of already having your prayer answered is a good approach to prayer.
Journaling: I write to unload the day’s events and feelings, to set intentions for the coming day, to tease out the truth in my jumbled thoughts and to state my affirmations. I also write as I listen to my true self (the Divine spark within). I’ll also journal to capture any wisdom heard during meditation.
Contemplative Reading: Normally, we read or skim a newspaper article quickly to glean the important information. To read contemplatively is to read slowly, savoring the words, ruminating about the deeper meaning of a phrase and living with a passage for long periods of time. This type of reading is typically done with sacred texts such as the Bible, the Torah or Koran, but you can apply the technique to poetry or any other reading that is sacred to you, including a daily meditation guide such as Guideposts or the Science of Mind magazine.
Yoga, walking, running: Yoga is a contemplative exercise that focuses the participant on the breath and the body. It calms the mind and spirit. Walking and running or other forms of exercise can be a sacred activity, too. Runners and other athletes talk about the spiritual high they get after pushing their bodies past what they thought possible. I find walking, when done mindfully, is a spiritual activity that connects me with nature, my body and the present moment.
Being in nature: Being in nature, whether it is walking or sitting, can make you aware of the connectedness of all things. Its beauty can invoke gratitude and awe. I see God’s hand in nature, inspiring an appreciation in me for the abundance and love that surrounds us always. Others just simply appreciate its wonders. My mother used to sit every night on our back porch, which was really an elevated deck constructed in the trees of our backyard. She would watch the stars, listen to the crickets, the night sounds or just the quiet and commune with God. That was her daily meditation.
Mindfulness: Mindfulness is simply being aware of what you are doing and giving it your entire focus. A sacred practice is to give your children or your spouse your full attention for some part of the day. Walking with an awareness of your feet touching the ground with every step is being mindful. Joyfully focusing on your work to the point of losing track of time (getting in the flow) is mindfulness. Part of my spiritual practice is writing this blog - when I write, I am totally focused and lost in the joy of just writing. Washing the dishes with full concentration on only the dishes is sacred work. I have a friend who enjoys washing her floor - she gets totally engrossed in the act and takes pride in its cleanliness when the job is done.
What are your daily spiritual practices? Whatever they are, it is important that you take time to do one of them every day, for even just 5 minutes! The benefits are many, least of all is the aspect of self-care. Remember the advice the flight attendants give us on the airplane - put on your oxygen mask first before helping others with their mask. We must nourish our souls with a daily spiritual practice before seeking to serve others.