Friday, March 21, 2014

Inter-Religious Spiritual Practice

Today I am hoping to spark discussion about how youth and young adults can engage in spiritual practices in their tradition that provide meaning, direction, space for community, and a connection to God or a higher power.  As a child, I participated in the religious tradition of my family because my parents provided a connection for me, but at some point I began to choose what practices I would continue in my life and explore religion and meaning making on my own.  This seems to be a common thread across many religions.  So what makes a practice a spiritual practice?  Are there certain practices required to be considered a member of your religion?  How do practice and belief interact?

I come from a Presbyterian (PCUSA) community in Indianapolis, but through experiences of interreligious community at StonyPoint Center in New York and at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I have found that religious or spiritual practices are an important part of staying connected to God, community and identity for many religious people.  Rabia Harris, a Muslim Chaplain involved in the Stony Point interfaith summer institute I participated in, explained that spiritual practices are the business of waking up: becoming awake to the divine spirit inside us and awake to the world around us.

Unlimiting Practice

Kasey Hitt argues in her article Juggling and other Spiritual Practices for a Workaholic that in our high stress work oriented society, religious practices should provide a time to lay down the doing mentality and focus on caring for our spiritual needs including rest and play.  Writing poetry, juggling and centering prayer became her outlets for rest and play that connected Hitt to the divine.  These practices don't have to be something that you consider work. Although you may continue to work at engaging God in the practice, the main focus of a religious practice for me is to provide a sacred space for reflection.  Our busy lives come in direct conflict with spiritual practices because it gives value to rest and provides time for renewal.

I find rest and renewal when I pay attention to my avocado tree that lives in my living room.  By taking time away from my task oriented life, I am amazed again and again at the brilliant details of creation found in the veins of each leaf and the character of each branch as it twists and turns in search of its source of life, the sun.  This is where I reflect on my day and redirect the messages of "not enough" that I receive from society and instead focus on God's message that I am created in God's image and therefore am enough to live and serve on this earth.  Seeing the daily progress of this plant growing gives me hope that I too can grow and turn toward the image of God in my actions and identity.

What do you consider a spiritual practice for yourself?  Is there something that deeply connects you to God, allows you to reflect, or expands your view of creation?  How do you care for your spirit?

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