Spiritual Disciplines

In the Judeo Christian tradition, spiritual disciplines are a means of receiving the grace of God. They enable us to do what we cannot do on our own.

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Those who endeavor to have a rich spiritual life strive for two goals — personal spiritual growth and a deeper relationship with God. So how can you achieve this in today’s modern world packed with so many obligations and distractions? The key might be to apply ancient spiritual disciplines to your modern life as a way to break down interference and open up a direct connection to the Holy Spirit. Let’s take a deep dive into exactly what ancient spiritual disciplines are, and how you can make them the foundation for your ever-expanding connection with God.

What are Spiritual Disciplines?

Spiritual Disciplines are basic, regular habits that anyone can practice at every stage of their spiritual journey, and that are meant to solidify your bond with God. Spiritual Disciplines can be broken down in two ways. Consider these lists from two of the 20th Century’s most influential books on the topic:

  1. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster
  • Inward Disciplines: Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, Study
  • Outward Disciplines: Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, Service
  • Corporate Disciplines: Confession, Worship, Guidance, Celebration
  1. The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives by Dallas Willard
  • Disciplines of Abstinence: Solitude, Silence, Fasting, Frugality, Chastity, Secrecy, Sacrifice
  • Disciplines of Engagement: Study, Worship, Celebration, Service, Prayer, Fellowship, Confession, Submission

While each of these authors has looked at the topics of Spiritual Disciplines through a slightly different lens, both authors focused on spiritual disciplines that were practiced or taught about by Jesus and the apostles in Scripture. If Jesus felt these disciplines were important, then it’s worth the time and effort to apply these ancient spiritual disciplines to your modern life to bring new meaning and depth to your spiritual journey.

Why are Spiritual Disciplines Important?

Even though Spiritual Disciplines are basic habits, they are not always easy for us to practice faithfully. Spiritual Disciplines are like training exercises for your spiritual life, and just like going to the gym, you have to do them regularly to feel their impact. The more you actively engage in Spiritual Disciplines, the easier it becomes to continue with them in the rhythm of your daily life. The reason that Spiritual Disciplines are so important is that these formative, healthy habits will tune your heart and mind to God and allow the Holy Spirit to work through you as you strive to develop your spiritual maturity and deepen your relationship with God. Spiritual Disciplines build consistency in your life, they break and prevent spiritual complacency, and they draw you closer to God.

By practicing spiritual disciplines, we cultivate a life in which God can bring growth, change, and transformation. Typically, spiritual disciplines are divided into two categories – internal and external. Some examples are listed below:


Internal / Abstinence

  • Solitude: Be absent from others so you can be present with God
  • Silence: Quiet your voice and the voices of others, so you can listen for the voice of God
  • Fasting: Be aware of yourself and the needs of others; focus your heart on God
  • Frugality: Remove your desire for luxury and devote your resources to serving God and others
  • Secrecy: Let go of external recognition and find acceptance from God
  • Sacrifice: Give up self-security and put total trust in God

External / Engagement

  • Prayer: Converse with God : Ask, listen, and open your life to change
  • Study: Change your way of thinking, your way of knowing and pursue God's truth
  • Worship: Experience the greatness of God in everything and everybody
  • Celebration: Rejoice in the goodness of God and live your life in gratitude
  • Fellowship: Gather with others to share love, joy, and encouragement
  • Service: Serve others and free yourself from arrogance and judgment
  • Submission: Be honest, open, and accountable to God and others
  • Confession: Acknowledge your offenses and find freedom in forgiveness

Science Validates Spiritual Discipline

Rupert Sheldrake, author of Science and Spiritual Practices, validates with scientific research that seven spiritual practices provide resounding physical and mental health benefits. The seven spiritual disciplines he identifies are: 1) Meditation, 2) Gratitude, 3) Connecting with Nature, 4) Relating to Plants, 5) Rituals, 6) Singing & Chanting, and 7) Pilgrimage & Holy Places.

Many traditional Christian spiritual disciplines are similar to the ones Sheldrake validates in his research. Prayer is a form of ritualistic meditation; Celebration is often through song and recitations.

