For a very, very long time, I felt like an utter failure when it comes to spiritual practices. You know. Those pesky, vibration-rasing things all the woo-woo guru types will suggest?
“This will change your life!” they say, with the gleam of magick in their eye. They are pretty adamant, and I don’t think they’re wrong.
Except, what if you suck at it?
Top of that list is meditation. Hell, I advise meditation, too. Awesome. We’re in agreement. It’s a wonderful, powerful tool. Same page here.
Except, except, except…I could never stay focused on “nothingness” (whatever that means). The more tangible just-focus-on-breathing-advice was a little easier to follow. But during the full 20 minutes or so earmarked for meditation? Uh, no.
And while guided meditations are easier because they give my very active mind something to latch on to, that felt kind of like cheating. If I weren’t a meditation failure, I wouldn’t need to listen to someone describing pretty forests to get my Zen groove on.
It never took long into one of my meditation resolutions before I found myself outright dreading practice time. Sometimes, I got it “right enough” that I’d feel okay about the exercise overall. It wasn’t joy-driven, though, and I knew I wanted it to be. I always tried to find ways to be more relaxed about it, but as often or not I just ended up feeling like an ADD elementary schooler, impatiently waiting for the recess bell.
Are we done yet? Can I mark this off my list and move on to something I want to do?
“But this is good for me,” I’d insist to myself. Maybe not a tasty treat, but valuable. This is what I did over and over until eventually, I realized I’d relegated practice to the realm of Spiritual Spinach!
“Meh” on the gotta-have-it index, but oh-so-good-for-you, so eat up anywho.
Bleh! That’s no fun and it’s certainly demotivating. So I’ve done my best to change this.
I am very loose about what I classify as “practice.” I prefer simple activities that are easy and flexible, so most of my choices fit into that category. But if you enjoy more involved practice or ritual, there’s nothing wrong with that, either! Things I consider spiritual practices might include crocheting while listening to certain videos, or binaural beats on the headphones while making dinner, or filling pages of my Joy Journal. I’m a firm believer that it’s not what you’re doing that counts nearly as much as HOW you’re doing it.
I’ve come up with some new guidelines for myself on the topic and I’ve got to say, they are really amping up my Spiritual Practice Mojo. So I thought I’d share them with you. ♥
Dixie’s Rules for Spiritual Practices
- It MUST feel good.
- Zero self-criticism.
- Mindfulness matters, but it’s all okay.
If my practices don’t leave me feeling good–expansive, connected, grounded and happy? Something is amiss and it’s not serving me. I realized that for me at least, it’s GOT to feel good! Good feelings are my indication what I’m doing is working for me. If it fails this test, there’s no reason to continue.
Nothing is going to feel good when I’m criticizing myself. Being Zen requires a total commitment to being at peace with the now. Where I am is all right because it has to be all right. It’s where I am! No “shoulds” need apply. I am in the perfect place, right where I stand. This one takes some ongoing attention to stay there, but it’s a sweet spot when you find it.
Be where you are, focusing on what you’re doing. What makes an activity a true spiritual practice for me is much less about the activity than it is about the energy I’m bringing to said activity. The “chop wood, carry water” paradigm of Zen has this right. Do I always manage an impressive level of mindfulness? Oh God, no! Not even close (as mentioned in the video). But hey, no self-criticism, Dixie! The mindfulness factor varies from day to day, whatever mindfulness I manage benefits me, be it a little or a lot.
Really, it boils down to finding ways to connect to the broader world, inner reality–your spirit, the soul, light, the Universe, God, whomever or however you envision this to be, on an ongoing basis. It’s little bits of time you carve out and dedicate to connection, because connection is important to you. It’s a gift you give yourself. It’s an opportunity to get into the vibration of joy and love and appreciation, and practice that energy until it’s second nature.
That’s how I managed to move my own spiritual practices from taking my medicine to something I love. Here’s hoping the same for you!
Do you have spiritual practices? What helps you keep them fresh and effective?