Taking Steps Toward Spiritual Life
Many of us are looking for a set of clear, measurable steps we can take toward spiritual life.
We are not looking for easy answers or for someone to tell us what to do. If only we had somewhere we could start, a plan for taking our first step and our next. We understand spiritual life is neither a checklist nor a math problem. What can we do?
Our steps do not bring us closer to spiritual life, which is all around us and within us. We can take steps which help us become more open to the presence and action of spiritual life.
A Step Toward Spiritual Life Every Day
We can spend time listening to sacred stillness each day.
It is easy for us to allow ourselves to get distracted, paying attention to whatever crosses our path. Some of us have our attention drawn to any shiny new object we notice. Others of us focus on our work, our families, our other responsibilities and lose touch with spiritual life.
One step we can take toward spiritual life is committing ourselves to spend time each day paying attention. We pause for a few minutes, close our eyes, take some deep breaths, and listen to what is often drowned out.
It is not necessary for us to study spiritual life or ancient texts, or to practice traditional rituals. As we practice listening to sacred stillness each day we give our consent for spiritual life to work in us.
Our practice is not about physical or mental effort. There is no need for us to pressure ourselves.
We do not need to commit more of our selves or our time unless spiritual life draws us into itself. Our relationship to spiritual life will develop a life of its own.
We only commit ourselves to spend time listening every day.
A Step Toward Spiritual Life Every Week
We can do something to help someone else at least once each week.
Our contemplative practice shapes how we understand who we are in the world around us. Spiritual life is about more than what what happens in our minds and hearts. Listening to sacred stillness sparks changes in how we relate to ourselves, to each other, and to the world.
Spiritual life is about how we put our insights and questions into practice in everyday life.
Some of us will be inspired to help people we know or see each day. Others of us will be drawn to help people we have never seen who are far away from us.
We may start small and focus on how we respond to people in person. Some of us will commit ourselves to participating in an organized effort to help other people. We can give our time or our skills or our money.
The only measurement of our practice is whether, at the end of each week, we believe what we do helps someone else. We do not need to meet anyone’s expectations.
Like our daily practice of listening to sacred stillness, our practice of helping someone else draws us in. We become more open to helping as we practice each week.
A Step Toward Spiritual Life Every Month
We can visit a sacred space at least once each month.
Some of us find spiritual life in places of worship. There can be something about the calm, quiet atmosphere which allows us to connect with sacred truths.
Other people experience spiritual life more closely in the mountains or at the beach. We may find spiritual life in a museum or at a concert.
Some of us will find sacred space where people have gathered to find spiritual life for hundreds, or thousands, of years. We may be drawn to places full of other people, or where we are essentially alone.
Our sacred space does not need to be a place of worship during an organized service. Some of us have been treated poorly and rejected by organized religion. Participating in a service may be too painful or challenging for us.
We visit our sacred space to give ourselves time and room to rest with spiritual life. Sometimes we need to ask questions or even argue with spiritual life. Other times we simply need time to rest in its embrace.
A Step Toward Spiritual Life For the Long Run
We can find someone we feel safe talking to about spiritual life.
Each of these practices is a way to become more open to spiritual life. Like any relationship, our relationship to spiritual life can be overwhelming at times. It is good for us to find someone we can talk to about our relationship to spiritual life. We want a safe place where we can go to ask questions.
Many of us will talk to someone called a spiritual director or a spiritual life mentor or a soul friend. They are people who can help us ask the questions we have and experience spiritual life in new ways.
One benefit of talking with a trained and certified spiritual director is their experience. They have learned things in their own spiritual lives and also talked with other people.
Healthy spiritual directors protect the confidentiality of what we tell them. They ask questions to help us understand our own questions in new ways.
Spiritual directors can help us grow in our experience of spiritual life.
Next Steps Toward Spiritual Life
Each of these practices is a beginning step toward spiritual life.
This is not a checklist of mandatory requirements. Many people experience healthy spiritual life without following all, or any, of these practices. They are simply a list of suggestions, of places we can start.
None of these steps will harm our relationship to spiritual life.
What steps can we take toward spiritual life today?
When can we take steps toward spiritual life this week?
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Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.