The current tissue of the newsletter of the UU church of the Larger Fellowship, is focused on spiritual practice. Many lovely articles about what spiritual practice is and isn’t. Contributor, Rev. Sharon Wylie writes that spiritual practice is “an activity whose primary purpose is to quiet the mind and bring us into deeper connection with the interdependent web of all existence. Spiritual practice is Intentional, practiced regularly and is non-productive.”
A practice that is INTENTIONAL– In other words, it’s not something you are already doing everyday anyway – like washing the dishes. It is an activity that you engage in with the sole purpose of paying attention . You do it in order to focus your mind. You do it to practice being intentional. You are going to focus and be aware of each moment as you do the practice. You do it because you choose it.
A practice that is REGULAR. You don’t do it when the spirit moves you. You don’t do it occasionally. You do it on a regular basis; if not daily, then something close to that. Like brushing your teeth. You do it because you have committed to doing it and because you have decided it’s in your own best interest. You do it regularly because that’s how habits work. You practice “staying with”.
A practice that is NON-PRODUCTIVE. This is the one that gives me personally the most challenge. Why would I do something that isn’t productive?” Well, why indeed! I seem to always demand that anything I do give me a pay-off. I’d like to learn how not to be attached to outcomes. Walking a labyrinth is not walking to get somewhere, it is walking to walk – to be aware that I am walking. It’s how I’d like to walk through all of my life. Awake. Aware.
So these are good litmus tests for deciding if what you are doing (watching birds, writing in a journal, making art, reading, meditating, hiking, washing the dishes, etc.etc.etc.) is actually a spiritual practice FOR YOU. Is it intentional, regular and non-productive? Or is it some other thing -- which might be good -- maybe it's fun, or healthy, or insightful, or, or, or -- but is it a SPIRITUAL PRACTICE? We can use these three words to help us decide.
And, I also want to lift up this idea that we do spiritual practices in order to PRACTICE. We will never achieve some sought after reward or goal or enlightenment. We are practicing noticing what IS. We are practicing seeing ourselves. We are practicing over and over to slow down, wake up, breathe. You would think that would be easy. It isn’t!