The Habit of Practice

by Patty Brooke

From “Spiritual Practices – Living the Gift,” the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Reflections magazine. To read the entire issue, click here.

 

When I first hear the word “discipline,” I am taken back to my childhood days and my Father who believed in discipline — as the dictionary describes it: “behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control.”

That describes my Father and me. I had to shine my saddle oxfords every night, wash the dishes, keep my room clean, etc. before any play time was allowed. There was intentionality. Those were not awful or dreadful disciplines to cultivate, but they left me feeling rigid and rebellious.

As I have grown on my journey of spiritual disciplines, I have chosen better words with which I can resonate: spiritual practices. One of the definitions the dictionary uses to describe practice is: “habitual or customary performance; condition arrived at by experience or exercise”. If I “practice” something, it can then become a “habit.”

Why do we want to cultivate a spiritual practice or habit? I would suggest that it is to rekindle the gift of God to be in relationship. I think the key word is “rekindle.” I believe we all have a habit that we practice.

Maybe it is using words from The Book of Common Prayer (a really good resource) or other devotional books and reading from scripture. I especially like the New Zealand Book of Prayer. My husband, John, and I frequently use the Forward Movement publication “Hour by Hour” to read Morning Prayer together.

Over the last year I have rekindled the Morning Offering prayer I learned when I made my Cursillo in 1978. I have rephrased the prayer into my own words, and it is the first thing that enters my heart and mind when I awaken in the morning. It is a lovely way to begin and offer the day to God – my words: “I offer this day to the Father through my Lord and brother Jesus Christ in unity with the Holy Spirit. I unite myself in spirit and prayer with all Eucharists being celebrated this day. May the good news of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be proclaimed throughout the world.”

Over the years I have used many practices, including centering prayer and lectio divina. I also have used music — I attended a retreat where a lovely cellist was present. The moment she drew her bow across the strings, my heart and soul resonated. The music took me inward, and I was present with God. Walking is another way to rekindle your relationship. Each step can be a word said aloud or silently, maybe praying as an intercessor, saying names as you take your steps.

Sitting in a garden or on a deck or porch can regenerate your spiritual practice. We recently hung our hammock in the back yard under our pear tree, and as I lay in the hammock I watched the clouds roll by and listened to the doves as they sang their song. Being out in creation revives my very soul.

Revisit your current practice — is it connecting you to and with God? If not, try something new. Rekindle the gift God has given us of presence. Be present and open, be intentional, pay attention, be still and listen for that still small voice. Do your spiritual exercises and come to know God. As Barbara Crafton says, “All you have to do is show up!”

brooke for web
Patty Brooke

Patty Brooke is a spiritual director and retreat and workshop leader. She is a member of St. David’s, San Antonio. Reach her at pjbrooke@sbcglobal.net

 

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