Prayer, meditation, yoga, whirling, Tai Chi and Tantra … these are just a few examples of spiritual practices from around the world. These practices run the gamut from simple breathing techniques to complicated rituals that involve the body, the mind and words or chants. Regardless of faith, culture or place of origin, all world religions have spiritual practices as a part of their tradition.
What is a spiritual practice? Basically it’s any act or habit done with the intention and purpose of cultivating a greater connection with God/Source/Divine/Spirit. In the major world religions, spiritual practices are often only performed regularly by the mystics. For example, Islam’s Sufis or Hinduism’s yoginis. Here’s a short run-down of some of the best know spiritual practices of the world.
In the simplest terms, there are two forms of prayer -one of communion and thanksgiving for God/Source, and one of beseeching aid. In the deepest sense, prayer is your daily ‘chat’ with the Divine. But there’s often a misunderstanding about prayer and for many not on a personal growth path, prayer is, in essence, akin to a child asking big-daddy-god for this, that and the-other. But prayer that empowers is another thing all together. Prayer that is communion, communication and appreciation opens the door for spiritual illumination in a way that groveling or beseeching an omnipotent, external source never can.
The word ‘yoga’ comes from the ancient Sanskrit term which means to ‘yoke’ the spirit to the body. While there are plenty of nuevo-yoginis today focused more on fitness, yoga’s original purpose was to bring the practitioner into deep alignment with the god-head via focused, disciplined and daily practice.
Meditation is a form of spiritual practice followed by a number of different traditions, although many of us are most familiar with the various Buddhist sects of meditation such as Zen or Tibetan. The purpose of meditation is to disconnect from the ego-mind’s incessant chatter and reunite with conscious awareness itself. In doing this, we move into a level of deep peace that’s sometimes referred to as ‘spaciousness’ or even ‘the mind of God’.
Much like yoga only stemming from the traditions of China and the Far East, Tai Chi is a form of movement that pulls together both spirit and body. Also like yoga, there are great physiological benefits to a daily Tai Chi practice and in most parts of the Far East today you can still find many, many Chinese elders practicing in public places each morning.
The Whirling Dervishes make up a very small percentage of the Islamic faith. There practice, however, involves more than just spinning around. There are a very careful set of protocols, chants, invocations and body postures involved with Sufi Spinning but the intent, as will all spiritual practices, is the same – to connect directly with the Divine/Allah/Source.
Tantra has its earliest roots in Hinduism, but the practice has been shared and spread by Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism alike. The term Tantra has a variety of meanings as well as a collection of different practices. Essentially though, The art of Tantra is one in which the practitioner seeks access to the divine through the physical body. (Yes, this includes – but isn’t limited to – sex :))
Do you have a daily spiritual practice? Do you have more than one? How does it deepen your connection with God/Source/Divine/Spirit? leave us a comment and let us know.