What is a Spiritual Practice: the 3 best perks of cultivating one

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At present I’m traversing through a period of grief and loss; it hurts and its not easy. Its familiar territory and I have my usual ways of coping; crying, talking, TV comas, chocolate and long walks. They are all part of the process of getting through the day-to-day of life during this time. What is helping me navigate through the complexity of emotions and thoughts I’m experiencing on a deeper level is my ‘spiritual practice’.

Thanks to some particularly dark nights of the Soul that occurred a handful of times over the last decade of my life I found the ‘practice’ that is right for me out of sheer necessity. Actually it was a beautiful friend who dragged me out of the house with his encouragement and into my first spontaneous dance experience; a 5Rhythms class. He has hardly ever gone to another class, its just not for him, I’ve been dancing regularly for over ten years now. Dance has become my spiritual practice.

I’m weary about using the word ‘spiritual’ practice because it can narrow down our consideration of what constitutes a practice to conventional spiritual practices like yoga, meditation or participating in a religion. While those spiritual practices are all genuinely powerful and may be perfect for you there are a multitude of other options too. Like rock climbing, mountain biking, ice skating or painting. Whatever feels good to you, comes easily and is not too much of a effort to remain disciplined in doing regularly can become a spiritual practice; even if it is a little outside of the spiritual box.

I invite you to consider that whatever you choose has these three elements inherent in it:

  • It is something that is accessible, that you can do regularly without too much effort. If you love hand-gliding but only manage to get out into the hills once or twice a year to experience it then that may be something you do for fun but it doesn’t quite tick the regular box. Notice I didn’t say daily, daily is great, regularly works too in my experience.
  • It needs to be something that helps you go within; allowing you to connect with your inner world. Something that helps you navigate through your emotions, thoughts and sensations on a deeper level than the usual day-to-day experience of life.
  • It needs to create within you a sense of connecting to a force far greater that yourself that helps you to build strength and courage. It may be nature, god, your higher-self, your ancestors, family, philosophy, angels or the cosmos. Whatever feels right for you. Part of a spiritual practice is having faith that there is a force far greater than your own will conspiring to help you. When life goes off the rails and our own will falters the faith cultivated through your spiritual practice is the strength that you can lean on for a while.

Dance is it for me; when I dance I am able to burrow deep within and stretch up to the heavens simultaneously. I can move with my emotions and express my thoughts so that I can remember who I am. When I dance I know I am not alone; I can feel the flow of the cosmos moving through me and I can feel she loves me.

I am grateful to the darkest times in my life for making it a necessity for me to develop a spiritual practice so that I could usher the light back in again. I am grateful for the way those times continue to motivate me to show up and dance when the living is easy because I know that my practice will be the way I get through to the other side when life sends heartache my way.

So here are my top three ways I believe cultivating a regular spiritual practice can help us journey through the most difficult times in our lives a little more gently.

  • When it is difficult to simply get through the day-to-day actions life requires your practice is already there; you don’t need to think about what you can do to support yourself because you already know. When your whole world is caving in having a tried and true practice that you enjoy and you know works for you to fall into is a huge help.
  • Similarly if you know what your practice is then you can tell those that care about you what it is. We can’t always see clearly through the fog of heartbreak but if those that care about you know to encourage you to engage in your spiritual practice that may be all the help you need.
  • Finally its the whole muscle memory, body memory, cellular memory thing that I believe extends to our energetic body too. You’ll know the ritual of it if you’ve practiced it many times before; and in the ritual lies the refuge. What are the rituals of your spiritual practice? How is your regular practice creating a refuge in your life that you know you can retreat to when the storms come?

My refuge is bare feet and a beat. I am blessed that my Spirit knows the road to refuge that regular practice has created in my life like a well worn path traversed many times.