Building an independent daily spiritual practice

This is my side-altar, because my main altar is kind of overflowing.

Up until a couple of years ago, I identified as an apathetic agnostic — much to the chagrin of my Buddhist father and Wiccan mother, who tried their best to raise me with their spiritual priorities. But I'm just not into organized religion for sociological reasons, and I then I also have strong feelings about independent spirituality as a performative practice… STRONG FEELINGS! I still get pissed when I think about music festivals I used to attend where the music would stop at midnight so a bunch of scantily clad hippie girls would light candles and waved fire fingers and do obtuse "prayerformances" at the altars built in front of the DJ.

For me, if you need to be seen as spiritual to feel spiritual, something's out of alignment. I mean, validation-seeking is great. Duh: I'm a writer. I LOVE VALIDATION! It's just that it's a slippery slope to tangle up your validation-seeking with your spiritual seeking. In my experience, those who understand the most about inward spiritual practices, tend to say the least… so even writing this post makes me a little uncomfortable.

But the reality is that I've invested a lot of time into developing my personal spiritual practice this year, and so maybe sharing what I'm doing will be interesting to other folks on their own solo spiritual journeys? I'm under no illusions that what works for me will work for anyone else, but at the very least, it's helpful for me to gather the information into one place.

Ok. Me and all my obsessive disclaimers aside, here are the components of my daily spiritual practice:

  • Receptive meditation
    This means a daily seated practice (usually 15 minutes a day with Headspace), and mindfulness through-out the day. Sometimes this just means focusing and taking a breath, and other times it's weird shit like working on my intuitive/receptive skills by listening to people/situations with my entire body, while also not going all glazed-over-eyeballs and acting so disassociated that the situation gets socially awkward. I've been doing this for a year and a half now (aww, tiny baby steps! my hippie parents are so proud!), and so my daily seated practice feels mostly settled in at this point… but mindfulness in other contexts is definitely a work in progress.
  • Devotional movement
    Stretching, dancing, walking, jacking off, cracking ankles. I only do one hard work-out a week these days, and most of my movement is pretty gentle and chill. I'm not pushing things hard, but I still like to do conscious movement practice twice a day… even if it's just one song of stretching in the morning, and one song in the evening. This feels natural and normal and like how did I ever not do this?
  • Food & fasting
    I'm trying to be awake when I eat, which is way way way more difficult than you'd think. See, six months ago, I ended up in the hospital for three days with an adhesion-related small bowel obstruction and an NG tube. I avoided surgery (this time?) but if I learned anything from the hospital trip, it's that when my stomach feels odd, I need to stop drop and NOT EAT. That's a big change for me, but I get now that if my stomach is stressed, it needs a pause. I try to eat smaller portions, more often, and more aware. Interestingly, it's way harder to pay attention when I'm eating than it is to just eat less often. I don't know what that says about me.
  • Non-attachment to people & scenarios, attachment to NOW.
    This is one of those aspirational practices, where the word PRACTICE is most literal because I am truly terrible at it. I love people and conversation, but when it gets into craving (ie, a desperate need not to be alone), then I try to rein myself in and focus on staying present rather than escaping discomfort or striving toward pleasure. This usually takes the form of catching myself spooling up, and recalibrating my attention on my five senses — especially the sensation of touch. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I keep trying.

I'd love to hear about what little, private daily practices other people have. Again, I'm not into sanctimony or holier-than-thou spiritual one-ups-manship… but it's cool to hear about the little ways that other folks have of keeping themselves grounded and present with whatever "soul" means to them.

Join our community!

  1. I'd love reccs from people about good, spirit-building books to read, especially ones about interpersonal relationships and such. I feel I'm terribly co-dependent, to the point that I'd love to develop a spiritual practice, but I'm terrified about what everyone else around me will think.

    I'm starting small: I took myself on my first (solo!) date in a long time, and sat around in a river, communing with rocks and critters. I like to talk to worldly spirits. I'm not quite comfortable meditating on my own (but maybe I'm doing that anyways already?). I admire peoples' altars, but worry about dusting one of my own.

    1 agrees
    • I bet most people have daily spiritual practices that they don't let on about. I feel kind of embarrassed to discuss it, myself, because my routine might sound crazy to some, but nothing makes sense to me without it. Mine can be a bit complicated because I have a lot of different aspects of me that all have different takes on God and Earth and life and everything.