Applying the Spiritual Disciplines in Everyday Life

Practicing spiritual disciplines helps affirm your belief in God, enabling you to witness transformation in yourself and others in a community of faith, hope, and love.

Applying Spiritual Disciplines in everyday life requires intention, but they provide you with opportunities to stay connected to God as your source of spiritual nourishment. Ask yourself what Spiritual Disciplines you can incorporate into your own life to help you know God better. Which of these Spiritual Disciplines speaks to you?

  • Meditation: Start each morning with a 15-minute meditation to connect with God’s word.
  • Prayer: Wrap up each day by pouring your heart out to God. He wants to hear it all, and He has so much to say to you in return.
  • Fasting: Fasting from food or any of life’s distractions (social media, television, etc) is a meaningful way to focus on listening for God.
  • Study: There are powerful Bible study apps that allow you to take a deep dive into God’s Word, offering hundreds of supplementary Bible study resources and numerous translations of the Bible.
  • Simplicity: Declutter and opt out of the excesses of modern life and opt in to a life that prioritizes charity.
  • Solitude: Schedule a break from the chaos of the day to sit in quiet and tune in to what God is saying to you.
  • Submission: To act with humility, make it your mission to put the needs of others before yourself, just as Jesus did.
  • Service: Caring for others is a meaningful way to serve in God’s name. Make time to volunteer regularly.
  • Confession: Confession makes you accountable for your sins, receiving and accepting God’s forgiveness in a quietly public way.
  • Worship: Coming together with fellow congregants to thank God for all he has done in your life is a joy. Make it a priority.
  • Guidance: Receiving guidance within your worship community of how God is calling you to live strengthens your connection with the Almighty.
  • Celebration: Embracing gratitude for all of God’s gifts keeps your heart aligned with God.

Practicing Spiritual Disciplines at OHI

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in ancient Spiritual Disciplines is to take a holistic healing retreat at OHI. Our 21-day holistic healing program incorporates over 24 ancient spiritual disciplines throughout our classes and activities. An immersive wellness retreat will cleanse your body, calm your mind, and give you the spiritual education you need to apply ancient spiritual disciplines to your modern life. 

It is tempting to quantify spiritual disciplines as a set of practices rather than an internal process of transformation that reflects your aspirations.  You want your spiritual discipline practice to reflect your inner aspirations because spiritual growth comes from the inside out.  

At OHI, we practice many spiritual disciplines, but focus on nine specific ones that will truly help deepen your faith and expand your capacity for joy and gratitude:

Spiritual Discipline #1:  Prayer

The spiritual discipline of prayer is simply the interactive conversation with God about what you are doing together.  Prayer is you reaching out to God with openness, honesty, and trust, and starting a conversation to cultivate a personal relationship with God.

At OHI, there are so many ways that we incorporate prayer into our everyday activities.  First, we have a tradition of holding prayer circles before meals and ceremonies.  It’s our way to show gratitude for delicious food, for good company, for the comfort to be found in fellowship, and for the joy to be felt when you finally find a community that brings you peace.  Second, we also teach classes in how to reach an Alpha state, where you tap into your subconscious to connect with the divine.  When you pray, the act of speaking with God links your body into this higher Alpha state, causing you to breathe more deeply, lowering your blood pressure, and releasing stress and tension.  It turns out, prayer really is good for your heart!  And finally, our group prayer tradition of Friday Morning Testimonials is always a guest favorite.  When guests feel so safe and supported that they open up and share their most personal experiences with each other, that is an answer to prayer.

Spiritual Discipline #2:  Journaling

The spiritual discipline of journaling helps to awaken, expand, empower, and illuminate the hidden recesses of our inner selves.  You might think of journaling as something you did as a teenager, cataloging your crushes, navigating peer pressure, and questioning authority.  Spiritual journaling goes beyond surface-level thoughts and feelings to dive deep into your core fears, hopes, dreams, discoveries, and inspirations.  The result of committing to a regular spiritual journaling practice is:

  • Discovering your higher purpose
  • Feeling empowered at a core level
  • Finding a sense of belonging within oneself and life
  • Deeper self-awareness and understanding
  • Increased self-love and acceptance
  • Healed relationships with others
  • Enhanced intuition
  • Spiritual clarity and integration
  • Ability to access more peace, love, and joy

At OHI, our Focus I & II Classes help you focus on your highest priorities.  We teach you to look at how you spend your time, identify your core values, and define goals that support these values to achieve what matters most to you.  That’s exactly what spiritual journaling is all about.  When you take the time to write down your hopes, dreams, and inspirations, you are helping yourself discover what matters most to you and what you want to achieve in life.

