First, what is a Spiritual Rx?

The word "prescription" — abbreviated as "Rx" — has some interesting associations when applied to the spiritual life. As in medicine, a prescription can be a cure, remedy, or solution recommended to correct a disorder, imbalance, or problem. It can take the form of advice or information, which in spirituality is called wisdom. Finally, prescription is semantically related to precept or guideline. This meaning can be extended to include a spiritual rule or a set of activities undertaken as part of one's daily discipline. A Spiritual Rx, then, consists of remedies, wisdom, and recommended activities for those taking up the spiritual life.

You probably have your reasons for wanting to start this journey. Perhaps you have experienced some kind of awakening and know that your life will never be the same. If you were raised in one of the world's religions, you may have come to a point when you want to dip into the spiritual river that flows through all the traditions. But most of us, frankly, are drawn to spirituality because, as a doctor might say, certain symptoms are "presenting."

You might feel that something is missing in your life, something you desperately want. You could be longing for inspiration. Or community. Or quality time. You could be in pain and in need of healing. You could be feeling happy and grateful and compelled to give something back to the universe. You could be facing a crisis and know that how you handled such situations in the past won't be enough this time. You could be burned out. You could be worried about your loved ones or frightened about the very real dangers in the world. You could be sensing that your life could be more meaningful but not know how to go about making it so.

Take heart! These real-life feelings, challenges, and experiences are just what spiritual practices are for. Defined simply, spiritual practices are activities we do to move into deeper relationships with God, our true selves, other people, and the whole Creation. (Read more about spiritual practices in an excerpt from Spiritual Rx.)

One thing is certain, however. To make practice your way of life, you need to choose activities that you will actually do, day after day, even if your combination of them turns out to be totally unique to you.

So how do you choose a good set of spiritual practices?

Start by examining your symptoms — what is really happening in your life. Symptoms act as catalysts, precipitating a desire to enter the path of practice or to move to a different phase of your journey.

Symptoms may show you where you want to work. By seeing how much you are living in the past, you discover the importance of living in the present. By understanding the targets of your greed, you can redirect your attention to that for which you are grateful. By noticing how cynical you have become, you recognize your longing for meaning.

Further, others benefit when you work with your symptoms, even negative ones. By claiming your negative impulses, rather than denying them, you learn to care about people like you who are fearful, depressed, indifferent, or wasteful. When you face your pain, you are less likely to project it upon others. Spiritual practices such as compassion, justice, and mystery actually use your personal suffering as medicine to strengthen you for the healing of the world.

Symptoms can also be positive experiences that motivate you to take up a particular spiritual practice. How do you sustain a burst of creativity? Try the practices of imagination or wonder. Having felt the freedom of being released from your guilt by God, you are reinforced in the practice of forgiveness of others. Free-spiritedness goes hand-in-hand with play. A yen for adventure can be a sign that you would enjoy questing.

To find your Spiritual Rx, look at the symptoms on our Prescriptions chart. What qualities do you want to enhance in your life? Which do you want to counter or balance? Start with the practice(s) associated with them.

(Reprinted from Spiritual Rx: Prescriptions for Living a Meaningful Life by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat.)