Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Daily Spiritual Discipline

Something I've never done is embrace, and stick with, a daily spiritual practice or discipline. (I've also never stuck with a long-term exercise program. There might be a connection here.)

On the one hand, I find myself admiring people who adopt such a practice, and who, to me, seem very centered and spiritually mature. On the other, I find myself chafing at making anything a "requirement" or an "obligation" in this way -- and then berate myself for seeming shallow or self-centered.

Several years ago I spent some time doing daily "morning pages" as prescribed in the book The Artist's Way, but didn't stick with that for very long, either.

These days I've been feeling a desire to embrace some kind of daily discipline or practice to help focus and center myself for the day. But I draw back -- for the aforementioned reasons, and because I don't want it to be just another personal fad.

So why am I posting this in this semi-public space? More than with some other blog posts, I'm interested in (on-topic) feedback and reflections from others for whom this topic resonates. If this sparks any thoughts, or you have any related wisdom from your own experience to share, I'd be interested in hearing it.


  1. I know the feeling exactly. So, the question I ask (which worked for me) is: Do you currently have a daily 'ritual' that is not spiritually focused? Do you grab a coffee at hte store each morning, or brew a pot at home before starting to work? Do you brush your teeth each evening?
    What worked for me, is take something, even if it's totally silly and non-spiritual like those examples, and try to remember to add a moment of mindfullness to it.
    I don't know your spiritual inclinations, but try breathing in that first sip of coffee and pausing for 5 seconds to thank God(/dess/spirit/Universe/etc) for something good you noticed today, or hope to notice today.
    Brush your teeth and be mindful that you are cleaning and purifying your body (the teethy part at least) .

    It sounds kinda silly, but I tried it, and after a week it clicked and made it so much easier to branch out and start a slightly more "formal" practice. I don't do it every day, but I figure, hey baby steps are still steps. :)


  2. I did tai chi for a couple of years and regret that I stopped when I moved, because I've forgotten the pattern now. There was a group that met once a week to practice, which helped enormously for reinvigorating my daily practice. Is there a meditation group at your church or something that might help you continue whatever habit you're hoping to cultivate?

  3. I'm there with you , DSD.

    Frankly, I think a very large percentage of "regular" Jews and Christians are in the same boat. A rabbinical student who is an online acquaintance whom I respect highly has blogged about how difficult it is to maintain a regular and constant prayer life and then, after the birth of her baby, how nearly impossible it is. The only non-clergy non-monastic Christian I have personally observed actually keeping daily practice without allowing anything other than being unconscious or drugged up in a hospital bed after an operation to interrupt the pattern is my fundamentalist mother, who gets up at 5:00AM every day to have a half hour before my father gets up in which to read the Bible and pray (in a sort of fundamentalist version of lectio divina, essentially, without the fancy Latin nomenclature).

    Me, I start a practice and it goes fine for a while and then, when the inevitable interruption comes, I simply forget about continuing the practice until a few weeks later when I suddenly think, "When did I stop doing that?"

    No, I can't maintain an exercise regimen either...

    But the practice that works for me even though I don't manage it on a daily basis is from the wellspring of traditional liturgical and monastic Christianity: Vespers/Evensong and Compline/Night Prayers. And I find they work for me even in unaltered Catholic and Anglican forms, as well as in Taizé and experimental adaptations. Eventually I would like to create a version that more correctly reflects my own theology, but the mismatch doesn't matter to the working of the Liturgy of the Hours, in my experience.

    It's the daily part that eludes me...

  4. You are really preaching to the choir with this post. I think a lot of us are in the same boat with you. (Sorry for the mized metaphor.)

    Am I better off with that extra 20 minutes of sleep or getting up to meditate? Which benefits me more? The daily discipline is hard.

    I would be interested to know if you find something that works for you, or doesn't. I agree with Maebius and I try to take small moments in my day, like chopping vegetables or washing my hair, and practicing mindfullness, but I don't think it's the same thing as daily practice. Good luck finding what works for you.

  5. A lot of good and welcome thoughts here. Thank you. I'll post more anon...

  6. Daily morning and evening prayers continues to be the rock of my spiritual practices. The results of these are what I blog. Wow has blogging that practice changed mine, through encouragement of those who read the blog.
    But I also sing (something I can do over the course of the day at key moments), use photography as a way to reground, study texts, and practice breath meditation. Every traffic light is another chance for sung prayer or breath meditation, every telephone call a chance to return to the moment (listen, listen to the sound that calls me back to myself).
    Yeah, I'm a professional, but without practice when I don't want to or don't feel like I have time, I have no business suggesting it to others. Yes, it is a challenge sometimes. But I find that's when I need it and benefit the most.

    Why not begin with a breath practice of returning to the present moment, with the ringing of a phone or some other interruption you encounter in the day? Exhale, slowly inhale, notice the recalling to the moment, exhale, answer the day.


Comments on this blog are moderated retroactively. Comments will be published immediately, but spam, slander, abuse personally directed at other commenters or at third parties, or comments that hijack the thread will be removed without further discussion, explanation or apology. Comments that I am unable to read (for whatever reason) will be deleted.

Comments that challenge the viewpoints expressed here within the bounds of civility and good manners are welcome. Blogger limits comments to 4,096 characters.