Saturday, May 10, 2008

Daily Spiritual Practice

Last year when I started reading the Wellspring site, because the group was full and it was a way to participate, I saw that they were using Everyday Spiritual Practice by Scott W. Alexander, to read from. I ran right out and bought it, and started reading it, trying to make it a temporary daily spiritual practice.

I got about halfway through it, loving every essay, and then just stopped. So much for that practice. However, I took a lot away from it, and the one daily (I hesitate to call it a discipline, because that just sounds too formal and forced), but discipline if you will, was to take a short time each morning having intentional focus on each member of my family.

One reason I started this was because my reading of this book coincided with a sermon that Kaaren Anderson gave within the last year. The monthly theme must have been spirituality or something similar. I don't remember when she gave it, or what it was about, but one thing she said stayed with me forever.

It was this: It is most difficult to be spiritual with your own family.

It's easy to be spiritual in church, or in conversation, or in your own head/heart/soul. But when faced with the everyday challenges and opportunities of our own families, it is really hard to maintain any kind of serenity and consistent spiritual approach.

I recognized myself in this with a harsh twinge. Here I am, being called to the ministry, and yet I am yelling at my kids. Fighting with my husband. Feeling resentful about my current path. Martying myself over vacuuming and laundry. It's embarrassing, really, to be so petty, but so true, so real, so human!

So every morning, I started the spiritual practice of visualizing each member of my family (myself included - that's important!) and considering what they need from me that day. Do they need patience? Firm boundaries? Hugs? Focus? Attention? More responsibility? Less? What do I need to ask for to get through the day? What do I need to do to care for each of us, and for myself?

I will say that I forget sometimes to do this. But when I do it regularly, it puts a whole fresh spin on each day. And remembering to focus on myself has really helped me to focus on each day's journey and where I'm at Right Now. What I need to do Right Now. Not where I am going to be in five years, or five hours, or five minutes, but what I need to do in the moment.

So I've picked up my book again and am starting from the beginning. It's really great. The second essay by Kathleen McTigue, Listening to Our Lives was apt this morning. She writes of seeing a photo and newspaper article about her colleague doing yoga each morning, and the pristine space and mood the photo implied:

"This is not a snapshot of my life. In fact, the longer I looked at the picture and tried to project myself into it, the m ore amusing it started to look to me...I would have been surrounded by a monstrous clutter of toys, overdue library books, unwashed laundry, children's crayons and drawings, and dirty dishes...and I, of course, would not be lying there in meditation, profound or otherwise, but would be snoring."

Yeah. That is me too. And others' spiritual practice can look envious, but it's important to remember that it's personal. Spirituality is personal. And respecting the inherent worth of each being is a UU principle that applies to the self, not just to others.

I'm trying to remember that as I look around me at the cluttered dining room table, unwashed children, and stacks of papers that need to be written today. It will at the very least be an interesting journey of a day.

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