What are spiritual practices? From my understanding and experience, I would like to suggest a working definition of spiritual practices as that body of behaviors, feelings, attitudes, experiences, and thoughts that might help bring about enlightenment or self-realization. Zen master Suzuki Roshi said "Enlightenment is an accident. Meditation makes you accident prone" and we can extend this concept to include other forms of spiritual practice.
Familiar forms of spiritual practice include meditation, contemplation, prayer, journaling, self-inquiry, chanting, mindfulness, yoga, breath work, spiritual reading or videos, etc. Teachers, teachings, or traditions tend to emphasize different methods. I’ve noticed that teachers tend to emphasize those practices that seem to have worked best for them. Some teachers reject the need for practices altogether.
Practicing is not only when you are meditating, chanting, praying, journaling, reading spiritual books or doing spiritual exercises, etc.. Practicing can be all the time. By definition, the idea of practice suggests the need for frequent repetition so it shouldn't be viewed as something to be accomplished only once in a while, or just at convenient moments. Practice can be performed continuously until such time that practice, itself, is seen as an effortless, natural expression of spirit in everything you do.
It might be helpful to recognize that if a practice becomes dull and mechanical it may require some change from you. But don't expect perfection, particularly that form of perfection defined by your judgemental mind. When we find ourselves forgetting, or distracted from a practice, simply return, without self-criticism, and have faith that you're constantly being divinely guided toward the discovery of True Nature.
All of the sadhanas (practices), all of the teachings on this earth is for one purpose, to quiet the mind. Once the mind is quiet, emancipation comes by itself.
~ Robert Adams
While spiritual practices like meditation have their benefits, it is best to participate in practices to which you are naturally drawn. In this way, the play of consciousness is leading you to experiences; this is the natural unfolding of your life. To participate in spiritual activities because it’s a good idea and because others say it is right for you, or because you want a particular outcome, creates arduous activity that you will abandon sooner or later. What is for you cannot pass you by. Let yourself be moved, or not, towards spiritual practices in a gentle and natural way, and you will have an innate openness to all it presents.
~ Jac O'Keeffe
Until you practice surrender,
the spiritual dimension is something you read about,
talk about, get excited about, write books about,
think about, believe in — or don’t, as the case may be.
It makes no difference.
Not until you surrender does it become a living reality in your life.
~ Eckhart Tolle
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
~ The Dalai Lama
There are certain practices that really help us cultivate a loving, trusting heart. Chanting, centering prayer, calling on help from enlightened beings, and just turning our attention to see what’s really holding us now and in all moments, opens up a visceral sense of trust. The deeper our heart trusts – the more surrender happens – the more receptive we are to grace.
~ Miranda Macpherson
Man does not know at what particular time the Divine Power may manifest. Make up your mind never to abandon your practices aiming at That until you have reached your Goal.
You must keep on exerting yourself, binding every minute of the twenty-four hours.
The more the mind remains absorbed in the thought of God, the stronger will that Power grow, and this Power is your companion on the path to the Supreme — remember this.
He alone knows to whom He will reveal Himself under which form.
By what path and in what manner the Almighty attracts any particular person to Himself with great force is incomprehensible to the human intelligence. The path differs indeed for different pilgrims.
~ Anandamayi Ma
Sufic and other practices do not bring Grace. For, in truth, Grace is always there. Every human soul is always under Divine Grace but does not know it; therefore the practices.
~ Samuel Lewis (Sufi Sam)
Dudjom Rinpoche used to say that a beginner should practice meditation in short sessions. Practice for four or five minutes, then take a short break of just one minute. During the break, let go of the method, but do not let go of your mindfulness altogether. . . . Sometimes I tell my students who are having problems with their practice to practice during the break and take a break during their meditation!
~ Sogyal Rinpoche
I used to think that to become free you had to practice like a samurai warrior, but now I understand that you have to practice like a devoted mother of a newborn child. It takes the same energy but has a completely different quality. It’s compassion and presence rather than having to defeat the enemy in battle.
~ Jack Kornfield
Sadhana (spiritual practices) do not wake you up by themselves.
They have no awakening powers.
But they put your mind to rest.
When your mind is at rest you awaken.
~ Robert Adams
Always speak from the heart, never from the mind.
Your sincerity and courage will set an example for others too,
And by listening to you they will be inspired to reveal their own heart.
This "heart speaking" is a spiritual practice.
It means you must only tell the truth and live within your own boundaries and dimensions
Without ever bragging about things you won't ever be able to live up to or deliver to others.
Heart speaking will bring you a gift whenever you practice it.
You will always be right.
The heart knows but cannot tell; the mind doesn't know but can tell.
Stretch yourself to speak from the heart and bypass the mind.
You will see miracles boomerang back into your life.
Here’s a new spiritual practice for you:
don’t take your thoughts too seriously.
~ Eckhart Tolle
It is extremely rare for an individual to have an awakening experience and free themselves completely of the conditioning that makes them suffer. Most people have to engage in some practice. If you are sitting around waiting for the magic moment to come so that you are totally free, you may be prolonging your suffering.
~ Scott Kiloby
If it requires no effort to breathe,
it requires no effort to be the Self.
