Contemplative Monk : Intentional Spirituality Transforms

Putting The Spirit Back into Spiritual Practice



Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries, 
And daub their natural faces unaware. ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Beginning at the Beginning

When we approach spiritual practice, the best place to start with is with our spirit. Spiritual practice is practicing our spirit after all. Sounds obvious, and it should be.

A lot of us in the West get all dismissive and glassy-eyed when you start talking this way. It’s because of our linear way of thinking and our cultural preconceptions dismiss spirit out of hand so that anything spiritual tends to slip through our fingers. We don’t get it. We see without seeing.

On top of that, everybody’s got their own preconceptions and experiences that usually drown out the reality of our spiritual life. We’re dismissive. We’re trained to be our own worst enemy, and it’s generations deep. We’ve got to go counter-cultural here. Let’s move into Radical Grace.

So Let’s Begin

Let’s take a deep breath, and begin right here…with our breath.

Breath in Hebrew is Ruach meaning wind, breath, spirit, or life.  Greek: pneuma, Chinese: chi, and many other cultures have this same spiritual worldview.

If you would, take a couple of deep breaths, and slowly breath out. Experience it, don’t analyze it….O taste and see

Breathing is a spiritual practice. 

Why? As you become conscious of your breathing, can’t you feel the energy, the life coursing through you? Breath, spirit , and life are all interconnected. In essence, they are one.

We can actually move from our body into our spirit by being aware of our breath, thus by-passing that big brain filter of ours.

When we center into our spirit, our awareness is prominent, but we don’t totally lose our ordinary mind or way of thinking. It just becomes subordinate or secondary to our spirit. If you get this, you will soon see how important it is to coming into the presence of God.

Here’s Some Background

When Jesus breathed on his disciples saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and when Jesus says, “my words are spirit and they are life,” he is touching at the very fiber of our being. Because God himself breathed the breath of life into the clay creating the first human being.

We tend to make it all mystical, religious, or emotional, and it is. But it’s more. So much more.

God is Spirit, and when God meets us, or touches us, or speaks to us, it’s in our spirit, first and foremost. Our spirit’s native realm is eternity.

When Mary says, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Notice that Mary’s soul is magnifying what her spirit has already experienced. And so it is with us. Our soul expands and enlarges what has taken place in our spirit. Take note: Only our spirit can enlarge our soul.

It has been said,  ‘we are a spirit that inhabits a body and has a soul.’ Created in the image of God, we like God, are a triune being, spirit, soul and body.

Here’s The Point

When our spiritual practice is done in and though our soul, ie. our reason, our thoughts, and our emotions, it’s a mess. It’s not the way we’re designed to work. And if we think we’re making progress, we’re only fooling ourselves. Everybody can see it, and here’s why. We can’t ask our soul to do what only our spirit can do, and that’s commune with God.

When our soul leads, it’s tainted with our broken, fallen, and emotionally dysfunctional self. And the worst part of it is, that’s a lot of the Bible teaching and training we get, is soul-centered, with the purpose of getting our old self back on the road to recovery. Scripturally, there’s only one solution. We’ve got to die to ourself daily, and a hundred times a day if need be. That little voice that’s always running in the background has to be calmed and still.  It’s why monks pray morning, noon, and night, so that we might tune our spirit to God’s Spirit. Then we will resonate with the vibration of heaven.

It’s even in the eastern faiths. In eastern thought, they teach that before you really begin, you’ve got to empty yourself. That’s another way of saying the old self must die, or get out of the way. You can’t make your old self whole or holy in God’s presence. Got it? I hope so, because it’s probably the biggest mistake that religion teaches us in practicing our faith, and it leavens almost every spiritual Christian tradition. Our outside in approach to spiritual life fails us every time.

Dying To Live

We die to ourselves so that we might live to God or better yet, mutually dwelling together. The Christ life is an incarnational life, Christ in us. But to make it possible we must put our spirit first.

Until we die to ourselves, our soul won’t allow you to put your spirit first.

It will argue with you all day long, your whole life long. It will sideline you in a gerbil wheel, doing all kinds of ‘great things for God’.

There’s a huge difference between working for God and working in God. ‘For’ is from a position of lack to gain something, while ‘in’ is from a position of abundance.

We are called and given an abundant life to live in Jesus. Joy and a full heart is the fragrance of the life of God. Take note of that. Discernment is like having a discerning nose.

Here’s the kicker.

It’s Not Up To Us To Do It

You see, it’s not up to us. It never was and it never will be. So take a deep breath and relax.

When Jesus cried, “It is finished.” It was. Now it’s our job to allow God to work in and through us in the transforming love and life of Jesus.

As we abide in the vine, God can do wonders.

Spiritual life is always, always, always an inside out life…the eternity of God working out into our time, and space world.

This is what Jesus meant when he said: Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. (Click to check out the rest of Jesus promise)

O.K? Let’s practice our spirit.



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