“Practical spirituality” has often been defined as a contradictory term. But, in fact, “practical spirituality” accurately describes what we must do after we’ve experienced a spiritual awakening: put our spiritual values and principles into practice.
Saying that we’re spiritual, acting spiritual, reading spiritual books, going to spiritual workshops, and engaging in spiritual practices like yoga, meditation, or prayer are one thing. Actually applying our spiritual beliefs to daily life is another matter.
A friend recently made an apt analogy between meditation and other daily spiritual practices and “singing alone in the shower.” You sit on your comfy meditation cushion, you dim the lights, you play some delightfully soft music, you relax and let go. Beautiful!
But what happens when you have to step back out into the world, which is inherently chaotic, loud, messy, and crowded? Same thing with the shower — you sing your lungs and your heart out, without a care in the world. But then you step out onto an actual stage in front of actual people, and now what?? Your voice cracks and you get stage fright and it’s not that easy.
This means that our daily spiritual practices — like meditation, yoga, prayer, chanting, magick work, rituals, and so forth — must be akin to going to the gym. You spend time doing these things because they build up your spiritual muscles. But then you must actually use those muscles out in the real world. No one benefits if you build up your muscles powerfully but never use them to do anything in the actual world.
Which brings me back to this idea of “practical spirituality.” You can’t say that you live according to the spiritual principle that we are all one — and then you gossip with people at the office, or stab someone in the back, or criticize your sister/mother/friend/colleague.
You can’t say that you believe all beings are inherently deserving of freedom — and then you pull passive aggressive moves on people, or try to manipulate them, or tell them how they should live.
In other words, your spirituality must be lived. It must be applied. It must be practiced. You go to your yoga mat or your meditation cushion to build up your spiritual muscles… and then you must actually use them to do good in the real world.
Here are my suggestions for 6 ways to live your spirituality in your daily life, starting today.
1. Reach out to someone in need.
Is someone in your life going through a tough time? Is there someone you know who is feeling lonely, confused, lost, sad, or afraid? Make some time soon to call this person and take them out for lunch or coffee. If they’re too depressed to go out, go to their house and bring their favorite tea or pastries or some bath salts so they can take a bath later on. In our busy, overscheduled lives, we sometimes forget the importance of making room and time for the closest people to us who are in need. Spend an afternoon with this person, without looking at the clock, without rushing to get back home to your own stuff, without cutting them off if they need to share their feelings or have a good cry or talk things through.
Find a good cause or social issue that matters to you and donate your time, services, and/or money. Volunteer at an animal shelter or at a soup kitchen or at a local hospice. Participate in community fundraising for a worthy cause. Educate (respectfully!) other people about this issue and get them involved. Find 2 or 3 organizations, non-profits, or research initiatives that matter to you and start donating annually.
3. Do pro bono work.
If you run your own business or offer services of any kind, consider doing some monthly or yearly pro bono work. You can also consider offering reduced rate sessions or services to a couple of people per month (this is something I’ve recently implemented in my own work and I highly recommend it!). This way, you ensure your services are accessible to a wide range of people in a variety of economic situations.
4. Contact political leaders.
Contacting local representatives, senators, or congresspeople about an urgent issue that matters to you is not just your civic duty — it’s an act of practical spirituality. Write to them, call them, sign petitions, VOTE, march, and just generally make your voice heard. Sending prayers, good thoughts, and light to people facing difficult circumstances is wonderful — but it’s not enough. We must also use our voices to effect change in the political and social arenas and to speak for those who are silenced.
5. Educate yourself.
If you don’t know anything about women’s rights, transgender rights, disability rights — or any other form of social/political/cultural issue — find a way to learn more (but only from credible, aligned, and knowledgeable sources who can speak about these things accurately!). You can also learn more about the original ancestry, lineage, and traditions of the place where you live. Living your spirituality means that you continue to seek knowledge and you keep expanding your awareness, even when it’s uncomfortable or it makes you question your beliefs.
6. Random acts of kindness.
Finally, you can extend your kindness, generosity, and good energy to people you interact with even for a brief moment. Smile at people on the sidewalk. Say hello to them. Buy a cup of coffee for someone the next time you’re at Starbucks. Leave a bigger tip (like, twice what you normally give) the next time you go out to eat and you receive great service. Help someone reach an item at the store or help them load their groceries. There are truly infinite ways to show kindness to everyone you meet. Make every interaction meaningful in some way, and remember to always make people feel better than they felt before interacting with you.
Being truly spiritual means walking the talk and acting with integrity in all ways, with every person you meet. Act in ways that are aligned with your spiritual values. Recognize the moments when you consciously or unintentionally disregard your spiritual values and get carried away by your ego’s agenda.