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“Getting” religion, getting spiritual

It’s April 22 (Happy Earth Day!), and if you’ve been following along on the blog, you’ll know that the past month has seen me on the West Coast, in the Midwest, and in New England. While my husband travels frequently—it’s nothing for him to be gone for months at a time—I’m usually a homebody.

And if I’m being honest, I have to admit that I tend to be that way because I adore routine, and travel tends to disrupt that.

A large part of my morning routine involves…meditation? prayer? Perhaps “spiritual practice” would be the best way to put it.

pixabay prayer flags

And because the Universe never makes mistakes, and “coincidences” are really miracles in disguise, just as I was missing my routine, feeling that my practice was being hampered by being on the road, and thinking a lot about prayer, I came across two quotes that really struck a chord :

First from the daily email that Gratefulness.org sends me: “Prayers are tools not for doing or getting, but for being and becoming.” (Eugene H. Peterson).

And then from my friend and coach Chad Allen: “Wanting to commune with God is all good and fine and sounds super holy, but to what end? Is my doing so an act of love and gratitude, or is it an act of manipulation?”

In Integrative Nutrition®, a spiritual practice is considered one of the many primary foods—all those facets of our lives that nourish us (or not) in addition to the foods we put in our mouths. When I ask clients about their spiritual practices, most often jump to religious rituals and prayer. Those are certainly spiritual practices—and there are many other forms a spiritual practice can take.

I’m often struck by how often the mission statements of religious institutions around the world similar: they invite seekers in, help them find themselves, then send them out into the world to do good. (In fact, I think that one way of defining a cult is as a religion that has omitted the final step—that of reconnecting in a positive way with the world outside itself.)

“Spiritual, not religious?” I like to think about a spiritual practice as one that first takes you deep inside so that you can connect with your innermost self and then brings you back to the outside world with a new way to connect to it and a desire to bring about positive change in it: you “be” and “become” by practicing rather than trying to bargain with or manipulate a higher power into doing what you think you want.

pixabay tea lights

So I thought I’d give you an idea of what my spiritual practice looks like. Full disclosure: it’s really uncomfortable to share this—it feels vulnerable in the extreme, and I can already see my kids’ eyerolls. And yet it’s something I’ve thought about sharing for a long time, so as “they” say, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

I’ll admit it’s a weird hybrid, and you can read about the background of it in an earlier blog post titled Hitting the Pause Button. If you’re not familiar with yoga, I recommend you find a book or website on it—I personally like Yoga Journal because you can search for poses in a number of ways, including seeking out poses that are beneficial for specific health issues. Don’t worry: you don’t have to practice yoga to try this out.

I have to credit Gabrielle Bernstein’s May Cause Miracles (and thank IIN® for introducing me to her work) with giving me some direction as I was struggling to find a practice that worked for me: her exercises first gave me the idea that body, mind, and spirit/breath could be combined in this way.

I always do these three postures/affirmations at the very end of my yoga practice, repeating each breath/affirmation three times (or more) and adding others as I feel drawn to do them:

  1. Open yourself up to possibility and acknowledge your blessings with gratitude:
    Sit cross-legged or on your heels with your hands open, palm up, on your knees.
    Breathe in and think or say out loud, “I open myself to possibility.”
    Breathe out and think or say out loud “…and receive the blessings of the Universe.”
  2. Acknowledge that there is a higher power that fills you and to which you can surrender:
    Assume child’s pose or any pose that feels like surrender.
    Breathe in and think or say out loud, “I breathe in the power of the Universe.”
    Breathe out and think or say out loud, “…and I surrender my will.”
  3. Prepare to be a force for good, a light-bringer in the world:
    Assume corpse pose or any pose that turns your face to the light (I was going to say “sun,” but let’s be real—when you get up as early as I do, it’s never light out yet!)
    Breathe in and think or say out loud, “I fill myself with the light of the Universe.”
    Breathe out and think or say out loud, “…so that I may reflect it back on others.”

As with any practice, if you want to try mine (or create your own), I recommend starting small—try one pose combined with one affirmation/statement, then change it up or add more as you find what works best for you. Try out different postures, try on different affirmations, and practice. Practice, practice, practice. It may indeed cause miracles.

Drop me a comment about your own spiritual practice: what you practice, how you came to the practice, and what miracles it has brought into your life….

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