August 22, 2010

Forty Days Is All It Takes to Change Your Life

After nearly thirty years practicing science, Raima (@raimalarter) is excited to be embarking on a whole new career focused on the spiritual practices of writing and yoga. Here, she explains how this dramatic change in her life began. You can read more from Raima on her blog, Complexity Simplified.

About five years ago, after a serious accident requiring major surgery, followed by a diagnosis of an unrelated but equally serious illness requiring daily medication, I came to my senses and realized I needed to pay attention to my body. Daily.

I’d been an on-again, off-again yoga student for years and heard one teacher after another say, “You will never experience the power of yoga until you establish your own daily practice.” So, I decided I'd try.

I got up a half hour earlier each day, spread out my yoga mat and sat there trying to remember how to do the postures. It was hard without my teacher nearby, so I got books that I glanced at often, sometimes from an upside-down position, and I kept at it. I’d heard it takes 30 or 40 days before a repeated activity becomes a habit, so each day I took out my mat and got down on the floor, I put a check mark on my calendar.

Then, one day, after several successful weeks, I slept through my alarm and in my hurry to get to work and some important meeting (that I now remember nothing about) I skipped my yoga practice. I felt off all day. I was distracted, annoyed by everybody and everything. I didn’t make the connection until I glanced at my calendar: the coveted check mark was missing. And I knew I’d received an important lesson about establishing a spiritual practice: do it every day and soon you cannot live without it.

The Virtual Abbey provides opportunities for daily spiritual practice through prayer with others on Twitter, but I believe it’s important to include some solitude and “listening to God” time as well. For me, physical movement is essential to settling my mind enough to enter into a space where I can really listen. Reading scripture or following a book of daily meditations might work better for you.

A daily spiritual practice doesn’t have to occur in the morning and doesn’t need to consume a lot of time — regular attention is the most important aspect. You’ll receive the most benefit if you do it every day and it may help to keep track. Try putting a check mark on your calendar or, better yet, get a package of sticky gold stars and place one on each day you say your prayers.

Be realistic! It’s better to sit in silence for five minutes every day than to ambitiously establish an hour-long meditation you can sustain for only a few days. Find a spiritual practice that feeds you. Your way of praying may be different from mine or the next person’s, but there will be a way that works for you and you will find it. Then, try it for forty days and let us know how it goes!

Find the image here.

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