Is A Spiritual Practice Too Much?

There are a lot of things that could be a part of a transformational spiritual practice. But will the average person have the time or inclination to really maintain a practice?

Lately I have been wondering about this. The journey I went through before founding SNS was incredibly transformational. You could say I am quite a zealot for Spiritual Naturalism – a true believer! But it was a series of experiences, peppered by the occasional ecstatic epiphany, over many years that opened my eyes. First, I became aware of some remarkable things about complexity that changed the way I looked at the world, which I later realized had been a part of Taoist observations and those of the likes of Heraclitus. Then I eventually became aware of, more practically, how those perspectives intersect with prescriptions on how we live. Later a great deal of ancient philosophy opened me to how a sense of the sacred and a willingness to buck the common expectations of the world are not only the domain of supernatural religion. And sometime after engaging in several kinds of rituals I started to see their function in deep transformation, what makes the difference between meaningful ritual and empty theater, and the important and pragmatic role ritual can have for a naturalist without any reference to supernatural beliefs or basis. And, of course, my continued practice of meditation has helped my progress in ways I never would have expected.

And so the Society works to help educate on and promote all these various teachings and practices, for the benefit of naturalists who wish to explore such paths. But then I imagine most people: stressed from a long day’s work; struggling to provide for their kids, get them fed, homeworked, and in bed every night; and dealing with home, family, and all the other issues that come up. These things are fascinating to read and think about. Often just reading wise thoughts can help us focus on things and help fortify us in harder times, but reading alone won’t result in deeper transformation that provides the most powerful results. But I think all of those as inspired by these thoughts have a mental image in the back of our minds somewhere of our ideal selves in such a practice. But, realistically, how can a person actually make use of all this in real life?

And I think that’s why we get so many tens of thousands of friends following us, subscribing, visiting the website, and reading – but such a smaller percentage of that coming to online events, forming local groups, and becoming supporting members. We have a great deal to be thankful for, for all of our community, no matter what level they are involved. But it is important to think about things like this for the purposes of serving people in ways that will be of greatest benefit.

So what I’m thinking about lately is coming up with ways to more effectively share and communicate powerful, simple, techniques that can be easily incorporated into a busy life – without having to put everything on pause or set aside large chunks of time or other resources. These “integrated practices”, I call them, begin to shape us in ways that will provide tangible results in happier, more flourishing, lives. As one experiences these results, it will be easier to make further progress. I may even work out a program several people can join in together to support one another.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the clash between the ‘ideal’ of spiritual practice and the realities of everyday life – as well as your own experiences and concerns! Please feel free to comment here or contact me any time!

 

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6 thoughts on “Is A Spiritual Practice Too Much?”

  1. Thank you for sparking this conversation. As someone who has a day job at office dealing with sales pressures the most part of the day, I have a couple of integrated practices.
    Hourly deep breathing, guided by the sound of a bell. The bell of mindfulness is a chrome extension which makes the web browser to ring a bell at given intervals.
    The 5 min bathroom meditation, which I use as a mindfulness anchor when I need to go to the bathroom, and stay 5 min seating in meditation to help me connect with myself.
    Looking forward learning more integrated practices.
    Cheers,
    Toni

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  2. Thank you for this post. In my experience as a husband, father of 6 (4 teenagers), and full time hospice chaplain (Humanist); trying to find time for a separate spiritual practice is very difficult. I meditate for 20 min because it is important to me and I experience benefits, but life’s demands (and my body’s need for sleep) prevent me from sitting every day. Even 3-4 days is a good week for me.

    Rather than beat myself up or feel dissatisfied, I practice choosing to view life itself with all it’s demands, relationships, work, play, and unpredictabilities as my spiritual practice.

    Awareness of where I am and what’s going on inside of me in this moment present with these people. I developed this specific awareness practice while in Clinical Pastoral Education training to be a Chaplain. It serves me well as I sit and hold space with patients and their families. I have found it useful to spread the practice into other relationships and circumstances of life as well.

    Also, as someone said, there may be no better or more commonly available school for dismantling the ego than marriage and parenting. The key is to learn to pay attention!

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  3. I try to reflect on the commonality of all surrounding objects and myself through our shared chemical elements. A simple meditation that be performed while doing daily tasks.

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  4. Thank you for this post, DT. I am married with 6 kids (most of whom are now teenagers) and work as a Chaplain (Humanist) in hospice and the hospital. My personal intentional spiritual practice is 20 minutes of Zazen. But I can’t do it every day, or even most days. So, an integrated practice that has emerged for me is simply giving my attention to what is actually happening in me and in other people around me moment by moment. Paying attention to what is. Thoughts, feelings, words, emotions in the ordinary mundane things and tasks of everyday life. It might be what some call Zen, or it might just be the best I can do with what I’ve got right now. Either way this practice helps me.

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  5. People will devote time to activities that, from their perspective, make their lives satisfying and worthwhile. Spiritual practices promise to make one’s life more satisfying and enjoyable. So why don’t more people devote time to spiritual practices? Being busy is only part of the answer. After all, people do find time to raise children, maintain their residences, and pay bills. People have time to do things. Spiritual practices are being pushed down the list in priority. The reasons for spiritual practices being pushed down in priority are likely numerous, complex, and culturally influenced.

    One possibility that comes to my mind is that many people no longer see a “need” for spiritual or religious practices. They get through their every lives just fine without any spiritual practices. Now, maybe spiritual practices could indeed enhance their lives. But they do not see it that way–and they do not feel their lives are “broken” or “deficient” without spiritual practices. So why bother?

    A second possibility that comes to my mind is that some people have a principled opposition to organized religion. These people may see rituals or regular spiritual practices as remnants of organized religion. If these rituals or regular spiritual practices are being discussed or enacted within a social context (e.g., an online group or organization), then it could easily remind them of organized religion. The group or online organization may have no intention of establishing a formal organized religion. But it can feel like organized religion nonetheless–and thus become a turn off for some people.

    Finally, a third possibility that comes to my mind is that a few people simply prefer to walk alone in their spirituality. This can happen for many reasons. Speaking for myself, I am an introvert, and I have a very idiosyncratic worldview. Being an introvert means being around people is draining for me. It does not recharge me at all. In fact, if I am put in a social situation for many hours, I usually need to spend many hours alone to feel recharged, My idiosyncratic worldview means I rarely feel “at home” in social groups because my perspective does not align with the perspectives of others. Imagine you were a traditional Buddhist. You might find people at a Christian church to be very welcoming, very accepting, and very kind to you. Yet, there might be a sense in which you don’t feel at home because your perspective on spiritual matters is different, and a church is precisely where matters of spirituality and religion come to the forefront. So, because of my introversion and idiosyncratic worldview, I prefer to walk alone in my spirituality, sometimes walking at the periphery of groups or organizations to see what new or interesting ideas I might learn (but not for regular practice).

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