What good are spiritual practices? Why take time to pray, meditate, journal, or spend time to intentionally develop the spiritual dimension of life?
There are some critics who claim that a focus on spirituality is nothing more than self-indulgence. I’ve heard this criticism many times. Some of those who make this criticism assert that people drawn to spirituality are fragile from abuse earlier in life and use spirituality or religion as a crutch. Other times, I’ve heard the criticism from religious people who claim that spirituality is a mask for self-centered preoccupation that avoids the scrutiny of a formal belief system. Perhaps there is some merit to these criticisms, but in general, I think they overstate the case..
I’ve also heard it said by some religious people that the only reason to pray, meditate, or engage in other practices is to become closer to God. As a Christian, my experience of regular spiritual practice does indeed lead me deeper into my encounter with God. But I also believe that intimacy with the Divine is not the primary result of spiritual practice.
In my book, Stumbling Into Life’s Lessons, I write:
“The reason to pray, meditate, journal, reflect, and learn about spirituality is simply to become a better person. Exploring and developing the spiritual dimension of life helps us to become the best person we can be. A healthy spiritual life should enable a person to be more caring and compassionate to others and our world as a whole. A well-founded spiritual life should help a person move past our inner pain to have a larger heart that welcomes and respects others. A balanced spiritual life should allow that divine spark in each of us to shine so that others can see it and experience goodness in us.”
Spiritual practice should change us. Over time, a routine of spiritual practice should make us better people. Spiritual practice enables us to move beyond many of the hurts and pains of life, things that we all experience. We can let go of the baggage we may carry. Research shows that spiritual practice also stimulates brain growth that often leads to a healthier outlook on life and more positive perception of ourselves.
As spiritual practice brings change into our lives, then we are able to grow in intimacy with the Divine. Spiritual practice opens us, heals us, and enables us to expand our sense of self. As that happens, we are then able to encounter something more than we could ever expect or hope to encounter in life.
The transformation of our hearts and lives that comes from spiritual practice is a necessary first step in growing in intimacy with the Divine or the growth of compassion toward others. Without this first step, one could remain a bitter, resentful, and malicious individual while also communing with the Divine. That’s simply incongruous. While none of us is perfect, as we become more whole, we are more prepared to encounter the Holy.
Spiritual practice: its first impact is the quality of our own lives. As we grow further into wholeness, we are then more able to enlarge our hearts to be present with the Divine, and by extension, the whole of all that is.
For more readings on multi-faithful spiritual practices, you may be interested in my book Stumbling Into Life’s Lessons.
© 2012, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.