Writing as a Spiritual PracticeJan 27, 2023
I have long regarded writing as a spiritual practice. A word lover from way back, putting pen to paper is like prayer for me. How might you add writing to your basket of spiritual practices?
According to Wikipedia, a spiritual practice can be defined thusly: “A spiritual practice or spiritual discipline (often including spiritual exercises) is the regular or full-time performance of actions and activities undertaken for the purpose of cultivating spiritual development...."
I’ve recently read Cynthia Bourgeault’s book Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening. What an insightful book, about centering prayer as well as living an intentional and well-grounded life. I was struck by how much of what she says about centering prayer can relate to writing as a spiritual practice.
Writing as a spiritual practice has several things in common with centering prayer: Intention is key, and you must be willing to sit in silence and to be willing to keep returning. Return to your voice, return to your inner stirrings, return to your relationship with the Divine. As in centering prayer, when writing as a spiritual practice we are still, we are open, we don’t pass judgment. We return to the page, not in search of answers necessarily, but willing to ask the questions.
Writing as a spiritual practice is not about product; it’s about process: the process of discovery and the process of relationship: with yourself and with the Divine. There’s no agenda, no outline, no concern about blog followers or publication opportunities. There is you, and the page, and your God. And the returning, again and again, to the language of silence.
Some ways to begin using writing as a spiritual practice might include:
- Using prompts with theological themes. Write about your baptism, your conversion experience, your turning away from religion. Write about the first time you experience forgiveness.
- Sit in silence and respond to what bubbles up
- Spend time in nature
- “Dear God”
- Write your prayers
- List what your’re grateful for
- Question the Mystery
- Listen: to yourself, the world around you, the Divine within
- Engage with religious writers who have gone before you or current theologians
What might you do with such a practice? Use it to know yourself better, to grow closer to God, and to witness to the world as you share your stories with others. Writing as a spiritual practice can help you hear, and really listen to, that still small voice that often gets drowned out by the world or stuffed down by our own unwillingness to entertain it. Use the page for that. Use the page for your questions, your longings, your wonderings about God. Take all of it to the page. Treat your writing as a sacred act, worthy of your time, your energy, and your heart. Like prayer.
So, what is it to write as a spiritual practice? Here’s what one of my mentors, Pat Schneider, saidd about it:
“It is to open ourselves to mystery. Goethe said, when we are truly committed, Providence moves, too. It is the courage to imagine a universe in which everything is alive, everything is in dialogue, everything is suffused with mystery. And by whatever name we call it—the mystery is personal. It is dialogical. Its language is in event, in laughter, in playing with us through synchronicity….We are free. Nothing is required of us, except that we pay attention.
“So pay attention. Every blade of grass, every whiff of breeze whispers. Listen.”
Give it a try. Start with several minutes of silence and then begin writing about whatever is on your heart. Maybe use one of the suggestions noted above. Don’t censor yourself, and don’t worry about what you’re writing. Just write. Go for about 15 minutes. Chances are, as you write, one thing will lead to another and another and another. Follow where it takes you. Close your writing time with an additional few minutes of silence.
I hope you might find this practice helpful. Below are a few resources for you to consult if you’re interested. Please reach out if you’d like to discuss this sometime.
Amy-Lyles Wilson, Wisdom Tree Instructor and Mentor
Writing as a Spiritual Practice Resources
Natalie Goldberg, The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language
Karen Hering, Writing to Wake the Soul: Opening the Sacred Conversation Within
Pat Schneider, How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice
Dan Wakefield, The Story of Your Life: Writing a Spiritual Autobiography
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