Therefore, all efforts and practices are for the mind
and not for the Self, which is perfectly effortless.
Practice is not for freedom but to remove your old habits. Freedom is standing in front of you, smiling at you, as you do your practices. Your old tendencies, which you grasp, are an imaginary wall. This wall is the thought "I am bound and suffering."
Happiness is the absence of resistance to what-is.
It is the highest spiritual practice.
However, it is not a practice of the mind,
it is the ever-present nature of Myself, Awareness.
~ Rupert Spira
With patience and calmness, direction will come from within.
Your mind uses many hooks to keep itself in charge of your day;
it will not surrender easily.
This is why the practice of viewing the world
through the eyes of your observing self is necessary.
It is also why it requires conscious application in the beginning.
~ Jac O'Keeffe
It is a good beginning practice to merely mentally
wish others well throughout the course of the day.
Love blossoms into lovingness,
which becomes progressively more intense, nonselective, and joyful.
~ David R. Hawkins
Reality first appears dualistically as somebody who is practicing, somebody who doesn’t know what enlightenment is or what true nature is and is trying to find out or to seek it as if it is something else, something far away. However, if our practice always remains dual, it can become repetitive and mechanical, keeping us on the same horizontal plane. We need to apply ourselves with sincerity and devotion and reverence, so this dualistic process can begin to open up in such a way that true nature reveals itself as the force and the light behind the practice, as the intelligence that makes it possible for practice to happen at all.
~ A.H. Almaas
The goal of spiritual practice is full recovery, and the only thing you need to recover from is a fractured sense of self.
~ Marianne Williamson
No matter what the practice or teaching, ego loves to wait in ambush to appropriate spirituality for its own survival and gain.
~ Chögyam Trungpa
On a spiritual level, it is crucial that we understand the implications of trauma and collective trauma in our lives order to create a spiritual path that is embodied and grounded and is not used to bypass our difficulties. Only by bringing our spiritual practice into relationship with the darkest parts of our history can we break free of repetitive patterns and open the door to new possibilities.
~ Thomas Huebl
For me that’s the definition of sin, actually. It’s a forgetting. It’s a forgetting of who we are. We’re not any more special than any other people. The spiritual path we have is linked to am kadosh, which is a path that is there to help us awaken to the holiness that we always have been. It’s a holiness that’s inherent in all there is. It’s an awakening of the divine nature of all there is. Of everything and everyone. So in that sense, all the spiritual practice in Judaism is there to help you, to help me, all of us individually, to move into awakening into the holiness that we are. To move beyond ego. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it's a letting go of all of that keeps us separate, that keeps you as my enemy, that keeps me trying to convince you that I’m right and you’re wrong.
~ Rabbi Olivier BenHaim
and everything will fall into place.
Being authentically who we truly are is not something we need to learn. Rather, it invites us to un-learn whatever is in the way, so that we can reside in the grace at our core in a conscious way. That is where the work of spiritual practice truly lies. It is effort and non-effort both at the same time, which is explains the Zen koan that ‘realization is practice, and practice is realization’.
~ Miranda Macpherson
There are many who practice to develop
In this fashion,
These are the products of the practice.
Wu Hsin notes that with
All these arise as
No practice is required.
~ Wu Hsin
The very desire to seek spiritual enlightenment is in fact nothing but the grasping tendency of the ego itself, and thus the very search for enlightenment prevents it. The "perfect practice" is therefore not to search for enlightenment, but to inquire into the motive for seeking itself. You obviously seek in oder to avoid the present, and yet the present alone holds the answer: to seek forever is to miss the point forever. You always already are enlightened Spirit, and therefore to seek Spirit is simply to deny Spirit. You can no more attain Spirit than you can attain your feet or acquire your lungs.
~ Ken Wilber
Consciousness will find its own practice until it becomes more appealing to ask yourself who is it that is practising.
~ Jac O'Keeffe
The three methods: Robert Adams
There are three methods we use to help us on the path, so we can realize what we were talking about.
Number one is self-surrender, where we surrender completely to God, or to the Self. But that’s hard to do for most people. It sounds easy, but it’s not. It means that you have no life of your own. You surrender completely and totally everything to God, totally. Every part of your life goes to God. “Not my will, but thine.” that’s devotion, bhakti. Again, it sounds easy to some people, but it’s not when you get into it, because it means every decision that you have to make is left up to God. You give your mind to God, totally, completely and absolutely. And that leads you to self-realization.
Number two is mindfulness, which we were talking about, becoming the witness. Watching yourself continuously. Watching your thoughts. Watching your actions. Sitting in meditation and watching what goes on in your mind. Not trying to change anything or correct anything. Just observing. Becoming the witness to your thoughts in meditation, and to your actions in the waking state.
And number three is the one that I advocate, self-inquiry. Asking yourself, "To whom do these troubles come? To whom does this karma come? To whom does this suffering come? It comes to me? Well, what is me? I am me. Who am I? From where did the I come from?” And following the I to its source.
You can use any of those three methods, the one that suits you best. But by all means do something. Don’t waste your life with frivolities. Work on yourself, if you want to become free.