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Thursday, April 12, 2012

What life practices have you found helpful?

Last night we had our monthly Contemplative Conversation. Our topic was this question: Whether you refer to it as spirituality or not, whether you call them 'practices' or not, what things do you try to do to move closer to a more flourishing life - the 'good life'. These can be formal practices, little habits, reminders, actions, etc. They can be things that help center you when you become stressed or upset, or they can be things that help you be a better person.

All of the people present had excellent things to offer. I spoke about how I have found meditation and journaling helpful, as well as what I like to call 'demeanor practice' whereby we simply try to smile more and be mindful of how we are carrying ourselves, our expressions, body language, and how we are acting toward others.

Another person present talked about how much she loves people and children; how much she finds doing good for others to be replenishing and how refreshing children's perspectives can be, helping to remind us of all the nonsense that can come to cloud our way of thinking which we learn later.

The next person spoke about how important planning was to him. He and his wife planned out their major activities each month together, to ensure they aren't doing too much, aren't missing things they'd like to do, and aren't doing things they really wouldn't rather do. This is a mindfulness in how we spend our time. He noted that his wife sometimes went off the plan and was more spontaneous than him, but that they have both grown to be more appreciative of the benefits of one another's ways.

Another attendee spoke about his interest in science, reason, and logic and that understanding things rationally was helpful to a person when facing tough times. A love of learning and continued growth, and a strong curiosity - these things can be considered a spiritual practice in their importance to a good life as well.

Another attendee also benefited from meditation, both alone and in various communities around town. But he added that other things like hiking was a beneficial practice to him; not only in that it put him out in nature, but it was a reminder that every goal is reached one step at a time. This is not unlike the idea of 'living in appreciation of the present'. Another habit that he found very helpful was to keep dollars ready under his overhead visor in his car, and giving them to the needy people on the street corners. More importantly than the mere act of giving, however, was maintaining his inner motivation of kindness and generosity and trying to refrain from being judgmental.

Then a man spoke about how important silence had become to him. He made a regular habit of taking some time to just sit in silence, not only vocally but mentally. His practice of silence was not too dissimilar to some forms of meditation, yet he had found a particular process that worked for him.

Lastly, a woman talked about how journaling had also helped her, how she liked meditation but was still trying to be more regular in it, and some Stoic books which had helped her to focus on what she can control.

Overall, there was a shared sense of something more than merely waking up each day, living out the day, and going back to bed. Rather, in all of these practices and habits there was a sense of progression; a sense that we are walking a path, making improvements, and growing in our practice. As always, there was much more to share and discuss than we had time for, which is all the more reason we have to look forward to our future gatherings. For those local to Houston, we invite you to join us at our monthly Humanist Contemplatives group, and for those outside the area, we wish you the best and hope you can find (or start!) a like-minded group in your area which can begin to explore naturalistic spirituality - helpful life practices, perspectives, and philosophies that don't require acceptance of supernatural claims.

So, to the reader, what are some of the things you practice in your life that you've found helpful, or that you'd like to learn more about? Your comments are welcome!

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1 comment:

  1. Hi dt -- Just met you through Twitter. Your site's really interesting -- great work!
    Re. this post, I get that "sense of something more" through all those activities, but more than anywhere in my relationship with Nature.