Thursday, March 12, 2015

Spiritual Practices A to Z: Enthusiasm

For the fifth spiritual practice this year, I focused on Enthusiam. The Spiritual Practices website had many interesting ideas and activities to do related to Enthusiam. 

Spiritual Practices: Enthusiasm
Enhances: Energy
Balances/Counters: Apathy, Boredom

The Basic Practice

The word enthusiasm is derived from the roots en — in or within — and theos — God. It means having God within or being one with God. People with this gift carry a special kind of energy. They bring warmth and feeling to their relationships and vigor and freshness to their activities.

Olivia Swinging
Olivia laughing with joy and enthusiasm as she swings
in the backyard.
(Taken on September 29, 2007.)

To practice enthusiasm, make others aware when you are excited about something. Throw yourself into your projects. Be known for your eagerness, your curiosity, your willingness to give it all you've got. Proclaim your passions. Hold nothing back. Sing your heart out.

Sophia as Laura Ingalls Wilder
Sophia running with enthusiasm through the pasture
as she spreads milkweed seeds.
(Taken on September 29, 2007.)

Why This Practice May Be For You

Enthusiasm is invigorating. It helps you get up and go. It is a good prescription, then, when you are feeling lethargic and listless, when your energy seems frozen.

Enthusiasm counterbalances apathy and boredom, two common blocks to an engaged spiritual life. A sluggish spirit just doesn't care about anything. The world isn't interesting enough; there's a dreary sameness to all your activities.

Fire in the Clouds - Sunrise 9/29
September 29, 2007, must have been a great day.
I kept finding pictures of things that 
brought back so much joy as I looked at them.
I remember how excited (or enthusiastic) I was when 
I saw this amazing cloud formation in the morning. 

When fatigue or another of these conditions has you dragging through your days, when you find that you've replaced wonder with whatever, go for enthusiasm. If you can't muster it from within, surround yourself with enthusiastic people.


It is important to energize our everyday practice and
 daily good works with enthusiasm, 
without anyone else telling us to, 
but  doing it for our own sake.
— The Dalai Lama

Enthusiasm is the greatest power.
For one endowed with enthusiasm
nothing in this world is impossible.
— The Ramayana

Flower after a mid-day rain
A flower after a rainstorm.
(Taken on May 21, 2007.)

Who are the happiest, richest people you know?... 
These are the people who are living joyful, enthusiastic lives, 
regardless of their possessions or lack of possessions. 
— Shoni Labowitz in Miraculous Living

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. 
The way of life is wonderful; it is by abandonment.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson quoted in Lighting a Candle by Molly Young Brown


I read Exuberance: The Passion for Life by Kay Redfield Jamison. This book was about the topic of exuberance as an elated state, a cousin to enthusiasm, happiness, and joy.

The other book I'm planning on reading is Jesus Laughed and Other Reflections on Being Human by Jean Maalouf. "We need not study merely the biography of Jesus. Rather, we need to discover him living now, in our everyday life," wrote Jean Maalouf.

Maalouf is awed by Jesus's ability to learn spiritual lessons from plants, to accept the presence of the kingdom in everyday events, and to proclaim love as the linchpin of our relationship with our neighbors. The author also revels in Jesus's spiritual practices of enthusiasm, joy, attention, freedom, listening, and zeal.

For Maalouf, the heart rather than the head is the gateway to a spiritual life in Christ. This book presents a creative and empowering interpretation of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.


The Accidental Tourist directed by Lawrence Kasdan.


Almost any recording in the gospel music genre is a good example of enthusiasm. Although there are many single gospel singers, the most enthusiastic performances usually are by groups and choirs.

For great samples of the latter, the Spiritual Practices website suggested listening to the Smithsonian Folkways recordings African American Spirituals. I found the Afro-American Spirituals, Work Songs, and Ballads CD. There are 17 songs on it, all recorded between 1933 and 1939 in the rural south.

I listened to Trouble So Hard, I'm Going to Leland, and  The Blood-Stained Banders. Out of the three, the last one was the most enthusiastic and fast-paced. The other two songs were songs I would associate with working.

The other CD I checked out was African American Spirituals: The Concert Tradition.  I listened to Wade in the Water. It was sung by the Howard University Chamber Choir so it was a completely different listening experience than the other CD. I liked this one much better.

The other song I enjoyed listening to was Oh Freedom that was sung by The Princely Players. The song was beautifully sung and sounded like one that I would hear in a church service or funeral (but it was not depressing to listen to because of the lovely voices and lyrics).

The third song from the CD that I listened to was Roll, Jordan, Roll sung by The Princely Players. As I listened to the music, it made me miss listening to the choir at White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church. They have an incredibly talented group of women and men who come together to sing a wide variety of music. This song I could see them singing.


The spiritual practice of enthusiasm arises out of deep passion and visceral energy. Both qualities, according to the Spiritual Practices website, are apparent in Sonia Delaunay's Flamenco Singer.

