By Rev. Kurt Condra
At every appointment, my dentist encourages me to wear night guards to protect my teeth from grinding. So for a few sleepless nights, I comply. Then I opt to take a break from the torture, promising it's just for one night. Invariably, the guards remain in my nightstand 'til the next check-up.
Spiritual practice can be like night guards: No matter the benefits, some days being still and quiet is torturous. Funnily enough, the remedies my dentist recommends also apply to spiritual practice. Here's what's worked for me:
Make sure the practice fits: Custom-made guards from a cast of my own teeth are magnitudes more comfortable than premade sets from the drug store shelf. Create a prayer/meditation practice aligned with your temperament and energy level. If seated meditation isn't your thing, try mindful eating or walking. If silence is intolerable, use an app for music or to stream a guided meditation.
Build stamina: Rather than wearing both top and bottom guards every night, for me, wearing one or the other is more doable. If a 30-minute meditation is more than you can manage, pick a duration that works for you and seek to extend it as you're guided.
Be disciplined: Nearly every night, guard resistance flares. The more quickly I get them off the nightstand and over my teeth, the less I'm apt to skip a night. Set a consistent time and place for your spiritual practice. and stick to it. It may even be helpful to set an alarm on your phone.
One difference I've noticed between meditation and night guards: Meditation can have immediate noticeable impact on body, mind and Spirit. Whenever I meditate, I notice life working more smoothly. At least so far, the benefits of wearing night guards are only noticeable to my dentist.