Here’s another guest post from Dana Horton, who gives us more stimulus from a spiritual perspective:
What Makes a Spiritual Practice Spiritual?
(3 minute read)
In New Thought ministerial school our instructors emphasized the importance of maintaining spiritual practices … no matter how busy we were. In theory, these practices keep us buoyed up while tending to the unrelenting demands of life. Let’s take a closer look.
First, a list:
- Tithing (always emphasized right before the offering)
- Call-and-response recitations (would anyone miss these if they were eliminated?)
Why should we do these? We would like to say that if you do at least some of these eight spiritual practices (except for call-and-response) every day for a year, your life will miraculously be free of strife.
But we can’t.
Spiritual practices are not designed to make life easier; they are designed to make you stronger. Most of us are not going to receive an image of God while we are in the midst of a 20-minute meditation. And we probably are not going to immediately manifest everything we want simply because we put an extra $20 in the virtual collection plate on Sunday.
But we still think there is value here. These practices have the potential to keep us in the middle of our lane while the usual chaos continues unrelenting around us. Meditation can help focus our mental energy (check out Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by NBA basketball coach Phil Jackson if you need proof). And certain rituals synchronize the body and mind with nature, never a bad thing.
Do they have to be associated with a religion? Nope. We acknowledge that some of these spiritual practices are intended to summon up unseen forces that somehow are supposed to work with us to make us stronger. We are not taking a position on that today (mainly because we do not know). But spiritual practices can be just as effective wherever a person falls on the religious spectrum. Neurological studies consistently show the same positive effects to the brain from meditation whether the meditators are atheists or Catholic Nuns.
Editorial comment: Things get a little tenuous when certain religious sects think their spiritual practices are the best, or at least better than the Lutherans down the street. Even some of the New Thought organizations have specific rules around how we are supposed to pray. In ministerial school, we would fail our panels if we left out one of the prescribed steps in the prayer ritual. What happened to the idea that all paths lead to God?
Moving on. We are big fans of Mitch Horowitz. Mitch wrote a 2018 article in Medium titled “Why the Best Spiritual Practice Is the One You Invent Yourself“. In this article, Mitch describes his personal experience from rituals as follows.
Something swelled up within me at that moment: I felt in sync physically, intellectually, and emotionally and at one with my surroundings; my wish felt clear, strong, and assured, as though lifted by some unseen current. It was a totalizator experience, which went beyond the ordinary.
Y’know sometimes we see experiences described like this, and think the writer probably sits on his meditation cushion all day and would not be able to water his own house plants. But Mitch is a robust guy who has seen the inside of a gym regularly. He’s a profitable writer. And he’s a father of teenagers! We would want him on our side when walking down a dark alley. So if Mitch says he is lifted by “some unseen current,” we’ll give it some credence.
Wrapping this up for today. We are not here to prescribe a certain set of rituals that will automatically work for you. That is one of the main concepts from Mitch’s article: Every one of us needs to find what works for them. And it’s also fine to take a pass on spiritual practices altogether. They have been around for a long time, And they’ll still be there if you change your mind.
[JP here – I would be interested in any atheist, agnostics, humanists who does any such spiritual practice – what do you feel you get out of it? Also, for those who have deconverted from religion, do you miss prayer? Aside from the God aspect, did prayer provide psychological benefit?]
Dana Horton is from Ohio, United States and is currently (though not for much longer) working full time as Director of Energy Markets a large utility company. In August 2019, he earned his ministerial license through an organization called Centers for Spiritual Living based in Denver, Colorado. This is a New Thought organization following the principles of Ernest Holmes. He acted as interim minister at the Columbus Center for Spiritual Living and, after eight months, he decided to leave and has no interest in returning to a formal religious organization. But he enjoys investigating spiritual principles, how they originated, and how they might be applicable to everyday living. I also enjoy discovering the history of both the Old and New Testaments, and how it differs (greatly) from the traditional Christian interpretations.
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