Wise Words – When Will You Begin?

“And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?”


That opening, “And you?” grabs me. It is a direct address, delivered as if I am in mid-conversation with someone who knows me well. It is a provocation, a call to travel to a place that is both familiar and never fully known, straight into my authentic self. Rumi implies I’ve been avoiding something, hesitating at the door.

I want to answer, “But I’ve already begun. I began a long time ago.”

In my mind, I hear an immediate reply, “That was before. This is a new day. How will you begin now?”

That’s always the real question, isn’t it – how do we begin now? We need a practice that supports the long journey into ourselves, yet we have to keep the spiritual adventure fresh and alive. A practice done by rote becomes empty.

By its nature, spiritual practice is a consistent routine performed with the intention of connecting with the sacred, which is where our authentic self lives. If we don’t engage in a practice regularly, it’s hard to gain momentum and enter into the depths of ourselves.

But the attitude I bring daily to the practice is just as important. Even if I have done this meditation (or this yoga sequence, or this prayer, or this chant) many, many times, can I find a way to look for what is fresh? 

Today’s practice differs from all previous practice because the day is different, and I am different. The light in the room, the temperature of the air, the sensitivity of my skin, my light or heavy mood, the lining of my gut, my inner clarity or dullness, the subtle energies around me, and a million other factors all make it possible for this moment to show me something I have never experienced before – if I am open and ready to look. 

That may be what Rumi feels I have been avoiding, the willingness to stay alert for something new. His challenge is an invitation to bring fresh eyes to my old routine. If I can do that each time I center myself to practice, then I will truly “begin” that long journey into a warm, welcoming embrace with myself.

How to see your spiritual practice through fresh eyes?  Here are a few suggestions.

  • “See” with your body. Look for physical sensations, in your interior, or on the surface of your skin, or in the surrounding air.

  • “See” with your breath. Let your breath be a sensory organ, feeling for movement and vibration. Look for differences within your nose, throat and lungs.  Look for rhythms, spaces and silences.

  • “See” with your imagination. Look for images and impressions that arise.  Where do they want to go? Visualize going with them, not knowing where they will lead. 

  • “See” through your moods. What is your primary mood today? Bored, giddy, solemn, nervous? Take a moment to sense and name your mood and then step fully into it. What does this texture of emotion want to teach or express, verbally or nonverbally?

  • Oh yeah, you can “see” with your eyes too. Look around with a soft gaze.  See if the light has a different cast and shadow today. Look at familiar items as if they were just made an hour ago. See if there is weight or beauty behind the familiar that you have never noticed.

For more ideas, check out my free practice guide, Reflections on Engaging a Vibrant Spiritual Practice. It contains lots of ideas, examples and stories to help you create, or recreate, a practice that works for you.

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

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