An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching. – Mahatma Gandhi
Concert pianist Arthur Rubenstein was walking down the street in Manhattan when a tourist stopped him and asked, “do you know the way to Carnegie Hall?” And Rubenstein reportedly replied, “practice, practice, practice!”
Do you know the way to develop a deeper relationship with the Divine? Same answer.
Now Rubenstein was certainly thinking of the piano (or any other artistic pursuit), but what are the spiritual practices that lead us closer to God? My crackpot theory is that absolutely anything may become a spiritual practice if done with intention. But not all so-called spiritual practices are created equal, so let’s take a look at the spiritual practices of Jesus.
In the Biblical witness, Jesus feeds, prays, heals, loves, and forgives. What is remarkable about all these spiritual practices as Jesus did them is that he chose to love his enemies, forgive those who were difficult to forgive, and fed and healed among the most despised outcasts of his society. And when Jesus managed to get away from the disciples and the crowds to pray, he chose places of quiet contemplation that were a great contrast to the busy and bustling settings of his healing, feeding, forgiving ministry.
The central miracle of the Jesus story, in my view, is that God took human form. God took on a body like mine, like yours with all of its problems and joys and need for spiritual practice. Bodies learn and grow through practice. Just like it takes a lot of repetition and tedious, physical practice to learn to play a Bach suite on the piano, we need to engage our full selves, our body-spirits in order to live a life in communion with the Divine.
What spiritual practices do you do regularly? Do you pray on a regular basis? How do you pray? Do you get on your knees, sit on a zafu, go to a special place, listen to music, what do you do when you pray?
There are no correct or wrong answers to these questions. But simply asking the question is not enough, as beings who live in bodies, we must practice, practice, practice.