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Pandemic gave us renewed connection with spiritual practice

By Susan Hawkins Sager
Special to the American-Statesman
Susan Hawkins Sager is a fellow seeker who is ordained as interfaith clergy.

In elementary school, it seemed like every year when we returned to school after summer vacation, our class always had to write a composition on “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.”

Now, at a time when we could all use some introspection, no one seems to ask us anymore. That’s alright because I already have a title in mind, “How I Survived 2020: A Year of Quarantine and Craziness.”

For most of us, grit and grace fit somewhere in the answer. For me, it was very much about the grit and grace I discovered in spiritual practice.

Growing up, I was very much convinced that spiritual practice belonged to religious leaders and a few enlightened beings. I could do what they did, but it still wasn’t really mine. 

In the end, what I discovered was that nothing could be farther from the truth. It wasn’t a matter of whether or not one belonged to a particular religious tradition or even believed in one.

Anything we treat with attention ... intention ... and commitment becomes our spiritual practice.

Now take a moment to look at your own life. Where do you find yourself focusing your attention, as well as investing your intention and commitment? For many of us, fear and resignation are our default spiritual practices. That is where our center of gravity often lies. Compare that to the real power that patience, gratitude, forgiveness, reverence and simplicity hold. 

Perhaps, you are familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s book, "The Outliers," and its analysis of what success requires. In his book, Gladwell asserts that true mastery of any skill set requires something like 10,000 hours of practice. 

Gladwell’s statement really grabbed my attention. The notion of “mastery” is ultimately irrelevant to spiritual practice. It ties us to the outcome of whatever we do — whether or not it succeeds. That is not the real reason that we do whatever we do. Simply put: We do it because we’ve been asked to do it.

The 10,000 hours of practice does have value though. It develops focus and underscores our sense of relationship and connection.

In the end, that is everything.

Spiritual practice is not a guarantee, though. It is not an insurance policy that nothing bad will ever happen. (Although some people think of it that way.)

What it does give us is strength and solace; the perspective and promise that no matter what happens, we are never alone. God is with us. And that is everything.

Susan Hawkins Sager is a fellow pilgrim and long-time resident of Austin. She is the recent author of "Finding Our Way: A Guide to Deepening Spiritual Practice," published by a division of Hay House.