Developing Spiritual Practice -- A Lenten Journey 

 

Most of us know the benefits of a regular spiritual practice -- we are calmer, kinder and more attentive to the stirrings of the Spirit throughout the day. But, it's hard to develop a regular spiritual practice given the pressures and commitments of our busy lives. 

 

Each Wednesday during the Christian season of Lent, we have been suggesting one daily spiritual practice, oriented in and around nature, that can easily be integrated into the most hectic lifestyles. Our hope is, that you have found at least one practice (or more!) that you can bring into your daily life beyond this Lenten time together. As we present this last practice, we are so very appreciative of your opening yourself to these suggestions. May they continue to nurture you throughout all of the ecological and spiritual seasons.

 

Grab a friend or a group of friends to commit to doing these practices with you! And JOIN our new Facebook group to share inspirations, insights and struggles. 
 

Week 7 -- March 23 -- Easter and Renewal
On Sunday, Christians celebrate the assurance of reconciliation and renewal at Easter. As we enjoy the beginning of spring, Christians and non-Christians alike can affirm the promise of re-birth and regeneration. This week’s practice is oriented towards recognizing the ecological and spiritual movement this time of year, from darkness to light, from decay and death to life.

 

Return once more to your yard, a nearby park or a favorite natural area. Allow something in the natural world that is growing or blooming or budding to attract your eye. Draw closer to it. Center yourself by being with this element of nature. Breathe slowly. Examine it with curiosity and openness. You might reflect on how its life has been made possible by decay, deterioration or death. Are there parallels you might draw to your own spiritual life? Has there been loss or decline that is giving way to renewal or rebirth? How can you open yourself to this movement?
 

Week 6 -- March 16 -- Waiting (read more)

 

Week 5 -- March 9 -- Practicing Compassion (read more)

 

Week 4 -- March 2 -- Using All Our Senses (read more)

 

Week 3 -- February 24 -- Paying Attention: Sacred Circle (read more)

 

Week 2 -- February 17 -- Eating Gratefully (read more)

 

Week 1 -- February 10 -- Setting Intention to be Awake to the World (read more)

 

Let us know how it's going. Share your observations, your joys and your frustrations in our new Facebook group! 

 

Full Descriptions of the Lenten Practices

 

Week 1 -- Setting Intention to be Awake to the World

Take 5 minutes just as you are waking to set your intention for the day. You might say to yourself: "Today, I will be awake to the world."  Repeat as a mantra, breathing into each word. 

 

During the course of the day, as you find yourself becoming distracted by the busyness of life, repeat as necessary: "Today, I will be awake to the world." You might set a reminder to do this hourly OR set up a trigger, such as, every time you look at your phone, you repeat the mantra.

 

 

Week 2 -- Eating Gratefully

Choose one meal a day (or more) to eat without any distractions (phone, t.v., computer, etc.)

Before beginning to eat, breathe deeply for a few minutes, look at the meal laid out before you, and thank the Source of all life for this provision.

 

Then with each bite, thank something/someone else who has helped to bring you this food. With your first bite, you might start with thanking the earth itself. Then with the next, you might thank the soil, then the minerals, the water, the seeds, the plants and of course the animals, if you are eating meat. With each bite, give thanks to another element. Remember the human beings who helped as well – the farm worker, the truck driver, the seller at the farmers market, the grocery stock-person, etc.


Slowly chew each bite, savor the tastes and texture. Put your fork down between bites. At the end of the meal, breathe deeply again and say thank you to all of the elements, creatures and people who have brought this meal to you.

 
 

Week 3 -- Paying Attention: Sacred Circle
Walk outside your door and find an area that is unpaved (could be your yard, a park, anywhere convenient). Toss a pebble or anything small and round to the ground. Around the pebble draw an actual (or imaginary) circle about 2 feet in diameter.

 

Take some time each day this week (if only for a few minutes) to observe what’s going on inside this circle. What’s living there? What supports life? What kind of colors do you see? How does it smell? Does it change throughout the week?

 

Get down on your knees and take a good close look. Pick up the soil and feel it in your fingers. Then look at it from a distance. Does your perspective change? Is Spirit present in your little circle? Is this sacred ground?

 

Week 4 -- March 2 -- Using All Our Senses
Walk outside and find a natural spot. It could be your yard, a nearby park, or even a favorite tree or plant. Each day, engage this place with one sense (sight, hearing, touch, smell and maybe taste (but please be careful with this one!)). Try to use at least the first four senses before the week is up.

Try to “turn off” the other senses (you can use blindfolds, earplugs, etc. if you’d like) and concentrate on experiencing your nature spot from one focused perspective. Breathe slowly through this exercise. You might use a mantra if it is helpful – "Let me see you. Let me hear you, etc." You might also ask of this place (or God/Spirit through this place), “What am I to learn from you?”

  

While ultimately the Lenten journey leads to reconciliation and renewal, often we cannot get there without walking through pain and suffering, decay and death. In nature, pain, suffering, decay and death are all present and play important roles in the health of the ecosystem. 

 
 

Week 5 -- March 9 -- Practicing Compassion

This week, walk outside and find an area that is unpaved (could be your yard, a park, anywhere convenient). Slowly search for some aspect of nature that is in pain, decaying, dying or being degraded. Don’t force this; just let something reach out to you.

Once you find your spot, spend some time here paying attention to what is going on. You might use some of the earlier spiritual practices to deepen your experience. If you feel led, you might say: “I am here with you.” See what develops. This can be a challenging exercise; hold this practice lightly.

Week 6 -- March 16 -- Waiting with Lectio Divina
This week, we will practice waiting, sometimes uncomfortably so, while at the same time holding the promise of renewal and regeneration. It is almost spring, but not quite yet. For Christians, we know that it is almost Easter, but we must first walk with Jesus on his way to Jerusalem and ultimately to the cross. This week, find a spot in the natural world (or even your backyard or urban park) that is calling to you and sit down. Read the following poem slowly to yourself. Following the ancient practice of Lectio Divina, see if there is a word or phrase that is “sticky,” that resonates with you. Stay with that word or phrase; repeat it as a mantra. As you do, look around you. Is the earth, or God through the earth, offering some insight or meaning for you? What does it mean for you to wait and “to not run from here even if the hold of loss burns deep in your belly?” If you sit with loss, will it really begin the “slow journey of completeness?” What does it mean for you to be invited “deeper into the roots of yourself?”

 

The Turn

Your only duty

Is to not run

From here

Even if the hole

Of loss burns deep

In your belly

And on waking

You feel the dread

Of walking into the day

You could pretend

Try putting on a face

Other than your own

But that’s a game

That never works

And burns

A deeper hole inside

The pocket of longing

Making the shell

You’ve chosen to live in

Even more hollow

But there are times

When there is no choice

But to surrender

To turn towards

Your loneliness

And the empty places within

You’ve spent a lifetime

Running from

Embracing them

With delicate hands of love

The way the evening fog

Envelopes the solitary tree

Without flinching

Pressing into and

Loving every gnarled crevice

Every twisted branch

Even the forgotten needles

Fallen to the ground

This is the first step

That begins the slow

Journey of completeness

Keeps inviting you deeper

Into the roots of yourself

Claiming your place

That has been waiting

That is always right here


Mark Coleman

 

Let us know how it's going. Share your observations, your joys and your frustrations in our new Facebook group!