      1. I start the day jotting down my dreams of the night before (if necessary drag paper and pen to the toilet with me.) I think about them, and what they're trying to say.

      2. Set my computer to random images and random music while doing my formal prayers. (Two traditional Christian ones, five I wrote myself) because I'm rubbish at tuning things out, so the next best thing is to tune things in. The prayers are the same every day, but the music and images are different, so they all give a new slant on the old prayers every morning.

      3. I read that day's oracles, which I made last winter for the coming year, based on dreams and omens on the 12 days after Christmas, and on my homemade elemental half cards which would probably sound like hilarious gibberish to someone with a real tarot deck.

      4. Leaving the computer, I look about me and tune in to whatever I perceive, to bless my home and the fairies of my home, and my husband and I, and the workplay that we all do.

      5. Breakfast, mentally saying grace while eating it (so that I can be truly appreciative–which used to drive my family crazy!) thanking God and also God's creatures involved (the oatmeal, the cow that gave the milk, the farmers and ranchers, etc.)

      6. Go about my workplay with waves of tuning in to everything around me. Like right now being aware of the heyokas (lightning-spirits with a contrary attitude) powering this computer, and the plastic keys clicking under my fingers, the plastic coming from petroleum that came from primordial fern forests and a very specialized bacteria that rejoiced in their rotting.

      7. Simultaneously I scan about for little opportunities for love. Nothing else makes sense without this. Everything before prepares me for this, everything during enables this, and everything after seals it.

      8. When my pain levels get disruptive, I offer it up in order to drain suffering from other people that I know or in the world, which seems like a morbid thing to do, but pain's a lot worse when it also makes you feel worthless, so offering it up keeps me sane, comparatively speaking. But ALSO when I'm happy I offer up my joy in gratitude and appreciation, assuming that the Creator made pleasure and likes to see it used. Same goes for reason, creativity, humor, and every other facet of life.

      9. I consider my evening exercise routine a spiritual practice, a ritual honoring the body that God gave me. It's the only thing that makes exercise tolerable!

      10. I read a little Bible before going to bed, preferably with some context (so much is so mistranslated, misunderstood, or manipulated!)

      11. And then I give thanks for five things of the day as I snuggle into bed.

  2. This was great! Thanks so much for your perspective. I’ve been working a lot on mindfulness and presence. Being present is alarmingly difficult and epically rewarding. Good luck in your spiritual journey.

    • What I love about being present is that if you feel like you're sucking at it, you're actually kicking ass… because you're being aware of how unpresent you are, which is progress! Like, every time I think "Fuck, I'm totally distracted right now" is a tiny win, because it means I'm actually noticing. Baby steps.

      4 agree
  3. I'm on a similar journey, and have been journaling (using the Bullet Journal system) since May, and have recently added Meditation (almost) daily. I don't know what's next for me, but it's been revitilizing to realize that the baby steps are actually adding up.

  4. I really learned a lot from the free trial of Headspace and I am slowly coming around to getting a subscription to the full service. Maybe I'll give it to myself as a birthday present. My partner has had a lot of success developing a meditation discipline independently but I feel like my brain is too hamstery and I need the extra metaphorical hand-holding.

    • The Headspace pack that was the most transformative for me was the Anxiety series, which helped me realize that the goal wasn't to STOP mental chatter I didn't like (which is worry/anxiety for me, might be hamsterwheeling for you), but to change my relationship to it. For me, that meant that instead of being like UG I AM SO ANXIOUS I HATE THAT ABOUT MYSELF, I was able to be like "Oh look, there's some anxiety going by. Ok. There it goes."

      So for you, it might be less that your brain is "too hamstery" and more that it's giving you opportunities be like "Oh look! There go the hamsters again! Ok. There they go!"

      3 agree
      • Another recommendation for headspace here, I got a year’s subscription free through Anxiety UK but when it runs out I am definitely shelling out for another.

        For those that havn’t used it, it’s guided sessions which means you just listen and do what the guy tells you (breathe, sometimes count breaths, sometimes do things like note distractions or visualise things). I find the hand holding great because when my anxiety is in full flow I struggle to get out of the hamster wheeling.

        There are longer length packs about specific themes/issues, like anxiety or shorter things like one to listen to before a job interview. It’s designed to fit into a busy life and is all about getting away from achieving a perfect practice in perfect conditions. There is even a commute one you can do on a train or bus with your eyes open (it's a phone app). It builds up techniques slowly and for those perfectionist types like me who struggle when I don’t get a new technique straight off, there are helpful tips in the form of videos or animations, all of which gently and humorously tell you to calm the fuck down. They don’t say that but they meant that!

