As I said last week, in February we will focus on spiritual practices. The most fundamental spiritual practice is our communion with God, the Divine or however you define the power of love that holds everything in the universe together. It is not only a practice, but it must also become a discipline if we are going to maximize our spiritual and personal growth.

The most common ways to commune with God are prayer, meditation and silence. To be clear, we will define prayer as the time when we talk to God. Meditation is that time when we still our minds and listen to what God has to say to us. Silence is when we are neither praying nor meditating, but simply allowing ourselves to be still. In silence there are no outside distractions, no television, no music just a time to be still and quiet without expectations.

For many prayer consists of telling God what we need, what we want and how we think things ought to go. When we pray in this way we may close our minds to what just might be the best answer to our prayers. In truth, God already knows of our circumstances. I believe that it is more helpful to go to God to talk over our concerns, but then leave it there. Lay your concerns on God’s altar as it were, and then be open to however those prayers are answered. One thing I have learned, and know for certain, is that I can’t always see the big picture. What my human mind believes is the only possible solution to something may actually be the worst one in the long run. We have all had those experiences that seemed like the worst thing in the world and then, after a period of time, we realize that it opened the door to a fuller and more meaningful experience of life.

Meditation takes our mind to a deeper state of awareness than we experience in our day-to-day activities. The mind in meditation is in a very relaxed state. During meditation the brain waves registered on an EEG are Alpha and Theta. Both of these brain wave patterns give us greater access to our inner intuition, creativity, visualizations and visions.

Some of us find meditating for any length of time so difficult that we gave up trying a long time ago. If meditation is difficult for you or you are just beginning, start small. If you are able to still your mind for a moment then applaud yourself and begin there.

I have found that guided meditation can be an easier route into a relaxed state of mind, and can have the same wonderful benefits as silent meditation. Another meditation technique that I found helpful is one used by the ancients; simply stare into the flame of a candle. This, or just about anything you can do that allows you to focus and slow the chatter of your mind, will offer great benefits to your body, mind and spirit.

Even if you don’t relate to prayer, as a way to get in touch with God, and you just can’t seem to meditate, you can develop a practice of silence. When you are silent all you have to do is commit yourself to is sitting quietly without noise or distraction. Allow your thoughts to float by without attaching to them or becoming overly engaged in them. It is really simple; to be silent is to stop and let the world go by without you for a few minutes. This is a practice you can do anywhere, even in the middle of a busy workday; just pause for a moment and take a deep breath.

My recommendation is to use prayer, meditation and silence as the support system for your life. Each has value to add when you make a discipline of it. Set aside time every day. Dedicate yourself to these practices just as you would exercise or personal hygiene. If you are diligent with one or all of these practices for a month I believe you will find that you begin to see changes within yourself, and you will look forward to this time. It will become part of who you are and how you live your life on a daily basis.