“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 21 of Spiritual Practices and Reflection: What does Spiritual Practice Mean?

A few days ago, Nancy Jones left this comment
...I'm wondering how you're defining "spiritual practices?"
I probably should have defined this back on day one, when I launched this month of blogging. But better late than never. Roughly, here's how I understand spiritual practices and spiritual disciplines:

  • More than anything else, spiritual practice has to do with a particular kind of attention and awareness. It has to do with how we're showing up in the world and how present we are. I return again and again to this quote from Mary Oliver: "The first, wildest, and wisest thing I know is this: that the soul exists, and it is made entirely of attention." Spiritual practices/disciplines are about growing the soul, about paying attention in such a way that the "soul" expands. Spiritual practices are about noticing the ways our inner lives, the world, and something larger than ourselves are woven together.  
  • With this understanding, parenting young children (any age, really, but especially young children) can be seen and understood as a spiritual practice. Gardening can be understood as a spiritual practice. Prayer can be understood as a spiritual practice. Any of these things can be vehicles that help us see a bigger picture, that help us subdue the ego, that locate us in mystery, wonder, and awe. 
  • A spiritual practice/discipline often has a deeply reflective component. So tap dancing (to take an example from the previous post) could become a spiritual practice, if one understood "God "or the "Spirit of Life" to be found in the dancing itself, in that playful, noise-making, rhythm making, dancing...and understood, through tap dancing, that one could participate in something larger than one's self, then that could become a spiritual practice.
These are just some early morning thoughts...I'm sure I've missed dozens of things. 

Dear readers: How do you define and understand "spiritual practice/spiritual discipline?"

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