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What is a Spiritual Practice?

Astronomy by Taylor Allen | SpiritMAMA Blog

Back in the day I worked at a high fashion retail store, selling too expensive imports from Paris and London to ladies who couldn’t really afford them. One of my co-workers was a model (quite obviously – tall, beautiful in that androgynous kind of way). We didn’t talk too much, but I remember her telling me offhand one day how she was tired because she got up at 4:30am that day.

‘Why?’ I asked.

Oh her boyfriend and her regularly get up at 4:30 to chant together for 2 hours.

‘Chant?’ I wondered what the heck, but didn’t ask for more.

I thought she was a little nut-bar but, at the same time I secretly admired her dedication. I wished that I believed in something deeply enough to make that kind of regular commitment.

Skip to now. What I’ve realised is that to have a daily practice of chanting, yoga, breathing, prayer, devotions, whatever it is, takes belief in oneself more than anything. Then, the more we practice, the more what else we believe in becomes clear.

For me, the trinity of yoga, breath-work (pranayama) and creative visualization or trance-work is creating a foundation for my path.

In my studies I pay attention to ideas that come to me multiple times from different sources. I kind of think of it as the Goddess talking loudly at me. Here’s a few recommendations based on that listening:

Meditate

Every single spiritual path I have come across (aside from born-again Christianity, where it’s forbidden) recommends meditating. It is the single most important skill to learn when stepping onto the path. It quiets the ‘monkey-mind’ or hamster wheel inside our heads. In this silence we ‘hear’ our inner voice, our higher self and messages from the Divine. We learn to control our impulses, cravings, discursive thought. It can be very relaxing, after practicing for a while. Also the more we practice, the easier it gets.

Exercise

Yoga, Chi Gong, Kundalini yoga, tai chi, run, do jumping jacks, skip rope, whatever. Even hitting the gym works, though the primary purpose for this exercise is to build and move chi or prana in the body. If you are at the gym though, just be sure that you are there with the intention of building chi and reinvigorating your body. Chi, or life force, can be utilized in trance work. Also, dedicate your work out to your higher power, God, Goddess, gods, your higher self etc. Whatever works for you.

Breath-work

Called Pranayama in Sanskrit, breath work is a key foundational pillar in many spiritual and wellness paths; Tao, kung-fu, Chi Gong, rebirthing, shamanism. In the medicine wheel, I was taught something called the Shaman’s Breath, which I now do as much as possible. (Click here for more on that.) Cultivating breath, life-force, chi, prana is essential. It can heal you. It can refill your vitality cup. Our bodies actually generate magic and this is where it happens.

Cultivate a morning practice

If it is at all possible, carve out an hour for yourself in the mornings to engage in active practice. Your practice can include any of these things I’ve listed above, but generally should include at least two. Some days my little boy gets up an hour early and I find myself with only 20 minutes or so to engage with the practice. Depending on how I’m feeling that day, I usually do yoga or breath-work. I find pranayama gives me softness and energy, whereas yoga gives me strength and inspiration.

Other important practices

  • Journal work – Writing down your bones cannot be understated. Journaling is like a direct line to Spirit and to your higher self. It’s also a fantastic tool for digging into all that baggage that you carry. My favourite type of journaling is something called ‘morning pages’ from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Morning pages are done first thing when you get up. Sit at the table with your tea or hot lemon water and write out long hand, whatever comes to your head for three full pages. Do not stop, do not edit. If you can’t think of anything to write, write about that. The point of this exercise is to uncover all those things in your psyche that are blocking your creative flow. These creativity blockers can be anything, from the soccer mom int he SUV who cut you off in traffic yesterday to your micromanaging boss or your fight with your mom. Talk about all of it. The morning pages are like alchemy, they transform all of that negativity into freedom and flow.
  • Morning wellness practices – I love Ayurvedic wellness practices and use some of them in my routine when I have the time or feel like putting in some extra me-time, self-love into my mornings. In particular a good all over body dry brush before a shower and then an oil massage afterwards (I use coconut oil), makes a huge difference in my day. Dry brushing helps the body to release toxins, sloughs off dead skin cells and promotes good circulation. I also bought one of these thingys recently: A stainless steel tongue scraper  cleans the tongue of residue and bacteria and promotes good digestion. Yogi Cameron has an awesome morning practice on his website. Check it out here.
  • Prayer – mornings with coffee. I pray and leave offerings at my altar. The coffee is for my ancestors – mainly my two grandmothers. They love it!
  • Offerings – bring tobacco, corn meal, coins or other offerings with you at all times. When out in the world, leave offerings for the Devas and elementals, the land, tree and water spirits when interacting with the landscape. This is an act of gratitude and reverence.
  • Record your dreams! I have been doing this lately and have actually begun to receive guidance in my dreams. It’s really quite something. The more attentive you become to your dreamworld, the more you will remember your dreams. Eventually lucid dreaming just comes to you.

Cool! That’s my list so far. Lately I’ve been looking into chanting as well, but need to do more work with that before I write more on it. Anything I’ve missed from this list? What are your favourite ways to practice?

Featured image Astronomy by Taylor Allen

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