Spiritual Practice & Spirituality


Spirituality, spiritual practices, what are they?  How would you define Spirituality?

Google Trends shows the search for the term spirituality at its highest in 2004.  Today it is barely a word used in search terms.  Yet, when you do conduct a Google search the links are extensive.  The first page of the search shows educational information, “lessons,” definitions, linking to Christianity, and scientific research.

Years ago the medical industry discovered a link to prayer and healing.  This evolved into examining one’s personal spiritual and religious beliefs to determine a deeper link to health and longevity.  The discoveries of the last two to three decades is that people who become involved in some form of spiritual practice, meditation, mindfulness, and conscious living are happier people overall, more productive and health is not as much of an issue, if at all.

Spirituality simply defined here is the practice of mindful, loving, existence.  Making a conscious contact with the Divine, whether you call “it” God, Goddess, Yahweh, or Buddha.  The name is not as important as the connection.

When anger, hurt, or other similar emotions arise they are faced, released, and the person moves on.  Living mindfully of self in relation to the world is not a full time job, it is a daily practice.  One that soon is an integral part of the day.  Mindfulness is the art of awareness.   When emotions arise, a problem occurs, questions are asked of the situation, solutions are sought, emotions are felt, the energy of the experience is released and the next moment occurs.

Wikipedia has an extensive article here on Spirituality.  No one can agree on the definition of Spirituality.  It is tied to religion, it is not tied to religion.  You don’t have to be religious to be spiritual, and vice versa.  They are independent beliefs and yet integrally linked.  The practice of reverential living is another way of looking at the concept of Spirituality.

Spiritual Practices include meditation, prayer, and ritualistic behaviors like lighting candles, casting circles (Wicca), following the breath (Zen), and many others.  There is no right or wrong practice to develop or practice spirituality.   Here is one definition of Spirituality from Wikipedia: spiritual practice or spiritual discipline (often including spiritual exercises) is the regular or full-time performance of actions and activities undertaken for the purpose of cultivating spiritual development.  This article includes many practices from different religions.

Spirituality for me is about living in a state of awareness, connecting with the Divine, and developing a peaceful state of being.  Rather than allowing events to control my thoughts and emotions, taking a time out and examining the situation, if possible.  “Taking a step back,” looking at the situation from a different perspective.  I heard this once: “You only know half the story.”  That has stuck with me.  Altercations do occur, misunderstandings, and without open communication the situation can get out of hand, feelings get hurt and fear is fed.

There are times that a “step back” or time out cannot happen immediately.  When this is the case, removing yourself is the next best thing.  Find a quiet time to look at the entire situation and examine your part.  What do you need to do to take care of you?  Is there a trigger than you can remove to prevent your reactions in the future?  Is there a past event that you have not found healing for?

When we practice meditation, attending to breath, the journey takes us inward.  We see a part of us that has been ignored for one reason or another.  Many of us grew up with the message that we were the least important person in the world.  Women from my generation and prior, were still being given the message that others came first.  Grow up, get married and raise a family.  Don’t talk about your accomplishments, don’t seek goals elsewhere, and many other types of stifling messages.  Of course this is also dependent on the part of the country you grew up.  This is not an inclusive definition or explanation by no means.

We are bombarded by mixed messages throughout our entire lives, beginning with birth and ending with death.  Learning to focus inward and define our lives to provide the highest meaning to us and thus as an outward expression to others, takes time, desire, and practice.  It is not a perfect path by no means.  Achieving Nirvana is possible, but not the first time you sit down and close your eyes.  Although, I have heard of those who did, rare individuals.

Generally speaking, as soon as you sit, close your eyes and begin following your breath a thought flits across your mind, then another.  You may not be aware of thoughts all day, until you focus on breathing and attaining a quiet mind state.  Practice and more practice.  Thoughts are invasive.  Our minds are used to operating without control.  We do not learn how to be consciously aware from birth.  Well, unless you have a parent or parents who have been students of spiritual development.

Consider this: How much of your day are you operating without consciously thinking about what it is you do?  Driving, reading, watching television, even some tasks like operating machinery do not require your conscious thought.  You have repeated these tasks so many times, you can do them automatically.  Eating is another task that is not conscious.  Until you make it so.

Sitting here I am aware of the chair under me, the keyboard under my hands, and the movement of my fingers over the keys.  My posture, the way my muscles feel as I flex my fingers and type these words.  I am also aware that my breathing is short, not long and relaxed.  My attention fell to writing, finding the words, rather than breathing and allowing the flow.  However, my body’s actions were not in my conscious thought, not as they are now.

To begin practicing awareness take baby steps.  Try these out:

  • Whatever you are doing right now, reading this for instance. J Notice your posture, don’t look at you, just notice.  How does your back feel?  Can you feel the floor beneath your feet or the chair against your bottom?  What is your breathing like?  Don’t change it, but notice it.
  • Sitting, lying down, driving, if the task is not dangerous do this:  Breathe in, feel the air move through your nostrils or over your tongue.
  • Focus on your big toe, for a few seconds, can you feel anything?  Bring your attention to your index finger tip.  Can you feel any sensation?
  • Next time you feel stiff, rather than stretch immediately, notice what the sensation is.  Muscles tense?  Where?  Bring your attention to the point.  Now see if you can make it relax with just a thought.  Now stretch and relax.

These simple little exercises will help you attune to your body.  Bringing you to a conscious awareness of you.  The inner journey is a bit more work because we have learned to ignore that part of self.  For one reason or another, emotions are not dealt with.  Fear, pain, grief, loneliness, anger, are to be ignored rather than dealt with immediately.  The problem with that plan is eventually something has to give.  Breathe into the moment.  You will find a new you.

More Resources to consider:

Mars Hill

Science of Mind

Spiritual Science Research Foundation

 

Ready to take that next step and work with someone in developing your practice?  Guided mediation can assist in keeping you focused.  Spiritual Lifestyle Coaching is an inclusive practice that will take you from the first step of learning to listen to your breath to clearing your life of toxins.  To learn more use my contact page and send me an email or instant message.

Until next time.  Bless you.


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About Connie

I am a Spiritual Life Coach with 25 years experience working with the 12-steps of Alcoholics & Narcotics Anonymous. 10 years experience as a substance abuse counselor and 23 years working with women seeking recovery from abuse and addictions. Learning to live the spiritual principles and beyond is a day to day process, I am grateful to my sponsors, guides, and coaches.