Spiritual Discipline #3:  Simplicity

The spiritual discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle.  That means that simplicity isn’t necessarily about decluttering your house.  It’s about streamlining your world so that you have more time for your life’s purpose.  Simplicity is not about doing less.  It is about doing more of what is most valuable to you.  What are the things entangling you, and holding you back?  Too many obligations?  Family holidays too complicated?  Simplicity is about letting go so that you can make more space in your life for what’s truly important to you.

At OHI, our “Your Life is a Gift” class teaches you how to let go of unhealthy demands and expectations, change perceptions, and develop new pathways to unconditional love and happiness.  Our “Release Ceremony” brings you into a safe and sacred circle of fellowship and encourages you to burn a list of anything in the past that no longer serves you well.  When you let go, you can be in the present and set positive intentions for the future.  Embracing simplicity means purging your life of toxic people, relationships, and beliefs that don’t allow you to live a life of joy.

Spiritual Discipline #4:  Community

The spiritual discipline of community values connection and belonging.  Community is the idea that we are drawn to one another because of shared values or ideas.  Fellowship is linked to the idea of community, calling us to action and asking us to serve others by looking at their needs as our own.  When we carve out time in our day to focus on friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers, that sense of community and fellowship is priceless.  It is the intentional choice to come together to love and support other human beings that brings a depth to our spiritual life that is essential to our happiness.

At OHI’s Inspirational Testimonials gathering, guests share very personal stories of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing, and the outpouring of fellowship and love found in that room each week will give you a new lease on life.  Then there’s our Friday Night Live talent show.  The friendship and camaraderie that fills the room is palpable, but it’s the sense of community and fellowship that sticks with everyone long after they have returned home.  Overall, it takes courage and vulnerability to find true community, but the spiritual connections made will profoundly change you.

Spiritual Discipline #5:  Bodily Exercise

The spiritual discipline of bodily exercise is integral to spiritual growth.  How?  Physical exercise helps you grow spiritually by building discipline and giving you a sense of purpose.  Studies have shown that regular workouts result in increased motivation, focus, and energy.  The more focus and motivation you have, the more you can devote to your spiritual studies.  Exercising allows you to challenge yourself, pushes you out of your comfort zone, and gives you that zing of accomplishment when you hit new milestones.  That physical growth encourages you to strive for new levels of spiritual growth.  Physical activity also helps you be more present, and have a quieter mind, both necessary when using meditation in your spiritual discipline.  Physical exercise also sharpens your ideas and intuition, both necessary for the spiritual discipline of journaling.

At OHI, we have daily lymphatic exercise and stretch classes.  We don’t want to stress the body with heavy duty aerobic exercise during a cleanse, but bodily exercise is an essential part of our body-mind-spirit holistic approach to health and wellness.  Guests incorporate lymphatic exercise and stretching every day to stay physically strong and mentally sharp as they strive for spiritual growth.

Spiritual Discipline #6:  Noticing God in Nature

The spiritual discipline of noticing God in nature is as easy as watching the sun rise.  Have you ever experienced a profound sense of awe, wonder, and gratitude after witnessing a thunderstorm, looking out over the ocean, or hiking to the top of a waterfall.  When you’re outdoors, listening to the birds sing, the leaves rustle, and the thunder rumble, you can’t help but be caught up in the moment of amazement…and humility.  Just knowing that God is in every plant, every grain of sand, and every drop of water stops you in your tracks at the scale of it all.  When you work to protect the Earth, minimize your carbon footprint, and otherwise value this fragile ecosystem we are inhabiting is to thank God for all the bounty that this planet affords us.  Noticing God in nature is a full-time job if you take it seriously…

At OHI, our beautiful campuses are bursting with the beauty of nature.  Guests are encouraged to spend as much time in nature as they would like, gardening, meditating, or just soaking up the sun.

