In the midst of life's brokenness, it can be hard to see anything but the brokenness. Everything around us tends to look like a wasteland of fractured shards of the life we knew.
In spaces like that, it's hard to hear and recognize the voice of Spirit and see clearly the signs of grace that illuminate the surprising goodness, kindness, and beauty that equally surrounds us at all times.
That's not at all unexpected in times of brokenness and anguished pain.
What's perhaps more surprising is how difficult it is to stay open to the voice of Spirit and these signs of grace in life's more ordinary moments.
This is partially because we spend so much of our present moment immersed in brokenness that is not even there. Thinking it will somehow protect us from future brokenness, we obsessively review the broken places of our past and vividly imagine possible scenes of brokenness for our future to identify all possible threats.
The result, of course, is not protection of any kind, but rather a focus on all the possible forms of brokenness even when none is present.
When that gets to be too much (as it often does), we distract ourselves with life's busyness and noise and drama, which is so easy to do in this fast-paced, noisy world in which we live.
The antidote to all of that busyness and distraction of mind and spirit is to learn to be still and present in the here and now. It's only here that the voice of Spirit and the glimpses of grace are available to us.
This discipline of staying open and present is much more difficult than it sounds.
I've slowly discovered that all of my spiritual practices—no matter what their actual form—come down to practicing this openness to the here and now.
There are so many different forms this can take:
Prayer (especially contemplative forms of prayer)
Walking in nature
Lighting a candle
Burning incense or sage
Creative expression (in movement or art or word or music)
Each of these are practices that bring me back to a space of openness to the voice of Spirit and the movement of grace in my life.
As much as I know this to be true, it takes discipline to regularly engage in these forms of spiritual practice. It's so much easier to stay in the space of distraction (both the internal distraction of my busy mind and the external distraction of a noisy world).
When I do manage to stay regularly engaged in my spiritual practices, though, it opens such a clear view into the reality around me that I am so often oblivious to.
The quiet whispers of the voice of Spirit can be heard so much more clearly, and glimpses of grace become abundant. The movement of beauty and goodness and kindness that are around me all the time become easier to recognize and hold onto—to the point where I can feel the tipping of my perception of life as a place of barren brokenness to one of grace and hope.
These practices—when actually engaged in regularly instead of just thought about—can bring such a flood of peaceful joy and gracious calm to life's everyday ordinary times.
Even more extraordinary, though, is what these practices can do for life's broken places when engaged in regularly.
When our spiritual practices become a backbone of the structure of our lives, it makes it easier to stay open to the voice of Spirit and the glimpses of the movement of grace even in places of anguish and fear and pain because we've learned to trust this larger reality.
Our practices in the everyday train us in the discipline we need to get through life's hard times without running from them, but it's easy (at least for me) for these practices to feel like one more thing on my to-do list when I do them only from a place of discipline.
Seeing them instead as a means of opening to Spirit and grace makes them an enticing invitation to a larger, more expansive life rather than an obligation.
I think I shall have to redefine them as practices of opening to grace in my own mind to keep my eye on what matters most.
What spiritual practices do you regularly engage in? How do they open you to the voice of Spirit and the movement of grace in your life?
Many thanks to a recent reflection by Oriah for the spark that led to the insight of my spiritual practices as means of opening to grace.
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