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3 Radical Spiritual Practices for the New Year

The old year is coming to a close, and a new one is beginning. For me, this is a time of reflection on what has come before, and meditation on what new life might be springing forth in the months to come. As I engage in this year-end reflection, here are three spiritual practices that are helping me to go deeper with God:

1. Acknowledge that I am going to die. Despite our culture’s hesitance to talk about death and dying, I have found that regularly meditating on my own mortality is one of the most powerful spiritual practices. Simply recognizing that I am going to die is profoundly clarifying.

Rather than frightening me, facing my own death brings deep peace, and a strange sort of joy. When I acknowledge death, I find it easier to let go of my own desires and will. I’m not in control.

When I accept my finite nature, I am freed to be simply human. I’m no longer afraid to see how child-like and dependent I am. I don’t have to protect myself.

2. Stop trying to win. In the face of death, there are no winners and losers – just mortals. Living in this awareness, I am free from the compulsion to compete and compare myself to others. Every single creature on earth shares the same fate. We’re made of dust, and we’ll be dust again.

Yet even amid the dust and confusion, it’s a beautiful world. There is an astounding love that breathes into our finite world, an abundance that none of my efforts can make bigger or smaller. Nothing really matters; everything matters. Life is a gift.

3. Live in the gift. Accepting life as a pure gift, I am released from the compulsion to see my desires fulfilled. I’m free to practice gratitude for everything that comes my way, to say thy will be done in the face of circumstances that run contrary to my expectations.

Yet, this life of surrender is not one of mere passive compliance with my fate. I participate in a life of co-creation with the amazing Spirit that restores me and heals the world. I am invited to cooperate with ceaseless wonders and new beginnings.

Three Practices, One Purpose

These three spiritual practices – or postures – fit together as part of a cycle. Each one strengthens and reinforces the others. Facing my own limitations and mortality helps me to perceive the silliness of all my human competitiveness and striving. As I let go of the need to win, I can embrace all of life as a pure gift from God rather than a chance to prove myself. And because life is an unearned gift, I begin to shed my fear of losing it.

Death is less terrifying when I recognize that I’m not entitled to life in the first place. Life is more joyful when I’m willing to give it away. Life or death, it’s all blessing in Christ.

These are some spiritual practices I hope to cultivate as we enter this new year. How about you?

Related Posts:

Do I have to Wait for Heaven?

Sacrificing Isaac

  • Mary Swale

    Lovely, clear, bracing and, yes, joyful! Thank you, Micah. Keep them coming.

  • BrianY

    Thanks for this, Micah. I find that acknowledging my mortality is not particularly difficult for me, but I think that’s because it feels like a remote possibility, here in the middle of life–I am comfortable and insulated from a lot of the realities that make death much more of a present possibility for many of our brothers and sisters. So I guess I don’t feel like I’ve engaged with that reality as deeply as I could.

    But there’s a bit more: for me, what makes “Stop trying to win” realizable is not acknowledging the eventual death of my body, but rather seeking the daily death of my self-will. The inward cross is the surest check on my grasping efforts to be right, to be respected, to be recognized in others’ eyes, and the surest way to allowing Christ to work through me instead.

    Thanks again for a thought-provoking post.

    • I think that’s a really good point, Brian. The theoretical future end of life is one thing, giving up our need for control in the present tense is something else altogether!

      For me, contemplating my future death (and the reality that it could come at any time) is helpful in releasing my grip on the present. Knowing how tenuous all of life is, an how little control I ultimately have, helps me to keep my focus on those things which are the most important – demonstrating love to those around me and seeking to be open to the movement of the Spirit.

  • broschultz

    When I was young people didn’t talk about death. In fact no one simply died. If someone died you were told they “kicked the bucket” or “bought the farm” or were 6 feet under. As usual I wrote a song about that. I’ll have to record it and post it somewhere. As an aside I did die but didn’t get to enjoy it for long. It was a very peaceful experience, but that’s another song.:)

    • The times, they are a changing! 🙂