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How to Start A Spiritual Practice: A Quick Guide for Teenagers

this is a headshot of Fanny Priest in a field of grass.

Fanny Priest (she/her) is queer, polyamorous yoga therapist, writer, and witch living in Austin, TX. She helps healers and empaths create safe space in the tender animal of their bodies so they feel free to fully experience the whole, glorious range of their human emotions. She views self-care as a sacred responsibility, and as the source of sustainable healership. You can follow her obsessions with tarot decks, paper planners, decaf coffee, and making tiny altars everywhere on Instagram, and find more about her offerings here.

1. What is spirituality?

Spiritual practice can be a loaded topic. For some, it refers to cherished and meaningful beliefs and practices, while for others, it’s at best an empty cliché, and at worst it represents the oppression of religious extremism. By definition, spirituality is deeply personal: it’s about your relationship to a being, entity, or concept that is bigger than you. But, also by definition, spirituality is concerned with our relationships with other people. And this is where things can get a bit dicey.

In her book Braving The Wilderness, Brené Brown defines spirituality like this: “Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.” 

In my tradition, which is yoga, our fundamental belief is that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Which means that spirituality is the practice of connecting to what is most fundamentally true about who you are. But, as anyone who has ever tried marching to their own drum knows, no sooner do you try to express yourself authentically that other people will make it their business to tell you that you’re doing it wrong, and that you should do it their way instead.

2. Making your own meaning

The good news is: your spiritual practice is yours, and you cannot do it wrong. (So long as what you do doesn’t harm other beings.) But the flip side of that coin is that no one can tell you how to do it in a way that’s meaningful and true to you—that’s something you need to figure out for yourself.

So, where do you start? And why would you even want to?

At its most distilled essence, a spiritual practice is an action or set of actions that reminds you of what’s most deeply true about yourself, that makes you feel connected to a power that’s greater than you are, and that moves you towards the life you want to live.

The world around you has lots of opinions about who you are, what you should and shouldn’t be doing, and what’s possible for you and for your life. And probably most of those opinions have little to no relation to what you know is true about you and your life. Your spiritual practice is a place where you can make your own meaning: you get to affirm what is true for you, and you can actively create your life in alignment with that truth.

3. How to get started

When in life do you feel most like yourself? What are you doing? What are the sensations in your body? What can you see, hear, feel? Is anyone with you, or are you alone? What do you most want for yourself and for your life? What are your deepest dreams and desires? What change do you want to make in the world? What do you want to create? Answering these questions will start to nudge you in the direction of a spiritual practice that is authentic and meaningful, and one that can make a real difference in the world.

While the realm of spiritual practice is infinitely vast and varied, there are some accessible and simple ways that you can get started. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Spending time in nature is the easiest and best way to reconnect to that greater power. Your very body is made of the same stuff as nature, and obeys the same rhythms and laws. This can be as simple as walking barefoot on the earth, choosing a single blade of grass, leaf or flower to give your whole attention to for a few uninterrupted minutes, or stepping out at night to look at the moon and see what phase she’s in.
  • Cultivating stillness and quiet is one of the most powerful spiritual practices. Since so much information comes at you all day, every day, creating a moment of pause where no input comes in will help you remember what’s true. This is relatively simple—no special skill or equipment needed! But it’s also hard for many of us, because we’re so used to being distracted. So start small: one or two minutes of stillness and quiet: no phone, no music, no book. When that starts to feel comfortable, you can increase the amount of time.
  • Creative practices like writing, drawing, painting, playing music: anything you feel inspired to make can be a spiritual practice. The word inspiration has both Latin and French roots, and means breath or spirit being breathed into a being. When you bring something new into the world—a poem, a painting, a song—you are participating in the creative force of the universe.
  • Moving your body can be an incredible spiritual practice. Walking, running, yoga, dancing, swimming, hooping, skateboarding: any of these will connect you to the life of your body, and can help you enter a state of flow in which you feel connected to the rhythms of nature.
this is a quote by fanny: "a spiritual practice is an action that reminds you of what's most deeply true about yourself, that makes you feel connected to a power that's greater than you are, and that moves you towards the life you want to live."

It is my experience that a fair bit of trial and error is needed to land on the practice that feels right for you. It’s also true that a spiritual practice will shift with you as you grow and change, and as the circumstances of your life evolve. Again: there is no way to do this wrong. And no time spent experimenting with spiritual practice is wasted. It’s all grist for the mill. All of it goes to feed you, inspire you. And even catastrophic failures can help you understand more about what you actually want or need.

If you close your eyes, notice the feeling of your breath flowing in and out of your body, and feel the pulse of your beating heart, you will be connected to the same life force that flows through the entire universe. Your spiritual practice is as essentially yours, and as close to you, as your own breath and heart. Start there.

Want a little bit more guidance as you begin a new spiritual practice? I got you. My new program, Rituals for Transformation, starts soon, and will take you through the steps of creating a spiritual practice that’s true to you, and how to integrate it into your everyday life.

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