Practices From the Inside Out: We Prepare to Begin

Practices From the Inside Out: We Prepare to Begin December 8, 2018

We Prepare to Begin

Why is it such a challenge for us to begin something new?

Many of us resist beginning each morning. Some of us procrastinate to put off beginning new projects. I know people who practice distracting themselves with obstacle after obstacle so they do not have to begin.

Some people rely on preparation to avoid beginning. They may not feel they are ready to start. There is so much more for them to learn and take into consideration.

Preparation is important and helps us be effective. I am concerned when someone tells me they are starting a project before I think they have adequately prepared.

It is also concerning when people seem to get stuck in preparing for every possible eventuality. It is as if they are preparing to demonstrate how perfectly they can prepare.

We do not practice preparation to show other people how well we can do it. We prepare to begin.

Some of us act as if they are paying more attention to preparing than to beginning. We may see beauty in the comprehensive way they have anticipated every challenge. It may be reassuring to think they have prepared for any conceivable problem.

Our planning and preparation are not our ultimate tasks. We may produce an organized, color-coded plan giving us clear steps to accomplishing our goals. The preparation is only as strong as how well it takes us where we want to go.

We need to prepare to begin. Depending too much on anticipation and preparation can become another obstacle blocking our way. The focus of our preparation is to begin.

It can be helpful to research and discuss our ideas with other people. Ultimately, though, our beliefs come to life in our actions. We are not practicing until we set aside our preparation and begin.

We Prepare to Begin in Spiritual Life

Sometimes spiritual life can catch us by surprise.

We are following our routine, minding our own business, when something captures our attention. It may be a particular person, a work of art, or a striking sunset. It may be scenery, an enticing aroma, music that stirs our heart, or something truly delicious.

We realize there is more to life than we had experienced the moment before.

The more we prepare ourselves for these experiences of depth, the more open we are to receive them.

Advent, the beginning of the liturgical calendar, is about taking time to prepare to begin again. When will we begin getting ready to experience and practice spiritual life all around us, and within us?

We say seeing is believing, but we are not paying attention. Our lives are filled with sights, sounds, flavors, and aromas of spiritual depth, but our focus is somewhere else.

It seems like we are wrapped up in our own fears and insecurities. Many of us are occupied with nostalgia or regrets of the past and anxiety or fantasies about the future. We do not take time to open ourselves to the present.

Advent is taking time to prepare, to pay attention. Advent is letting go of disturbance and distractions to prepare to begin.

Our preparation begins by being aware and remembering who we are. We take a deep breath, let it out, and take another. It may help us to sit and rock in a chair, or to spend time looking into a flame. We open ourselves to what is right in front of us, discovering the deep truth hidden in plain sight.

Advent is about finding the exquisite depth in each moment, listening to the truth of our own stories.

Are We Ready to Prepare to Begin?

Our first step as we prepare to begin is siting down.

For many of us our minds fill with reasons why we cannot begin. We have so many other things we need to do. There is so much we need to prepare before we can begin. Some of us are afraid we are not ready to begin.

We may doubt we can actually accomplish what we would like to do.

Our first step to begin to prepare to begin is writing down the 12 things we need to do before we can start.

This will help us understand what we actually need to do to prepare. We may recognize some of our fears and anxieties are not realistic. Some of us will identify serious, legitimate ways we need to prepare to begin, which are good to know. We might also realize we cannot come up with as many as twelve things, which is reassuring.

Once we have our list written down we have a place to begin preparing. Our list describes how we prepare to begin.

We prepare by turning what we see as obstacles into stepping stones to where we can begin.

How Spiritual Life Helps Us Prepare to Begin

We cannot control spiritual life. It is not a tool we use to make our lives easier or more productive.

As we practice becoming open to spiritual life within us and in the world around us we learn to recognize it. Spiritual life shows us how we can respond to our fears and insecurities in our everyday lives.

Rather than being caught up in a swirl of vague concepts spiritual life draws us to prepare to begin.

Spiritual life helps us experience the power of beginning. Beginning is what turns our preparation into action.

When we prepare to begin we unleash our potential. The possibilities which live in us can be born into action.

We prepare to begin and become ready to translate what is inside us into our everyday lives. The seeds we sow take root and grow, producing fruit and flowers and other living things.

Beginning is how we turn our struggles into practical growth.

We do not need to be afraid to prepare to begin. Spiritual life teaches us we are beginners and we always will be.

When will we prepare to begin today?

How can we prepare to begin this week?

[Image by twid]

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, and his email address is

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