Have there been times of the day or settings that have drawn you to be more focused and centered? How does that relate to spiritual practice?
Another day begins. After pouring a cup of coffee, making my way to a familiar spot in my home, and lighting a candle near an icon, I begin my ritual of prayer and meditation. Later in the day, I return for another period of meditation, something I’ve done for most of my life.
Why? What’s the point of all this contemplative practice? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial if I took the nearly hour each day I spend on spiritual practice and do something more “productive”?
Spiritual practice, like most skills in life, requires regular, disciplined practice. If someone wants to become good at playing a musical instrument, exceling in sports, or proficient at cooking a new cuisine, then practice is a must. Few things in life come so naturally that we master them with no effort. We know the mechanics of eating, but it takes practice to learn to identify the subtleties in flavor and texture that are part of truly enjoying wonderful food and beverages.
In meditation, prayer, and other spiritual exercises, what is it then that one is practicing?
First, spiritual exercises enable us to enlarge our hearts. Left unchecked, we tend to become self-centered and preoccupied with our own needs. By creating inner stillness, we learn to turn off the impulses that drive us to want, and sometimes demand things, that do not fulfill us.
Second, spiritual exercises enable us to live in ways that are better for ourselves, others, and the world. Over time, we become better able to maintain a sense of inner quiet and contentment. This enables us to be more compassionate with ourselves and our own limitations, as well as interacting more compassionately with others.
Third, spiritual practice reveals deeper dimensions of ourselves. We discover the false illusions, the hurt and pain from past experiences, and all that is preventing us from living with a sense of inner balance. As a Christian, I believe that this process enables me to better reflect and become the image of the Divine that is at the heart of who I am.
Spiritual exercises are essentially practices in how to be open to living in a graceful way. Spiritual practice inspires us to live with compassion. Spiritual practice creates a greater sense of healing and wholeness in the midst of a troubled world (and often troubled lives). Spiritual practice makes us better human beings. For me, becoming a better person is absolutely worth making the time for regular spiritual practice!
What does it mean for you to become a better person? How can regular spiritual practice be part of your growth as an individual?
© 2016, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.