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Pastor Corner: Spiritual Practices

Pastor Corner: Spiritual Practices

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Do you have a spiritual practice?

If not, do you wonder what such a thing is? Do you have reservations thinking about people who seem overly religious or “new age-y?” Or maybe you have heard about the benefits of spiritual practice, but just haven’t found a way to start?

Open your mind, heart, and soul. Anyone -- of any age, gender, religion, or way of thinking -- can do this and benefit greatly.

Great people through the ages, of all theologies and no theology, of many philosophies or none, have simply said: find a practice that focuses on what is most important to you and do it every day. The author of a book titled "The Spiritual Brain: Science and Religious Experience" says that our brain is wired for spirituality. He tells us that a spiritual practice is one that enhances the meaning of what we hold to be sacred and helps us to be our best selves.

Looking at the wide variety of possible practices that focus us on our highest values and beliefs is particularly good for Unitarian Universalists, the people I serve as minister. We understand that God is too large for any one group or person to prescribe to another how to be with the holy. So we choose many different practices: meditation, walking, chanting, yoga, tai chi, reading and reflecting, spending time quietly in nature, making music, reflective group sharing and social justice work.

Whatever we choose, we do it regularly and with mindfulness, with as much consistent attention as we easily distracted humans are capable. We understand it to simply be a part of life. With the passage of time and practice, we feel our souls being nurtured, and we are better able to help heal the world.

The late Rev. Harry Scolefield was a well-known Unitarian Universalist minister who served the San Francisco UU church in the mid-20th century. He was a renowned minister, a compassionate and loving pastor, a prophetic voice for justice in his community. He was a man of huge heart, great humor, and deep understanding. The men in Harry’s generation of ministers (they were pretty much all men in those days) had little time for spiritual practice, preferring the intellectual and/or strictly active life. Harry was an exception and his practice was memorizing and meditating on poetry. He knew an astonishing amount of poetry.

I have heard him say, numerous times, “You should always do your spiritual practice every day for a half hour unless you are really busy. Then you should do it for an hour.”

Harry was the living embodiment of the value of spiritual practice.

I have a regular practice of prayer for guidance, combined with silent meditation. Sometimes, I practice walking meditation. I aim for mindfulness in all I do, which is incredibly hard, and I am only marginally successful. Lately, my partner and I have begun a daily practice of reading from a book of brief daily readings, observing silence for 20 minutes, then talking with each other about how we feel and what we learned.

You, too, can do it, if you wish to become closer to the Universe, to God, to your best self. Google “importance of spiritual practice.” Find something there or elsewhere, a practice that works for you. Do it by yourself or with another. Keep doing it. You will not be sorry.

Elizabeth Greene, minister of Magic Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, may be reached at uurev@pobox.com.

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