Showing posts with label Spiritual Practices. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spiritual Practices. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Spiritual practice of the day #16 - Be mindful

The ultimate Christian prayer, according to Jesus, is the Our Father. We pray in part, "...and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil." The temptation which the prayer refers to is anything unloving. We need to identify our unloving thoughts, beliefs, and intentions, and then manage them by correcting them. This requires reflection and awareness. Scan your intentions for unloving thoughts and correct them today and in coming days. This is, in our contemporary times, is called "mindfulness."

Monday, July 5, 2010

Reflection on the living documents of our hearts and times

I just bought and started reading Henri Nouwen's new book, Spiritual Formation. It is edited posthumously by Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird from Father Nouwen's other writings.

I was drawn to its title, Spiritual Formation. It takes me back to the Roman Catholic days. I rarely hear or read that word anymore. I have never run across it in the Unitarian Universalist literature.

Spiritual formation, if I am understanding Nouwen right, is the movements of the spirit from the head to the heart. Nouwen focuses on five aspects of spiritual formation: reflection, lectio divina, silence, community, and service. These aspects all seem Unitarian Universalist to me although not exclusively UU as they are shared with many other faith traditions as well.

The first aspect, is especially inspiring to me. Nouwen puts it like this, "...reflections on the living documents of our own hearts and times."

Every body's life is worth a story. What is the story which you are telling yourself about what your life is about? Usually this is unconscious. We are not consciously aware of it until we attempt to explain our experience to someone else we can be open, honest, and authentic with. A rare experience in most of our lives.

Socrates said that "an unexamined life is not worth living." How many people do you know live examined lives? They are few and far between unless they are in a 12 step program, in psychotherapy, or are people with high levels of integrity and self awareness. Most people, in my experience, don't function at this level, and without it, it is impossible to live a spiritual life.

If you will put up a false facade, and pretend to be someone you are not to please other people, you loose touch with your own heart. This is the path to hell, to become alienated from one's own soul.

Unitarian Universalists value the free and responsible search for truth and meaning, the basis search of which is the searching of one's own soul.

Where to start?

Radical honesty. At least with one self and at least with one other human being, if not with most. Can you do that? It would be a huge step in forming one's spirituality.

Does Unitarian Universalism encourage radical honesty especially when it comes to confessing one's sins? I was taught as a child to go to confession, to be honest with God by confessing my sins to a priest and to be absolved of the shame and guilt I felt because of my shortcomings. It was good for my soul. I now do this by seeing a psychotherapist once per month where I can talk about anything in a non judgmental and understanding atmosphere. I highly recommend it.

In my daily life, where it would do no further harm, I am honest and transparent with others especially about my negative and hurtful thoughts and actions. I try to make amends, to correct the harm that I have done. It is a daily practice. This has been part of my spiritual formation and continues to be.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

Being grateful is good for you

I wrote on this blog last week, April 7, 2010, about the spiritual practice of gratitude lists. I've been doing mine and finding positive benefits already. How's it going for you?

Any way, here's an interesting report of some research on this area for expressing research. The big news today is that it not only is beneficial to the recipient of the thanks, but it is beneficial to the bestower of the thanks as well.


SUNDAY, April 11 (HealthDay News) -- For those feeling dissatisfied with a friend or partner, saying "thank you" may improve your attitude about the relationship, new study findings suggest.

It turns out that expressed gratitude isn't just good for the recipient. It strengthens the relationship by causing the person expressing thanks to feel more responsible for their partner's welfare.

While previous research on gratitude has found that expressions of thanks strengthen a relationship by increasing satisfaction with it, the new research, published online recently in Psychological Science, looked at the effect of expressed gratitude on what psychologists call "communal strength" -- the degree of responsibility one partner or friend feels for another.

When you reflect on the negative tone of much of our media these days from Jerry Springer to hate talk radio to the mocking bitter tone of negative campaign ads, is it any wonder that Americans, as a nation, are one of the unhappy nations in the first world?

I think it would great to hear what all the pundits and critics are happy about, and grateful for. But forget them. What about you?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spiritual practices - give it up!

Having been raised a Roman Catholic I was taught that there was value in giving things up. We were taught not to eat meat on Fridays, not to eat at least an hour before receiving Holy Communion, to fast on certain days, and that other forms of corporal discipline such as kneeling, staying awake to pray during overnight vigils, etc. was "good for one's soul."

The biggie was giving things up for Lent. This past Lent I gave up caffeinated coffee which is mood altering for me usually in a positive way. It was quite a sacrifice, but I did it and am proud of my small achievement.

What does giving things up do for a person's spirit?

It makes one much more aware of oneself and one's world. This awareness is the product of self conscious struggle to discipline one's physical nature in service of the psyche and the spirit. If these small sacrifices makes one more sensitive, more compassionate, more merciful, more purposeful and deliberate in one's life they are well worth the effort. When done in community, they are even more powerful when one is aware that one's struggles are joined by the similar struggles of others.

I know of no similar spiritual practice in Unitarian Universalism. I know that there are individual practices and cause related practices, but I know of no institutionally endorsed practice of physical mortification.

All religious traditions have their spiritual practices of physical mortifications whether it is getting on your knees and praying to Mecca 5 times a day, bathing in the Ganges, sitting in the lotus position to meditate, or giving things up for Lent. How come Unitarian Universalism does not endorse some religious practicies of physical mortification which would identify us as a religious community which is willing to mortify the flesh for the greater spiritual and communal good?

Please share your thoughts on this topic. I am very interested in what you think?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spiritual Practices - Gratitude lists

Today, I am starting a new category on this blog which I am tagging "Spiritual practices". Spiritual practices are so varied and mean different things to different people. We are often taught spiritual practices as children growing up such as praying, going to church, fasting, seeking forgiveness, etc. Sometimes these practices have been ritualized and are part of the religious training of a tradition and other times they are much more personal.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The value of the spiritual practice is in the exercise. Sometimes the practice may take a while to demonstrate benefit.

Here's a practice that I picked up this morning from Tal Ben-Shahar in his book Even Happier. He writes that he learned from this practice from Oprah. This practice is research based. Ben-Shahar writes that psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough did a series of experiments and found out that for most people this exercise works, that is, it improved their lives and they felt better.

The exercise is simple. It takes two minutes but may transform you life in as little as a week. Don't believe it? Try it and let me know in a week how it is working for you.

Here it is. Every night before you go to bed write down a list of 5 things major and minor that you are grateful for. That's it. Here's mine from yesterday.

1. I am grateful for the good work at Hollink motor sports in inspecting and fixing my motorcyle.

2. I am grateful for my son, Joe, who gave me a ride 8 miles over and back.

3. I am grateful for the $170,000.00 grant we got at work and the good work done by Shannon Ford, Maryann Bowman, and Megan Guinee in preparing this grant.

4. I am grateful for the good management skills of John Bennett GCASA's Director of Treatment.

5. I am grateful for the exceptionally nice spring we are having so far although I worry about global warming because temperature records have been set for heat.

6. I am grateful for my friend, Al, who wanted to give me a ride to Hollink but couldn't but would have if he could.

7. I am grateful for Anna Quindlan's new novel which I just finished, Every Last One.

I could go on but that's enough. Well, one last one:

8. I am grateful for the day which God has given me at age 64 when I am healthy and able to work and live and enjoy the world.

9. I am grateful that health care reform got passed even in its watered down version.

What are the spiritual practices which you have found beneficial, meaningful, transforming, satisfying, fulfilling, helpful? Leave a comment. I am very interested.
Print Friendly and PDF