A Daily Practice

"I recommend to everyone who takes the course that they have a daily spiritual practice. It does not have to be a long, extravagant, religious affair. It needs only to be simple and sincere. The purpose of having a daily practice is to help you to wake up. It should make you feel grounded, centered, and strong. It should help you to focus. And it should enable you to be open and receptive. A daily spiritual practice helps you to connect to your joy, negotiate your ego, and show up even more in your life.

"Having a daily spiritual practice is a very personal thing. You have to choose one that fits you. And the best fit is a practice that you actually enjoy doing. Also, the enjoyment should be implicit and instant. In other words, you don't do the practice because you hope to get a reward one day. Doing the practice is the reward. It improves your life now. It makes a difference today. It helps you to be more here. There are many great practices to choose from. Here are four practices that we experiment with.

"Greeting the Day. 'Please do not say, "It is morning," and dismiss it with the name of yesterday. See it for the first time as a newborn child that has no name,' wrote the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. A spiritual practice helps you to greet each new day in the same way you would greet a new life or a new person. Greeting the day can take many forms. For instance, a morning prayer, some meditation time, lighting a candle, a daily affirmation, inspirational literature, or a physical movement like the sun salutation performed by yoga students.

"When I appeared on an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show called 'How Happy Are You?' Oprah introduced five people, with a one-minute film on each, and then asked the audience to guess who had scored the highest in a well-known happiness test. The winner was David, a 53-year-old funeral director. 'But you look at dead people all day long,' Oprah jested. David and I spoke at length, and he shared that one of his keys to happiness is to 'name the day.' He talked about 'Marvelous Mondays' and 'Terrific Tuesdays' and 'Wonderful Wednesdays.' He was both positive and sincere about doing this. So I tried it for myself, and I found it really works.

"I had a chance to speak to David again a few weeks later when I interviewed him for an Oprah & Friends satellite radio show. He told me, 'Naming the day helps you to be present.' He said, 'My job as a funeral director teaches me that life is an immediate proposition. Either you live it or you don't.' Even just taking a moment to register today's date can be a powerful spiritual practice if it actually helps you to be more present. Herb Gardner, author of the play A Thousand Clowns, had the character Murray Burns say,

'You have got to own your days and name them,
each one of them, everyone of them,
or else the years go right by
and none of them belong to you.'

"Setting an Intention. Your day does not happen at random. As soon as you wake up, you make decisions that affect how your day goes. Some of the decisions are conscious, but most of them are not. Some of these decisions are 'to do' decisions, but the most important decisions of all are your 'to be' decisions. Deciding to be present, to be kind, or to be loving, for instance helps you to engage your power and to participate more creatively in your life today. Try it. Set an intention to be happy. Decide to make today even more enjoyable than you thought it was going to be.

"One of my favorite intention-setting practices is a short prayer from A Course in Miracles. I have recited this prayer every morning for many years now, and I find that it helps me to be open to the Unconditioned Self, which really knows how to live. First I say the prayer and then I listen for a couple of minutes. Guidance, wisdom, and joy flow naturally. It sets up my day perfectly. The prayer is:

What would you have me do today?
Where would you have me go?
What would you have me say, and to whom?

"A Single Purpose. You only have to watch your mind for five minutes to realize how scattered and unfocused it normally is. One reason for this internal chaos is a lack of unified purpose. In the course, at the start of each workshop day you receive an Inner Smile card. Each of these cards has a single word on it, like 'generosity,' 'receive,' 'honesty,' 'spontaneity,' and 'defenseless.' The idea is that you use your Inner Smile card to help set a conscious purpose for your day. You can go online to www.behappy.net right now and pick an Inner Smile card.

"You also receive a daily e-mail that helps you to set a conscious focus for each day. These daily messages are written specifically for each new class. They are designed to help you make each day a creative event. They feature inspirational sayings, affirmations, poetry, meditations, and also prayers like this well-known Navajo prayer:

Happily may I walk.
May it be beautiful before me.
May it be beautiful behind me.
May it be beautiful below me.
May it be beautiful above me.
May it be beautiful all around me.
In beauty, it is finished.

"Practicing Readiness. The whole point of a daily spiritual practice is to help you be ready now for more love, more happiness, more success, and more of everything that you truly want. In A Course in Miracles there is a line that reads: 'Prepare yourself for miracles today.' I love the sound of these words. I find that every page of A Course in Miracles helps me to be more open and available to what is on offer now. Later on in the text, there is a passage that reads:

" 'Each day a thousand treasures come to me with every passing moment. I am blessed with gifts throughout the day, in value far beyond all things of which I can conceive. A brother smiles upon another, and my heart is gladdened. Someone speaks a word of gratitude or mercy, and my mind receives this gift and takes it as its own. And everyone who finds the way to God becomes my savior, pointing out the way to me, and giving me his certainty that what he learned is surely mine as well.'

"To be happy, all you have to do is be ready to receive more happiness than you thought was possible. Your happiness awaits you, just as soon as you are ready. Be willing, therefore, to give up your theory of how the universe works, and simply be ready. Proclaim, 'I am ready to enjoy my life today.' Be ready to be happy now. Allow yourself to be happy for no good reason. Be ready to be so happy you almost feel guilty but not quite. Be ready to forgive your past. Be ready to give more of yourself. Be ready to receive. Be ready for a miracle."