Spiritual practices are not limited to activities such as meditation or prayer as mainstream religion would have others believe. Spiritual practices are those activities which fill us with joy and create meaning in our lives. This can be painting. Or dancing. Or building birdhouses. It can be cooking. Or gardening. Or creating fishing lures. Whatever your creative outlet, you are self-expressing, and you are giving expression to something greater than yourself. You touch your divinity through these practices.
For me, I am happiest when I am writing, when words are flowing from my fingertips, filling the page with ideas and information and stories that have not existed in this form until now. I birth words and images; I articulate messages that if never read by anyone else will always mean something to me. Writing is my art; it is my spiritual practice.
As we take part in a spiritual practice, we find ourselves delving into the deepest part of the human experience and then transcending it. That's because the creative process, in whatever medium, is a vehicle for self-empowerment and satisfaction. It is joy incarnate. We find ourselves in partnership with something beyond us, even if we don't recognize it as such. In the act of creating, we become immersed in a world that is curiously universal, yet private all at once; we lose our self and become our Self. Our external reality gives way to a greater Internal Reality; the two become interconnected. We offer ourselves up as conduits because that's what we are. When I write, I write in service; the words come through me rather than from me. It's obvious that "I" am not doing it; "I" do not do it alone.
Whatever our spiritual practice, it is a co-creation. It is our meditation, our living prayer because we become one with that practice.
But, of course, there have been times during my spiritual practice of writing when I felt disconnected. My words seemed forced and inauthentic. I felt discouraged and subsequently unfulfilled. My art had no heart. I've known this to happen to others whose spiritual outlets suddenly didn't feel so spiritual or creative anymore. This is what I call hitting "The Spiritual Plateau," and below are some tips to help you move past it.
1. Stop and breathe. Free your mind of any thoughts that you are not progressing. When you focus on not progressing, you won't.
2. Let go of expectations. Spiritual practice, in whatever form it takes for you, takes practice. It also takes patience, love, and trust. Don't get frustrated if you don't have immediate, visible, tangible results. Know that what you are doing does have purpose, even if you don't see it on the surface.
3. Develop and enrich your practice. Read a book about it. Take a class in it. Get a fresh perspective. Many times this will open up new avenues within you. If you have a spiritual mentor, share your concerns with him or her.
4. Dedicate yourself as a conduit of spiritual energy. This can be done through prayer, meditation, or some other contemplative exercise.
5. Take your ego out of the equation. When we get carried away with desires for outer recognition, we block the flow of energy. The ego is the equivalent of spiritual cholesterol. Check it.
6. Let your practice evolve in its own way and time. Don't force it. Trust the process to lead you to continued growth, creativity, and self-expression.
7. Resist the urge to criticize yourself, and don't listen to the criticism of others, especially if their criticisms are not constructive. Instead, become your own cheerleader with positive self-talk.
8. Respect yourself as a creation and a creator. If you see yourself as something other than a spiritual being, you will not benefit from your practice. Believe in yourself and your practice.
Spiritual plateaus can be a time of reflection. Sometimes we need to step back, examine what is going on in our lives, face the issues that are clogging our spiritual arteries, and then do something about it. Recognizing those plateaus and understanding that they are for our learning are the first step in getting us our of the rut in which we have found ourselves wallowing.
What spiritual practice makes you feel fully alive? And what other tips can you offer to help others move past any plateaus? As always, I welcome your comments below.