Most religions encourage practitioners of the faith to engage in spiritual practices. Spiritual practices are activities that empower an individual to make space in their daily lives for a sense of Spirit/God/the sacred.
Prayer, meditation, and contemplative walking are all examples of spiritual practices. Creating art, writing gratitude lists, and spending time in creation are also means of connecting with the divine.
I recently read the book "The Secret Garden," written by Frances Hodgson Burnett in 1911. For the main character, 10-year-old Mary Lennox, and her cousin, Colin, tending their garden becomes a spiritual practice. They don't use the word "spiritual practice" to describe their morning ritual of going out into the garden to watch things grow, weed, and play in the dirt, but they do repeatedly mention a sense of awe.
At one point in the story, they are all so moved by the growth and beauty of the garden that their friend, Dickon, leads them in an impromptu singing of the doxology. ("Praise God from whom all blessings flow…")
Engaging in meaningful spiritual practices can sometimes lead us to the same sort of joyful response. And like Mary, Colin, and Dickon, many of us participate in spiritual practices without even realizing it. We just know that certain routines and activities lead us to a sense of the sacred.
All people can incorporate spiritual practices into their lives. No religious experience or loyalties required. Some rituals are more active and time-intensive; others are more passive and take just minutes a day. For the next few months, this column will introduce you to a variety of spiritual practices and local practitioners.
The season of Lent begins on Wednesday, Feb. 14, with Ash Wednesday. Each year during the weeks of Lent, this column focuses on a different theme. This year's theme centers on different ways we can encounter the holy in our daily lives. Readers will have the opportunity to hear insights from eight different community members about their own spiritual practices. I'm deeply grateful for these opportunities to interview spiritual leaders from our community on topics ranging from fasting to worship to reading the Bible.
The weeks ahead will take us on a journey through eight spiritual practices:
— Feb. 10: Spiritual Direction with Sister Linda Wieser, OSF (Order of Saint Francis)
— Feb. 17: Fasting with Regina Mustafa, founder of Community Interfaith Dialogue on Islam
— Feb. 24: Reading the Bible with Pastor Susan Miller of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod, ELCA
— March 3: Tea Drinking with Garret Sorensen, owner of Mandala Tea
— March 10: Meditation with Doug McGill, founder of the Rochester Meditation Center
— March 17: Yoga with Heather Ritenour-Sampson, owner of Yoga Tribe MN
— March 24: Silence with Rochester's Quaker Community
— March 31: Worship with Pastor Jamie Robinson of Autumn Ridge
We live in a community with a depth of religious diversity. We don't all understand God or experience spirituality in the same way, and that's a gift! I'm grateful to have the opportunity to welcome these conversation partners into the column. Their wisdom and willingness to share is a gift to me, to the Post Bulletin, and to our corner of this great state.
As with everything, spiritual practices take actual practice. Often it takes trying one consistently to really feel contentment and insight through it. And even after lots of practice, we don't ever master a spiritual practice. Instead, we can grow and deepen into them. Author Sue Monk Kidd advocates this approach: "Practicing until you make it a song that sings to you."
Lent is an invitation to reflect and perhaps find a spiritual practice that makes your heart sing. Hopefully each week of the season will give you a chance to learn and also feel encouragement for your own spiritual journey.
This path will not be all-inclusive; there will be many more spiritual practices worth exploring. But this will be a start. May this series be a meaningful bit of the backdrop of your Lenten journey, and may it also be an opportunity to ponder ways to nurture your spirit.