Ah, the first fresh days of 2018. The new year stretches out enticingly before us. We still have a few precious moments before we get completely taken over with work and school and daily routines, and we can consider our intentions for the coming year. How can our outward actions best reflect our inner values? How can we live in concert with the world around us?
By Tera Landers
These questions have more impact when we realize that our daily living impacts not just us, not just our families. But that even the simplest acts we take – such as the food we eat, the places we shop, our mode of transportation – either heals or harms our larger community and the earth we live on. As the year speeds up, and we become immersed in daily living, it gets harder to remember the intentions we set for ourselves in early January.
One thing that can remind us of our commitment to live our values is developing a regular spiritual or reflective practice.
The book The Spiritual Activist, by Claudia Horwitz, lifts up three characteristics of “a spiritual or reflective practice:
- It connects us to the presence of the sacred or that which has great meaning in our lives.
- It is something we do regularly (ideally on a daily basis) and without interruption.
- It grounds us in the present moment, bringing us into awareness of what is happening right now.”
I’m not asking you to start one more new thing. I know you are busy!
But take a few minutes, and think about all the things you do already. Can something that you do occasionally become a spiritual or reflective practice?
- Walking mountain trails
- Reading sacred texts
The intent you put into it makes it a reflective practice. As you begin, empty your mind so you can engage in your practice with focus and an open heart and make space for the connecting energy of the Universe to come alive within you.
There is a Zen story about a professor who visited a monk to find out more about the Zen tradition. As he sat down, instead of listening to the monk, the professor kept talking on and on about his own ideas and all that he knew.
After a while of this talking, the monk served tea. He poured the tea into the professor’s cup until it was full. And then he kept right on pouring. The tea dropped over the side of the cup, filled the saucer, and then spilled over onto the man’s pants and the floor.
Finally the professor could not restrain himself. “Don’t you see it is full? You can’t get any more in!”
The monk replied, “Just so.” And stopped pouring the tea. “And like this cup, you are filled with your own ideas. How can you expect me to give you Zen unless you offer me an empty cup?”
Our minds become so full with the details and demands of each day. There’s little room to welcome new revelation. Some time set aside opens up space to be with Spirit, or with one’s own deepest wisdom.
As you explore your practice, Horwitz suggests you ask these questions:
- Does it fill you with awe?
- Can you surrender to it?
- Does the practice have heart?
There will be days that your mind wanders all over the place. There will be days your plate is so full, you can’t imagine taking even five minutes for your practice. But it’s called spiritual or reflective practice for a reason – it’s not always easy to do. But like learning a new language or instrument, the important thing is consistency, even if it’s just a few minutes each day. Sit down in that chair to meditate. Or get up and walk around the block. Or step away from the computer and do one rotation of sun salutation.
As you create space for your inner life to flourish, you’ll awaken your promise to live more deliberately on this earth, and your actions will be more in concert with your values. Happy 2018!
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