Saturday, January 12, 2013

Six Spiritual Practices for the New Year ...

Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spirutual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.

Carl Sagan, American astronomer and astrophysicist

As trauma and compassion fatigue research continues, we are learning that developing our spiritual lives can actually enhance our compassion fatigue resilience and recovery.

The New Year offers us an opportunity to reassess our spiritual lives and to consider practices that can deepen our spiritual connections with ourselves, those around us, nature, and that which transcends the self - an opportunity to recognize more fully the sacredness of life and to embrace its mystery. 

Here are six spiritual practices to help you deepen these connections in 2013:

1. Breathe. The word spirituality is derived from the Latin word spirale  which means to blow or to breathe. Our breath connects us intimately with the life force that sustains us in each moment. Sit quietly for 3 minutes and allow your attention to follow each inspiration, each expiration - moment by moment, breath by breath. Savour the feeling of being alive and in-spired. Choose a cue - opening a particular cupboard, hearing a phone ring - to remind you to b-r-e-a-t-h-e  in this way several times a day. 
2.  Be silent. Create stillpoints of quiet in your life. Wake early and spend that time in deliberate stillness and silence. End the day with 20 minutes silence to bring you back to yourself and the Source of your being. Eat a meal alone, without a book or TV for company. Make a silent retreat of an hour, a day or a week. Make waiting times intentional times of silence - grocery store lineups, sitting in waiting rooms, waiting to pick up the kids at school. 
3.  Spend time in wild places. Thoreau says that the wilderness is near as well as dear. You don't have to travel to distant shores to leave your busyness behind and return to the restoring rhythms of nature. The wild places are right on your doorstep - the greenbelt, the lakeshore, the parkland beside the reservoir, the pathways in the woods, even the quiet of your garden just before sunrise and sunset. Allow the rhythms you discover there - rise and fall, summer and winter, abundance and scarcity - to teach you to embrace both life's fullness and its emptiness, knowing that there is much to be learned from each.  
4.  Release what is no longer necessary, be they possessions, thoughts, feelings, experiences, habits or expectations. Reflect upon what is essential to your life then consider letting go of anything that may be keeping you trapped or blocked.
5.  Trust in what you love.  Rather than imposing a rigid plan upon your life, try following the thread of your own unique unfolding story, step by step, attending to the synchronicities and the still small voice that can guide your path. Cultivate a deep trust in what you love. What are the things that make your heart sing, no matter how at odds they feel with your current life (and perhaps especially so?). Make some room, this year, to honour what brings you to life.
6.  Open yourself to a new word for the year.  Last year, guided by the writings of spiritual director, Christine Painter, PhD, I wrote about choosing a word (or, more correctly, allowing a word to choose you) to guide you through the year. As Christine put it,  In quiet moments, what are the desires you hear being whispered from your heart? Is there a word or phrase that shimmers forth, inviting you to dwell with it in the months ahead? Something you can grow into and don't fully understand?
I don't know if any of you chose a word last year. I did and it made such a significant impact on my life in 2012 that I encourage you to join me in giving it a try this very new year.


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