Finish the sentence:
- “Actions speak…”
- “Practice what you…”
We all know that our words mean very little unless we live them out. The tendency to say one thing and do another has been reported as one of the primary reasons that institutional religion is in decline. Religious people can talk about love as much as they like but if they declare war on one another, or marginalise those who are different from them, the words are empty while the actions speak volumes.
THE PRACTICE OF SPIRITUALITY
That’s why spirituality is a practice. As I wrote here the point of spiritual practice is not to be more spiritual, but to become more compassionate, connected, and contributing human beings. This requires regular, intentional practice to nurture the qualities and behaviours that align with the high ideals of which we speak.
In any sphere of life, the best practices are always structured, consistent, and cyclical, leading us on an intentional path which covers the same ground at an ever-deepening level—a virtuous spiral into beauty, truth, and goodness. It can be tempting to practice only when we feel like it, or to pick and choose from various sources we enjoy, but this isn’t an effective path to spiritual health. It is good to explore different sources of spiritual guidance, but we grow best when we do so within a consistent framework.
TRANSFORMING SPIRITUAL PRACTICE
A few weeks ago we described the process of transformation using a four-stage model: catalyst to chaos to clarity to cohesion. To lead us into health, our spiritual practice should move us through these stages, and make them a conscious and consistent part of our lives. The following framework seeks to do just this:
Every spiritual practice begins with a Preparing phase, in which we prepare our space, centre and ground ourselves, and open to the spiritual journey ahead. The Preparing phase corresponds to the catalyst stage of the transformation process.
Next we move into a Listening or Reflecting phase, in which we engage with some spiritual input: a sacred text, a meditative ritual, the writings of a treasured author, the silent whisper of Spirit through the sounds and sights of nature. As we do this, we release what we know, we evaluate our lives against the wisdom we receive, and we open to the Energy that lead us into deeper wholeness and connectedness. This phase corresponds with the chaos stage of the transformation process.
Then, we enter the Responding phase. Here we work with any new discoveries in a ritualised way, giving them a chance to show us the next step in our spiritual growth. This phase corresponds with the clarity stage of the transformation process.
Finally, we enter into the Integrating phase where we seek to make our learnings part of us, and carry them into our daily routines and relationships. We set our intentions and commit to put what we have received into practice. We prepare to return to the busyness and complexity of our lives, but in a (slightly) new way because of how we have been changed. This phase corresponds with the cohesion stage of the transformation process.
EVALUATE YOUR PRACTICE
Pause for a moment and consider your own spiritual practice.
- To what extent does it include these four phases?
- In what way does it intentionally facilitate the four stages of transformation in your life?
- How comfortable would you be to shape your own spiritual practice to include a regular, conscious journey of transformation like this?
Transformation doesn’t happen instantly. Which means that we don’t need to seek radical change in our practice, but small shifts that compound over time into significant growth. If this transformative journey isn’t at the heart of our spiritual practice, I wonder why we even bother…
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