Notes about Spiritual Practices

May 16, 2023

Every morning our neighbors across the street walk the block and a half to the Catholic Church for mass.

Every morning.

Attending the service is certainly a spiritual practice that no doubt strengthens their faith, but the walk itself is a spiritual practice: a time to prepare for the ritual of worship and prayer; a time to open to the movement and presence of God, a reinforcement of the gifts of contemplation; and perhaps, incentive to be partners in God’s reconciling love for the world.

That’s a lot happening in a short round-trip walk, but when you make room for a spiritual practice in your daily life and commit to a regular practice, God will notice and you will notice God.

Is there anything I can do to make myself enlightened?
As little as you can do to make the sunrise in the morning.
Then what use are the spiritual exercises you prescribe?
To make sure you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.
                              Anthony de Mello

I’ve written often in this blog and elsewhere about spiritual practices and the role they play in aiding the discovery of and living as the person God created me to be. That process is an ongoing pilgrimage, and I need spiritual practices to fortify and sustain me in my intentions:

  • To feel God’s presence and support,
  • To feel connected to the whole,
  • To integrate the model of Jesus into my life,
  • To give my life meaning, even as I age,
  • To move from fear to love.

I have core spiritual practices; practices that have been part of my life for a long time, including writing in my journal and starting the day with meditation and prayer time, but at various times in my life, and often with a change of the season, I add in other practices to spark and surprise me as I move through my days. Two examples:

  • Take one photograph on my daily walk. Just one. Right now as spring is bursting how tempting it is to click, click, click on my walk, but confining myself to one photograph only seems to open my eyes even more. When I see something of beauty, of interest I stop and ask myself, “What do you notice? How is this a sign of God? What does this sight awaken in you? What of this moment will you carry with you?” Even when I decide not to take photograph at that moment, the pause, the taking a breath, the observing is a gift that becomes part of who I am and how God is present in my life. And somehow I seem to know when it is time for the one photograph of the day. No doubts. No hesitation. It is time. Do I ever regret not taking a picture of something I’ve seen. Not so far, but that could happen. Instead, that makes me aware of the abundance of wonders all around me, and understanding I can never capture them all. Why not let my one picture of the day symbolize the whole, the all.
  • Adopt a mantra and whisper it throughout the day. Lately, thanks to a meditation in You Are the Beloved, Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living by Henri Nouwen, I recite the words, “I am the glory of God.” I repeat the sentence as I walk up the stairs to the garret or make the bed in the morning or open the refrigerator when it is time to fix dinner. I change the mantra to “You are the glory of God,” as I see my husband working his magic in the garden or I insert the name of a spiritual direction client as I sit in silence before the beginning of a session. Here’s what Nowen writes,

Make that thought the center of your meditation so that it slowly becomes not only a thought but a living reality. You are the place where God chose to dwell, you are the topos tou theou (God’s place) and the spiritual life is nothing more or less than to allow that space to exist where God can dwell, to create the space where his glory can manifest itself. In your meditation you can ask yourself, “Where is the Glory of God? If the glory of God is not there where I am, where else can it be?”

May 10, p. 144
  • Planning the week. On Sunday I turn the page of the notebook I keep on the top of my desk and I write down the schedule for the week. The events, the appointments. Yes, those are on my laptop and phone calendars, but writing them on this clean page is an act of mindfulness, of blessing. I also create my To Do lists for three categories–Writing Tasks, Church Tasks, and Other Tasks. Again, doing this on the Sabbath is an act of mindfulness and blessing. I’ve been blessed with a fresh start, another week to live with intention, but even more than that, with gratitude for this life I am privileged to live.

During the Sunday service one of our members played a gorgeous piano solo. He is a busy physician, husband and father, and I imagine that playing the piano is relaxing for him, but as I listened to him, I had no doubt this was a form of spiritual practice for him, also. All of us listening received the fruits of that spiritual practice.

Practices are a way of embodying the spiritual journey rather than merely thinking about it. Practices help us to bring the reality of what we seek into the physicality and earthiness of our lives.

Christine Valters Paintner

An Invitation

What are your spiritual practices? What is currently part of your life that is actually a spiritual practice without your realizing it? I would love to know.

8 thoughts on “Notes about Spiritual Practices

  1. Foundations of the Day and of the Week

    Metta Prayer
    May I/they/all
    Be filled with loving kindness
    Be well
    Be peaceful and at ease
    Be happy and free of suffering

    And each Saturday, I gather the names of the people I will hold close throughout the week for each of those petitions, writing their names in my soft, little, Christian Lacroix brocade journal. Each morning, as I begin the day, I say their names gathering them into my presence, holding them close, sometimes for just the week, others gracing my “list” for decades.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I hear of those who attend mass each day I think of Rose Kennedy. She was the first person I ever heard of doing that. It left a lasting impression of faithfulness.


  3. Discovered your blog while researching online. What a blessing! Your musings about life – as we age – mirrors my own thoughts! To answer today’s question, I have practiced ‘sighing’ for years but only recently noticed how important it is to the wellbeing of ‘me’. I am a wife, mother, mimi, sister, worker, spiritual director, pastor wife … ‘the days are long but the years are short’. Thank you for encouraging us in our life in the Trinity. Cheryl


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