Spiritual Practice What Does It Mean to You?
By Art Ramsay, PhD

 I have been involved with spiritual practice for over twenty years, and have never thought about what it might mean to other people. It is not an addition to my life, but has become a lifestyle for me. So what do I mean by 'spiritual practice'? To define spiritual practice I must first give meaning to the idea of spirituality.

 Wikipedia defines it this way: Secular spirituality carries connotations of an individual having a spiritual outlook which is more personalized, less structured, more open to new ideas/influences, and more pluralistic than that of the doctrinal faiths of organized religions.

 Spirituality usually encompasses a wide variety ideas and paths toward the ultimate understanding of a higher order of being. It is the idea that we are free to explore the concept that everything is 'God' or a Higher Power, and that we connect with this Power from within ourselves. Whereas most religions tend to teach that we must look outside of ourselves for 'salvation'.

 Given the above meanings, it would seem that spiritual practice could encompass many activities. And so it does, depending what particular 'path' one has chosen for growing spiritually. But there are basic tenets of spiritual practice, and they are what I will discuss in this article.

 Meditation is at the root of spiritual practice, and is experienced in some manner by all traditions. While there are perhaps hundreds of methods to meditate, sitting meditation seems to be the most used. Even with sitting meditation there are a wide variety of ways to perform the activity. The core objective is to clear the mind of thoughts and relax the body. An empty vessel is often a metaphor used when meditating so that your mind is open to receive.

 Contemplation is used in a similar way as meditation, but is more 'active'. In this practice you can sit, as in meditation, and contemplate some thought process, or use a journal and write. The procedure is to begin with an idea and let it flow through your mind or on paper, while it expands. Another way to contemplate is to start with an empty mind and let ideas, thoughts, or words come to you. One practice is to sit with pen in hand, or at the keyboard, and just write whatever comes to you without judging it, often called 'steam of consciousness'.

 Clearing; for lack of better words to describe this practice. It is one of the ways I help people as a coach and in my Inner Peace classes. Here we explore aspects of our lives that don't work; ones we want to change. We then use techniques, and there are hundreds, to clear out of our psyche what is causing it to occur. These practices take some exploration to do alone. It is helpful to have guidance.

 Spiritual Principles learned and practiced in your daily life can work wonders in causing shifts to occur. Actually, this and 'clearing' are usually combined, but not always. A spiritual principle is The Law of Attraction, for example. If you learn how it works and what you can do to make it work better in your life, then your ability to use it improves over time.

 Much of the above not only guides you into a more peaceful life, but helps build a practice of mindfulness. This idea might seem obscure to Western cultures, since it is a Buddhist practice, but it is important to our day to day lives. Being mindful of your thoughts, words, and actions over time can help bring harmony into your life more easily. I have found that the most significant aspect of mindfulness for me is awareness of my body's interaction with things. Mindfulness is also another result of practicing Martial Arts or Yoga.

 Yoga, and Martial Arts such as Tai Chi and Qigong, are two more practices used extensively throughout the world. However, each needs instruction so that the person doing the activity positions the body in the correct postures, and makes movements that allow the energy to flow easily through the body. If you feel drawn to these kinds of practices there is a bounty of books, DVDs, and studios to teach you.

 Each of the above types of spiritual practice would take an article just to grasp the tip of the iceberg of how to use them. There are whole books written on each topic. The point of this article is to make you aware of some practices that might interest you. It is never too soon or too late to begin. I believe it is imperative in our world today to engage in some kind of spiritual practice.

 Nothing will change in our lives until we take a first step to make that change. If you keep on doing what you have been doing, you will continue to get what you have now. What do you want? What is not working? What would you like to see work better? Maybe it is time to sit down and answer these questions and others like them to see where your life is going.

 I don't believe that anyone, deep down, wants to continue to live the life they are living in every area of their lives. The major areas of our lives are relationships, finances, health, creative expression (jobs, career, etc.), and spiritual. Which area of your life needs adjustments? If more than one, what is the one needing adjustment right now?

 You are the only one that knows the answers to the questions above. Isn't it time to determine the your next step?


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