Do you consider yourself “spiritual, but not religious?” If you’re like most Wake Up Call readers, you just answered yes. And if that’s the case, you may have a problem.
You see, those of us who have left the world of organized religion (or were never a part of it in the first place), still have a deep-seeded yearning. We want to/need to satiate the spiritual side of ourselves and if we don’t, we start feeling unsettled and discontented, as if something is missing at the core of our lives.
This is a thirst that can only be quenched by engaging in activities that connect us with something greater than ourselves, that put us in touch with our souls.
I was reminded of my own semi-regular, I-should-be-doing-more-than-I-am spiritual practice the other day while reading Awake at the Bedside. (A book about end-of-life care, but that’s a story for another day.) One of the book’s authors, the Tibetan Buddhist Anyen Rinpoche, challenged me—and in turn, all of us, to consider how much time and effort we put into our personal spiritual practice:
Reflect on your daily practice. Are you practicing regularly and for as long as you would like? Are you able to incorporate all the practices you wish to master into your daily practice? What are the obstacles that stand in your way?
If your spiritual practice is lacking, it’s time to take action.
In the book Ageless Soul, Thomas Moore stresses the importance of creating “an original spiritual practice that is rich and meaningful.” Moore relates spirituality to the need we have for transcendence, the insatiable urge to be “everything we can hope to be, to be constantly moving on and upward toward a greater more comprehensive sense of self.”
Fortunately, Moore has provided us with a list of 6 spiritual practices that can put us on the right track. If you don’t have a spiritual practice, they’re a great place to start. If you do have a practice, they’re excellent reminders of how there are a number of diverse activities that can stoke the spark of the Divine within and keep us on the spiritual path.
6 Ways to Reignite Your Spiritual Flame
- Live a more contemplative life. Moore tells us that as we grow older, we can “adopt a quieter and more reflective persona.” This practice can include something as simple as sitting with a morning cup of coffee and reflecting on your life, considering where you have been, what you have done in the past and what you plan to do in the future. The key is to carve out the time to just “be” in silence, even if means penciling in a 15-minute contemplation session on your daily schedule.
- Explore different ways to meditate. Moore says that too many people he speaks to have a narrow view of what it means to meditate and reminds us that “you can meditate in a thousand different ways.” Need some pointers? I have previously written about standard meditation, the thinking person’s meditation and a breathing technique that works like meditation.
- Walk in nature. Get moving at the pace that best suits you. Moore advises us to “enjoy the walk, but do it with the intention of being pulled into the depth of the natural world.” Living near the coast, I favor jogs and walks near water, but even a walk around the block in the middle of a bustling city can have a rejuvenating effect.
- Keep track of your dreams. Moore says that dream work “keeps you in touch with the mysterious dimensions of your experience,” offering insights and stirring the imagination. The key is to keep a pad and pencil next to your bed and then, before you shut out the light, make the conscious intention to remember and write down your dream. The other key: write down your dream immediately upon awakening.
- Serve the world. Take action in the way that speaks to you. Moore cites the example of Jesus who spent his time teaching and healing, as well as Ralph Waldo Emerson who later in life became politically active, speaking out against slavery. The humorist David Sedaris spends hours each day picking up trash in the English countryside.
- Study the best spiritual ideas. Moore points out that for centuries study has been a central part of spiritual life. Moore’s personal favorites include the Tao Te Ching, Black Elk Speaks and the writings of Jung and James Hillman. I would point to the works of Thomas Moore himself, including The Soul’s Religion and A Religion of One’s Own and John Templeton’s enlightening compendium Wisdom of World Religions.