" 'Maybe that's what growth is all about — the more deeply we know God, the more deeply we come to know ourselves, and vice versa. Even at our best, we have mixed motives, don't we? We can't help it — we're human beings, after all. But being aware of our motives helps us move beyond them — and it sure keeps us humble!'
"Maintaining that connection — tending that anchor, if you will — is not a one-size-fits-all technique. Bookshelves are bulging with devotional guides and inspirational texts that can serve as 'portable pastors,' helping us expand our view of all that can nurture our sense of the sacred.
"Reading about it, however, is not the same as doing it — a realization expressed by a number of interviewees. 'I've understood the concept of the Presence of God all my life,' commented Yvonne. 'I've just never taken the time and focus to integrate it into my days. Faith seems pretty empty unless it finds its way into the way I live moment to moment.'
"Many in later life realized that nature and creativity opened them to God just as powerfully as scripture and church attendance did. Some found their daily walks contained holy moments. Others found the spiritual components in gardening, cooking, making pottery, cabinet making, meditation, exercise, journaling, or service to others. When choosing your own 'connectors,' the seniors I spoke with gave these general suggestions:
• "Choose a practice that suits you and that you can look forward to.
• "Whatever it is, do it daily — not 'when you have time.'
• "Create a special place — an altar, a chair by the window, a bench in the garden — some spot that feels sacred.
• "Keep it alive; if a particular practice or devotional book begins to get stale, change it up — there are unlimited resources out there. Let the Spirit lead you to something new.
• "Experiment with different methods of prayer; be willing to expand your awareness of the depth and breadth of prayer.
• "Befriend the silence; experience it as the 'language of God.' Practice ways to still your mind, and the silence will shape you. Gaining a comfort level with silence involves letting go of filling it with your own thoughts and expectations and trusting that God's transforming grace is at work, even without your micromanagement.
• "Slow down to the pace of guidance — that is, live one moment at a time. Don't miss your life while you hurry on to the next thing.
• "Find ways to put 'legs' on your beliefs and practices. If they aren't transformed into action, they're just hollow words.
• "Remember there's no such thing as an idle thought; the mind 'eats' just as the body does, and what we give attention to expands into experience.
• "Pay attention; notice, notice, notice. It leads to gratitude, compassion, and love.
"The truth is that almost anything can be done with spiritual awareness, if we cultivate that sensibility. Whether we are simply watching a sunset, singing in a choir, or crying with a friend, everything contains elements of the Holy."