One of my favorite questions to ask people is this: Do you have a spiritual belief system? Most people are happy to talk very clearly about their relationship with God, One, All, Divine, Universe or whatever name they might use for the infinite ineffable.
It is lovely to hear profound, well-considered manifestos from people all over the globe. “I used to be this religion, now I follow my own path.” “I believe in God, but not the way I learned it as a kid.” “I know there are Divine beings who help us.” “I believe I am fully supported by the Universe.” “I don’t know what I know, but I know there is more than me.” “Everything is one infinite soul.” And on and on. I love these statements of belief!
But my next question — Do you have a spiritual practice? — often meets with a sort of head-hung, I’m-so-ashamed kind of response. People feel guilty if they don’t meditate every day. People feel guilty if they have trouble sitting still to meditate. People feel ashamed if they don’t pray regularly.
Sometimes people think that having a spiritual practice means having a consistent, daily practice: prayers and study at dawn, yoga every day, a particular diet or routine.
This is a path for some.
Others think that having a true spiritual practice will leave no room for anything else. That to be spiritual means to live as a renunciate: to leave behind family, friends, interests and move into monkhood high in the Himalayas.
This is a path for some.
But for most of us. spiritual practice is the aspect of life that we somehow squeeze into the hubbub of everything else in our lives. We’re “householders,” in the Hindu term: doing our dharma in the every day of work, family, chores, community… the big ALL of life.
About my question
Now, my question is never meant to invite shame or guilt over what we’re doing or not doing the “right” way.
And it is true: some people are very consistent in their habits. Some do yoga in the wee hours, every single morning. Some read daily, studying the teachings of the great mystics, saint and sages. Some are true bhakti: they sing and dance and celebrate daily, a regular part of their lives. Some go to community services weekly or more. But for most of us…spiritual practice is often catch as catch can. And I’d like to say–with one small caveat–that this is a fine way to run your spiritual practice.
That caveat? That instead of thinking about your spiritual practice as something you “should do,” or as something that must be done “a certain way” or at a “certain time,” instead consider your spiritual practice as your way of being.
Not something separate from yourself. But how you show up in the world. Not what you do at a certain time or in a certain place. But how you are all the time, everywhere.
In this way of being, of living from consciousness, of living as a luminous, radiant, being of love, you would naturally be drawn to all the practices that help you to open and expand: studying, reading, praying, meditating, walking, journaling, singing, dancing, being in nature…all of it…because these are all the ways that help us open our true self, and become One with our oneness.
You would naturally be drawn to connecting with the Divine beings and helpers who are continually surrounding us in other dimensions, layers and levels of Universal vibration.
You would naturally be committed to learning the language of the cosmos, because this is the language of living from soul.
You would naturally be curious about ways to “open” into more presence. And of course, in leaning toward the light, you naturally notice yourself leaning away from the dark.
You would naturally begin to turn away from all those things that shut down consciousness: many habits of modern society, so many old belief systems that belong to others and to you, and certainly anything that brings you shame or guilt or unworthiness.
When you begin to think of spiritual practice as the way you are being in the world, it becomes a great joy to create space for things that help you to feel yourself as one of One.
Your way of being
Each of us enters this world as soul, packaged in a human container, and organized with a particular personality. We’re not going to change any of it very much: the spirit, body and mind have to learn to work together in this lifetime. So…don’t fight your personality so much!
If you are a consistent, regular person who does best with an organized practice, go do that. If you are a wiggly, in-the-body person who has trouble sitting on a meditation cushion, don’t sit. Go for a walk, or go dance, or do chi gong. Move through your meditation.
If you are a person who loves to study and read, do that. If you are a person who likes to work from audio, do that. And so on.
Spirituality in every moment
My own practice has become like a strand of pearls: a very full day, with each break from work or family dedicated to being one of One, to the fullest extent I can.
When I have three minutes, I might breathe, deeply and gratefully.
When I have ten minutes, I might meditate.
When I have twenty minutes, I might head out into nature.
When I have an hour or more, I might do yoga, or dance, or write or head to a community service or…so many ways to open to the Divine.
If I have a lot of time, I might head out to the nature around us: the forest, the ocean, all the beautiful places here in the Northwest.
No matter if I have a little time or a lot, I will dive deep, into that space where everything is healed, renewed, becomes whole.
The more room we make for such a life, the more such a life arrives to us.
And while I’m not yet able to live every minute conscious…I am able to bring consciousness to many, many more minutes of my day.
I no longer worry about the time, place or consistency of a given “practice,” I simply know that I will connect with the Divine, over and over and over, in any day, hour or minute, as best I can, as my life’s practice.
It can be a great relief to let go of all shame, guilt or unworthiness about how your spiritual practice “should be.” Instead, begin to live in Divine space, however that shows up for you.