<![CDATA[Your Portal to Liberal Religion in Westchester Co. - Practices]]>Sun, 28 Feb 2016 01:00:37 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Choose Your Spiritual Practice]]>Thu, 23 Apr 2015 22:47:54 GMThttp://www.westchesteruu.com/practices/choose-your-spiritual-practice
Practice of the Week
Choose Your Spiritual Practice

“You create a path of your own by looking within yourself and listening to your soul, cultivating your own ways of experiencing the sacred and then practicing it. Practicing until you make it a song that sings you." (Sue Monk Kidd)

This "Practice of the Week" column began in 2014 Jan. Since then, it has offered many practices -- about one per week for the last 16 months. Each one of these practices helps in the development of mental, psychological, and spiritual health and flourishing.

Each of the other "practices of the week" have been practices that will benefit everyone. This week, however, we ask you to think about something that might not be for everyone -- but is for you. Here's a partial listing of possible spiritual practices:

using prayer beads
attending peace vigils
listening to music
serving on the congregation’s Board of Trustees
walking a labyrinthe
antiracism work
writing letters to the editor
cardio kickboxing
bath time with your kids
saying “hello” to cashiers and clerks
teaching RE
washing dishes
taking a bubble bath
creating sacred space
tai chi
going to an art museum
making pottery
attending worship
caring for an ailing parent
writing haiku
playing an instrument
playing with children
hosting coffee hour
having dinner with friends
studying astronomy
singing in the choir
nature walks
going to a beach
martial arts
marching for social change
reciting mantras
e-mailing your governmental representatives
studying evolution

What Makes "Something I Do" into "A Spiritual Practice"?

Not every activity or pastime is a spiritual practice. The above activities might or might not be approached in a way that makes them a spiritual practice. It's a spiritual practice if it helps you cultivate spiritual development.

So how can you recognize spiritual development? Here are some symptoms of developing spirituality:
  • increased tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen;
  • more frequent attacks of smiling from the heart;
  • more frequent feelings of being connected with others and nature;
  • more frequent episodes of overwhelming appreciation;
  • decisions flow more from intention or spontaneity and less from fears based on past experience;
  • greater ability to enjoy each moment;
  • decreased worrying;
  • decreased interest in conflict, in interpreting the actions of others, in judging others, and in judging self;
  • increased nonjudgmental curiosity;
  • increased capacity to love without expecting anything in return;
  • increased receptivity to kindness offered and increased interest in extending kindness to others;
Gardening or marching for social change or playing an instrument might or might not cultivate these symptoms. If you find that an activity helps you have more of these symptoms, then that activity is a spiritual practice for you.

An activity is more likely to work as spiritual practice if you:
  • engage the activity with mindfulness (see previous practice of the week, "cultivate mindfulness" HERE, and "be mindful" HERE).
  • engage in the activity with intention of thereby cultivating spiritual development. As you do the activity -- or just before and just after -- reflect on your intention to manifest those symptoms of spiritual development in your life.
  • engage the activity with a group that gathers expressly to do the activity in a way that cultivates spirituality. Group members share spiritual reflections before, during, or after doing the activity together.
  • establish a foundation of spiritual orientation through the three base practices: (a) daily meditation (SEE HERE), (b) daily journaling (SEE HERE), and (c) daily spiritual study (SEE HERE). Painting, running, or reciting a mantra -- or whatever spiritual practice you choose -- will work better as a spiritual practice if you lay this foundation with three base practices that prepare the way for experiencing other activities as spiritual.
Choose an activity and adopt it as your spiritual practice!

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Previous Practice of the Week:  "Slow Down"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practice of the Week Index"
<![CDATA[Slow Down]]>Thu, 16 Apr 2015 19:55:15 GMThttp://www.westchesteruu.com/practices/slow-down
Practice of the Week
Slow Down

Speed = Stress

Rick Hanson on slowing down:

From Rick Hanson, Just One Thing. [Order a copy for yourself: HERE.]

Most of us are running around way too much. Say you bump into a friend you haven't seen for a while and ask, "How are you?" Twenty years ago, a typical answer would be "fine." But today the reply is more likely to be "busy!"

Were caught up in e-mails, phone calls, long hours working, schlepping kids from here to there, and trying to match velocities with everyone else who has speeded up.

Whatever the particular causes may be in your own life, it's easy to feel like a short-order cook at the lunch rush.

There's a place for revving up occasionally, whether it's dealing with an emergency or cheering like a maniac because your fourth-grade daughter has finally taken a shot while playing basketball (that was me).

But chronic speediness has many bad effects. Chronic speediness:
  • activates the same general stress-response system that evolved in the brain to protect us from charging lions, which releases nerve-jangling hormones like adrenaline and Cortisol, weakens your immune system, and wears down your mood,
  • puts the alarm system of the brain on red alert, scanning for threats and often overreacting. Have you ever noticed that when you speed up, you're quicker to find things to worry or get irritated about?
  • gives you less time to think clearly and make good decisions.

Even though "the need for speed" may have become a way of life, it's always possible to make a change. Start with little things. And then let them grow. Honestly, slowing down is one of those seemingly small actions that could really change your life.


Here are some ways to slow down. I suggest doing just a few of them: don't rush to slow down!
  • Do a few things more slowly than usual. Leisurely lift the cup to your lips, don't rush through a meal, let others finish talking before jumping in, or stroll to a meeting instead of racing. Finish one task before moving on to another. A few times a day, take a long, slow breath.
  • Back off the gas pedal. One time, as I zoomed down the freeway, my wife murmured, "What's the rush?" She made me realize that slowing down a few miles per hour meant arriving just a few minutes later, but with lots more ease along the way.
  • When the phone rings, imagine that it is a church or temple bell reminding you to breathe and slow down. (This suggestion is from the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh.)
  • Resist the pressure of others to get things done sooner than you really need to. As the saying has it, their lack of planning does not make it your emergency.
  • Find what's good about this moment as it is, so you'll have less need to zip along to the next thing. For example, if you're stuck on hold on a phone call, look around for something that's beautiful or interesting, or enjoy the peaceful-ness of simply breathing.

Over time, wrap up existing commitments and be careful about taking on new ones. Notice and challenge any internal pressure to always be doing and getting more and more. What's the net bottom-line effect on your quality of life: Does racing about make you happier? Or more stressed and worn out?

All the while, soak in the ease and well-being that come from slowing down. Don't be surprised if people say you look more confident, rested, dignified, and happy.

It s your life, no one else's. Slow down and enjoy it!

* * *
David Essel, author of Slow Down: The Fastest Way to Get Everything You Want. Here he is pitching his book. A bit hucksterish, still, he's got some good points. (8:21).

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Previous Practice of the Week: "Make One Change"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practice of the Week Index"