Spiritual Practice I was talking to Br. Elias this AM after community Mass. We both do breakfast dishes together most mornings. It is a nice time to spend with him. We have a good system and it only takes about 20 or 30 minutes. I have known him from the early 70’s and he is a very gentle kind man. I enjoy doing dishes by myself or with one other. It is quiet and afterward, I felt like I did something to make a chaotic world a little less disordered. You could call it a ‘practice’since it needs to be done every day and because of that, I can get the energy to do it even when I don’t especially feel like it. As we were doing dishes Elias told me that when talking to others, when they are struggling, he will ask them to listen to him about ‘practice’. He then gives them some common sense ways of dealing with their inner struggles. Very simple ‘practices’ that can have powerful long-term effects on one’s life. When he said the word ‘Practice’ it got my attention. I then realized that I ‘practice’ every day. I have ways of dealing with my inner life that keep me grounded and when things get rough, or my inner ocean is having high waves, doing ‘practice’ keeps my head afloat and gets me through. It is a disciplined way to direct one’s thoughts or to open one’s heart and to embrace what is simply ‘now’ and to allow the experience to pass without the need for repression or to flee the inner discomfort towards something that will only, in the long run, make things worse. Lectio Divian (spiritual reading), prayer, and quiet, silent, mediation are part of my practice. As well as trying to be in God’s presence, or, in the moment, which for me is the same thing. Our brain (well mine does) loves to create thoughts that are too put it mildly ‘crazy’. Of course, I am sharing something about my own inner life. Crazy thoughts produce emotions, yet when one prays or meditates, the lesson is learned that ‘who’ is praying, ‘who’ is meditating’, or ‘who’ is watching is not under the control of fleeting inner situations. Stepping back and observing is one of the fruits of spiritual practice. It gives a place for grace to act upon the soul. It allows the soul to breathe. ‘Practice’ is not about being successful, but about simply doing, or being, without regard to keeping some kind of score. This is more difficult than it sounds for many. To simply ‘show up’ is a big step forward even if it is felt that it is a waste of time. To be silent, or to do Lectio, or to spend time in prayer is about letting go of self-concern and understanding that there is much more going on in our lives that we can see or comprehend. All religious traditions have ‘practices’ that can bring their followers to a deep place of peace and a love of God and others, that is enduring no matter the trails of life, or of one’s own inner mental, and emotional state. It is about simply breathing calmly, being rooted in the moment, just dealing with what is front of us, one step at a time. Mental health is something that is not a given. There are types of mental dysfunction that are so common that they are considered normal. When faithful to ones ‘practice’, clarity slowly develops and life can run at a different speed and end up in a different place. Many people (not all by any means) who are on medication, would not have to be if they would take the time to not fear their inner selves, to understand that the inner chaos can be looked at without being sucked in. I need to reiterate, for some medication is what allows them to learn 'practices' that will help them grow. We are not our thoughts, our emotions or our fears, we are what is aware of all of the above. Our painful emotions cause us to ‘restrict’ and it brings out our worse selves. Love, hope, and openness, to what life brings us, is not always easy to acquire, but the process of seeking allows those on that path to take deeper root into reality. It is what Jesus said about having a sure foundation. When the storms come, it holds true, we stand securely. Even with failure, there is still something to get back into, like the old saying goes: “Get back on the horse when you are thrown”. Light is deeper buoying us up Hell on earth can be experienced, sometimes all one can do is breathe, be in the moment and face the demon, in faith, knowing that in the darkness, light is deeper still buoying us up, stand on the rock, the sure foundation, all things pass, yet love is eternal, giving hope in times of deep pain and insecurity.