The most difficult hurdle to overcome within a spiritual practice is often the hurdle of beginning. For even though we have the best intentions to improve the quality of our life and to deepen our relationship with Spirit, it is in starting that a space must be created so that what did not exist before can be given room to exist and made part of everyday life.
Seeking to join the everyday self with the Divine so that they become one is the purpose of a spiritual practice. When such joining is undertaken with regularity and commitment, then life will begin to expand and deepen in unforeseen ways.
The challenge in beginning lies in this: it must seem centrally important to the self to move in the direction of spiritual deepening and greater awareness, in order that the necessary steps be taken. While spirituality remains merely an area of interest or of curiosity, this degree of inner necessity may not be present, and reading about spiritual subjects or attending lectures or workshops may be sufficient. But when the longing grows to transform life, to experience God and one’s Self directly, then more than intellectual pursuits are needed. Then actual ‘on-the-job’ training is called for.
Spiritual practice, in the many forms in which it can be undertaken, offers to the practitioner such training in the form of a step-by-step program toward heightened awareness, greater peace, and a spiritually-based outlook on life. Yet, to integrate this awareness within everyday life takes time — time in which to learn to align with Source, and time in which to open to new experience. Such alignment occurs not through the mind, but through the body and the heart and their deeper knowing. One cannot think oneself into a new way of life. One must experience the profound in order to do this.
Sometimes, the sacrifice that is needed in order to begin a spiritual practice is one of letting go of another activity that has been valued, or another use to which time has been put. For example, one may need to let go of the comfort of time spent with others in order to pursue something more solitary whose rewards are yet to be determined. The willingness to commit oneself to something whose outcome is promising yet unknown can be exciting, but it can also demand courage and commitment from the self, and a willingness to say ‘no’ to the many other demands that may be placed on one’s time.
Once such a commitment has been established, a choice needs to be made as to how to proceed. No matter what path or practice one may follow, the first step required is to: be simple. Do what you can do and do not strive to do what seems impossible to do at first or very difficult to do. Later on more difficulty can be added.
For example, if it is not possible to set aside twenty minutes a day to meditate in order to begin, then set aside ten. Begin where you can, and determine to make your time for practice a regular one, for in this regularity lies the means for growth.
Secondly: be creative. To establish contact with the spiritual realms and with one’s own indwelling Spirit, it is most helpful to be in a place that feels sacred — one that communicates a sense of the Invisible, not a place that is filled with the vibrations of daily life. Allow your creativity to find a way to locate a sacred space in which you can create an altar. This altar will represent your commitment to your spiritual practice. The altar can be very simple, constructed out of a wooden shelf, a small table, or anything that will hold a single candle. That is all that need be. In order that the altar resonate with a sacred vibration, however, it must not be used for anything else — neither to put other things on, nor as part of a different purpose other than its sacred one.
Third: be committed. Be willing to sit in front of your altar and breathe quietly, if you like, by placing your hand over your heart center in the center of your chest and allowing your mind to let go of thoughts as best you can. In beginning, there is no more needed than this: to sit, to breathe, to bring energy to your heart; to try to empty your mind.
A regular practice of this kind for ten or twenty minutes a day will begin to make an inroad into your deeper knowing. It will begin to open up the doors of communication between your everyday self and your soul-self and God.
Seeking to join this everyday self with the Divine so that they become one is the purpose of a spiritual practice. When such joining is undertaken with regularity and commitment, then life will begin to expand and deepen in unforeseen ways, and one’s self-perception will inevitably begin to shift from that of personal history, to the deeper knowing of oneself as a child of God.
Read more in this series:
Beginning a Spiritual Practice, Part I: The Importance of Beginning
Beginning a Spiritual Practice, Part II: Creating an Altar
Beginning a Spiritual Practice, Part III: The Place of Illuminated Silence
Beginning a Spiritual Practice, Part IV: Moving Beyond the Mind