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Spiritual Practice for Dummies

How To Change Your Life For The Better - No Dogma Required

People are always fascinated and some outright surprised to hear that I’m a minister and spiritual counselor. Could be the tattoos or the nose ring…but more than likely it’s because I identify as a humanist. Many would call me an atheist, but the truth is, I believe that there is a Divine order to things – I just don’t believe that it comes from an old, bearded man sitting on a cloud passing judgement on all of us. I’m more of a quantum physics kinda gal…and somewhere in there is the connectivity of all creation at some subatomic, cellular level. That’s pretty powerful stuff and the basis from which I developed my love for humanity, nature and all sentient beings. I was never a fan of organized religion and have had my stretches of denouncing everything about it. Yet, if you can tune out all of the unpleasant noise it’s sometimes accompanied with, there’s actually great beauty and wisdom to be found in the mysticism and rich, spiritual traditions. I try to emulate Jesus – that is, my concept of Jesus. The undeified human being who embraced radical love and kindness. I also love Buddha and his remarkable ability for non attachment and infinite compassion…but I certainly don’t believe him to be a God. Sufism and the beauty of Rumi’s writings just crack my heart open time and time again…and I love the colorful and varied Hindu figures, both male and female representing the divine characteristics and shadow sides that exist in all of us. Do I believe that Shiva is a blue god who is responsible for the destruction of the world? Not literally. But, I will chant “Om Namah Shivaya” as a reminder to live in my “True Self” and not the false identity that I’ve constructed through my ego. Shiva reminds me to to destroy the illusion that I’ve created that prohibits me from living authentically.

I’ve been a seeker my entire life and spent many years in what could probably be described as an existential crisis. Ultimately, that is what led me to the place of understanding that once you peel back the multitude of layers, all that’s left is love – and spiritual practice reminds me of that during trying and emotionally exhausting times – like political arguments. You can wrap it in any culture, belief system, or story that you’d like. Spiritual practice is different for everyone but serves the same purpose. It nourishes us in mind, body and spirit while stripping away the ego, outside influences, doubts, fears and all of the clutter that intrudes the psyche. It gives us a reprieve from the daily challenges we face and allows us much needed time for introspection and self care. It’s in this space that we appreciate our connection to something greater than ourselves. Of course, you name it however you’d like – God, the Universe, nature, humanity, whatever holds true for you. It’s all about your relationship with the unknown. Many people already have spiritual practices and don’t even know it. Think about this – at what moment are you standing completely and utterly in your personal truth? If you’re a dancer, probably when you dance, if you’re a singer, presumably when you sing. The things you do that feel as natural as breathing and make you feel tingly – alive are sacred and should be acknowledged as such – and as a spiritual practice. I happen to have several in my spiritual arsenal. Writing is one of them, as is reading and reflection (known in Christianity as Lectio Divina – but in my case, it’s usually not with Scripture). I do yoga (for more than just physical purposes), use mantras, practice Ho’oponopno, and attend the occasional Shabbat service and kirtan. However, my most powerful practice is by far, meditation. It is here where I do my deepest personal work. After decompressing and letting go with a guided meditation or binaural sounds (Insight Timer is wonderful for this – if you haven’t tried it, download the app ASAP), I delve into what’s known as a “shamanic journey.” This is the process of accessing inner wisdom by allowing the mind to enter a dream like, theta state achieved through relaxation, breath control and drumming. I’ve had profound moments of self discovery and personal development through journeying and quite frankly, it has changed my life for the better. I am more mindful and self aware, less anxious, fearful, angry, reactive and have a much higher level of emotional intelligence. Plus, I’m happier – a lot happier. Depression was an issue for me, problematic enough that I took an anti depressant for a few years which quite frankly, left me numb. Cultivating a daily spiritual practice encouraged me to lean in and face my feelings rather than trying to anesthetize them. I am living proof that the benefits are very real and tangible if we are willing to make the commitment. Now, I am in no way suggesting that anyone should replace their prescribed medication with meditation, but I am recommending it in-addition-to. It simply allows us to shift our energy into a more balanced and receptive state where we become open to the possibility of healing. Additionally, as a spiritual counselor, one of the most important elements of the work I do is assist people in developing their own practice. It is a vital and powerful component in their path to personal awareness that provides them the tools to flow with life rather than constantly resist whatever is happening. This allows them to become more present and proactive in creating positive change.

I will end with this – my own journey of self discovery and the professional privilege of accompanying others on theirs has shown me time and time again how profoundly beneficial spiritual practice is for our psychological, emotional and even physical well being. If you truly don’t have one, try a few different things until you find what speaks to your soul and prioritize it. Make it a daily ritual, as important yet routine as brushing your teeth – because that’s when the magic of transformation begins.

“Better indeed is knowledge than mechanical practice.

Better than knowledge is meditation.

But better still is surrender in love.

Because there follows immediate peace.”

– From the Bhagavad Gita

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