Chatting with a friend today I realized that I have three primary spiritual practices; checking on Bina before I go to bed each night, meeting with Abbot Peter once a month and my involvement in my men’s community, Deep Waters.
I have three points or myths I’d like to talk about surrounding spiritual practices and how I’ve seen them play out in my life. I don’t have a plan, but here we go. Hope it is helpful.
1. They must be everyday
Though they’ve said we should, most of us don’t read our bible everyday, many of us pray everyday but not all of us, and all of us struggle with shame around how lacking our “time with God” is.
In my experience a lack of momentum can discourage us from continuing a spiritual practice faster than anything. It is the inner voice which says, because I haven’t been consistent I can’t keep the spiritual practice.
I’ve stopped and refused to restart many practices simply because of a lack of momentum. Meeting with Abbot Peter, checking on Bina and connecting with my Deep Waters Community are not everyday practices but more importantly they are rhythmic. I’m beginning to to think of spiritual practices not in terms of frequency and momentum but in terms of rhythm.
A percussionist’s primary goal is not to fit in as many beats in a given time or to increase beats per minutes as the song continues; however, she flows with the song finding rhythm as the song require and when she changes the beat it is because the song evokes and inspires the change.
We must approach spiritual practices as a drummer approaches her craft. Life is a song and spiritual practices are how we accept the gift it brings. We don’t need to anxiously pursue the beat but graciously feel the rhythm.
2. They must be done in solitude
Our cultural interpretation of the term “spiritual practice” has an intangible quality that is essentially individual; we often call them “personal devotions.”
As someone who falls slightly on the introverted side I’ve had the hardest time with individual spiritual practices – those done in solitude. Now that is not to say that I don’t have individual practices it’s just that I find them more difficult simply because I don’t have others drawing me in. I’ve found that a standing rhythmic gathering of other people is the trellis I need to be a committed, growing and fruitful human.
Also, if our spiritual practices are essentially done in solitude they can become inner shrines of our own righteousness, which exchanges poorly into the maturity we truly desire. We often think that personal solitude leads to communal righteousness and that is true. However, it is also true that vulnerable sharing community leads to an inner solitude that even when it is surrounded by the noise of life is quite, at rest and grounded in true self and the presence of Christ.
Henri Nouwen In Way of the Hearts says something to the effect of, a man can be by himself all day and never truly be silent or in solitude because of the hatred and shame in his heart. Likewise a man can be surrounded by others all day and carry inner solitude and silence within. I butchered that but you get the point 🙂
3. They must be spiritual
the hidden implication of a spiritual practice is that it must be primarily conducted in the spiritual realm, “where Christ is seated” and where we can disconnect from our physical world and be united in spirit with Gods Spirit. Now, everyone reading this understands Western culture to be dualistic, separating the physical and spiritual worlds as two opposite and opposed realities.
As an enneagram 9 who leans toward introversion and was formed heavily in charismatic circles I tend to seek heightened spirituality and see connection with God as a spiritual connection which informs the physical and not vise verse. Both are true and yet neither are true because to say “both are true” is still to adhere to a dualism which promotes two realities.
I didn’t plan it but I find it interesting that my primarily spiritual practices are quite “unspiritual.” Because I tend toward heightened spirituality these practices seem to feed and cloth the hungry as naked within that the highly spirit oriented self neglects or at least doesn’t see because that self sees those least within me as obstacles to overcome and not the Imago Dei.
True spirituality is physical and spiritual, it is both fully God and fully human. It is conceived, born and it suffers as all humans do, and it is crucified, it dies and is buried. It descends into hell and is resurrected into full life.
Mature spiritual practices do not float us off into a more heightened spiritual state but they root us in Jesus, they are individual but the are often birthed in community, and they cannot be measure by how frequently or consistently we do them but in how come back to them each time and recommit our way to their rhythm.