By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Spiritual practices have always been at the heart and soul of the world's religions, and they are also key elements of today's less organized spirituality movements. They help us discover our deepest values, address our longing to connect with the divine, and propel us on the journey to wholeness — all aspects of spirituality.
Spiritual practices are specific activities you do to deepen your relationships with the sacred and the world around you. Practices help you connect to God (or whatever name you use to describe that "something more" beyond yourself). They enable you to become actively engaged with your inner or "true" selves — the depth of your being. And they expand the breadth of your experiences, encouraging you to relate in a particular way to other people and the whole creation, including animate and inanimate beings.
"We are what we practice," Jewish writer Avram Davis observed. "If we become angry a lot, then essentially we are practicing anger. And we get quite good at it. Conversely, if we practice being joyful, then a joyful person is what we become." So we practice all kinds of things all the time, but the decision to do spiritual practices is intentional. These activities have meaning and purpose, and they influence how we live our lives.
Practices are usually very concrete and practical. They specify just how you can walk your talk. Sometimes before you can act, however, you may need to clarify your values and beliefs. Asking and living with questions is a kind of practice. Some practices require setting aside a special place and time, but most of them can be done in the midst of your daily life.
A spiritual practice does not have to be hard. It rewards presence, not effort. Some practices do yield an outcome, but many are done simply for their own sake. And practice does not make perfect. Don't expect to overcome all your weaknesses and fix all your problems. Indeed, difficulties are to be expected and can be used as aids on your journey.
Practice is a process, and it changes over time. You may make a commitment to do a specific activity for years or you may get what you need from it in a day.
Practices do not have to be complicated. Consider how many of the ritual exercises of the world’s religions are simple: lighting a candle, eating a piece of bread, bowing. And don’t disdain the use of your mind. Naming, remembering, watching, identifying, imagining, questioning — these are honored elements of the spiritual life. The best practices for you will arise naturally out of your ordinary activities as you reframe and redirect them toward new depth and breadth.
You will find many practices for your spiritual journey at Spirituality & Practice. Check out the links on this page to read more about the path of practice and ways to feel welcome there. Browse through a toolkit of more than 260 classic and informal practices inspired by all the religious and spiritual traditions. Learn how to find your "spiritual rx," recommended practices for you based on what is happening in your life; we even offer a set of spiritual prescriptions to help you narrow your options.
As you explore the resources for your spiritual journey on Spirituality & Practice, you will notice that all the content is coded to indicate a "Main Practice" and "Other Practices" it illustrates or is related to. These links take you to sections of the website devoted to the Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy — 37 key practices recognized in the world's religious and spiritual traditions as markers — the evidence — that you are living a spiritual life. Look over the list, open your heart and mind to see which practices call to you, and start there.