If I didn’t have the spiritual practices my elders taught me, I wouldn’t have survived the trials life has given me. Spiritual practice is also the path to higher human evolution, distinguishing us from the other beings who share the planet with us. Although we believe that all beings have a spiritual practice, the only being who approaches it consciously and voluntarily is the human being.

The only one who has been granted free will, the power to choose their own path, are humans. They are the only ones of the elemental, mineral, vegetable, animal or human kingdoms to be able to choose between good and evil. Therefore the ones who must be the most vigilant in their behavior. If we have the privilege of making choices, we also have the responsibility of assuming the consequences. This is what we call the law of return, the law of cause and effect, or the law of karma. We have the right to choose, but certain choices create increasingly painful suffering. Free will is the ability to experiment, to try, to touch, to discover how things work. This freedom brings responsibility and immutable consequences. In return, human beings are given the opportunity to follow the spiritual path and realize within themselves the eternal, immortal life of the awakened, liberated spirit. This is why a human life is so precious.

All species, animals, plants or minerals, and even the winds, have a spiritual practice. Birds start chirping as soon as they wake up. This morning song is different from all the others that follow throughout the day. It’s a unique prayer that the bird uses to thank Creation. Wolves, give their offering at a different time of day. Twice a day, they gather together and howl to the sky. Crystals emit a beam of light, usually once every twenty-four hours. This is their prayer. Observe the trees. Some of them will make their leaves dance at particular times of the day, even when there’s no wind. This dance is their prayer. Despite the fact that their whole life is a prayer, since they never deviate from the path laid out for them by the Great Spirit, and are constantly fulfilling their original instructions, all beings of nature nevertheless have their own way of giving thanks for the gift of life.

Spiritual practice is of paramount importance, for it gives us the clarity and mastery we need to make enlightened choices. Because for us humans, everything is really a matter of choice. Animals, plants and crystals always fulfill the Creator’s will, because they always obey natural laws. Humans alone have the power to choose. Thus, the need to refine one’s mind to have the clarity and discernment to distinguish right from wrong, good choices from those that can harm. Spiritual practice is also the path to our ultimate evolution, that of transcending human life and attaining immortality of spirit, awakened consciousness, enlightenment. The need to be reborn in a physical body will no longer be necessary. The forgetfulness that accompanies our birth in a body will no longer occur. We’ll remember all our thousands of lives in different bodies, and we’ll be able to take on a body or live as a being of light to work for the good of all beings. This will be the end of suffering and immortality in joy, peace and divine love. We are destined to be gods who can create worlds and universes. But the path begins humbly, here on earth. The path to this liberation begins with spiritual practice.

This is achieved by creating a sacred space-time in our daily lives. It consists of three activities: movement, prayer and meditation.

It’s much easier to think clearly when energies flow freely through our bodies. That’s why physical exercise is essential. The Tarahumara, a First Nation of Mexico, meditate by running. In this way, they achieve heightened states of consciousness. They can run for days on end, in the high mountains, without fatigue or hunger. There’s an Indian master, Sri Chimnoy, who teaches this path, the development of the body through sports in order to enlighten the mind and spirituality.

Those who have refined this the most are the Taoists of China. In this path, the aspirant practises martial arts for years before moving on to meditation and sutra recitation. Tai chi and chi-kung are two well-known Taoist disciplines that combine beauty and effectiveness. These are disciplines that lead to awakening by working first with the body. So, on the spiritual path, the daily practice of exercises for the body is essential. This requires daily discipline and effort.

In the practice of Native American initiatory shamanism that I received from my elders, there are sacred dances and series of stretching and breathing exercises. Some of them are available on the ancestralwisdomtoday.com website. I will be offering teachings in Septembre in Calgary, Alberta. Info will be posted here. Registering for the newsletter may be helpful if you are interested.

As a general rule, when you decide to start a spiritual discipline, it’s best to turn to the world’s great traditions and find the one that’s right for you. That way, you can be sure you’re embarking on a path that’s been tried and tested, and will produce good results. Beware of disciplines that emerge overnight and promise astonishing results in a very short space of time. Mastering any art is not achieved overnight, and none of the great masters we know became masters by taking the easy way out.

The2nd aspect of spiritual practice is prayer. Prayer is a gesture of gratitude, a way of expressing our appreciation. It’s not about asking for something, it’s about saying thank you for the gift of life. Our soul and the Creator know what we need. To keep the energy flowing, we need to say thank you. It’s a universal law. To breathe in, you have to breathe out; to receive, you have to give. What the physical universe expects from us is our expression of gratitude. You’ll see that this leads directly to joy and a right understanding of the world. Prayer also has the advantage of bringing breath control, especially prayers sung to particular rhythms. There’s an expression that says, “to sing is to pray twice.” When we recite a prayer mentally, we have a certain effect on the world. When we say it aloud, that same effect is multiplied by two. When we sing it, it’s multiplied by ten.
Practised on a regular basis, prayer allows us to purify our perceptions and helps create the right circumstances for our spiritual development.

Prayer also gives us the opportunity to purify our mistakes, and to lessen and even, in some cases, undo bad deeds committed in the past. In Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism and Native American spirituality, there are specific practices designed to achieve these ends.

The third facet of spiritual practice is meditation. True meditation is not practised, it simply happens, usually when we least expect it. True meditation is being here and now, totally invested in the present moment. Our mind then becomes able to spontaneously achieve a complete immobility that is not static, that is neutral, but that has access to all information and knowledge and knows how to act in the right way immediately. Obviously, without practice or techniques, the chances of achieving such a state are pretty slim. By creating a sacred space-time on a daily basis, we can encourage the birth of meditation and improve our brain’s functioning. Several studies have shown that the practice of meditation lowers blood pressure, boosts the body’s immunity and leads to a general state of calm. People who regularly meditate live longer.

Meditation gives us access to the source of our being, to that part of us which can do everything for us. The immortal, eternal part of our being is the soul. It’s our soul that knows better than we do what’s good for us, and which we tend not to listen to in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Returning to calm, regenerative space, to the soul that created us, enables us to be more effective when we’re busy. We waste less time and energy when we act with calm and balance. In this way, the wise person takes time every day to commune with his or her soul.

With meditation, the secret of success lies in regular exercise. One of my teachers says that meditation must become a firmly rooted habit, as stable and unchanging as the cycle of day and night. Of all spiritual practices, meditation is undoubtedly the one that most enables our spirit to shed the shadows that cover it and reveal all its inherent wisdom and primordial luminosity. But it requires a strong, healthy body and a mind purified by gratitude. Thus, all three aspects of the practice are essential.

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