Its seems almost silly to have to say it, but to improve at anything practice is almost always essential. Right? Even if you want to get good at doing nothing, you still need to do a lot of it! Most people know that if you want to be physically fit, you need regular exercise. If you want a university degree, you'll need to study and apply yourself. If you want to be an excellent musician, actor, doctor, parent, friend, boss, or carpenter, you have to be prepared for a process of trial and error, constant intention, and practice, practice, practice.
Why then do people not realize that this same rule applies to our spiritual life? These days I find that many people expect spiritual growth to come ease. Of course, I am more than happy to recommend my new book or my new CD set to help people on their spiritual journey -but, I'd be deceiving you and myself if I thought that one book, one CD program, or even an article or blog could change a person completely and forever. Could it make an impact? Yes. Could it make a change completely and forever? Not likely, you need to practice what you've learned for that to happen.
Did you ever notice how people who do yoga or meditation or even prayer on a regular basis call it a "practice"? That's because they know that while each individual session has power, a long series of individual sessions add up to more than the sum of the parts. We have "a practice" because in the moment we are experiencing it, it teaches us and gives us an experience of peace and connection. We also know that the real work happens when you get up and head into your day -- that is when you practice what you learned in your practice! That's why we need to go back to the practice again and again. Athletes have the off-season to practice; that is their time out. Happy, balanced, loving people have a spiritual practice, and that is their time out from the busy demands of life.
Remember, spirituality is an experience -- not just an idea or a belief. It is not enough to have the right concept, you have to be able to live it. That is spiritual growth. It's a way of being, and that requires a practice. A practice is a regular activity that helps you connect with your highest intentions: inner peace, compassion, a feeling of interconnectedness, joy, pure consciousness, or union with God. It could be prayer, going to church, meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, singing in a choir, walking in nature, helping others, going on retreat or studying with a master. In my book Return to the Sacred, I highlight and explain twelve practices that seem to be universal to all cultures throughout time.
This is where lots of people get confused. "How do I pick a practice? What if I don't like my religion of origin? What if my friends all love yoga and I hate it, what is wrong with me?" The best spiritual practice is the one that works for you. The foundation of my CD set "Your Spiritual Personality" is the idea that we all have different spiritual personalities. The same way some people love to read and others love to run; some love chocolate and some love vanilla; not every practice is for everyone. What matters is that you pick something that makes a difference for you, and stick with it! In time, a spiritual practice will not make you perfect, but it will give you the wisdom and grace to manage all that life presents.
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