Hello, everyone. As I promised in my last post, we have a guest blogger today – Janice Lynne Lundy. Jan is an interfaith spiritual director, spiritual mentor, inspirational speaker and workshop and retreat leader in Michigan. She is the author of three books, the most recent of which is Your Truest Self: Embracing the Woman You Are Meant To Be. We will be giving a away a copy of Your Truest Self to one of today’s commentators in a random drawing.
I met Jan here on this blog, when she left a comment last June, and then asked me to be a guest blogger on her site, Awake is Good, which frequently touches on meditation and other spiritual practices.
Today, Jan prepared the following essay for us on the value of spiritual practices – which includes using prayer beads of all types. I hope you enjoy it – and that at the end, you will post a comment or question for Jan, who will be checking in throughout the day to respond.
Finding Your Ideal Spiritual Practice
We have all witnessed others engaged in meaningful spiritual practices. Bearded men garbed in black, bobbing rhythmically at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. White-robed swamis chanting “Hare Krishna.” A Gospel singer raising the rafters with heartfelt strains of “Amazing Grace.” Sufi Dervishes whirling. African drummers drumming. A lone Buddhist meditating cross-legged on a craggy peak overlooking the ocean. All these and more fill our imaginations, ever hopeful that we, too, might find practices that enliven our spirit.
Spiritual practices, simply put, are those activities that connect us more deeply with the virtues of the Spirit, with the Divine itself, by whatever name we call it. They are practices that provide us with a unique opportunity to experience sacred time and space; to remove ourselves from the distractions and noise of a too busy world, and remember our spiritual connection. Spiritual practices, properly cultivated, enable us to access inner calm, joy, and gratitude for life.
A Feast for the Spirit
The variety of spiritual practices available to us is boundless, as is our understanding of the sacred. There are quiet practices: various forms of prayer, meditation, silence, or sacred reading; active practices: singing, chanting, dancing, worship, or creative expression; and physical practices: yoga, bowing, tai chi, gardening, or mindful walking. Spiritual practices can be done alone or with others. In one’s home, in nature, in a church, temple or mosque, at all times of day or night.
It might seem that we must search long and hard to find the spiritual practices that will nourish and sustain us. In truth, all we need do to uncover them is explore a bit, then listen deeply as we “feel” our way through them. The measuring stick by which we discern whether a particular practice suits us is through body awareness—through the vehicle of our thoughts, physical senses, and emotions.
Any spiritual practice that we try on for size should, initially, have a positive effect upon us. We notice what thoughts we are having; if conscious thought has slowed or disappeared, altogether. Is our body at ease? Are our senses pleased? Are we feeling a sense of connection to our spirit, or with a Higher Power? We listen to what our body/mind says and we honor its wisdom.
With dedication, we will locate the “right” practices for us. By staying faithful to them, we will begin to experience their deeper benefits. The key is dailiness. It takes time for spiritual practices to work their magic upon us—to root us more deeply in the qualities of the spirit. Psychologists tell us it takes twenty-one days to create any new habit, ninety days for that habit to stick. Spiritual practices are no exception. It may take a year or more for them to become an invaluable part of our lifestyle.
Have Practices, Will Travel
A personal spiritual practice, well honed, can also provide comfort and stability in a very busy life. It can dependably deliver us to the shores of peace and well-being no matter where we find ourselves. For example, if nature is our spiritual connector, all we need do is step outside, take a deep breath, and feast our eyes on Mother Nature’s glory. If music enhances our sacred connection, we can plug into that—literally—with an iPod or CD player, in a car or on an airplane. Books for inspirational reading can be taken anywhere, as can a yoga mat or prayer rug for devotional practice. Have practices, will travel, I say. It is sound and wise for us to cultivate spiritual practices that can be done alone, anytime, anywhere.
Becoming the Practice
In time, the lines of distinction between ourselves and the spiritual practice will begin to blur. We actually become the practice. Its benefits—inner calm, openheartedness, generosity of spirit—meld into us. One day we may actually awaken to realize that we not only feel more loving, be we have become more loving; that we do not just feel more peaceful, but that we have become a peaceful presence in the world. Our friends and family confirm this. They tell us we are different; that we have changed for the better.
Ultimately, by engaging in spiritual practices, we have not only benefited ourselves, but we have done the world a great service. Perhaps, unknowingly, we have succeeded at what peacemaker Mahatma Gandhi invited us to:
To be the change we so desperately wish to see
in the world today.
And this is Kimberly again – I LOVE this quote from Ghandi, don’t you? This should be our prayer today – say it with or without prayer beads: “Lord, make me the change we so desperately wish to see in the world today.”
Jan, I’ll start with a question: My biggest problem with spiritual practice (in my case, the regular use of prayer beads as a means for meditation) is sticking with it. I have a terrible time keeping my mind still and focused on my prayer. I get discouraged. Can you give me some advice on how to tap into that quiet place? And I fear am I too hard on myself when I don’t stay in that place for very long – and that just makes me want to avoid going there – and failing to do it – again? What benefit will I gain by being easier on myself?