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Episode Info: For any given set of spiritual practices, there are many possible approaches to (or ways of engaging with) those practices. This article describes ten such approaches. We tend to cycle through these ten approaches; this article describes that cycle, which I call the cycle of spiritual practice. I’m also going to talk about four zones of spiritual practice; in different zones, different things are guiding our actions: reason versus intuition, and tradition versus creativity. I’ll talk about the benefits of each of these four zones and the problems that can arise when we don’t have access to each of these zones. I’ll also talk about how the traditional and creative zones of spiritual practice are related to power and exploitation in spiritual groups. I’m hoping that by the end of this article, you’ll understand the cycle of spiritual practice; you’ll understand the ten different approaches within that cycle; you’ll understand the four zones of spiritual practice; and you’ll start to recognize your edges for growth (you’ll recognize which approaches and zones you’re comfortable in and which approaches and zones seem less familiar). I’m also hoping that by the end of the article, you’ll get a little better at recognizing oppression and exploitation in spiritual groups. Ten Approaches to Spiritual Practice To start with, I want to give a quick overview of the cycle of spiritual practice. I’ll describe ten possible approaches to any given set of spiritual practices: yearning for practices, gravitating toward practices, studying practices, learning practices, adapting practices, grokking practices, mastering practices, experimenting with practices, jamming with practices, and, finally, teaching practices. Let’s explore these approaches in more detail. Yearning for Practices The first approach is yearning for practices. When we’re in this part of the cycle of spiritual practice, we know we want something, but we don’t really know what it is. We feel that lack. We’re yearning for something that we don’t have, but we can’t define it. If we could define it, if we knew what it was, then we could just go get it; but we’re not there yet. We’re just yearning for something, and we don’t know what it is yet. In a way, this is like a feeling of loneliness. But instead of lacking contact with people, what we’re lacking here is meaning. We’re kind of vulnerable when we’re yearning for practices because we don’t really have anything to hold onto—except that maybe we have some faith that there’s something out there that might meet this need for meaning. But our faith is also easily squashed at this point. Basically, we’re yearning for the extraordinary, but we haven’t found a way to access the extraordinary yet. There are those who are invested in the ordinary, invested in ordinary ways of approaching life and the world and the universe. There are those who will tell us, “There’s really nothing extraor...
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