Asceticism and spiritual practice

Asceticism is a spiritual discipline that has been practiced throughout history as way to deny the self and feel closer to the Divine.

For early Christians, the ascetic practices were as diverse as their understanding of Jesus Christ. For some, it was living in monasteries with a strict spiritual discipline, for others it was living on tall pillars in the midst of a community, and for some others it was imitating Christ through martyrdom.

Today a spiritual practice often has to do with a desire to feel connected. Feeling connected to nature, to people, or to God.

For some, spiritual practice may include prayer or fasting, for others it might be yoga and mindfulness, for others it might be community and social justice. Perhaps ones spiritual practice may include elements of all of these things.

I find a consistent spiritual practice and discipline that allows me to become more aware of my thinking, what is happening in my consciousness, to be essential. Am I entertaining doubts or fears? Am I buying into materialism or commercialism? Am I having God-centered thinking? Maintaining balanced thinking is essential to keeping us healthy, happy, and purposeful.

A spiritual practice can help one discipline thought by becoming more conscious of the Mind of Christ or divine inspiration. This divine Mind is always communicating that we are blessed, we are spiritual, we are healthy, we are whole, we are loved. God sees and knows who we absolutely are. God is holding you in spiritual peace and divine perfection right now. Seeing beyond matter to the deeper spiritual sense of things helps us see and know a concrete being that is spiritual, perfect, and harmonious.

This is a metanoia experience, a change in consciousness, a healing. It satisfies and has healthy side effects (such as better relationships, improved self esteem, a greater connection to the Divine, and discernment of the Holy Spirit).

Developing a spiritual practice that enables one to be mindful and aware of God, keeping watch over our own consciousness is a great protection to us; it maintains our bodies (since our bodies are inextricably linked to our consciousness); and gives us spiritual renewal and freshness to keep up with the daily demands whether they be parenting, working, or volunteering.

At the end of the day, I like to wrap up the day with gratitude. Being grateful for every little thing — the sunlight. The wind in the trees. The smile of a family member. A feeling that God is with me. Whatever it may be. Wrapping up our day in gratitude shuts down the mental cycle of to-do lists. It stills and quiets thought.

Forgiveness is key, too. Practicing forgiveness for any slights you may have felt that day. These can be subtle (or overt) and we don’t want to let them build up. So simply letting go of any hurts or things that may have rubbed you the wrong way. Getting ready to start the new day with freshness.

A spiritual practice is a wonderful thing to cultivate. It is a gift. It is the perfect way to care for yourself and, thereby, to bless others. It will give you the insight, freedom, love, and joy you need to feel sustained throughout the day and the years.

Freedom from fearful thoughts

Lately I’ve found thoughts of accident, disaster, and tragedy harassing me. I’m not generally a fearful or paranoid person, so this was unusual. The way I’ve been dealing with this is through prayer.

The Bible states:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8, 9 NIV)

So all I have to do is think about & focus on the things that are divine, good & true. Recognizing that these negative thoughts are not my mind is a huge help. St. Paul also says to have that mind which is in Christ. That Mind is God — the one intelligence or consciousness. God’s thoughts are pure, holy, peaceful & good. When I am governed by & listening to him, there isn’t any room for thoughts that are bad.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of Christian Science, wrote:
“…keep your minds so filled with Truth and Love, that sin, disease, and death cannot enter them. It is plain that nothing can be added to the mind already full. There is no door through which evil can enter, and no space for evil to fill in a mind filled with goodness. Good thoughts are an impervious armor; clad therewith you are completely shielded from the attacks of error of every sort. And not only yourselves are safe, but all whom your thoughts rest upon are thereby benefited.”

I’m so grateful that we all have the tools at hand to find mental and physical freedom.

What is your identity?

Some might say these are unlikely friends.

Recently, a friend shared how she was praised at church while serving in a particular capacity. The praise was given by a fellow church member. Knowing both of these individuals, I admired their ongoing friendship and the way they appreciate the God-given qualities in one another such as integrity, dependability, honesty, forthrightness, compassion, and care. These individuals have served in church together for many years.

If I look at just the material surface of things, I might wonder how these individuals could be friends since they are so different: you could say one is a conservative, upper-class man while the other a liberal, middle-class lesbian.

How can these two different individuals serve together for decades in church and share a friendship that dives so much deeper than a material sense of things? By truly appreciating one another as God’s child – as brothers and sisters of the one Father-Mother God.

“…man is not material; he is spiritual”, wrote Mary Baker Eddy (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 468). If our identity is spiritual, that means it isn’t made of anything temporal (or temporary). We are made of God’s thoughts, ideas and qualities. This certainly makes me want to get to know who and what God is, so that I can know who and what we are – what we are made of.

God’s being is infinity, freedom, harmony, and boundless bliss.” (Ibid, 481)

God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love.” (Ibid, 465)

Meditating on each these synonyms and attributes for God gives us a greater understanding of who God is; and it tells us about what we are made of since we are made in God’s image and likeness. It also reveals how our human relationships can transcend material confines and be harmonious, united and long-lasting.