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Living a Spiritual Life: A Path, Not a Destination

Appreciate, Reciprocate, and Cultivate

3. Demonstrate appreciation. According to researchers at the HeartMath Institute, a think-tank in Colorado, "Sincere appreciation, not just a cursory or contrived gesture, is a powerful motivator. A simple act of appreciating someone for a job they've done, for their commitment, or for simply being who they are, adds a boost of energy that pays big dividends." In a work environment, "Always try to express as much or more sincere appreciation as you do criticism for the people you manage."

The same goes for home life. Be sure you are expressing enough appreciation for your partner, your children or anyone else who shares your home (including your animal friends). Counselor Kevin Buck, MS, challenges his clients by asking them: "Are you doing enough appreciation so that when something challenging comes up it is bathed in a positive environment? Appreciation is like having a savings account for a rainy day."

4. Give and receive. The act of giving requires you to give of your time, talent and especially your caring to another. As Mother Teresa says in her book, A Simple Path, "It is not how much you do but how much love you put into the doing and sharing with others that is important."

It may be taking the time out from your schedule to give a friend a ride to the store or doctor's office. It may be stopping on the sidewalk simply to inquire about your senior neighbor's health or simply chat for a few minutes. Mentoring programs for youth provide a powerful way to make a difference. Henri Nouwen reminds us that we can give many things: insight, hope, courage, advice, support, money, and most of all, yourself. When you give of yourself, you may even extend your own longevity.

In addition to your own generosity of spirit, learn to be open to receiving. For many people, it is more difficult to receive than to give. Think about it this way: when you accept the gift of another with grace and gratitude, you are perhaps giving an even greater "gift" to the giver: you are sending a message that they, too, have something worthwhile to contribute.

5. Cultivate compassion. "Compassion arises when you allow your heart to be touched by the pain and need of another," writes Jack Kornfield in his book, A Path With a Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life. "Compassionate generosity is the foundation of true spiritual life because it is the practice of letting go."

6. Honor the sacredness of all life. This is reverence, says author Gary Zukov. "As you acquire a sense of reverence, you develop a capacity to think more deeply about the value of life before you commit your energy to action," he writes in The Seat of the Soul. Zukov believes that "the decision to become a reverent person is essentially the decision to become a spiritual person."

7. Honor the Sabbath. Jewish mystic and scholar Joshua Abraham Heschel wrote: "The meaning of the Sabbath is to honor time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world."