Should I have spiritual practices?
For thousands of years, in almost all parts of the globe, human beings have engaged in practices to transform and balance their lives. From the magical rituals of ancient shamans, to the contemplative science of the mystical traditions, to the latest scientific breakthroughs in health, nutrition, and physical exercise—we have always sought a way to connect with deeper truths, to achieve well-being and harmony, and to realize our highest potentials.
Now, in the information age, this incredible wealth of knowledge, teachings, and techniques—our evolutionary human legacy—is available to us like never before. The question is, how can we best use it? How can we put it all together? How can we make sense of the myriad approaches, from such diverse places and times, in a way that’s relevant to our individual and collective lives?
Wilber, Ken; Patten, Terry; Leonard, Adam; Morelli, Marco. Integral Life Practice (p. 1). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.
As the old saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there.” Another saying is, “Change is inevitable, progress is optional.”
And what is “progress” in terms of our aging? The best answer I have found is a higher level of consciousness. Steven Gaskin said one time something like this, “In the last analysis, all we have to offer another human being is our own state of being.”
The purpose of spiritual practice, then, is to develop our own state of being. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living and a comedian said that an unlived life is not worth examining.
So, If one were to practice to raise one’s level of consciousness, where would one start? The first step might be to determine one’s base line. Where is one’s level of consciousness now and how has one passed through the previous stages?
The integral model which is an integration of many other models and research teaches that individuals and societies pass through what are called egocentric, ethnocentric, worldcentric, and integral stages of consciousness. Unitarian Universalism is a religion for people at the worldcentric and integral levels of consciousness. It has little to offer people at the egocentric and ethnocentric stages. This observation explains why so many people in Unitarian Universalism are people who come from more traditional religious upbringings or none at all.
Where are you now in your level of consciousness? Are you at the egocentric, ethnocentric, worldcentric, or integral level? Knowing which level you function at predominately helps you choose spiritual practices that will facilitate your development to the next level.
All people can benefit from spiritual practices in whichever level they predominantly find themselves.
In determining one’s level of spiritual development and choosing spiritual practices appropriate to facilitate growth, a spiritual director, mentor, psychotherapist, guru can be an enormous help.