        I try for doing it daily and it’s just like a re-set to normal for me, it slows the whirring of the cogs and on a good day it stops them altogether, bliss. I totally agree about how gaining space from what you are thinking and getting caught up in is transformative, I’m about as evangelical about Headspace as I was am about my Mooncup!

        2 agree
  5. If you're into that sort of thing, I recently started a tarot card a day pull. I write the date, name of the card, book definition, and then impressions I get about the art. Then at the end of the day I think over my day and see if that card applied anywhere. It's been interesting to say the least.

    I also light a candle in the morning most mornings and spend a few moments being grateful and thinking about the people I love in my life. It really has changed a lot in my life to just light a candle and focus on the positives of life for a few minutes. I include in that a little moment to say "may cooler heads prevail" in regards to the current world state, which just is my way of coping with all the issues our current government seems to have that I know I personally cannot effect.

    2 agree
    • YES! I do this too, with a deck made by one of my favorite Seattle artists: http://www.stasiaburrington.com/sasuraibito-tarot-deck/

      I don't believe the cards are magic, but I love making a place for gorgeous artwork in my day, and the deck gives with interesting themes to consider.

      I follow Chani Nicholas (http://chaninicholas.com) with a similar angle… I'm not really interested in debating whether astrology is real, but Chani's writing is transcendent and REALLY gives me wonderful thoughts to mull each each week.

      1 agrees
      • I love an astrologer who writes really meaningful advice and thoughts. If you identify at all with the characteristics of your zodiac sign, it is often a sentiment that you have deeply needed to hear. And if you don't identify with your sign? Find one whose basic characteristics you feel like really apply to you, and follow those horoscopes. You'll be amazed what you learn about yourself and how you relate to the world.

  6. I first posted this in the wrong place, then the right place but it vanished, so third time's a charm.

    I bet most people have daily spiritual practices that they don't let on about. I feel kind of embarrassed to discuss it, myself, because my routine might sound crazy to some, but nothing makes sense to me without it. Mine can be a bit complicated because I have a lot of different aspects of me that all have different takes on God and Earth and life and everything.

    1. I start the day jotting down my dreams of the night before (if necessary drag paper and pen to the toilet with me.) I think about them, and what they're trying to say.

    2. Set my computer to random images and random music while doing my formal prayers. (Two traditional Christian ones, five I wrote myself) because I'm rubbish at tuning things out, so the next best thing is to tune things in. The prayers are the same every day, but the music and images are different, so they all give a new slant on the old prayers every morning.

    3. I read that day's oracles, which I made last winter for the coming year, based on dreams and omens on the 12 days after Christmas, and on my homemade elemental half cards which would probably sound like hilarious gibberish to someone with a real tarot deck.

    4. Leaving the computer, I look about me and tune in to whatever I perceive, to bless my home and the fairies of my home, and my husband and I, and the workplay that we all do.

    5. Breakfast, mentally saying grace while eating it (so that I can be truly appreciative–which used to drive my family crazy!) thanking God and also God's creatures involved (the oatmeal, the cow that gave the milk, the farmers and ranchers, etc.)

    6. Go about my workplay with waves of tuning in to everything around me. Like right now being aware of the heyokas (lightning-spirits with a contrary attitude) powering this computer, and the plastic keys clicking under my fingers, the plastic coming from petroleum that came from primordial fern forests and a very specialized bacteria that rejoiced in their rotting.

    7. Simultaneously I scan about for little opportunities for love. Nothing else makes sense without this. Everything before prepares me for this, everything during enables this, and everything after seals it.

    8. When my pain levels get disruptive, I offer it up in order to drain suffering from other people that I know or in the world, which seems like a morbid thing to do, but pain's a lot worse when it also makes you feel worthless, so offering it up keeps me sane, comparatively speaking. But ALSO when I'm happy I offer up my joy in gratitude and appreciation, assuming that the Creator made pleasure and likes to see it used. Same goes for reason, creativity, humor, and every other facet of life.

    9. I consider my evening exercise routine a spiritual practice, a ritual honoring the body that God gave me. It's the only thing that makes exercise tolerable!

    10. I read a little Bible before going to bed, preferably with some context (so much is so mistranslated, misunderstood, or manipulated!)

    11. And then I give thanks for five things of the day as I snuggle into bed.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.