Father Mark, Reflections

Spiritual Wellness

Beliefs and Practices                                                                                                                    (Part 4 of a 12 part series from Spiritual Assessments by L. Austin) 

Domains:  Hope, Sense of the Holy, Actions of God, Beliefs and Practices, Affective Responses, Personal Responsibility, Community, Meaning, Vocation, Humor, Forgiveness, Beauty/Virtue, Courage and Grief. 

Continuing with the various pastures where we discover spiritual wellness we come to Beliefs and Practices.  Beliefs and practices are those rituals, behaviors and habits we enact in order to establish a positive relationship with our sense of the Ultimate, in our case, God, and what is important to us.

During this period of the COVID-19 many of our spiritual rituals have been altered along with other habits and practices which create meaning and order in our lives.  Our first reaction to these changes can leave us in a series of phases of grief:  denial, anger, bargaining, and depression before we come to some acceptance.  Many times, we do not at first realize the losses involved with the changes in our spiritual practices and other practices that strengthen us.  Even physical exercise routines that are changed can affect our spiritual balance.  The inability to participate in activities important to us can leave us feeling out of sorts.

What practices can we maintain that will deepen our spiritual experience and beliefs?  What might we attempt to experiment with that might deepen our experience with God, self and one another?   We lean towards those activities and practices that seem natural to us—that fit with our personality.  What we usually shun are those practices that seem awkward or difficult.  Women tend to be more verbally communicative than men and so more women will be likely to read spiritual books and maintain a spiritual journal recording their experiences and prayers.  Men tend to prefer more physical activities such as creating a project.   Sometimes it can be good to try something that we’re not naturally good at for a time to see if we can develop a greater insight or inner strength from something that we’ve not been good at in the past.  For me, who is anything but tech savvy, social networking on which this COVID-19 has caused me to use, is very difficult, unnatural and fatiguing for me.  Being in a sense forced to use this unnatural means to communicate my beliefs and practices is creating new resources within me even though I may not know what they are yet (and may not want to admit them).   In any case, my spirit is being stretched and that’s a good thing (even if I don’t like the stretching).   It’s like training for athletics or music.  The practicing can be arduous but the outcome can be wondrous.

Since we’re spending an extra amount of time at home, one practice we can always do is to read the Scriptures, devotional books and the like.  If we tend to be active, we might try a more active approach.  For example, with children, we can either use figures to act out stories, or use a technique called enactment whereby we act out the story ourselves.  Enactment is a powerful way to experience the Scripture moving in us.

Whatever we decide, it is important to have at least a few rituals with which to connect to the Divine who waits for us–to help feed our spirits so that we don’t feel like a car in need of a tune up.  Like an engine, there’s nothing like a spirit that purrs.

Happy practicing.

Fr. Mark