From Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson, Intern Minister

Last month I had the pleasure of talking with members of Wisdom & Whimsy, UUCW’s affinity group for folks over 50 years of age. They asked me to reflect on “how to keep a positive attitude in this time of societal bickering and unrest,” – a challenging question! One of the strategies we discussed was how to strengthen ourselves through spiritual practice.

Spiritual practice is the regular performance of actions and activities undertaken for the purpose of inducing spiritual experiences and cultivating spiritual development. Whether or not a divine power truly exists might be a matter of opinion, but the neurophysiological effects of spiritual practice are real. If you are interested in learning more about this kind of neuroscience, I highly recommend the book “Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom” by Rick Hanson. Often when we think of spiritual practices, we think of meditation. Mediation is great and studies have shown it is an effective path toward personal transformation. However, meditation alone leaves many areas of our holistic spiritual life unattended.

Integral Transformative Practice asks us to adopt practices that help us develop in four areas: mind, body, heart, and spirit. The good news is that many of these activities overlap and many of them are things you are already doing or love to do but need to make time for in your life. Mind practices include things like reading, discussion, journaling, book groups and studying. Body practices honor the container that your spirit resides and includes activities like walking, dance, yoga, balanced diet, or playing sports. Practices of the heart include those that develop self-understanding, enhance compassion and improve our relationships with others and the world. Some heart examples include psychotherapy, journaling, art, volunteer work, philanthropy and couples work.

Finally, other spiritual practices are mindful yoga, prayer, sacred song, worship, ritual, and practicing gratitude. In my own life, I have found that recognizing spiritual practice in this holistic model helps me add dimension and prioritize my spiritual health.

Learning about the neuroscience examined in “Buddha’s Brain” empowered me to look at my own negative tendencies through the lens of science and history. Knowing that negative thought and perseveration is dominant in us as an evolutionary safety net helps decrease my own sense of personal failure. Additionally, knowing what is happening inside our mind empowers us to be an active participant in changing and creating its shape and nature. We can heal ourselves and each other in the most profound ways and now we have the science to prove it!

Contact Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson