28 Jul 2017

Everyday Spirituality: Spirituality Series, Part 4

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Writing about spirituality in the last month has sparked some interesting conversations in my life. People have told me how much they’ve enjoyed reading about my journey. They’ve shared their stories of spiritual growth and how they reconciled beliefs from their upbringing with experiences later in life. And some have asked me how they can develop their own spiritual practices and grow more spiritually.

I’ve not typically an advice-giver. As much as I love reading other people’s how-to blog posts, I rarely write them. I don’t think of myself as an expert on much of anything other than living my own life and learning from the experiences I’ve had. But I understand the question, “How do I grow spiritually?” Spiritual life is inherently mysterious and amorphous. And it’s profoundly personal, so no one road map necessarily fits everyone. And it’s daunting to take on a path of spiritual growth when one has worldly obligations to take care of and very little time to go sit on a mountain top and meditate for years.

So, how do we do this spirituality thing in our day-to-day life? I have no one-size-fit-all advice, but I do have some ideas that have worked for me, offered here humbly in hopes they might enhance your spiritual path.

  • Be mindful. This one is a no-brainer. If we’re not practicing mindfulness, it’s easy to get caught up in past and future thinking, which is where we lose track of the many blessings we have right in this moment. Mindfulness takes many forms. It can be pausing to take a few deep breaths, sitting and observing your surroundings in the moment, or simply noticing your feet touching the floor. Pausing several times throughout the day for mindfulness opens the door to a bigger, more inspiring spiritual life.
  • Talk to your Higher Power. Prayer is a spirituality staple, of course, and something I’ve done almost every day of my life. But something shifted for me when I started actually talking to my Higher Power in a more conversational way. As in, “Hey, God, I’m really stressed. So-and-so is being a jerk and I have this deadline and I don’t like how I look today. Can you help me out? I’m not even really sure what to ask for. Just whatever you have to offer is awesome. Oh, and how are you?” Talking to my Higher Power this way–and releasing the idea that I had to communicate in flowery language–made that relationship feel so much more personal and easy.
  • Read. If you enjoy reading, immerse yourself in books that inspire you spiritually. They don’t necessarily have to be Biblical, if that’s not your thing. There are plenty of writers who write about spirituality in general. Two of my favorites are Anne Lamott and Thich Naht Hahn. As you read, pause periodically to take some deep breaths and absorb the information and inspiration.
  • Notice synchronicity. Were you just thinking about someone you haven’t seen in a while, then you run into them in the store? Were you wishing for a new work opportunity, then a friend messaged you about an opening at their employer? Do you happen to see a particular number everywhere, especially during times of stress? I like to think of synchronous moments as my Higher Power saying, “Hey, kiddo, I’m still here. No need to worry, because I’ve got you.” The Universe conspires to our greater good, and the more we notice the moments we’re being taken care of, the more often we will experience those moments.
  • Find a spiritual community, and engage with them often. As someone who didn’t go to church until recently, this was a tough one for me for a long time. Non-religious folks have a harder time finding spiritual community than churchgoers, because those communities are simply less visible. But they are out there. Meditation groups are a great way to meet spiritually-minded people of all backgrounds. The important thing is, once you find your community, you have to stay in touch with them. Call people, text people, go get coffee. Enjoy the richness of being with people who are also on a spiritual path.
  • And of course… pray, meditate, do yoga, journal, make gratitude lists, etc. Look, I can tell you a million ways to deepen your spiritual practice that you already know. The point is that you have to do them! Make time for them, even if it’s just three minutes of deep breathing and prayer in the morning. Just like exercise, you can only see results if you do it consistently. The more you do, the more you’ll experience the benefits of your spiritual work.

 

It’s important to remember that, like everything else in life, spiritual growth has ebbs and flows. And sometimes spiritual work will feel rich and exciting; sometimes it will feel like a chore. Give yourself grace on your spiritual path and allow it to be what it is, while staying intentionally focused on growth.

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