Generally I advise, or the tradition advises having a daily practice. Anything I say is very improvisational. Like if I say “meditate every morning,” maybe somebody says, “I’m not a morning person.” So I’ll say, “oh, then meditate every night.” What shall we say: meditate every day. So morning is good, before things start going, but maybe night is good for you, or maybe mid-day or when you get home from work, I don’t know. Maybe twice a day, short times. So I say having a meditation session, formal, let’s call it sitting practice every day is very recommendable.
And then, how you structure that–it could be according to the way we do it here, a little chanting and bowing to begin, the warm-ups, and then the main silent meditation, naked awareness, sky-gazing, and end with some chanting and praying. Maybe in the middle you put in something like a who am I? question or whatever. For you that’s a session, which might help or be inspirational. Maybe it’s just opening the book of nature or reading, but some study and learning, questioning or analyzing, experiential and intellectual practice and study is benificial. And third, some form of work on yourself, like therapy or journal writing or dream work or creative art or support groups–whatever that means to you. So those first, the first three of the six building blocks; and that’s the inner triad, more alone-ish. Although you can do those things with others, those three are more aloneish.
The next three are more with others. The fourth is group practice, because it’s very hard to do this alone. That’s why all over the world there are congregations and groups and churches and synagogues and communities and sitting groups and sanghas. And fifth, teacher practice: working with some teacher, expert, mentor or elder can be very helpful. And sixth, last but not least, service, seva in Sanskrit, service to god by serving humanity, some kind of giving back. So group practice, teacher practice and service are the three outer triad; and daily practice , spiritual study and working on the self, are the three inner triad. Those are the six building blocks of a spiritual life.
And don’t be overwhelmed by them. Just pick up one or two. You’re probably already doing some of them anyway. It’s not that mysterious. So I think the daily practice part is the part that’s missing most from our Western religions. Of course it’s there, but who goes to mass every morning? Of course it’s there, but who chants the shema every morning if you’re Jewish? I respect the Moslems who bow, get out their prayer rug and bow to Mecca five times a day. They’re doing something five times a day. Even if it’s brief, good for them. That’s not nothing. I wish we were doing something five times a day–a moment, or five minutes of mindfulness five times a day. That would be great throughout the day-ish practice, so you don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day here and there. It’s like exercise, the important thing is to do it most days throughout the year, enough days that you have established a year around exercise program, a year-round spiritual practice. And then integrating that into daily life: mindfulness while eating, talking and working; practicing the virtues of generosity and unselfishness–that is where the rubber really meets the road on the spiritual path.