There are three essential things we need to grow on our spiritual path: a spiritual teacher, spiritual principles, and spiritual practice. Most people who regard themselves as spiritual people will usually find the first two very naturally. By participating in things such as reading books, attending church, and investing in workshops, they expose themselves to the principles offered by well-known spiritual teachers. The third one, spiritual practice, is less often adhered to because it takes commitment and discipline.
Spiritual practice, however, is the most important part of this triad because it is what can truly transform you. The words and ideas of teachers and the principles they communicate are very important, providing you with important markers and guidance on your path. However, they are ultimately meaningless if they are not integrated into your life through some form of consistent practice.
But what does it mean to have a spiritual practice and what should be done? Although a teacher can offer guidance, this question must ultimately be answered by the practitioner him or herself. There are many forms of spiritual practice, all of which may offer great opportunity for growth for you. The purpose of spiritual practice, though, is always the same: repeated action intended to transform an individual to a higher plane of consciousness. Here are my suggestions for you:
- Don’t choose what’s easy. Choose what will transform you. Spiritual practice is useless if it provides little more than entertainment or momentary diversion from the burdens of life. So, don’t choose a practice simply because you like the idea. Instead, think about what you need to change or grow within yourself. Start by taking an honest self-inventory. Ask yourself, “What do I need to change about myself to grow into a more spiritually mature person?” This task can be hard since we are often in denial about our own negative habits and character traits. To do this, look at what isn’t working, such as problems with interpersonal relationships or personal finances, and take full responsibility for your part in that difficulty, whatever it is. Then, ask, “What spiritual practice will change me in the ways I need to change?”
- Start simply. Don’t commit to anything that you aren’t ready to do long-term. You can’t change yourself until you are truly ready to change. Remember, also, that every journey can only be taken one step at a time, so don’t over-commit to a regimen of spiritual practice that is unrealistic or too demanding. Yes, it should challenge you, but it should not overwhelm you.
- Include some form of meditation. Most traditional spiritual paths have some form of meditative practice, such as contemplative prayer, trance states, and mantra meditations. They take many forms, but they all offer the practitioner a chance to quiet the chatter of the busy mind. In the practice I teach, I focus on energy meditation as the first form of meditation because it is easy to achieve and helps develop connection between one’s mind, body, and energy. I describe this type of meditation and several others in my book, Connect: How to Find Clarity and Expand Your Consciousness with Pineal Gland Meditation. Whichever form you choose, I recommend seeking direct instruction in order to establish proper meditative form.
- Include some form of self-observation. It is hard to grow spiritually without the ability to see ourselves honestly and objectively. The ego-mind will want to believe that growth happens automatically with practice, even if it is only growing our spiritual pride. That’s why self-watching is a practice that should be used throughout your day as you ask yourself, “Am I making choices in alignment with my highest self?” If possible, also keep a journal where you can record reflections on your daily practices and progress toward growth.
- Don’t forget the physical. Often, people separate the physical self from the spiritual self, but I believe that is a false dichotomy. A strong physical center is the first step toward genuine spiritual growth. Otherwise, if spiritual energy increases without a strong physical foundation, an individual will not be able to function well as spiritual being living a physical existence. So, include daily exercise and healthy habits as part of your spiritual practice.
- Plan your time and create a habit. Time management and true commitment are very important for creating an effective spiritual practice. You will not have good results if you often say, “I am too busy today” or “I’m not in the mood right now.” You must be willing to make your own soul your highest commitment, or growth will be limited or impossible. Start with something truly manageable, such as five minutes meditation, and work upward from there.
Once you have decided what practices will be best for your growth, commit to a few weeks of continuous, dedicated practice that is challenging, but not too taxing. After that period, reflect on your progress and then make a new plan for the next period. You can continue with the same plan or add more as you see fit. Continue to assess and adjust as needed every few weeks, and soon you’ll be amazed by how much you have grown.