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to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practi

cing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a de
dicated precise set of acts...from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of
one's being, a satisfaction of spirit...Practice means to perform, over and over
again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Pr
actice is a means of inviting the perfection desired." Martha Graham
The practice of spirituality
Creating a spiritual life is something like writing a story. Ultimately, it is a
mystery one that will not unfold unless you go into the workroom and make an effo
rt, however banal and humdrum it feels. In other words, you have to practice.
All spiritual traditions show you ways to do this, like attending services and p
articipating in religious rituals. Some practices involve consistently performin
g a physical exercise, such as yoga and tai chi. Many people find great spiritua
l value in walking regularly, especially while using breath-control techniques.
The practice of mindfulness
Mindfulness is another example. When we learn to witness ourselves, we stand out
side our feelings and thoughts and observe instead of judging, analyzing, or den
ying them. This practice allows us to become less attached to our dramas, less v
ictimized by our moods, and more aware of what is driving us.
The practice of love
A committed relationship is another form of practice. Many of us think of love a
s something that should be effortless and constant, not something that requires
serious work. The inevitable struggles and disappointments of relationships can
help partners develop acceptance, honesty, flexibility, empathy, patience, and s
elf-awareness. To do so, though, we must move off the path to some sort of abstr
act happiness and get on the one headed toward awakening.
Ironically, when we relinquish the requirement that our partner be the source of
our well-being, the relationship can become a wellspring of sustenance and nour
Life as a practice
Some philosophies suggest that life itself, like relationships, is a practice. O
rdinary challenges growing a garden, raising children, or working a job can be invit
ations to soul-work. Our daily lives offer us constant opportunities to increase
compassion. Many religions have designated days of the week and times of the ye
ar for fasting, praying, and reading scriptures. Muslims bow in prayer five time
s a day. The Balinese Hindus offer baskets filled with flowers and rice to their
deities thrice daily, and the Benedictine nuns sing Gregorian chants.
Establish a schedule for your own practice it doesn't have to be perfect or make y
ou happy but make it good enough to get you to show up and stay grounded. Mysticis
m causes us to soar; an ongoing practice keeps us rooted to the earth.
Becoming spiritually literate is about paying attention to what is in front of y
our eyes at each moment. Thinking about what was, or what could be, diminishes w
hat is happening right now. If we do not pay attention to now, we may never reco
gnize our true prayer or song, the connection to the spark we seek. When we pay
attention, we may be surprised.
When her sons were 4 and 7 years old, Lily went to a spiritual retreat and made
a recommitment to meditation. When she returned home, she carefully set up an al

tar in the corner of her bedroom. She found a perfect candle and a meditation cu
shion with Sanskrit phrases on it. Then she announced to the boys that she would
be spending 30 minutes each day in her room meditating, during which they neede
d to be very quiet.
The day she began her practice, they stood outside her room, compliant and quiet
. After about 10 minutes she heard a quiet buzzing, which began to increase deci
bel by decibel. She tried to ignore the sound, meditating with her special mantr
a, but the noise grew louder. Soon she could hear the boys hitting one another,
then crying and yelling. In exasperation she jumped up, opened the door, and scr
eamed at them, "You two better stop it right now. I mean, stop it, damn it! I am
working on my spiritual practice!"
Her sons' faces fell at the sight of their raging mother, and Lily was struck
the absurdity of this scene. Her spiritual practice was hurting all three of
em. What her true practice should be, she realized, was to use every event in
e day as an opportunity for kindness and patience to emerge. Nowhere was this
actice more important than with her children.


Spiritual ideas can be exciting to learn and talk about; so can fitness and lear
ning Spanish. Practice is the bridge that takes us from thinking to becoming.

#personal growth #spirituality