“You haven’t practiced, have you?” I can still hear Mrs. Baumann’s stern voice, calling me to task for showing up unprepared for my weekly piano lesson. After reprimanding me for wasting her time and my parents’ money, she curtailed the lesson and banished me to the front porch to await my ride home. I never missed practice again.
There were, I suppose, all sorts of reasons for skipping piano practice at the time. I was in high school and any number of distractions drew me away from an hour at the keys, running through scales or revisiting the measure that tripped me up time and again. As any musician, artist, or athlete knows, however, shortchanging one’s practice results in a steady loss of proficiency. Mrs. Baumann was justified in sending me out to ponder my situation. I was frittering away not only her time, but also my own.
Spiritual practice works the same way. While responsibilities towards family, work, or ministry might seem to justify an erratic prayer life, the truth is that we need a regular practice in order to better meet them. Dr. Martin Luther King understood this. When asked by a reporter how he accomplished so much in the course of a day, Dr. King responded, “I give my first hour to God and God gives me the rest.” Regular practice provides an essential stability and grounding. Without it, we’ll only skim the surface of a deeply spiritual life.
This doesn’t mean our practicing should be a trial. Mrs. Baumann used to tell me I had an ear for Gershwin, my favorite composer. Playing one of his compositions was never a chore. My mother – a far more accomplished pianist than me – played Debussy with an ease that made the music all the more exquisite. Each of us had a different way of approaching the same instrument. So it is with practicing spirituality. Finding the one best attuned to our lives and preferences plucks a string in the heart that reverberates with beauty and grace.
In my next few blogs I am going to examine some of the spiritual practices that have meant something to me over the years. I hope you’ll join me and perhaps submit a few ideas about practices that draw forth the music of your own soul.
Spiritual Practices List
Celebrate the Easter season by reflecting on the readings for each week. Share activities with your students or family.
Use my 7 Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life to reflect on a practice that is meaningful to you. Share the spiritual practices list in your home or parish as a way to initiate a discussion around “best practices” for the heart and soul.