Practices

I want to live a life of spiritual expansiveness, connection, love and joy. What practices will support such a life? Is there an ecology of beneficial practices that I can dip into, practices that will give my life more of these qualities?

A thriving human life has a lot in common with an ecosystem. In both, evolution selects what works, and lets go of what doesn’t. Just as there is an interplay between animals, plants, microbes, and fungi in nature, there is an interplay between different practices in my life.

Here are my current life practices:

A note to self: these are meant to be practiced; that’s how they become real.

Core Practice: Connecting with true nature. This is fundamental to all the other practices. Savoring moments of presence, and seeking to reconnect with true nature when I get swept away in anxieties, is the main practice of my life.

4 pillars of health. These are sleep, water, food, movement. Keep an eye on these to makes sure the base of Maslow’s hierarchy is attended to, before you climb higher. Credit: Sarah Manns.

Cleaning with intention. Cleaning with the intention of making the place more beautiful, rather than “getting it done” makes cleaning a spiritual practice. “Zen made a whole spiritual path out of chores because most of life is chores,” said my meditation teacher.

Dice man, freeform travel, antilibrary. These are tools for embracing the unknown:

  • Making decisions by the roll of a dice is great for introducing a sense of kaleidoscopic possibility into life, expanding past unconscious walls of habitual thought.
  • Freeform travel, staying in hostels and meeting people from all over the world, gives this same energy: there are so many people with lives vastly different from our own who we know little about in the well-worn paths we walk.
  • Keeping an antilibrary of unread books is keeping mystery in your home. Who knows what you will find in them?

Journaling. Freeform journaling through morning pages helps foster a sense of self-honesty. Structured questions are helpful too: they are to attention what a laser pointer is to a cat. Journaling with prompts such as these or these are useful to tune the radio antenna of attention to a beneficial channel. The Stoa hosts a space every morning for collective journaling, which is pretty rad.

Affirmations in nature. Go to a tree or a rock that is meaningful to you and say this affirmation:

I am a positive, dynamic person. I think joyful thoughts. I feel joy in the present moment. The joy is in my consciousness and my body. I am a positive, joyful, and loving person. My life is overflowing with abundant good.

For a long time, I was resistant to affirmations because I thought they were inauthentic. But this affirmation does not ask me to “cover up” my negative feelings. It asks me to tune my mind to the positive ones, that are also happening in the present moment (e.g. there is always a pleasant feeling of the breath at the tip of my nose). And saying them in a natural place allows me to connect with the joy of that place. We don’t need to live in a utopian eco-village to connect with, and have gratitude for, nature. “The quality of your consciousness is more important than the ‘what’ of your life.” Credit: Medicine Walk by Laurie Lacey, page 5, and Chris McKenna.

Friend Sundays. Every Sunday, I can reach out to a long-distance friend (or local friend) to set up a date during the week. Credit: Middle Path Newsletter.

Shabbat with family on Fridays, “Church” on Sundays. Judaism provides a plethora of rich, joyful rituals to make one’s own. Shabbat is the core practice of weekly togetherness, on Fridays. I’m also going to “church” on Sundays, in the form of a meditation group called the Blue Heron Circle.

Give good vibes. In medicine, there’s a saying that if you think about doing a lumbar puncture, you should do it. I’m not sure about that, but I believe that if you think about giving, you should do it. A great thing to give is handwritten cards. But giving anything is good: flowers, food, socks, compliments, waves, pets to a cat. Spreading good vibes is good for you and good for the world. “Be selfish, help others,” as the Dalai Llama said. Credit: Brian Cornell and Play Your Way Sane.

Micro phone detoxes. I have a tendency to get addicted to my phone. Putting it in “focus mode” or hiding it is a good way to do a micro-detox, break the cycles of compulsive text checking. Credit: Siena Baldi.

Poop books. Keep a poop book library, for transformative poops. Credit: Ethan Maurice.

Symbols. Keeping symbols around is a fun way to bring the mind back to things you want to embody or remember.

Who am I? partner meditation. Ask your meditation partner “Who are you ?” and have them speak on this for 15 minutes. Then they do the same for you. A great way to ground with what is real right now, see and be seen. Credit: A Path With Heart, page 213.

Intuitive walking. Walk with no plan. Go wherever your true nature takes you. Credit: Corey Muscara. Related: intuitive movement, eating.

Tea Ceremony. This is a deep practice of non-doing, holding space for what is alive, here and now. Credit: Wu De.

Joyful movement. Dancing. Rollerskating. Acroyoga.

Tuning to the spheres. Commemorating celestial events (solstices, full moons, etc.) is a great way to remember that we are little ants on a pale blue dot. Credit: Brian CornellEthan MauriceAlex Chmeil.

Being a regular. Checking in with spaces in the neighborhood is a great way to feel like you have “embodied community.” Credit: Middle Path Newsletter.

Extended time with friends. Scheduling trips with friends is a good way to get deeper. Credit: David Perell.

(Bi) annual review. Taking time to reflect on the past year, or past six months, and set your “North Stars” for the future is a good way to stay intentional in life. Credit: Tiago Forte / David Perell / Dan Pink.

Boundaries. Still learning about this one, but boundaries are expectations that keep you safe and happy in relationships. They should be explicitly communicated. Source: Set Boundaries, Find Peace.

Sacred conduct. There are five Buddhist guidelines for sacred conduct in life. “Treat the small as large” says the Tao Te Ching. These guidelines can be practiced on a very micro-scale.

  • Life is sacred. What happens when you tenderize your heart to all living beings?
  • Not taking what isn’t given. It’s very often that an energy comes to me that says, “I’m going to just sneak this. No one will notice.” Be aware of this urge and let it go.
  • Sacred sexual conduct. Know my own and the other person’s motivations; both people should be OK with these motivations.
  • Avoid using intoxicants as a way to dissociate from experience. Intoxicants can be anything (blame, reading a book, and yes, substances).
  • Refrain from speaking untruths. Uphold a commitment to honesty within yourself, regardless of the results. This is especially important and difficult when committing to honesty would mean losing certain benefits.

Write stuff down. All productivity / organization methods boil down to this. Keep things in apps (notion, evernote, google calendar) rather than memory.

Rest. We fetishize productivity in our culture, meaning we place undo importance on it. Life is not solely about productivity. Remember to rest after the work is done.

Magazines for news. When I was a kid I got my news from Time and Newsweek, which I would read from cover to cover every week. After being overwhelmed by the 24-hour news cycle, I just resubscribed to Time. Hopefully this will keep me informed but not constantly flooded by disturbing info.

Cosmic poops. Dyenu. Chanting. Museum mode. Questions. Life admin. Guide work. Intuitive walks. More on these soon!

Five daily rememberances. I read these every morning, to undo the default script in my head that says “I am special.”

Credit to The Stoa for the term “ecology of practices.”