We are each individually fabricated; born into this world at our own very specific time and place, with our unique set of gifts and challenges, and shaped by distinct experiences throughout our lives. And yet, we so frequently attempt to squish ourselves into the shape of someone else's path, especially within our practice of spirituality.
Before I go any further, let's quickly address the difference between religion and spirituality as a framework for how I am using these terms. Religion: This is a specific set of organized beliefs and practices, shared among a community or group. Spirituality: This is an individual practice, intended to help you experience and maintain a sense of peace and purpose in your life. Your religion can absolutely be a part of your spirituality yet if and how religious teachings and practices are included for each person is unique to their own spiritual practices.
I would define a Spiritual practice as any activity during which you connect with your soul. I teach a class called Spiritual Journey Exploration. In this class, we explore what a spiritual journey is, some examples of tools and techniques that can help you understand your specific soul language, and the benefits of curiosity and playfulness along the journey. Below is a slide that I shared in a recent live online version of this class.
Each participant was asked to create a visual representation of the lens from which they experience life through, specifically encompassing the elements that most influence their spirituality. This slide is what I shared about myself. The images on here represent books/learning, art/teaching, Reiki, yoga, travel, the Enneagram, sound healing, and various communities that I'm a part of. Creativity and the arts show up on here in more than one place.
Creativity (in many forms) has been something that I've always identified with closely. As a child, I loved making art, singing, playing make-believe, exploring nature, cooking with my mom and grandma, and more. As an adult, I still incorporate most of these activities into my life, many of them in both my personal and professional worlds. My first career after college was teaching art to elementary and middle school students. Although the work I do currently lives more in the realms of energy healing, intuitive coaching, and spiritual mentor-ship, I still incorporate the arts into all of these areas. I often work with individuals on how they can incorporate creativity into their spiritual journey, and incorporate various creative activities into the classes and workshops that I teach as well.
This image was taken recently as I was working on an upcoming presentation about meditative creative practices. The Sanskrit word mandala can be translated as circle. Mandalas are used in many spiritual practices and traditions. In some instances they are made to be impermanent, created out of multi-colored sands, and cleared away after completion. Being present in the process of creation is more important than the design itself. Labyrinths are frequently created inside of a circle and meant to be entered, explored, and exited. You may leave something there or gain something that you take with you. There is an art in the creation of the labyrinth itself, yet being present with your experience inside of it is eventually the intended spiritual practice.
When I worked in the corporate world, my day frequently included multiple meetings that ran one right after another. My notes from those meetings would frequently be covered in doodles. This was also the case for the notes I've taken in classes throughout my formal and non-formal education. I remember things better when I write them by hand then when I type them. There is something about the combination of writing them with my hand while thinking or hearing them, that helps me to retain the knowledge better. I also worked at an art and design college where I would conduct portfolio counseling sessions for potential students. I remember an instance where someone asked me about a specific student's portfolio. They had my notes in front of them, but I didn't. As I recalled the student and their artwork, I asked my colleague if I had written my comments in green pen (I had). As soon as I could connect the memory of writing the notes, their work was accessible in my memory as well. Just as I use doodles to focus my energy and retain knowledge while taking notes, I do the same in my spiritual practices.
This image shows a few pages from my journal. My journaling practice grows and changes as I do. Sometimes I journal after a meditation. Occasionally I use it to write morning pages or to doodle or sketch as I listen to an audio book. I frequently take it with me to sound healing events and workshops that I take or offer to jot down notes or document my experience in some way. I take it with me when I travel both for work and for leisure. Sometimes I use it regularly and other times I don't open it for months. I have stacks of old journals that I've kept for decades. It is fun and very enlightening to go back and read from ones that I haven't touched in years. If you keep your journals, I recommend doing this every once in a while. You may be surprised by how far you've come, and also pleasantly surprised to see hints of who and where you are today in the words you wrote years ago.
If you follow me on Instagram (@Atmaitri), you've likely seen me post about my practice of moon journaling. The images above are from my current moon journal/calendar. The three images include pages where I wrote about planting seeds of intention for an upcoming cycle at the time of the new moon, as well as where I recorded things that I was reflecting on and releasing from the previous cycle at the same time where a new one was beginning. While I have other rituals that I engage in occasionally to align with the energies of the moon's cycles, this is one that I practice very regularly.
I also practice mindfulness and appreciation of my creativity in my everyday activities whenever I remember to. One of my favorite ways to do this is in the preparation of the food that I make. Maybe it comes from working in catering during college, or maybe it is something that I've learned more recently as I cook far more now than I did at other times in my life, but I love how beautiful food can be. I eat a mostly vegetarian diet and so I chop a LOT of vegetables in any given week. However, I never get sick of the beautiful color combinations of chopped fresh fruits and vegetables.
This may not seem like a spiritual practice, but if you think about the definition that I shared earlier - any activity during which you connect with your soul - it absolutely is. Even looking at this photo of the vegetables I chopped for dinner last night, makes my soul happy. There is so much life and vibrancy in the colors of each and the combination and contrast of the colors next to each other just makes me happy. I could choose to stand at the counter and fret about the time it takes me to chop everything, infusing that energy into the food I prepare. Or I can choose to stay present in the task at hand and recognize the beauty of the process, infusing that energy into the food I will soon consume.
When you engage in every activity in a way that is intended to help you experience and maintain a sense of peace and purpose, your spiritual practice becomes a way of life. Your own special way of living helps you to create your own unique spiritual practice. Embrace the things that bring you joy; joy is your soul's way of reminding you who you are. Get curious, creative, and playful in your exploration, and allow your spiritual practice to be an expression of who you are and where you are right now.