By Julie Redstone
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 and improvement.
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.