What are Spiritual Disciplines, and Why are They Important Today?, Part 1

In this series we describe the practice of spiritual discipline, the important health and lifestyle benefits that result from having a spiritual practice, and a ‘how-to’ on kick-starting your practice. Here is part 1 of our 2-part series…

Every religion incorporates spiritual disciplines into their system or custom of worship. Spiritual disciplines are actions designed to strengthen and deepen a person’s relationship with higher power. Often referred to as Spiritual Practices they can include a wide range of activities. Some Catholics pray the rosary, while many Jewish people eat Kosher. Some Buddhists practice yoga, while some faiths consider T’ai chi a spiritual practice.

Adding a discipline to your routine means you are inviting change, but you are also adding stability to your life. During the current pandemic, the only constant is change. Change can feel disruptive until we have adjusted to it. While you are acclimating to these new arrangements, now is a good time to consider beginning a spiritual discipline.

If we look at the definition of discipline (dĭs′ə-plĭn) noun; means: “training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement.”

And, if we also look at the definition of spiritual (spĭr′ĭ-cho͞o-əl) adjective it means: 1. Relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not material; supernatural 2. Concerned with, or affecting the soul. 3. Not concerned with material or worldly things. 4. Belonging to a religion; sacred.

A spiritual discipline is training that will help us acquire the nature of spirit, more concern for the soul, less concern about worldly things, and a greater sense of the sacred.

We may think of spiritual disciplines as something only monks do in their cloistered monastery cells. However, they provide some important health and lifestyle benefits that anyone can gain regardless of their religious beliefs.

Science Validates Spiritual Discipline

Rupert Sheldrake, author of Science and Spiritual Practices, validates with scientific research that seven spiritual practices provide resounding physical and mental health benefits. The seven spiritual disciplines he identifies are: 1) Meditation, 2) Gratitude, 3) Connecting with Nature, 4) Relating to Plants, 5) Rituals, 6) Singing & Chanting, and 7) Pilgrimage & Holy Places.

Many traditional Christian spiritual disciplines are similar to the ones Sheldrake validates in his research. Prayer is a form of ritualistic meditation; Celebration is often through song and recitations.

The purpose of spiritual discipline is to help us develop inner strength and growth. Through discipline, we bolster our ability to receive insight, remain centered and unaffected by external events and be courageous in accepting the things we cannot change. When this happens, we create more space in the mind for joy and compassion.

At OHI, we practice 24 ancient spiritual disciplines to help our guests purify their bodies, quiet their minds, and renew their spirits.

These include: Daily Common Worship, Recollected Prayer, Spiritual Reading, Spiritual Direction, Meditation, Bodily Exercise, Fasting, Spiritual Journaling, Cleansing, Solitude, Confession, Celebration, Noticing God, Silence, Frugality, Service, Prayer, Community (Fellowship), Vocal Toning, Submission, Study, Simplicity, Alms Giving, and Guidance.

Join us next week for the second part of this article where we expand on a few of our favorite spiritual practices


Science and the Spiritual Disciplines: Silence by Anjeanette Roberts, reasons.org, January 19, 2017

An Introduction to the Spiritual Disciplines by Brett and Kate McKay, artofmanliness.com, May 28, 2018

The Spiritual Disciplines: Simplicity by Brett & Kate McKay, artofmanliness.com, May 28, 2018

How to Practice the Spiritual Discipline of Journaling by Trina Dofflemyer, rzim.org, no date provided


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Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org, or call us at (800) 588-0809
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