When something on the scale of Hurricane Sandy, and even of lesser magnitude happens, where do spiritual practices belong or fit? When is the right time to even think about such things?

Our tendency, which is a result of ego-mind being such a dictator in our lives, is to study spiritual practices so our ego can feel more comfortable in the midst of routine daily life experiences, instead of so that the true spiritual beings we are can be strong participants with life rather than in contrast with it. You know, as I do, that a lot of marketing messages for Law of Attraction and other practices, as well as the reason some people study them, are more often than not focused on the money, the car, the house…the flashy things. Those are certainly beneficial and enjoyable effects, but the Practice is designed to be about something deeper.

When something like this storm happens, one thing that’s offered to us is an invitation to re-evaluate what our priorities are, who and what we value, who and what we appreciate, and who we are and how we relate to the world outside of our own circumscribed one, as well as within it. We are invited to look at whether or not we stand strong in or draw strength from our spiritual practices or if they are more a form of mental massage ego-mind falsely believes is a real practice, a practice more about having than being. I know how strong that sounds, but in my opinion, that best fits how many approach spiritual practices. Such practice does not strengthen the individual for daily life or more serious events.

Jack Kornfield in After the Ecstasy, the Laundry wrote: “Again, the lesson of spiritual practice is not about gaining knowledge, but about how we love.” Kornfield is correct, in my opinion: Spiritual practices are intended to be ultimately about love…of others, the gift of precious life, and ourselves. They are meant to be about strengthening ourselves and our connection to these. It probably won’t be called or thought of as spiritual practice, but the responders in such events as this storm, both official and members of local and far-reaching communities, demonstrate spiritual connection when they risk their lives to save others or, sadly, retrieve them for their loved ones to lay to rest, or to salvage what they can for people who’ve lost the physical representations of their lifetime of experiences and memories. It’s a spiritual practice that often operates under a different label such as civil service.

Compassion is a spiritual practice. Empathy is a spiritual practice. Giving is a spiritual practice. Faithful (not fearful) prayer or meditation is a spiritual practice. Working to get the power back on and services back up; suspending fees for buses, subways, and trains; inviting people to charge their phones and other electronics from your power source and using any donations made to further help others; cooking all the food in your restaurant coolers and feeding anyone who needs it for whatever donation they make or for free; wading in waist-high water at night during a super-storm to get to work to help officials know what’s going on with highways and roadways for rescue and recovery efforts, like one of my NYC girlfriends did; or as one support worker said, “We’re providing hugs, food, and shelter.” Her spiritual aspect put hugs first, not that the others aren’t vital; but we rely on each other for comfort more than we usually realize in such times, and in daily life, which we sometimes forget to offer. On and on I could go, but ALL of these listed and more are spiritual practices, whether we recognize this or not.

Tragic events happen all over the planet every day. Sadly, most of them are manmade. But the point is that spiritual practices, or the Practice, exist not so we can escape life, but so we can navigate it and contribute meaning and in meaningful ways to it. It’s so we can be kinder to each other because we realize all of us, each of us, every one of us experiences trials and tribulations or challenges at one time or another, of lesser and greater measure. We share the human experience at all times, not just during tragedies.

What exactly is the Practice? It’s choosing awareness. It’s choosing peace. It’s choosing inner peace even while you feel compassion and take action and mourn and heal. It’s not needing to understand why something happened, but, once the initial shock eases somewhat, looking at what-is and going forward. It’s what helps you to not have a fist fight out of frustration at the gas pumps during such times, but to do what the son of another friend did. After waiting two and a half hours in line, he learned the woman ahead of him realized she didn’t have her purse. He (with kindness and compassion, not anger) paid for her gas and told her to pay it forward and help someone when she could. Ego-mind wants to judge the fighter as bad and the payer as good. Spirit doesn’t judge or label either, but sends both loving energy so one has the ability to continue to choose to help others and so the other has the ability to choose to do better. It’s helpful to remember something from The Course in Miracles: “All unloving behavior is a cry for healing and help.”

The image of a funnel came to mind. Someone with more funds (the wider part of the funnel) will not have the same experience of life challenges as someone with less. Someone who wasn’t as affected by a tragedy isn’t going to have the same experience of it as those who lost someone or lost everything material or nearly everything. And the immediate focus of each will be different. It’s the same for spiritual strength: those who nurture their Practice will have a different experience of daily life and more difficult times.

But be clear: All of us feel the pain of loss. The Practice doesn’t mean you don’t experience emotions; it just means you process, perceive, and respond and even rebound differently at the inner level first, which influences the outer, than those with less or no spiritual practice as their foundation, once you can take a deep breath after the initial shock begins to wear off. Moving forward is the only way to go, but mourning loss takes the time it takes. The Practice can soften this, can strengthen you and can help you help others.

True spiritual practice is not part of what we’re taught by the mainstream, and perhaps not even by our families; so the responsibility is on us to include it in our lives. Maybe that’s best because the Practice is such a personal experience. The Practice is meant to help us expand the presence of Universal Consciousness (or God, etc.) in us and how we express that presence in us in our daily life and in extreme times.

Where is spiritual practice’s place when tragedy occurs? The same place as in daily life: In us. We, as individuals, and we, as humanity, would benefit from realizing this is what our Practice is about. Yes, manifest or attract whatever you need or would enjoy, but don’t stop there, on the surface of the Practice. Go deeper. This is what helps you to be and stay strong when an event turns your life or the lives of those you care about, or even those on the other side of the planet you don’t know, upside down. The Practice helps you BE. It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.

Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer

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Author's Bio: 

Joyce Shafer is a Life Empowerment Coach dedicated to helping people feel, be, and live their true inner power. She’s author of “I Don’t Want to be Your Guru” and other books/ebooks, and publishes a free weekly online newsletter that offers empowering articles and free downloads. See all that’s offered by Joyce and on her site at http://stateofappreciation.weebly.com/guest-articles.html