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As we wade more deeply into the spiritual life, becoming more of who we truly are, a wholeness falls into place and pieces of our lives become less separated. We begin to live an everyday spirituality. Three ways to facilitate that journey, in my experience, center on silence, community and a regular spiritual practice. For me, cultivating silence and reflection has been crucial. This is the place I quiet myself for attuned, authentic listening to Spirit.

Silence can be spent in meditation, prayer, mindfulness or merely being in that liminal, receptive space. The only requirement is consent — mine. Quakerism has taught me so much about the need for and graciousness of turning inward.

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They call it centering and there are a number of methods for this process. Whichever you practice, remember to be gentle with yourself. As much as we are built for contemplation, we are also are wired for stimulation. As an artist, I am visual, so imagining my thoughts as stray clouds or ships passing through and letting them go has been extremely beneficial. I notice and let them pass, not getting ensnared and, when I do, not punishing myself.

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Other means can be to focus on the breath or a mantra short meaningful phrase or word and returning to each as a reminder. Centering prayer is a freeing way of just being in the silence. The silence can be a place of mere being, where we recharge, imagine, connect with the Divine, empty or fill ourselves. It is magical and necessary.

Often, this is where I receive insight into my life and spiritual nature. The silence is always available, it is we who must make the effort to slow down and still ourselves. The only thing richer than experiencing silence myself, is doing so corporately, which is the essence of Quaker worship. There is power and energy in being, meditating and praying within a group. Community keeps us accountable, nurtures, teaches, encourages and pushes us toward wholeness. Even the challenges of other people can smooth our rough edges. Spiritual friendship or companionship, one-on-one relationships, also offer community and the opportunity to safely explore who we are, what we question and mirror for one another the way forward.

Positive community creates energy, unites and bonds us. Adopting a regular spiritual practice serves to ground us in a dizzying secular world of over-commitment and isolating technology. That practice need not be daily and can vary. A practice or spiritual discipline reminds us who we are and how very thin the veil is between worlds. My own practice has vacillated over the years and included fasting, journaling, devotional reading, lectio divina slow, sacred reading , centering prayer, labyrinth walking, yoga, mindfulness and even prayer as I swim laps.

Movement has a way of easing the mind. Walking in nature and running work well for some people. Meditating on an image, icon, mantra or passage are other ways into genuine communion. The same is true of journaling, where often, the questions of my heart are answered. As in any practice, I must burn off the everyday by setting my intention and, layer by layer, letting the outer world melt. That may mean stream-of-consciousness writing, walking, swimming or several rounds of postures before I can center, attentive to the divine within.

At times, I am not able to center and others, instantly transported. These three means of cultivating spirituality often overlap, intersect and intertwine. Occasionally, I enter silence with companions, often moved to journal, create a piece of art, am lead to a particular passage or must take a walk outside. However, there are also times I feel so out of the flow that almost nothing seems to reset my path, but I persevere with silence, community and a practice anyway having learned that God is there no matter what I may be experiencing in the moment.

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I find comfort in silence, a spiritual practice and when accompanied in my most dark, desperate times. Routinely, they open me to a way of living centered on my spirituality, calling me to return when the world lures me away and reminding me who I am. Cathy Barney is a trained spiritual nurturer, artist, writer, blogger and founder of a non-profit arts exploration for at-risk 4th-6th graders in her neighborhood. She also hosts small groups, workshops and retreats as creative outlets and spiritual nourishment. I prefer to speak of the awakening of human consciousness, rather than speak about how to become more spiritual.

One can be more and more spiritual, and yet not be awake.

Overall Statement of my Life's mission

What do I mean by awakening? Most of us live almost exclusively within the world of the mind.

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This means that we are always in the past or future and our thoughts never stop. Our sense of ourselves is defined and limited by our past, including all the limiting beliefs from childhood. The world of the mind is illusory in nature. It is based in memory and imagination. It is not real, and yet to the extent that we believe that it is real, we are lost in a world of illusion and we do not realize it.

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With awakening we open fully into the present moment, which is the doorway to love, truth and oneness. I teach a two-step path of awakening. The first step involves learning the art of being present. The second involves becoming a master of your mind and ego. Both steps are necessary for true awakening. When you are present, you come out of the past and future world of the mind and so you are free of the limitations of the past and anxiety about the future.

They simply disappear because the present moment is free of the past and future. As you deepen into presence, you will experience a completely different dimension of yourself and of life. You will discover that when you are present, you are love, you are acceptance and you are compassion. You are empowered from within and you exist in the realization of oneness. All these qualities of presence flow into your day to day life and relationships. You are free to be all that you are and you are no longer concerned with the judgments, opinions and expectations of others.

Your life is gradually transformed and you are not doing anything other than becoming more and more present. As you deepen into presence, all your problems disappear. Whatever you have previously regarded as a problem or difficult time in your life is now seen as an opportunity for awakening. In the present moment, there are no problems, just situations to respond to and if you respond from presence, then your response is always conscious, empowered and appropriate.

At the deeper levels of presence, heaven on earth is revealed. You might even encounter the living presence of God in all things present, but this will be something that you experience for yourself and not something that you believe in. The first is to come into right relationship with the ego. What is the ego? What is its role in your life? Why does it resist your being present, and how can you overcome its resistance?

The answers to these questions will radically change your life. The second key is to free yourself from judgment. To the extent that you judge yourself or others, you cannot be present. Judgment imprisons you in separation. With judgment, you hurt yourself and you hurt others. As you transcend judgment, you will open into an entirely new level of love and acceptance.

The third key is to liberate the feelings repressed within you from the past. Otherwise there will always be someone or something that will trigger those repressed feelings.

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Then you are caught in the past which you project onto the present. You will have to learn how to express those repressed emotions in a conscious and responsible way and in a way that releases those emotions. The fourth suggestion is to bring awareness to how you lose yourself in others.