Photo by Grantmac
Too often people confuse religious with spiritual. When I begin my course on world religions with 18 year old seniors in high school, I begin with a profound premise: all people are spiritual, some are religious. As most seniors are, to one degree or another, skeptical, this is a good starting point.
While there will always be skeptics among us, consider the emerging evidence of the practicality of a spiritual life:
- National Geographic: more Western doctors are trained in meditation techniques than ever before.
- Duke University Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health: dozens of case studies conducted in the last seven years which point towards spirituality as an asset in battling mental and physical illnesses (interesting to note that Duke is not alone: University of Florida, George Washington and other secular institutions also have centers for spirituality and health).
- National Institute of Health: not only is it becoming more common for doctors to discuss faith with patients, NIH researchers argue that it's rational.
The point in all of this? Activating our spiritual principle makes sense. One has to have the "want to" to be more and more spiritual. Then, context supports your personal growth. I've felt for years that my spiritual life benefits immensely from the inspiring lives of those with whom I work.
Here are some other suggestions for leveraging more spirituality in everyday life:
Dial Back the Media. If you're not at least a bit concerned about the captivating role that the media plays in the lives of young people, watch the PBS Frontline special, "Growing Up Online". Don't give in to the hype that says you must be reached at all times and in whatever manner.
Take a Regular Sabbath. Whether it's a weekend on the beach (smooth!) or an afternoon at home in your pajamas, sabbath is good for the soul. Ancient Jews practiced sabbath as a way to slow down and give God some time in their lives. Try it out for a month and I'm pretty sure that you'll be convinced of the value of sabbath time. What to do during your sabbath? Enjoy nature, cook something elaborate or simple, spend time with your family, watch a great movie, take a nap...the list goes on and on.
Beta-Test Your Prayer Life. Just as software companies beta-test their products in order to see how it works in 'real time', why not apply the same principle to your prayer life? Pray during the day and especially on the two bookends (morning and evening). Let it be conversational and have it fit within your spiritual tradition. Just try it for a week and see how it works!
Get Serious About Your Morning Ritual. Become a morning ninja by waking at the same time every weekday and going through the same steps each time. It's not being obsessive compulsive (ok, maybe a little bit!)- it's about freeing your mind and soul to read sacred texts, talk with God, and find time to cultivate your spiritual life. Working out can be a spiritual work if dedicated to God so it's not a bad idea to mix that into your a.m. routine.
Find a Community That Feeds You. Shop around and visit different groups and faith communities. There are literally tens of thousands of houses of worship in the U.S., surely one of them fits your personality and style. My family and I generally look for a community that is friendly, family-focused, practical and relevant to our life journey. Keep it simple, don't over-think your choice and trust your gut.
These steps are a solid beginning. St. John of the Cross once said that the mystical life doesn't even begin until about the age of 40. The key is this- if you start nurturing your spiritual life now, you'll reach 40 and start seeing things in a different life. If you're over 40 (no problem), you may have an advantage due to more life experience. Either way, start today and see what God does in your spiritual life. Drop me a line if I can help in any way.