The spiritual and physical realms intertwine on earth through human consciousness. Our consciousness is spiritual energy choosing to experience physical limitations and the lessons those limitations bring. Being “on planet” requires appreciation for the challenge of spirit and physical bodies intertwining. There are many physical practices that can help make this merging more positive. This article will explore various physical practices that include spiritual focus.
Prayer is perhaps the oldest of physical practices. We may not immediately think of it as a physical practice, but more of a mental one. However, if we “step back” and observe prayer as an “onlooker”, we will see different ways people position themselves or follow ritual movements. The act of praying is as much physical as it is mental.
Whether you kneel, bow your head, close your eyes, place your hands together, rub a rosary, or take elaborate steps to physically align the body with the words for the prayer, you engage in physical actions to enhance your spiritual focus. When performing a prayer, repeating certain actions reinforce the mind’s preparedness and delivery of the prayer, so you can get the maximum spiritual benefit from praying.
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The physical ritual is a sign of respect for the process. A sacred process can be simple, but it cannot be frivolous. However, the more elaborate the process, the more focus it can provide if you can move past the need to remember steps and just do the ritual. In a similar vein, getting the full value out of tarot or oracle cards requires you to move beyond looking up interpretations in the book or pamphlet that comes with the cards. You must internalize the meanings of the cards just like you need to perform a prayer technique without thinking about it.
Meditation is different from prayer because the goal is to clear the mind in order to use focus elsewhere, after the meditation process. Meditation is a physical process because you want to have your body removed from your awareness so that when you reengage with your body, you are much more fully aware of it and yourself.
Breathing techniques help achieve the meditative state and are great examples of a physical practice for spiritual focus. One such technique involves taking deep breaths by counting a certain number with the breath in and the same number with the breath out. The deeper you breathe, the longer the count. Ideally, you want to find a rhythm in your breathing that is deep and comfortable so you can stop counting and just “be in your breath”.
A common sitting position for meditation is the lotus position in yoga, which is its own category. Whether you sit in the lotus position or another position, stilling the body so that your mind does not have to spend energy “thinking” about your balance helps you achieve the meditative state. Even lying down can work.
Also, a physical activity that repeats can help you enter the meditative state, like running a long-distance or swimming laps in a pool. Once you achieve an elevated heart rate and breathing rhythm you can slip out of consciousness about the world around. When you “re-enter” the world of awareness you will find that any topic you need to address can come into sharp focus.
A simple three-step process helps with problems or concerns. Think about your problem or concern before you enter a meditative practice. Enter and complete the meditation, then reengage with your problem or concern. You will find your focus and clarity about the issue immensely sharpened because of the meditative practice.
Yoga is a gift from India. The practice involves physical moments from one pose to another. Entering, holding, and exiting a series of poses does work the body, the mind, and the spirit. Widely considered one of the most peaceful and physically demanding practices, yoga represents one of the highest and most challenging physical practices for spiritual focus and development.
Each pose connects with a spiritual idea matching with an aspect of the physical world. Whether you are in tree pose, warrior pose, downward dog, and on and on, you will be holding a pose with a spiritual “design” and intention. The goal is not to hold the pose for as long as possible, but to hold it optimally before moving on to the next pose. Each pose is a self-contained meditation and a series of poses interweave to create an overall meditation.
The practice of yoga is a great way to keep your physical, mental, and spiritual health operating at peak capacity. But you can also use it when you have a worry or feel anxious. While you may choose to “leave your worry at the door” of yoga practice, you can also “bring it with you” in order to cleanse the concern from your energy field.
Tai Chi is a series of flowing movements, known as forms. From the starting position, you move from one form to the next until you complete the form process. A process can be as short as 8 forms, or movements, up to the most complex process, the 108 forms. Regular Tai Chi practice strengthens the body, mind, and spirit because of the flowing nature of the sequence of movements.
Unlike yoga, which is “modular”, meaning you can arrange poses in various combinations, Tai Chi follows a ritual pattern, which you repeat and repeat to get better and better at the process. Perfecting the Tai Chi flow is the goal, but not the outcome. There is always room for improvement with each Tai Chi session, which you will know and feel without having to assess yourself. Do Tai Chi for maintaining spiritual focus or use it to help with a specific problem.
Martial arts also have forms but are distinguished by disciplines. A gift from Asia, the many different disciplines represent the many different pathways to use the body to focus the mind and spirit. Often the training is grueling and intense, especially if you want to plumb the depths of martial arts for spiritual focus.
Each discipline trains the body in different ways, focusing on striking an opponent (kickboxing) or redirecting and wearing down an opponent (Aikido). Some techniques focus on grappling (jiu-jitsu) while other specialize with weapons (Kenjutsu – for mastery of the sword). The use of the body to perform the martial art is the requirement to focus the mind and spirit.
Finding the Best Physical Practice for Yourself
The physical practices range from low demand on the body (prayer) to extremely high demand on the body (martial arts). Knowing your body and physical strengths and weakness will help you decide if one or all the above would help you with your spiritual focus. If you are unsure and want to test yourself, you can always try each one out to discover the best fit.