My New Experiment: Develop a Spiritual Practice

In the past few months, one question has resurfaced again and again. How can I sustain my current responsibilities without burning out? There are moments when I am able to transcend stress and remain amazingly calm. Then, there are other moments, when I cannot help but absorb the energy around me. Those days, I go home searching for peace. The answer I keep receiving, develop a spiritual practice to move into a more consistently balanced space.

Now, I get that the word spiritual can be a big turnoff for many. It is hard to separate the word from religious traditions that may not be our own. But, whether you’re agnostic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or even atheist, creating a spiritual practice can be beneficial and does not have to be about one path to God. Instead, it is about quieting the mind and connecting with what is important. This in itself is not new. I just did not know where to start, until I found two books at my mom’s house this week.

The first, Mindfulness Yoga inspired me to connect my yoga practice with Eastern philosophy and meditation. The second, The Spiritual Activist, focuses on helping activists of all faiths, including teachers, establish spiritual practices to sustain their social work. While Mindfulness Yoga is great for establishing home yoga routines and understanding the philosophical background of meditation, it is dense material. The Spiritual Activist, on the other hand, makes it easy to form a plan of action. Together they make an inspiring duo. Exactly what I was seeking.

My new plan, create a daily spiritual practice that interchanges yoga, meditation, walking, and reading. Even though I already do these things, the goal is to set aside a regular time each day to quiet my mind. At first I considered waking up earlier, but I read it is better not to alter your normal wake/sleep patterns because you are less likely to succeed in establishing new habits when your sleep cycle is changed. So, instead, I plan to begin each evening with silence and spiritual practice when I get home from work.

I know this will be a big experiment, especially since I have never meditated regularly, but I hope to monitor my progress and share whether or not it makes a difference in my stress levels, particularly in the most challenging moments while I teach. I do not expect it to work instant miracles, but I also am hopeful that it will help me access the calm that already exists inside me.

I leave you with one piece of wisdom, known as Bodhichitta. In order to achieve true good for ourselves, we must aim to achieve good for all beings. This is a big part of my calling as a teacher. I teach not only to fulfill myself, but also to make the lives of my students better, which in turn improves our community. So, what I do to make myself a more balanced teacher, I do not just for me, but for my students, and all beings.

If you’re open to sharing, do you have a daily spiritual practice? If so, what does it consist of for you? How has it benefited your life?

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14 thoughts on “My New Experiment: Develop a Spiritual Practice

  1. Kozo says:

    I appreciate that you are sharing this decision to start a spiritual practice publicly. It will be good motivation to keep up the practice because we will be watching you. Just kidding.
    I love the Bodhichitta idea. I think if you keep reminding yourself that you are doing this as a teacher, you will find new sources of energy and inspiration.
    Believe it or not, I consider blogging a spiritual practice. I really try to “do unto others as I would have done unto me” when I comment and read blogs. I also try to be patient, especially with site stats, but you already know about that.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Yes, I actually debated whether or not to share this, but then I decided I would probably learn more from others if I did, and also hoped that maybe my inspiration from those books would be passed on. I can see how blogging is a spiritual practice when done with that intention, and your intention is clear in your comments and your posts. Thank you for the inspiration.

  2. kingmidget says:

    Can I borrow those books? You’ve hit yet another nerve for me. As a regular reader of my blog, you no doubt know of my distaste for religion and my disbelief in God. What I rarely write about because I’m not sure exactly how to say it and remain consistent is exactly what you describe here. And, like so many other objectives of mine, I find it slipping away in the rush of daily activities. I think regularly about setting aside some time just like you are doing. Quiet time. Meditation. Walking. Whatever it is … something where I can achieve, if only for a few minutes, some mental and inner peace. It’s also part of connection to a spiritual side as well … not the God spirit, or Catholic spirit, or whatever … but the spirit that is me. Finding that inner thing that can hold me steady the rest of the day. I hope you find it for yourself.
    Can I borrow those books? 😉

    • oliviaobryon says:

      That all makes total sense. I have grappled with something similar. It sounds like you already make room for some “spiritual practice” with your yoga. I recommend both books, even if there are probably even better books out there. I have a feeling I am going to take awhile getting completely through them, so you might just want to order them used off Amazon 😉 I bet there is a preview function where you can read a few pages to make sure they resonate. Just like anything spiritual, I take what I want and leave some behind, but good reads for a “beginner.”

  3. For me there’s a rather large distance between Spirituality and Religion. Religion can be divisive, while Spirituality is inclusive and does not need a church, a priest, a figurehead. Spirituality needs no one to exhort its virtues and it does not threaten if one fails or falls now and again. Religion says this is what is. Religion is about the destination. Spirituality is about the Journey.

    As for daily practice, I have a vehicle that does not have a radio. I bought it that way deliberately. I use the time each day that I’m in the car to practice breathing and thinking about how I want to be that day. Then instead of giving people the bird, I am giving them the peace sign. 🙂

    • oliviaobryon says:

      What you are saying about the difference between spiritual practice and religion makes sense to me. I don’t think I ever took the time to distinguish the two, even though I definitely see differences. Love your daily spiritual practice– what a nice way to make what could be a frustrating part of your day mindful and intentional instead.

  4. I have been practicing yoga on and off for a few years. I find that I am more able to find my inner calm place through the practice of yoga. The other practice was to start a meditation. I have practiced meditation within more traditional faiths. Mantras or a prayer, or phrase that repeats itself is a great way to clear the mind and let it relax. A lot of my creative thoughts come while I practice the mindfulness, whether walking, practicing yoga or just sitting quietly. One of my favorite books that I am currently re-reading is “breakfast with Buddha.” I think you would enjoy this man’s journey into self discovery.

  5. I have a couple book recs next time we hang out!!

  6. nicole says:

    I too strive to find the inner calm,and some days it is hard, and I too get sucked up into the energy of what is happening, and I am also a teacher and some days it is hard to find the calmness because I feel like I am multi-tasking all day. I practice yoga and I find that helps me find the sense of calmness. I have tried to get up earlier and do some yoga before work, but that is hard for me right now, but I try my best to do something yoga/meditation when I get home. I am striving for a regular meditation practice. I feel like religion provides the same thing for people, giving them an inner peace, we are all looking for that. Hope your spirtual practice is going well.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Yes, I feel like I’m multi-tasking all day too! Teaching is some seriously hard work, as is maintaining a sense of inner peace through it all. I’m working on it. My practice is going well, but like you I find it varies from day to day in my ability to be still and patience. I feel more relaxed after work though, so I guess that is an improvement! Patience and hard work 🙂

  7. kidsandyoga says:

    Thanks for sharing. Love this post. I too want to find more calmness and peacefulness; some days it is hard and some days it is not that bad. If you look at my bookshelf, you will think I am this calm, mellow, spirtual person, but I am striving to be. I practice yoga and that helps, but I am not a regular meditator, I do like the loving kindness/meditation, and I find that easlier than sitting and breathing. I am trying to just sit and breath, with a watch nearby, and some days I am amazed that 5 minutes went by, and other days I sat for one minute. I hope your spirtual practice is going well.

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