Do you brush your teeth before going to bed?
Recently someone said to me, “I have a deep desire to develop my spiritual practice of spending time with God on a daily basis. I start with tremendous enthusiasm but soon the well dries up and I am back to square one. How do I bring consistency to my spiritual practice?”
I smiled and said to him, “Welcome to the ‘Inconsistency Club’. You are not alone; it is a universal phenomenon. All spiritual seekers, sometime or other, experience the problem of inconsistency in their spiritual practice. We have a sincere desire to be faithful to our spiritual practice and we begin with lot of eagerness and goodwill but along the way the wheels come off.” I paused and asked him a question that had no connection to spiritual consistency, “Do you brush your teeth every night before going to bed?” He was taken aback with this ‘out of the context’ question and had a puzzled look on his face. I continued, “Most of us are in the habit of brushing our teeth before going to bed but at times we forget or we are too lazy, or too tired to do it.” I just asked him to follow this simple practice of brushing his teeth before going to bed for the next 21 days and then to come back, if still interested, to discuss consistency in spiritual practice.
I thought he would not come back but he did with a big smile (may be the effect of brushing his teeth) and said to me, “In the past, the practice of brushing my teeth before going to bed, was very sporadic. But now since I have done it for 21 days I think I can do it for the rest of my life. The practice has become my nature. Now teach me the art of being consistent with my spiritual practice.” I smiled again and said to him, “There is nothing I need to teach you now. The power to be consistent is within you.” And then I shared with him a quote (either I had read it or heard it from someone), ‘the way you do one thing is the way you do all things.’ I continued, “You have proved to yourself that by being consistent to one act you have within yourself the power to be consistent with other acts including your spiritual practice. No matter how tired you are, what problems you are encountering, how interesting or boring the practice is, whether you are experiencing a dark night of the soul or not, however dry your prayer is, just be faithful to the practice. Just be at it. Just do it.”
After 21 days he came back again and said, “Being consistent with my spiritual practice was not as easy as brushing my teeth at night but I stayed with my spiritual practice. I have not had visions or experiences of God; at times it has been very dry and I just didn’t want to do it but I stayed with the practice and finally I began to feel something happening for good in me as result of remaining faithful to my time with God. Now, when the time comes for my spiritual practice, I long for my prayer mat. You are right: if I can bring consistency to one single act in my life, I can bring consistency to other areas, including my spiritual life as well.” How communion with his Father became the cornerstone of Jesus’ life and his ministry? How is it possible for holy women and men to lead a life of prayer? How meditation itself became the very nature of the Buddha? The answer is: deep longing for God (for truth as in the case of the Buddha) and consistency in their spiritual practice. Even, if at times flesh was weak; their spirit was strong and willing to be with God.
Yes my friends, for the next 21 days try to be consistent with your spiritual practice. Twenty-one days is not a magical number. It is just a kick start to give us a taste (tip of the iceberg) of what happens as result of beginning a life of spiritual consistency. Remember that practice builds habit and habit soon blends with our nature. Choose a place and a time and come what may remain faithful to your practice. And if the desire to be consistent in our spiritual practice is motivated by a strong love for God, then developing consistency in spiritual practice becomes easy. Love draws love unto itself. Let your longing for the prayer mat/meditation cushion be out of love. Love alone makes it easy to be consistent; for love bears all things.
Do everything out of love for God.