dr karen wyatt, physican and author, has worked for many years gathering the wisdom of people whose lives are ending in hospice care. she has gathered their words in books and on her blog.
she tells us too that studies reveal that those who have a regular spiritual practice have healthier older years and might even live longer than those who don’t.
whether an older chooses a traditional, formal religion or a spiritual practice unique to that individual they receive remarkable benefits. blood pressure drops. they experience fewer strokes, less anxiety and depression and have a greater sense of their own well-being than their counterparts who don’t have a regular practice. dr. wyatt wisely reminds us that “having a belief is different than actually putting that belief into practice.”
like so many other daily activities that we know are beneficial, spiritual practice may be something we know we should do and just don’t have time for.
one of the best spiritual instructions i’ve ever received was this: find a practice you love. if we are eager to engage in the practice we will be inexorably drawn to it. the practice itself lights a fire in our heart and in our belly. in yogic terms, this fire is called agni. it is the heat that keeps us growing and expanding. with the love we hold for the practice we might discover it is not a burden at all, but an essential part of the day. practice then moves from the “should do” category to the “i can’t wait” category.
of course, there are many practices to choose from. some might be familiar from earlier parts of your life. they may or may not suit any longer. or they might need to be revised, re-invented, revitalised. most traditional religious paths have aspects in common…prayer, congregational gatherings, reading sacred texts. any or all of these might ignite that fire for you. other practices focus on contemplation or meditation. some involve physical movement, others ask us to be still.
some practices have no traditional roots at all. gardening, walking, preparing food, washing up after dinner, behaving with kindness all become spiritual practices when we attend to them with our entire being, becoming fully present.
it is true that we might often find it hard to practice, hard to find the fire of love. such is the human condition. we have periods of ease with practice and periods of great challenge.
the next best piece of spiritual guidance i received was this: just show up.