Spheres of bright colors — reds, oranges, yellows, blues, greens — radiate away from the central figure of the singer. Some of the disks become spirals before moving off the canvas. The power of such a vocal performance must come from a place deep within, the source of all enthusiasm.

Daily Cue, Reminder, Vow, Blessing

There are three reminders from the Spiritual Practices website that would be ones that I can see using throughout my life.

• Seeing an audience clapping for a performer, is a cue for me to practice enthusiasm.

• Looking up at the radiance of the stars, I am reminded to let my enthusiasm for life shine brightly.

• Watching someone who obviously relishes what he or she is doing, I vow to practice enthusiasm.

Practice of the Day

The antidote to exhaustion may not be rest. 
It may be wholeheartedness. 
You are so exhausted because all of the things 
you are doing are just busyness. 
There's a central core of wholeheartedness 
totally missing from what you're doing.
— Brother David Steindl-Rast quoted in I Will Not Die an Unlived Life by Dawna Markova

To Practice This Thought: The next time you feel like you need a nap, instead do something you are really excited about.

I rarely take naps - instead my days are filled from the moment I wake up to the time I go to bed. Periodically, though, when I am exhausted I do fall asleep and usually it ends up being for a good two hours. Then I feel refreshed.

However, if I'm just dragging for some reason, simply getting outside can lift my spirits. The weather has been getting warm again so I started taking the dogs for walks since I'm not worried about falling on the ice any more if they pull me.

Girls Resting on a Tree Stump
It seems like yesterday, in some ways,
that both Montague and Gretel were with us.
This was taken on April 8, 2009, on
one of our spring walks.
March 21st marks the one year anniversary 
of Montague's death, and - interestingly - 
the birth of the other Golden Retriever we had (Sydne) 
who was born in 1990.

What I want to start doing again is doing creative projects. The year my father died (2012) I did so many creative projects. Even the two years proceeding his death, I was doing a lot of creative activities. In 2013, it was as if everything just came to a halt. I'm hoping that in 2015 I can begin to carve out time for something that I used to be very enthusiastic about.

Spiritual Exercises

Select a favorite hymn or religious song to use in a worship service or ritual. Let yourself go as you sing it. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, gave some very specific instructions for singing: "Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength."

Although there are religious songs that I enjoy listening to like On Eagles Wings or Meditation on Breathing or many different Christmas songs, I don't sing in public. Rather, in my mind I sing along with a perfect voice - one very unlike the one I sound like if I was to sing aloud.

Journal Exercises

Both of these topics I wrote about in my personal journal:

Do an enthusiasm examination of yourself. When do you feel most alive? What are you passionate about? Do you always feel free to express your enthusiasm? If not, what tends to stifle this spiritual energy?

Write a profile of a person you would call a "living saint" who is infused with a good spirit. How has this individual moved you? How do you feel in the company of this person? Try to come to terms with your reactions to "holy people" in this exercise.

Discussion Questions, Storytelling, Sharing

Describe a specific incident when you were enthusiastic about a project. What was it? How did the people around you respond to your excitement? Did anyone try to take the wind out of your sails? How did you handle the situation?

Finished Sensory and Memory Quilt (for my Dad's Christmas Gift)
This is the sensory and memory quilt I made for my dad.
(The photograph was taken on December 21, 2009)

I made a sensory and memory quilt for my dad who had Alzheimer's Disease. The fabrics had different textures, and the pictures were ones that he picked out that were meaningful to him. The back was a very soft fleece.

I gave it to my father on December 27th since there was a big snowstorm. Anyway...he opened the box and looked at the quilt, and immediately started recalling memories and sharing stories about some of the pictures.

He cried when he looked at other pictures. "I've had a good life," he said.

What do you do to revive your spirits when you are feeling sluggish, bored, or apathetic? The most consistent thing that I do to revive my spirits is spend time in nature. Taking a walk with the dogs, exploring a new trail, going to a state park, or even just stepping outdoors to take a walk around the farm can revitalize me when I most need it.

Beautiful tulips that I saw on April 30, 2009.
I was on a trip to Pella, Iowa, with 
my parents and daughters.

Household, Group, and Community Projects

At some point in the future, I would like to do these things:

Create a scrapbook of Enthusiastic Souls, perhaps organized around saint days or birthdays. Read about the lives of people you admire. Copy down meaningful lines from their writing. Find one way to honor this person - with a prayer, a reading, or a specific action.

Make supporting other people's enthusiasms an ongoing activity in your household. Send thank you notes to people whose commitments you admire, just as you would acknowledge a gift. Regularly share your passions with family and friends - send a favorite book with a note about why you love it, recommend a film, e-mail a meaningful quote. And when you spot enthusiastic people, cheer them on.

1 comment:

Rita said...

What a full, enthusiastic post! ;)