Our spiritual practice is a unique, often intimate way we strive to feel connected to the divine. It can (and should) encompass several different types of actions all geared toward cultivating a more connected, softer, healthier way of life—for both body and spirit.
In recent months, I’ve had the opportunity to share some of my practices and want to share them again here, in a more public forum. I find it intensely interesting and often helpful to learn how other people cultivate spirituality in their lives, and hope you will find in these something new you can put into practice—or an old practice to renew that perhaps you’ve forgotten.
To that end, I’m dedicating my next few articles to cornerstones of my personal spiritual practice. I don’t do all of these every day—but I find adding a few of these things to my routine each day makes me feel much more centered, able to tackle the challenges that life brings, and enables me to do so with gratitude and joy.
So enjoy the read—and take what you like, and leave the rest. Keep in mind there are as many ways to implement these as there are people—so add your own unique twist where you see fit, and adopt these as your own, if you so choose. And, it would be great if you’d share your experience (or your favorite practice) with me and those who read this—you never know who might be looking for exactly what you have.
And besides, the one sure way I’ve learned to keep my spiritual gifts is to give them away.
The God Box
I have a confession.
There used to be a time in my life when I would spend countless hours in worry, fear, and dread. It could be about something as simple as a trip to the grocery store, or something as profound as the loss of a loved one.
It’s as if I imagined I had a license to “pre-worry.” For example, when my Father was sick and in declining health, I thought if I obsessed long and hard enough about his impending death I would be better equipped to handle it when that eventuality finally occurred.
But I wasn’t. All I did was rob myself of the opportunity to be present in the moment, and live life to its fullest one day at a time.
I'd always liked the idea of being able to turn over my worries and concerns to my Savior, but I didn't have any idea how to actually to it. Then I discovered a secret weapon to release myself from obsessive thought and worry: The God Box. The premise is simple—write my worry down on a piece of paper, and tuck it into a box, and allow God to take it.
For my first God Box, I chose a box a friend had given me as a gift. It originally contained greeting cards, which made me feel like it was already full of good karma—giving and gratitude. When I first began using it, I felt I needed to write out my worry or concern in detail. I’d then open the box, place the piece of paper inside, close my eyes and utter a quiet prayer to my Savior—detailing my fears, and asking him to take the worry from me. Independent of my concern, my message to my Savior was almost always the same: I can’t handle this. You can. I choose to let you.
And with that, I close the lid of the box and put it back on the shelf in my office, growing more and more content in the knowledge that my worry or my loved one was safely in the hands of a power greater than me—a power that could actually affect the outcome.
It took awhile for this practice to really take hold in my life. At first, I’d fight it—even after I’d dropped my note into the box, I’d find the obsessive worry creeping back into my head, disturbing my peace. When that happened, I’d consciously bring myself into the present moment—the feel of the keyboard under my fingers, the warmth of the shirt on my back, purposefully inhaling and exhaling. Becoming aware of my present surroundings often helped me bring myself back into the present moment. And then, I’d gently remind myself I don’t have to worry about that particular problem today—my Savior was handling it on my behalf.
Over time, I began to understand that I could just write down the general nature of my worry without all the detail—for example, maybe I’d just write “Dad” on a slip of paper and tuck it into the box, instead of outlining all the possible things that may or may not happen. Then, with my box open in my lap, I’d drop “Dad” into the box and verbally share my list of hopes, concerns, and fears with my Savior—again, with the simple message that I was letting my Savior handle the things I could—and should—not.
Many people I’ve talked to who use the God Box as part of their spiritual practice have told me they started with minor worries—a presentation at work, a trip to the dentist—developing the habit of turning over smaller, everyday problems made it easier to turn over life’s more difficult challenges. For me, the opposite was true: I needed to turn over the major troubles first—those were the ones that really robbed me of my sanity. But over time, and with practice, I built enough faith in this process to turn over smaller concerns, as well.
Before I sat down to write this post, I opened my God Box and took a look inside: hundreds of private prayers and a few photos of loved ones from the past greeted me. As I looked through them, I was surprised at how many of my prayers had been answered—maybe not in the way I expected or necessarily even wanted, but they had been answered, just the same.
I think one of the greatest things about the God Box is you can use it independent of your interpretation of God. As a Mormon, I choose to turn my challenges over to my Savior—but you can use it to turn things over to any power greater than yourself: Buddha, the universe, Allah—the name you call it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the act of giving away things that trouble you. And in doing so, you’ll find the peace that comes from experiencing what is, and allowing a power greater than yourself determine what will be.
Now, it’s your turn. How has the God Box helped you?