by Eric Santillan
Spirituality is having the belief that there is a power greater than oneself; that there are things outside one’s control. It is living life in a deeper, more profound way, having a deep sense of life’s ‘truths’.
For some, religion plays a deep role in their spirituality. But religion does not equal a spirituality. There are religious people who are not spiritual. They perform acts of religion–pray, kneel, raise hands, offer food, bow, light candles and incense, etc– but you see them and you realize they give their religion a bad name– because they don’t take their religion seriously enough to LIVE this in their lives. On the other hand, there are people you won’t see at mass, or in a synagogue, or in their houses of worship, but they walk their talk, exude a deep sense of peace, and have integrity. It is by their fruits that you know them, and the fruits of a person’s spirituality you see in the way they live their lives: compassion, selflessness, inner peace, surrender, deep joy, love.
Practical spirituality understands that while there is a power greater than oneself, life is the beautiful interplay between the person and what-lies-beyond-the-person. Practical Spirituality then is about making choices, and acting on those choices, so that what we believe in is integrated into your daily life.
We make practical choices every day. But it is more difficult to make spiritual choices daily. Pedro Arrupe, the Jesuit General, would put it this way, “Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute and final way.”
How do we live out our spirituality in a practical way every day? Here are practical tips in building a more practical spirituality (#s 6-10 below):
6) 30 Day List. I realized that I have a lot of stuff I bought awhile back that I don’t use at all. We’ve become very good at justifying the use of products, clothes, shoes, technology, that seem really important and attractive, but we don’t really need. Whenever I want to buy something above a certain amount, I put it in what I call a 30 Day List: a list of items I would have to revisit after 30 Days with the question: “Do I really need this?” At the end of the 30 Days, I’m usually over the hump of the impulse buy and 90% of the time, I end up deleting this seemingly important thing I could not wait to buy 30 days ago! This very practical rule helps discipline me and puts my attachment to material things in perspective.
7) One In, One Out. The inspiration of this tip is something I read some months back: “The inflow of objects is relentless. The outflow is not. We don’t have rituals for getting rid of stuff.” So I made a ritual. Basically this: before I buy anything (after 30 days!) think about the one thing you currently own that you’ll let go of when/if you buy this new item home. The rule is: if you buy anything new, get rid of something old.
If you buy a new shirt for example, get rid of your oldest shirt. I recommend you get a good plastic bin, label it “For Charity”, and put it in your laundry area. This way you can put that piece of clothing you’re getting rid off, put it in your hamper, and in your next laundry day, you can give it one last launder, and put it straight in the donation bin. Once the bin is full, just bring it to your charity of choice.
If you’re new at this, you can even do a one-in-two-out. You’ll be amazed at the amount of stuff you don’t really need but have kept in your closet for the longest time.
8) Burn Day. Ritualize your letting go of things by setting aside one special day every year (it could be the new year, or your birthday) to burn unwanted, deeply personal stuff (love letters, cds, mix tapes, toys, stationary, etc.). If you’re a family, you could make this a family ritual to teach your kids about letting go. And it’s not just about letting go, burn day is also about starting fresh and anew. Of course, safety is a primary concern, so make sure you’re safe when you’re doing this.
9) Prepare for bed an hour before bedtime. Since you’re not overly tired an hour before bedtime, you have time to take a leisurely cold shower, prepare hot milk, put your dirty clothes in the hamper, put your shoes back into their storage spaces and not kicked under the bed. You also signal your brain that you need to start winding down, which can make it easier to fall asleep when you eventually go to bed. Your memory is better then, so you can set out all the things you’ll need to take with you in the morning without forgetting anything important because you were in a hurry early in the day.
10) Weekly Review. I keep my Sundays free for quality ME time. I go to the friendly neighborhood Starbucks, open my Evernote, go to two files named MINDSWEEP and DREAM CATCHER, and do my weekly review.
The MIND SWEEP file is a list of reminders to check out and unclutter email and actual inboxes (I have several: the car inbox is where I place parking receipts, coins and other papers, there’s a file folder in my living room where I place all mails–to be efficient about it, I check my mails once on Sundays, and my wallet is also an inbox of receipts, cards, and discount coupons). The WEEKLY REVIEW is a time to decide what to do with what I find in these inboxes: trash, work on if its actionable, or keep as reference. The same file also reminds me to review my calendar for the next week and to check my cellphone if there are meetings and events I should look out for. This is also the time I check my 30 Day List.
But the real power of the Weekly Review happens when I check my DREAM CATCHER file. This is where I place random ideas, flights of fancy, inspiration, and yes, DREAMS, but also goals and the strategies to make these goals do-able. What I do is I list a few action steps to make the vague, general, audacious dream doable every week. Then I schedule the action steps throughout the week, or until I make the next Weekly Review. It’s a special time to put some handles on what is otherwise just a dream.
If weekly is not do-able, try to do this monthly. The key is to carve out and schedule this the way you would schedule a meeting. This is probably the best meeting you have ever scheduled in your life.