Do you really want to do regular spiritual practice, but it’s just not happening?

Your good intentions go astray when the course ends. Or after you get home from the meditation retreat.

It took me many years to find a regular practice of my own.

I’m sharing some resources here in the hope that it won’t take you so long.

Spiritual practice, not belief

Spiritual practice is something you do. It’s not about belief, or understanding, or knowledge.

By regular practice, I mean most days, as part of self-care rituals and routines.

You do it for yourself. On your own.

Practicing with other people is great. But we need our own practice too.

I’m not a spiritual teacher. I don’t advocate one particular teacher or tradition or belief system.

This is from my own experience. Although I’m quoting people I have learned from, along the way.

You don’t have to go to a class or join a group.

I’ve found that when I have my own spiritual practice, I’m in a much stronger position to integrate new learnings from teachers and workshops. 

Something greater than ourself

By spiritual practice, I mean connecting to something beyond yourself.

Spiritual practice helps us understand where we belong in the world. And what is ours to do, in these challenging times.

I’ve heard it defined as: Quiet the mind. Open the heart.

Many people experience this as nature, the earth.

Joanna Macy is one writer and activist who explicitly connects spirituality and ecology. She comes from a Deep Ecology, eco-Buddhist perspective.

You don’t have to use the word God. I don’t.

It’s something each of us has to figure out for ourselves.

When we have our own spiritual practice, we’re building internal resources: strength, resilience, depth and power. It’s about self-care and self-nourishment.

“By doing the practice, the practice does the work. We’re not in control,” says Sufi business teacher Mark Silver, author of a great book called Heart-Centred Business

Some benefits of spiritual practice

This section is to reassure our brains, which enjoy evidence.

There’s research that proves positive results for many of the practices mentioned in this article. But, research doesn’t usually mention the spiritual aspects.

That’s because spirituality and scientific research have a problematic relationship. (I could write a whole blog post about this.)

Meditation, to take one example, is usually studied and explained without mentioning spirituality.

Some proven (not necessarily spiritual) benefits of regular spiritual practice include:

Better stress management

Emotional wellbeing/ improved mental health

Improved sleep

Better digestion

Specific physical improvements for some people, e.g. pain relief.

Spiritual practice can build a feeling of connectedness and belonging to our physical body, and to the natural world.

There’s plenty of research demonstrating the benefits of heart connection, e.g. from the HeartMath Institute.

Many people find spiritual practice helpful when dealing with addictions.  The 12-step approach (Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, ACA and sister organisations) is non-denominational spiritual practice. Belief isn’t specified or required, but practice is. 

Six spiritual practices

Here are some of my favourite spiritual practices.

Two kinds of meditation

Meditation is about calming the mind.

Many people (including me) have in-built resistance to meditation. Many styles of meditation don’t suit me. I was an epic fail in a string of meditation classes.

Here are two forms of meditation that work for me. 

Compassionate mindfulness meditation

This practice, which starts with one breath of self-warmth, has been a game changer for me.

In the teachings of neuroscience educator Sarah Peyton, author of Your Resonant Self, I learned that my meditation-related challenges are not about lack of commitment or willpower.

Sarah Peyton says a reason many people find it hard to meditate is that we have super-critical voices in our brain.

As soon as we try to calm our minds, we start hearing mean things from our unconscious.

Sarah Peyton is great at teaching ways into meditation that work for people like me. Her website SarahPeyton.com has free meditation downloads.

Also, I highly recommend her Compassionate Mindfulness online course.

“We don’t want to beat ourself up for not being able to relax,” she says.

Walking meditation

This is my all-time favourite style of meditation. Sitting still isn’t required!

A walking meditation is usually done in a repeated pattern, e.g. walking a labyrinth.

I do a daily walking meditation around trees at the bottom of my garden. It’s a DIY suburban labyrinth.

Walking meditation can also be done indoors, but you need a fair amount of space. Just around one small room doesn’t work for me.

Nobody taught me how to do this, I worked it out for myself.

I find being in nature is an important support when I meditate.

Trees and plants are great for co-regulating a stressed out human nervous system. Co-regulation is a term I learned from somatic healing. It isn’t the same as calming, it’s more about making our nervous system steadier, deeper, wider.

Remembrance

Remembrance is a wonderful spiritual practice from the Sufi tradition of Islam.

It’s an awareness of divine presence through the knowing of the heart.

It’s different from meditation, in that meditation is about emptying the mind. Remembrance is about filling the heart.

I learned about Remembrance from spiritual business teacher Mark Silver, author of Heart Centred Business.

I find it easiest to practice Remembrance using a guided recording. Mark has some Remembrance practice recordings on the Heart of Business website and on Insight Timer.  

Music in spiritual practice

Music is essential in spiritual traditions worldwide.

Here are two of my favourite musical spiritual practices:

Toning: sacred sound

Toning is the practice of sounding vowels, for spiritual and/or healing purposes.

It’s a well known part of sound healing. But it’s also a powerful spiritual practice. Toning can restore balance to the mind and body.

It isn’t singing, in a musical sense. There’s no melody, no words, no harmony.

Toning with others is a wonderful experience. But I’ve found it is also a great individual practice.

I recommend toning in a space on your own. It’s not a performance. People don’t need to hear you.

If other people are in the house, I do my toning in the back bedroom.

I learned about toning from sound healer and singer Dominique Oyston, of the Goddess Voice Academy. Her book Goddess Archetypes: Empowering the Feminine Voice is on Amazon Kindle.

Chants and mantras

A chant or a mantra is a few words, or a simple song, repeated many times.

I love singing chants while playing ukulele.

There are tutorial videos for a few of my favourite chants on my Youtube channel.

Here’s how to play the Green Tara Mantra

Places of beauty and nature

Many people find it easier to feel spiritually connected in a beautiful place. In a forest, beside the ocean, on a mountain top, in one of the great European cathedrals, in a Zen garden.

Even if you live in a boring, non-beautiful suburb or in a built-up city, you can still create small spaces of beauty to inspire you.

Or search for the pockets of nature that are there to find in most urban spaces. Most weeks I visit a local riverside park with wild spaces.

Australian permaculture designer Cecilia Macaulay teaches online and in-person workshops on creating spaces of beauty in your home.

More spiritual practices

There are many other kinds of spiritual practice. (I could write another blog about all of these!)

Here are some that I practice myself:

a personal altar

a daily gratitude journal

yoga

tracking my female cycles both monthly and in bigger, seasonal/ life arcs

creativity (e.g. The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron)

And there’s grief work, which I believe is one of the most important spiritual practices of our times. For more about grief work, check out Joanna Macy’s work around the Great Turning and The Wild Edge of Sorrow, by Francis Weller.

Spiritual practice is not a luxury

It’s a hugely valuable gift that you can give to yourself and to the world.

We’re living in increasingly complex and stressful times. Regular spiritual practice helps cope with this.

Personal spiritual practice will strengthen your inner sense of who you are, and where you belong in the wider scheme of things.

I hope you’ve been inspired to start a personal practice.

It’s something that will gradually pay off over time.

But it needs to be regular and consistent. Not just when you feel like it.

If you would like some help, I’d love to support you to find your own practice. 

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