How to Cultivate Modern Spiritual Practices
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Different types of spiritual practices
Spiritual practices across history and around the globe are as varied as the humans that adopt them. It’s easy to think of them in terms of religious, philosophical, somatic, and so on. But it can feel a bit overwhelming to know where to start if you’re wanting to adopt a spiritual practice for the first time. And even trickier if you’ve been raised in a particular approach that doesn’t actually work well for you.
We’re all about clarity, bravery and self-empowerment here, so let’s dive in. How can you develop a set of modern spiritual practices that work perfectly for you?
The goal of spiritual practices
Largely the agreed goal of spiritual practices is to bring the practitioner (that’s you!) closer to God, Universe, Source. The word that resonates most for you is totally fine. The God of your understanding is a phrase that works well and is universally applicable. But that brings us to our point. The goal of spiritual practices, I think, is to try to understand God a bit better. Or maybe just appreciate, or experience. But you likely have your own goal in mind, so take some time to clearly articulate what that is.
Understanding your own needs
Two questions when it comes to cultivating new spiritual practices. First, what is your goal and second, what is your commitment level. If your goal is to be able to meditate longer, maybe one of your practices is to start doing yoga so it’s more comfortable to sit still for an extended period. Both the meditation and the yoga becomes spiritual practices in this case.
But what can you really commit to? I work with mindset coaching clients who want to cultivate their own spiritual practices. And I often find that there’s this tendency (especially among my high achievers!) to want to jump in to a lot of things all at the same time that they think will lead to spiritual development. But when we try to write them down and create a schedule we realize they would need 38 hours each day to get it all done.
So the goal is to be really clear about what you can commit to. Remember that doing a little bit of something (like 5 minutes of meditating) is infinitely better than talking about, and doing, a whole lot of nothing.
Developing your ideal spiritual practice
What does your ideal, but attainable, spiritual practice look like? And why? What spiritual practices have you tried before? What worked well and what didn’t? These are all questions to ask yourself. Write it down, test it out, and notice your results. And if you’re not quite there, try again. Keep an open mind. This is a learning process.
My own personal spiritual practices involve a mix of meditation, prayer, introspection with journaling and time in nature. I grew up Catholic but found as I got older that a lot of the doctrine no longer resonated. But I feel connected to God and believe I’m always being guided and protected (even from myself sometimes!). I also recognized after a while that I missed the community and ritual that church provided. So I cultivated a new version of that in my life, with openminded spiritual friends and spiritual practices we share.
Be okay with walking your own path
There’s no wrong way to do this. The hardest part for most is the actual moment of saying this doesn’t work for me anymore. Whether it’s a school of thought, a religion, a practice, whatever. Women especially are conditioned not to rock the boat or ask questions, but we must if we’re going to have meaningful spiritual practices and experiences. Mindset coaching with an ICF-accredited professional can help!
I of course recommend prayer, meditation, journaling and spending time in nature (because I do those things and they’re great for me!). But there are tons of other things to explore and test out, and something else might work better for you. Maybe it’s studying religious and philosophical texts. Perhaps somatic experiences like drumming or psychedelic journeying hold more appeal.
Pursuing scientific knowledge is also a totally valid approach to spiritual development. It doesn’t have to be either/or. Science is just a way to better understand God and the Universe, and there’s always more to learn. I like to imagine every time we have a major scientific discovery (like confirming what black holes look like, or deep field galaxy discoveries, for example) that God is excited that we found the surprise and is like “did you like it?!”. Science and spirituality are not in conflict – but pay attention to who profits from that line of thinking.
Further reading on developing spiritual practices and understanding
1. The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer
4. A Rhythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal by Sarah Bessey
5. High Magick: A Guide to the Spiritual Practices That Saved My Life on Death Row by Damien Echols
6. Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential by Deepak Chopra
9. Everyday Spiritual Practice: Simple Pathways for Enriching Your Life by Scott W Alexander
10. The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles by Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D.
11. Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One by Dr. Joe Dispenza
The bottom line
Spiritual practices can and do evolve over time. This is the case in well-established religious organizations, and it holds true at the individual level as well. When we stay alert to the changing world around us and continually evaluate whether what we’re doing is working, we’re poised to evolve. Resist the temptation or peer pressure to stay committed to spiritual practices that don’t work for you. And lean in to the opportunity for your own evolution in exploring spiritual practices that are relevant and accessible.
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