The Importance of Beginning A spiritual Practice
Often, the most difficult hurdle to overcome in a spiritual
practice is the hurdle of beginning. For even though one has
the best intentions to improve the quality of life and to deepen
one's relationship with Spirit, it is in starting that a
space must be made among many other competing priorities, so
that what did not exist before can be given room within an otherwise
busy and committed life.
The challenge of beginning lies in this: it must seem centrally
important to the self to move in the direction of spiritual
deepening and awareness in order to make the sacrifices that
are necessary to do so. While spirituality remains an area of
interest or of curiosity, this degree of inner necessity may
not be present. Reading about spiritual subjects or attending
lectures or workshops may be sufficient. But when the longing
grows to experience something more of a different way of living,
to transform life, to experience God and one's higher self
directly, then more than reading or learning on a mental level
is needed. Then actual 'on-the-job' training is called
for. This is what a spiritual practice does. It offers an invisible
step-by-step program toward heightened awareness, greater peace,
and a spiritually-based outlook on life. To integrate this awareness
into everyday life one must have daily contact with the source
of this new experience. This contact occurs not through the
mind, but through the body and its spiritual senses and through
the heart and its deeper intuition. One cannot 'think'
one's way into a new life. One must have experiences in
order to do this.
The sacrifice needed in order to begin a spiritual practice
may be that of letting go of another activity or another use
to which time has been put. Or, it may be that one sacrifices
the comfort of ordinary conversation and time spent with others
in order to pursue something more solitary and alone whose rewards
are yet to be seen. The willingness to engage in something whose
outcome is unknown can be exciting, but it can also demand courage
and commitment from the self and a willingness to say "no"
to other demands that are also placed upon one's time.
Having determined to begin such a practice, the first step
that is required is to: be simple. Do what you can do and do
not strive to do what seems impossible to do or very difficult
to do. Later on more difficulty can be added.
For example, if it is not possible to set aside twenty minutes
a day to sit in a meditative way, then set aside ten. Begin
where you can begin, and determine to make your time a regular
daily practice, for in this regularity lies the means for growth
Secondly: be creative. What is most important in establishing
contact with the indwelling Spirit and with the spiritual around
oneself is to be in a place that feels sacred, a place that
communicates a sense of the higher realms and of the invisible,
not a place that is ordinary or filled with the vibrations of
others. Allow your creativity to find a way to define or locate
a sacred space in which you can create an altar which represents
your commitment to your spiritual practice. This altar can be
very simple. It can be constructed out of a wooden shelf, a
small table, or anything that will hold a single candle that
can be lit during one's practice. That is all. For the altar
to resonate with a sacred vibration, however, it must not be
used for anything else -- neither to put other things on, nor
as part of a different purpose other than its sacred one.
Thirdly: be committed. Be willing to sit in front
of your altar and breathe quietly with your hand over your heart
center in the center of your chest, allowing your mind to let
go of thoughts as best as it can. In beginning, there is no
more needed than this: to sit, to breathe, to bring energy to
your heart center, to try to empty your mind.
Regular practice of this very simple kind, whether for ten
or twenty minutes a day, will begin to make an inroad into your
body's knowledge of what is actually taking place. It will
begin to open the line's of communication between your everyday
physical self and your soul-self that exists as another layer
of your being.
Seeking to join the two parts so that they become one is
the purpose of a spiritual practice, so that life can be lived
more fully within the framework of everyday reality, and so
that the perception of oneself can shift from that of personal
and biological history, to the deeper knowing of oneself as
a child of God.
For Further Reading