At various times along our mystical paths, it can prove rewarding to perform a spiritually directed experiment for a period of at least a week. Each of the activities listed below can provide meaningful and educational experiences. You can select something that builds naturally upon strengths and talents, or you can choose something that might challenge your perceived weaknesses or shortcomings. Because this is a time of experimentation, it is especially recommended that you try something significantly different from your usual practices. In any case, avoid setting yourself up for failure. It is recommended that you keep a simple log or calendar to chart your activity, and that you discuss the experiment with a mentor or spiritual friend at least once before proceeding and once upon ceasing the experiment.
Meditation or Prayer: There are many possibilities for methods of meditation and prayer, and perhaps a mentor or spiritual friend can be of help in making choices. See some options I recommend by clicking here. Select a regular place and time(s) to practice. Commit to practice once, twice or three times per day for 10, 20, 30 or 60 minutes per sitting, at least three times per week.
Devotional Ritual: Design and perform a short devotional ritual to be performed at a regular place and time(s) once or twice each day, at least three times per week. See an example by clicking here. Consider the use of elements such as these:
- An altar or shrine bearing an image and/or book you consider sacred
- Placing a fresh token of faith or thanks on the altar each time
- Bowing and/or kneeling
- Crossing yourself
- Lighting a candle and/or incense
- Ringing a bell
- A short inspirational reading
- Saying an opening and/or closing prayer
Journaling: Spend time each day recording your thoughts and feelings about your spiritual life. This can be an activity of its own, or combined with any of the others.
Reporting: This experiment can be an activity of its own, or combined with any of the others. Once or twice per week send your mentor or spiritual friend a written report of your thoughts, feelings, readings and other actions relevant to your spiritual life, and invite that person’s feedback.
Mindfulness: Find a time each day to mindfully perform a common activity, such as taking a walk, eating a meal, or completing a particular routine chore. As you perform the activity, keep focusing your attention on it, being as aware as possible of every action involved, no matter how minor or automatic it may seem. It is usually helpful to be alone in this activity.
Meditative Reading: Select inspirational material such as scripture, or spiritual poetry or lyrics to read slowly and carefully at least three times per week. Choose a short passage that captures your attention and imagination, and focus upon it more intently. Memorize it and continually return your thoughts to it until the next reading, allowing and noting all thoughts and feelings that arise in connection with it.
Nightly Review: Before you fall asleep each night, review the events of the day. The review can be from morning to night or, in reverse order, from night to morning. In either case, consider performing it with your eyes closed so that you can visualize events as you recall them.
Dream Work: Record your dreams immediately upon awakening. Consider what messages they may have about your spiritual life.
Inspirational Artwork: At least three times per week set aside time to try to artistically express your thoughts and feelings relevant to your spiritual life. This experiment can be any kind of art – drawing, painting, poetry, sculpting, music, dance, etc.
Expressing Gratitude: Tell at least one person each day how you are especially thankful for her or his presence in your life. This experiment should be done in person if possible, but can also be done by phone or mail.
Anonymous Acts of Kindness: Each day do something for another person without her or him knowing, and take precautions not to be discovered. It is much easier to do this with strangers and people you do not closely interact with on a daily basis. Try to be creative and do something that could be especially pleasing or touching to the recipient.
Virtue Commitment: Select a single virtue, continually striving to think and act in accord with it. Practice simple awareness and acceptance of your successes and your difficulties. Consult with your mentor or spiritual friend if you want help making your selection.
Sacrifice: Select a particular pleasure to forgo. Your sacrifice should be something you regularly if not habitually enjoy, and can be primarily physical, social or intellectual in nature. You might choose something you consider to be a vice, or something that seems totally innocent and even beneficial to you in some way. In any case, perform this experiment as an act of spiritual devotion, taking note of all the thoughts and feelings you have about it.