1. Feel Welcome: This Is Common Ground
Whether you are affiliated with one of the world’s religions or are more comfortable with a free-floating spirituality, whether you are conservative or liberal, experienced or just beginning, there is room for you on the common ground of practice. A chief characteristic of the path of practice is its inclusivity. Everyone belongs.
2. Just Begin
Anywhere is a good place to begin on the path of practice. Many have gone ahead of us and left notes along the way. Start slowly and take baby steps. There’s no rush. With practice, each day is a new beginning. We’re always on the way.
3. Give It Time
When you see practice as a way of life, you don’t have to worry about making time to practice. All your activities are covered by the path. So be intentional about them. Dedicate your deeds to God and the greater good.
4. Be Discerning
Not all spiritual practices are for everyone. Know yourself, and look for the ones that are right for you. Watch for signs in your daily life pointing you toward a particular practice. Listen for a call from God telling you how to move closer.
5. Be Natural
Doing spiritual practices requires energy, earnestness, and sincerity, but these activities do not have to be depleting, ponderous, or strained. As you move along the path of practice, you need to find a rhythm and a pace that matches your natural style and way of life.
6. Be Flexible
The path of practice is filled with many twists and turns. It calls for a certain flexibility of action. You may do a particular practice for years or get what you need from it in a few days. Try not to be rigid or unbending for this saps your spirit and deters you from enjoying the surprises along the way.
7. Learn from Others
You are not the first on the path of practice nor the only one to try a particular spiritual exercise. Listen to those with more experience. Tap into the resources of a tradition or find a teacher. Aim to be good at what you do.
8. Let Go
You are not in charge of this path. The harder you try to make things happen or perfect the process, the quicker you’ll find yourself caught in the trap of disappointment. Surrender yourself to practice, and don’t worry about where it is taking you. Go with the flow.
9. Don’t Be Concerned About Externals
Make sure that your being on the path is not dependent upon or subservient to external conditions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the right or wrong place, whether the weather is good or bad, whether you’re depressed or optimistic. You can practice any time and any place no matter what the conditions.
10. Don’t Have Expectations
Taking up the path of practice is a way of weaning ourselves from expectations. Walking this road is not about going to heaven, gaining enlightenment, or achieving permanent inner peace. It is about dealing with whatever shows up in the present moment.
11. Remember Nothing Is Exactly the Same
Spiritual practices involve plenty of repetition, and most of us are allergic to tedious or boring efforts. On the path of practice, however, nothing is ever exactly the same. Subtle changes are always taking place, revealing new variations on old themes. With practice you become attuned to them.
12. Welcome Bad Days
Don’t beat up on yourself for bad days when nothing seems to go right. In the big picture, even bad days have a purpose. They test our stamina and fuel our resolve. And they help us appreciate the easy days.
13. Be Persistent
Be persistent in doing your spiritual practices. Don’t let minor setbacks or even major catastrophes put a crimp in your style. Remember that everything on the path helps you learn how to keep doing your practices.
14. Be Free
Experiment, expand your horizons, open up new doors along the path of practice. Don’t be frightened to explore a different field. If you meet with obstacles along the way, turn them to your advantage. If they steer you down a detour, accept that this longer route may have quite interesting scenery. Let your intuition and your imagination take you into new territory.
15. Deal with Your Demons
Sometimes diligence in your practices is taken as a signal that it’s time for your demons to show up to see if they can drag you down or even stop you in your tracks. Accept them as fellow travellers along the path, know in your heart that they can also be your teachers, and stare them down, if necessary.
16. Work with Who You Are
Practice yields a rigorous and rewarding form of self-knowledge. We can’t escape who we are; we carry it around with us all the time. The challenge is to honor the best and the worst in ourselves. Work with it all.
17. Accept You Don’t Know
Practice is progressive but there’s no way to tally up how far you’ve come. You may notice a positive force-field of energy associated with your movement, but you don’t know how far it reaches. Relax and just keep going.
18. Enjoy the Company
The path of practice constantly reminds us how much we need the support and companionship of others. A community of practice offers us a chance to share our story and to learn from other’s experiences. Everyone we meet encourages us to grow by inspiring us or challenging us. Love and appreciate them all.
19. Don’t Make Comparisons
After you have spent some time on the path of practice, you are less interested in comparing yourself to others and less likely to make judgments about them. Practice teaches us to treat each other as equals. It also holds us accountable for our actions.
20. Don’t Set Goals
Don’t do your spiritual practices with specific goals or objectives in mind. This invariably sets you on the path of achievement where the ego wants to take center stage and bow to thunderous applause. The path of practice is its own reward.
21. Avoid Making a Production
According to spiritual teachers in all traditions, the greatest danger of all is to make your practices into vanity productions whereby you feel superior to others and even put them down. You have no special claims on this territory. The path of practice is the humble way.
22. Come Down Off the Mountain
Our practices can be rejuvenated by dramatic mountain-top experiences that give us fresh energy and bold perspectives. But eventually we must return to the realities of our everyday lives. The path of practice is the ordinary way. It is daily life.