Discovering the Sacred: How to Nurture an Authentic Spirituality in the New Year

None of these styles is right or wrong. They're each based on different sets of beliefs, which we do, in fact, get to choose, just as we get to choose what we hold sacred, what we believe gives life meaning and makes us feel like part of the bigger picture.

You may already know what you find sacred, but perhaps now is a good time to ensure you're not honoring someone else's definition. Do you believe what you believe because you were told to or because it genuinely makes sense to you?

Do you value what you do because you think you should, or because you truly find it to be meaningful?

How Do You Honor Your Sacred?

Once you've identified what you believe gives life meaning, the next step is to create daily (or at least consistent) practices to honor those things.

Traditionally, we think of prayer and/or meditation as cornerstones of spirituality, but the beauty of defining sacred for ourselves is that there is no right or wrong answer.

If you don't believe in God, don't pray! If traditional meditation doesn't feel right to you, don't do it! What matters is that you find something that helps you experience the world with a greater sense of presence, meaning, and connection—which encourages a host of other positive feelings, including gratitude, compassion, and forgiveness.

If you value nature as sacred, your spiritual practice might entail long, mindful walks in the woods. If, like me, you consider personal growth to be sacred, journaling might be the foundation of your spiritual practice.

The important thing is that you take time on a regular basis to connect with the divine within and around you, in whatever way makes sense to you. That might include:

  1. Doing small things everyday that honor your sense of individual purpose
  2. Reading quotes or books from wise thinkers throughout time
  3. Connecting with other people who share your beliefs to honor your sacred together
  4. Sitting in silence for 10 minutes a day to simply be
  5. Attending a religious service or ritual
  6. Taking time every day to give back and make a positive difference for other people

Of course, there's another consideration as important as identifying spiritual practices that support your well-being: identifying existing ones that don't.

Does your faith—in whatever—enhance your life? Or does it limit, hinder, or hurt you in some way? If sense of spirituality has left you feeling unhappy, disconnected, or somehow depleted, there's a good chance you may need to step back and reconsider what's right for you.

That's not always easy to do in a world where answers are power, and people often fight to protect theirs. There will always be someone telling you that they know what's true, not just for themselves, but for the whole world, including you.

It can be challenging to walk away from a system we've adhered to for years, or maybe even our entire lives. But we owe it to ourselves to understand and honor what we genuinely believe, whether it entails allegiance to a higher power, or an admission that we just don't know.

It's only when we identify our personal truth and then wrap our spirituality in the comfort of that understanding that it provides us with a sense of peace.

What do you hold sacred, as greater than any one life? And how can you honor that to connect with yourself and other people a little every day?

Visit the Patheos Book Club for more conversation and an excerpt from Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life's Hard Questions.

1/4/2012 5:00:00 AM