I have been rereading a book about running as meditation and prayer (running the spiritual path by Roger Joslin) because it teaches me something new every time I read it and because as long as I continue running I want to continue handing over the effort to God.
One element that really struck me this time around is the need for gentleness with ourselves as we try new practices. I am a bit of a bull at times, I don’t—as they say—let grass grow under my feet. I get an idea or hear of something to try and if it appeals to me away I go. But not everyone can approach life like this, many simply can’t, others don’t want to, and I need to be good about recognizing that not everyone is into stopping things cold turkey. Joslin writes, “Rather than forcing yet another activity into a busy existence allow the practice too slowly become a part of the rhythm of your life.” That sounds like a helpful approach for many people regarding spiritual disciplines (and running for that matter). Using force is really only for opening pickle jars not for jarring rhythms that are unsustainable.
If a discipline appeals to us that likely means it is worth our giving it a try but that does not mean jumping to the advanced level. For example, two 5 minute meditations that get done every day are light years better than one 30 minute meditation a day that is often missed. Fasting one day a month is better than never fasting at all. Inviting one person or household over for a meal is way better than being so intimidated by the prospect of inviting 20 people over for a perfect meal that we never invite anyone over.
What I have found is that pursuing these sorts of disciplines helps me notice my days more, notice the Divine at work in them, to be more present. Alistair McIntire wrote, “the task of religion is to enable us to see the secular as sacred” which is an idea I agree with and the way forward in this—again in my experience—is to notice which spiritual practices call out to us and to practice them.
Practice is a good word. One practices bowling a long time before they can ever aspire to rolling 300. On practices knitting before one attempts the big sweater, one practices writing before writing the great novel. Practice involves many smaller steps, focusing on one element or another and then eventually trying to put them all together for a magical moment. If we can learn to live lives of intentionality, and especially intentionality towards God, then we will come to see that sister Joan Chittister is correct when she writes, “Daily life is the stuff of which high sanctity can be made.”
The sharing of a muffin or Halloween candy can be a sort of communion. The walking with someone who just needs a friend can become a pilgrimage. The shower or rain can be a sort of baptism. I can’t speak for you, but for me I can say that I want to live a life imbued with the holy, the divine image in me calls for this, and I think the Creator calls us to themselves and rewards us with awareness when we heed the call.
If you don’t know yet which path might be helpful to you I would suggest you pray about it and whatever percolates into your mind is an answer worthy of attention. If already know and just don’t do it remember the marathon starts with a step, so go ahead and take that step (or sit down on the meditation pillow, or invite that friend over…)