Happy New Year! I wish you all a year full of blessings and open, joyful hearts! It seems that most New Year’s resolutions focus on getting the body more fit and healthy. Since our bodies are the temples that house our spirits, this is important. But what about your spiritual health? What do you do to be more spiritually healthy? I’m not talking about religion; I’m talking about your individual spirit. You can be of any religion or no religion at all, but you still have a spirit that needs attending to. Are you in touch with it? Are you one with it, at least sometimes? If you feel anxious and disconnected or lost on a regular basis, you need to get in touch with your deepest self. This is not about someone else telling you what to think or feel — it’s just slowing down and getting quiet so you can listen and watch and find out for yourself.
Everyone needs a regular spiritual practice — something that you do every day to stay connected and sane. It can be small and it can be short. But committing to a regular practice will have a multitude of benefits. This New Year’s message is actually inspired by my son and my nephew — two young men in their 20s who enjoy the benefits of meditation but find that life can engulf them in busy-ness and it’s too easy to let a day slip away without fitting it in. So they decided to team up and hold themselves accountable to each other. Each morning in their separate homes they do a gratefulness practice followed by at least ten minutes of meditation. Then they text each other to say that they did it. That’s it. It’s easy, but there are so many rewards. Beginning your day like that sets a tone and intention that will serve you well throughout the day. Sure, you might step out the door and lose it when the kids are demanding or the traffic is crazy, but the more you practice, the easier it is to go back to your spiritual state — a place where you are connected and fully alive, awake, and aware but are also able to observe objectively and react with more equanimity. You may notice less anxiety and more ability to go with the flow.
A daily spiritual practice can be any or all of these things, and if you have another practice I’d love to hear about it:
- naming what you’re grateful for or counting your blessings
- deep prayer (try listening more than talking)
- breathing practice
- a meditative walk in nature (not a power walk)
Vigorous exercise is not a spiritual practice. While it can make us feel good and clear our heads, it is a body-centered activity and is not the same as a contemplative practice. You might be angry and go for a run and then not feel angry any more, but that does not mean you’ve looked deeply or have any more awareness about why you’re angry or have opened your heart or mind. You just blew off steam. By the same token, relaxing in a hot bath with a book is not a spiritual practice, it’s just relaxing. These things are valuable too, but when you practice it is important that you do it mindfully and that you only do this one thing. Don’t do your deep breathing while you’re watching the news or making breakfast. Don’t count your blessings while you’re driving to work. It is vital that you are fully present; this is not the time to multi-task. Make time and make it special, and you will reap the rewards.
It’s easy to let the day carry you away, so I need to do this in the morning before I do anything else. And teaming up with a friend as mentioned above is a great way to motivate yourself to keep up with your practice. Once when I was taking a workshop, the leader randomly assigned us to a partner. We were supposed to call each other once a week for three weeks to co-mentor and encourage each other to keep up with our spiritual work. My partner was Beth. We dutifully called each other for the 3 weeks, and then decided that we were getting so much from these calls that we should keep it up a little longer. It’s been over six years, and we are still making those weekly calls and have become great friends. We talk about what’s going on in our lives from a spiritual perspective, and we offer advice and encouragement. We keep each other on track if we get derailed or lose perspective. It’s wonderful to have a friend who can look at life with you on a deeper level.
If you don’t have someone who is interested in taking this journey with you, you can hold yourself accountable to me. You can go to my Facebook page (click the F at the top right-hand corner of the page) and simply let me know that you did your practice in as few or as many words as you like. You can simply write “practiced” and that is good enough.
As life gets busier and crazier and continues to draw our attention outward, it’s more important than ever to bring it back in so we can stay in touch with what’s really important and go through life with more ease. It won’t happen unless we make it happen, so let’s make it happen in 2015!
Namaste and Happy New Year!