Spirituality II: Developing an Existential Practice

“The historical religions have the tendency to become ends in themselves, and, as it were, to put themselves in God’s place, and, in fact, there is nothing that is so apt to obscure God’s face as a religion.”

Martin Buber

In an earlier post I outlined an existential perspective on spirituality as a means of responding to existential needs and questions by recognising and forming a more meaningful relationship to the bigger context in which we live as human beings.  In this post I list some of the pragmatic aspects of developing existential awareness by building a framework that includes personal spiritual practice and a deliberate lifestyle that is rooted in clarified personal values.  By including a daily grounding routine that helps us focus our intentions and thoughts, builds our awareness and skills, and provides an overall structure of understanding, we can give ourselves a clearer means of staying centred whilst staying focussed on what’s important.


I teach a wide variety of meditative practices that can help concentrate the mind in beneficial ways, increase awareness and focus intention, enhancing mental and physical habits of relaxation and calmness.  Each practice is tailored to your specific requirements and there are forms of meditation that we can create together to address individual concerns and needs.

  • Mindfulness
  • Metta Bhavana (Loving Kindness)
  • Shikantaza
  • Existential awareness meditations (my own designs)
  • Prayer
  • Writing
  • Yoga – traditional or focussed on your particular beliefs

Self-awareness development

Developing self-awareness is a fundamental feature of therapeutic ‘healing’ and self-development.  Being more aware of yourself, your habits, blindspots, biases and beliefs can empower you to make more informed and skilful choices in life.  It can also enable you to resolve inner conflicts, stabilise your mood, and channel your energies in one direction to better serve your needs.

  • Declared values versus lived values
  • Clarify values and beliefs that are life-enhancing and stabilising
  • Right and Wrong versus Good and Bad versus Pleasure and Discomfort
  • Life as Ego versus life as Being
  • Recognising modes and  polarities: needs/ desires; being/ having; choice/ possibility; order/ chaos; social worth/ existential value etc
  • Clarifying your life meaning and narrative
  • Learning from the past and being wiser in the present
  • Clarifying and exploring understandings of ‘God’
  • Death awareness and reconciliation
  • Developing personal creativity in context
  • Body awareness development
  • Emotional and moral awareness and intelligence
  • Knowing your blind spots, biases and prejudices (we all have them)
  • Developing the skills of Courage and Faith

Interpersonal Skills

Being able to manage your relationships in ways that respect others and yourself, and cultivate healthy relationships that are meaningful is part of the essential skills for living in a world of others.

  • Cultivating love, empathy and compassion
  • Listening skills
  • Cultivating acts of kindness
  • Practicing forgiveness
  • Developing your intuitive ‘radar’: food/ poison; affirmation/ disaffirmation;
  • Developing resilience and protecting oneself from potentially harmful people
  • Developing clear and healthy boundaries
  • Being equal: neither looking up nor down
  • Non-Violent Communication skills
  • Developing intimacy, trust and strong relationships


Reviewing your life, making a life inventory and making revisions to your lifestyle can give you a fresh starting point and renewed sense of purpose.  This can be particularly valuable after a period of hardship, loss, crisis or distress.

  • Doing a life inventory, reviewing and managing your design
  • Keeping the good and letting go of the bad and unnecessary
  • Transcending self through simplicity, minimalism, nature, self-care and kindness
  • Critical analysis skills: the value and moral implications of belief systems, texts etc
  • Identifying sources of daily inspiration e.g. literature, film, art, spiritual teachings
  • Building a value-based lifestyle: jobs versus work; existing versus living
  • Living your values and the courage to be
  • Avoiding or letting go of people, activities, beliefs, habits and other things that are not good for us
  • Developing emotional and pragmatic self-reliance
  • Finding community in others
  • The importance of the natural world in mental stability and perspective
  • Living modes: creativity, intuition, spontaneity and strategy
  • Changing your world with personal authenticity

This is a sketch of the kinds of tasks that you can undertake as part of a tailored program of self-development.  It combines aspects of psychotherapy and life coaching and is undertaken once we establish a style of working and learning that suits you.  The overall aim is to leave you with a consolidated framework for daily practices that enables you to focus your mind, intentions and energies in ways that cultivate your awareness of your life in perspective within its existential context.  Practically, this framework can help keep you clear, centred, balanced and more able to protect your self in an increasingly volatile world.

For more, take a look at the group I run on building a spiritual practice, and check back to the courses page for details of a 12 week course I’m developing.

Image courtesy of pixnio.com

All written material on this website is subject to copyright and cannot be used or reproduced without permission and clear attribution being made to the author.  Please contact me if in doubt.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. I love the lists you have created – it makes the idea of becoming more self aware less daunting. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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