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Simple practices to cultivate spirituality
Simple practices such as taking breaks and allowing yourself to simply be can help people connect to something beyond themselves and to be more spiritual. Photo © Canyon Ranch.

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SENSE OF PURPOSE is one of the integrative approaches to health in the Canyon Ranch Institute Life Enhancement Program. Sense of purpose is an essential ingredient in a healthy lifestyle, because it gives direction and meaning to our lives. It can be a big idea or a small idea, like helping the world to be a better place; or simply being a good friend, parent, or neighbor.

Many people long to connect to “something” beyond themselves and to be more spiritual. That leads to the big question: How? Julie Haber, M.Div., director of Spiritual Wellness at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, often gives this simple prescription for finding your Sense of Purpose: “Pay attention.” There are lots of ways to pay attention – being mindful, present, aware, or “in the moment.” Feeling empathy and compassion also offer sense of purpose, as does being contemplative.

Julie explains that an exploration of spirituality is something from which anyone can benefit. Spirituality does not require any specific beliefs or religion – although those who have a connection with faith will often feeling a deepening of their path. Julie explains: “Spirituality is knowing who you really are and connecting with something larger than yourself. Some people believe it’s God or Spirit or the Source of all that is.

Many people take comfort in having a spiritual connection during challenging or stressful times. Others need to be part of a spiritual community, or draw comfort from sacred rituals. You can view spirituality as an alignment of your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual parts coming together. It can mean your relationships work better, you’re doing work that’s aligned with your soul and is meaningful to you, and you are living more connected with your true purpose.”

If you’d like to begin or continue on a spiritual path, Julie recommends these simple practices:

Allow yourself to simply be. Are you always doing – for your spouse, your kids, your boss, even total strangers? Try just being. The ability to enjoy periods of solitude is a gift worth cultivating. It allows you to reflect, relax, unplug from distracting technology and get in touch with your innermost thoughts and feelings.

Practice body awareness. Do distracting thoughts pile up in your mind as you go about daily tasks – chores, driving, eating, or preparing for sleep? Try connecting to the present. Simple, mundane acts like cooking and eating a meal can be immensely soothing, pleasurable and, yes, even spiritually nourishing, when we learn to be fully present in our bodies.

Take periodic breaks if you have a sitting job. Tied to a desk all day long? Allow yourself to pull away now and then. Get up, walk outside, and look at a tree for five minutes. Stop to chat with a co-worker who may be having a bad day. Practice deep breathing. Mini-breaks can refresh and recharge your spirit.

Let go of the belief that you're in control. Trust in the process of life unfolding as it should. There are lessons within unexpected events you encounter every day. To trust the process means experiencing life without needing to know the how or why. Listen, and learn.

Open yourself to life's mysteries. Allow yourself to be amazed at even the little things – you’ll experience a satisfying sense of connection to the universe.

Take responsibility of your own peace of mind. Renouncing victimhood is empowering, as is realizing that another person’s actions cannot “make you” miserable. Embracing a spirit of forgiveness means you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy – and set yourself free to move on to more important stuff.

Be conscious of the people all around you. Every interaction with another human being has the potential to expand your spirit. Don’t be that person who floats along in your own personal bubble. Spare a kind word for the frustrated mom struggling with her antsy toddler. Compliment a friend on her new hairstyle. Smile and say “good morning” to a stranger – it costs nothing and will brighten the day for both of you.

Create a spiritual practice. You don’t have to run away to a mountaintop in Tibet. Meditation, yoga, prayer, and tai chi are wonderful, but creative pursuits like music, art, or journaling also can be a means to explore your inner self and achieve personal growth. To create is a spiritual act.

Adapted from Canyon Ranch Connection. Used with permission.