Many people feel the desire to create or deepen their spiritual practice. Regardless of religion/belief, culture, age, gender, or skin colour; a yearning for a connection with, and an understanding of, our inner selves and the universe we inhabit is an innate human trait. At it’s core, that is all that spirituality is: cultivating and refining that relationship with ourselves and the world around us on all levels.
Unfortunately, creating a rich spiritual practice isn't always easy. Because of things like stress, lack of work-life balance, feeling drained or burned out; taking the time to cultivate a practice can be daunting. It can seem next to impossible when everyday life responsibilities take up so much of your time. And it’s definitely harder if the other parts of your life are in disarray (don’t worry all of us have something that feels like it’s falling apart). Issues with your health, finances and relationships can make the thought of taking the time to build a practice seem like a distant fantasy or worse: impractical.
I get it. I’m a mom, a spouse and an entrepreneur; all things that take up an incredible amount of time and energy. Although these things bring me great joy and fulfillment in my life, the more responsibilities I took on, the less and less time I had to dedicate to spiritual study and practice. For me, spirituality has always been a strong calling in my life and my personal practice is what gets me through the rough spots relatively sane. I felt that disconnect in spiritual relationships keenly but I have more things to do in a day than I have hours to do them. I felt frustrated and drained for a long time but it turned out to be a great learning opportunity (as most challenges are)!
What I knew, but hadn’t fully integrated, is that there is no separation between “mundane life” and “spiritual life”. This was a great opportunity to refresh my spiritual practice and take it deeper. “Well that’s great” you say, “but how exactly do you do that?” Well, as it so happens, taking care of your physical needs in a mindful, loving way is a great way to start or deepen a spiritual practice.
I find that the best way to do this when I’ve fallen off the proverbial spiritual horse is by committing to a physical practice. Exercise your body, do your best to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Your body is the vehicle for your soul. Taking care of it is a spiritual act.
Make the commitment to carve out time in your day just for you, even if it's just 15 mins a day. Even if it means snatching those 15 mins for yourself before getting ready for work, once the kids go down or in the morning before they wake up, on your lunch hour, anytime that you can. There are so many ways to exercise: going to the gym if that’s your thing but if it’s not there’s yoga and martial arts (GREAT ones as they have strong spiritual aspects), dancing, walking/running, hiking, swimming the list goes on forever! I'm not fond of the gym and I know there’s no way I’m making it to a gym during business hours (I have wasted so much money in the past on gym memberships that I NEVER used). But in this age of technology and the internet it isn’t necessary to go anywhere. I now work out at home so I never have to find a sitter to go to a gym or class, I can exercise at 2am if I like and it costs me less than $25/month.
My favourite online platforms to use are DailyBurn for strength training and cardio and Gaia or YogaDownload for yoga. They’re like Netflix for working out and there are many other websites and apps like them out there in every genre (and if they aren't free most do a 30 day free trial). Find one that works for you if time, schedule or just not liking to work out in front of other people is a barrier for you.
Intentions are important. They’re what guide us and keep us motivated. The intentions or goals you set for this time should be to get healthier and to strengthen your body and your connection to it. Try not to focus on things like weight loss. While outcomes like weight loss, toning and muscle definition are great they can promote self criticism so think of them as awesome side effects. Instead, try focusing on trying to push yourself (safely) a little harder every day. Be gentle with yourself (no negative self-talk)! Celebrate every little victory. Every time you don’t feel like getting on that yoga mat, doing that workout, going for that walk/run, etc and you push through that resistance, congratulate yourself! You did the work and that is awesome!
“But how does this relate to spirituality,” you ask? Not only is this great for your health, you are also building confidence, discipline, and focus. These are the building blocks of a strong body, mind AND soul and will serve you well if you decide to take your spiritual practice deeper. Because we are typically trained from birth to live in and focus on the physical aspects of our lives (especially in the western world) it’s often best if we start building our practice there.
Physical exercise can be difficult to start if you’re out of practice but our bodies were made for movement! Once you get into a groove with your practice you’ll find yourself looking forward to that time when you can quiet your mind and tune into your body. It becomes a moving meditation. Your body not only houses your soul, it’s your first response system. It’s how we experience the world. Emotional, mental and spiritual suffering manifests in our physical bodies. When we learn to tune in and listen to our bodies it can reveal the workings of our mind and soul.
When I restarted my physical practice recently, I noticed that my usually good posture had weakened. My spine was curved so that my bum stuck out farther behind me, my chest was pushed too far forward and my chin was tucked into my throat. This revealed a lot about what was going on inside me and my life. I was feeling overly protective and possessive of my family and home and had been hermiting away from people (corresponding to the two lower chakras that I was drawing away and in). The negative result was that I wasn’t feeling safe or creative. My solar plexus and heart center were pushed forward and I had been more forcefully projecting my will and my need to love and be loved onto the world. Unfortunately it also meant that it left these areas too open and vulnerable and most likely made me somewhat pushy and/or needy with those around me. Conversely, my throat (communication) was closed and guarded. I wasn’t expressing my needs and thoughts clearly, I wasn’t speaking my truth. How long had I been holding myself like this?
Once I started to consciously work on the muscles needed to maintain a strong posture, a lot of emotional pain I hadn’t even realized I had been holding in these areas started bubbling up and releasing. Once my spine started going back into alignment a lot of the problems I was having in these areas in my life also began to go back into alignment with my highest good. It’s been an incredibly healing experience. Sometimes the key to healing and nurturing your soul can be found in your body.
When I need a reminder that spiritual life and my everyday life are the same I like to remember Scott Cunningham’s 13 Goals of a Witch which I resonate strongly with:
1. Know yourself 2. Know your Craft 3. Learn 4. Apply knowledge with wisdom 5. Achieve balance 6. Keep your words in good order 7. Keep your thoughts in good order 8. Celebrate life 9. Attune with the cycles of the Earth 10. Breathe and eat correctly 11. Exercise the body 12. Meditate 13. Honor the divine
I hope this helps you in crafting your own path. I will continue to share my journey and insights and would love to hear about your journey if you are so inclined to share them via the comments below or email and I always love feedback. I’ll leave you today with a few tips:
- Consult your doctor before starting any new exercise routine. Your health and safety is your 1st priority.
- Get a physical! If you can afford it and you haven’t done one in a while (or ever) it’s a great idea to get a full physical done. Know where you're starting from, what needs special attention or healing, and which habits are causing harm. Start from a place of knowledge.
- Find an accountability buddy. There are days when the bed feels too warm and comfortable and I want nothing more than to stay right where I am. When I have someone to be accountable to I’ll overcome the temptation of warm blankets every time. Your accountability buddy could be a personal trainer, a coach or mentor, a workout buddy or just a friend or partner who checks in on you before or after your workout.
- Journal! I’m a strong believer in the power of journaling in your process as an effective tool to work through the thoughts and emotions that inevitably come up.