Let me make a categorical assertion.
Spiritual practices are not about making you feel better. They are about walking through a door from one place to another.
We have a number of terms we like for that place. God is the big one. Heaven is another. In my circles the Pure Land is not unheard of. Though, maybe, we prefer words like the “real,” or “this very place, this very moment.” Sunyata. The farther shore. For the more abstract minded, the AbsoluteRelative.
We are being invited to see that our ordinary ideas about who we are are rarely accurate in anything more than as a vague approximation. Spiritual practices take us into authenticity, into intimacy with what is.
And so it is very hard to have a spiritual practice, something that authentically does the job, that doesn’t also include correction, the guidance of someone, and I strongly recommend it be a living human being with whom you actually talk, it is past easy to fool oneself.
Yes. Absolutely, life is the ultimate teacher. And, if you can’t find a living one, there are some very good teachers living in books. But, this is volunteering for a particularly rough version of the path.
And, let’s be real, there are authentic spiritual teachers all around. I don’t particularly recommend any flavor of perfect master. And. Some kind of training beyond weekend workshops is probably a good idea. Beyond that, they come in every flavor and design. Look with an open heart, and equally, a critical eye, and you’ll be okay.And, then, it is a life time project. It is finding direction in living, as well as, when the time comes, in dying. The whole thing. And, that important.
Okay. Let me summarise. I can bring this to three points for an authentic spiritual practice.
1) You need some shut up time. If you’re making noise all the time it is hard to pay attention, hard to notice the lessons and the lesson.
2) You need some regularity. Doing it once might open your heart and eyes. Has happened. But most of us need to return and return and return.
3) You need someone to check you. The brain is a great liar. We tell ourselves all sorts of stories about what we need and deserve, only some of which are true. Also along the spiritual way we have lots of experiences. Mostly of limited or actually no value on the way. Someone who has walked the way before you, who you have some trust in, and who is willing to say the hard truth now and again, is worth their weight in gold.
Do, this and your spiritual practice will not be about lowering your blood pressure, it will be about coming to the doors of heaven, calling to be let in.
Some of us will tap lightly. Others will bang with all our might.
Until the door opens.