Spiritual Discipline #7:  Cleansing

The spiritual discipline of cleansing involves purification of the body, mind, and spirit – a central tenant of OHI’s Body-Mind-Spirit program.  We believe a healthy body is the key to a healthy spirit.  One of the first steps you can take on the journey to body-mind-spirit balance is to simply change what you eat.  When you eat healthy you improve mental clarity, increase your energy, improve your mood.  When your body is fueled up, you feel motivated to exercise, which aids sleep patterns, improves memory, and extends focus.  Nourishing the body, nourishes the mind, which nourishes the spirit.  That balance creates an inner peace, which allows for spiritual growth.  More self-reflection and growth lead to a purpose-driven life, bringing you true happiness.  And to think it all starts with vegetables…

At OHI, we believe your body is self-healing.  When given the proper food, it can restore itself to its natural balance.  Cooking foods can kill up to 40% of the minerals, seriously compromising the nutritional value of the vegetables and fruits.  Raw foods are packed with essential nutrients, and the first three weeks of our holistic program focuses on feeding you cleansing, life-extending meals of live, raw, organic plant-based recipes.

Spiritual Discipline #8:  Meditation

The spiritual discipline of meditation is creating space to hear God’s voice.  When you reach out to God in prayer, the second step in the conversation is meditation, where you quiet your mind and listen to hear what God has to say to you.  In meditation, you focus the mind on your breath to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.  You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings.  You’re learning to observe them without judgment, and eventually you will start to better understand them as well.  In spiritual meditation, you can say a little prayer.  With every breath out, repeat the prayer and use it to bring your attention back to observing your breath.  As your meditation ends, reflect on your prayer and how it made you feel more connected to God on your journey to spiritual growth.

At OHI, our Alpha I & II meditation techniques help to quiet the mind, manage stress, release tension, and control pain.  Our Vocal Toning class uses simple sounds to reestablish a natural flow of energy through your body.  This simple, yet powerful technique creates harmony from inside out to help you reach a meditative state.

Spiritual Discipline #9:  Worship

The spiritual discipline of worship is unique among the disciplines in that it can stand alone, but it also applies to so many other disciplines — prayer, meditation, community, etc.  Worship is defined as the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration of God through acts of praise that recognize His greatness, His honor, and His position.  There are internal worship actions like meditation or journaling.  And there are external worship actions like prayer or vocal toning.  To worship is a verb.  It is a choice.  Worship is an action where you put your focus on God.  You must work at worship rather than passively absorb it.  Schedule time to give thanks and choose to regularly attend worship services.  The gathering reinforces that we are all members of God’s family.  We get to physically “see” that we have a spiritual connection to one another, and we can all experience the joy and wonder of spiritual growth together.

At OHI, our faith-based holistic healing program is first and foremost faith-based.  The Free Sacred Trinity Church (FSTC) is a non-denominational, Christian church rooted in Judeo-Christian doctrine.  Optimum Health Institute is a mission of the Free Sacred Trinity Church and provides a safe and sacred environment for healing.

Embrace Ancient Spiritual Disciplines to Live Your Best Life

In our busy modern world, many things compete for our attention. It takes dedication and devotion to create a robust spiritual life for yourself that fosters a deep connection to God. Reground yourself by practicing ancient Spiritual Disciplines to jumpstart your spiritual growth. Spiritual Disciplines are faith-cultivating habits that reconnect you to the Holy Spirit. From prayer and fasting to service and worship, you choose which discipline(s) will best allow you to dwell with God more deeply, depending on the path you are walking just now. Whatever discipline(s) speak to you, all of them are avenues to connect with God and grow deeper in faith.

Come to OHI for a holistic healing retreat where you’ll embrace ancient Spiritual Disciplines to strengthen your spiritual muscles, grow deeper in relationship with God, and live your BEST life!

Give yourself the gift of a healing retreat at OHI and jumpstart your holistic healing journey. Book your next visit to OHI today. Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 to learn more about our holistic approach to health and wellness.