Book Review: Crafting A Daily Practice, by T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle's Crafting A Daily Practice: a simple course on self-commitment is a survey of techniques designed to introduce spiritual practice to the beginner. Supplemental readings are suggested from Coyle's book Kissing the Limitless, but these aren't required, and I didn't undertake them. I should also mention that I'm not a beginner to spiritual practice but rather a lapsed practitioner seeking tools for reshaping my daily routine, and while I read the book in its entirety, I switched from the suggested practice plan to my own once I had reshaped it.

Coyle begins with a discussion of daily practice in her own life along with observations about the fear that sometimes motivates people not to practice. She lays out the purpose of the book, suggests mornings for practice and encourages readers not to give up if they miss a day or two. In Chapter One, she introduces the Still Point and Soul Alignment meditations that form a foundation for all the work that comes after and suggests a self-commitment of three written journal pages a day for six days. Weeks Two through Eight build on this with journaling exercises, an introduction to meditation and other techniques such as chanting and yoga. At the end of the course, readers are encouraged to craft their own daily practices from the work they've undertaken.

On a philosophical level, there is a grounded pragmatism about the text I appreciate; it's encouraging without dissolving into the sappy self-helpery that characterizes other books of this kind. I also appreciate Coyle's straightforward critique of spiritual leadership when discussing the need for daily practice. She writes:

Some of our leaders and teachers do not maintain daily practice. Consequently, we sometimes see individuals whose power begins to twist inside of them in ways that are not helpful. They haven't developed a strong and supple base of personal power, so they try to hoard the power of the group, or grow jealous of the power they perceive in another. This causes problems and both they and the community grow out of balance. In order to grow stronger we need a container for our energies. That container is most easily built by ongoing practice.

On an organizational level, the exercises build smoothly from a solid foundation. As previously mentioned, the Still Point and Soul Alignment meditations set the tone for the rest of the work, while the journaling exercises progress from free-writing to engagement with the self, and the other meditations deepen from five minutes of candle-gazing to more robust work. A commendable addition to these is her discussion of focus techniques for longer meditations in Practice Week Seven. Long meditations can be difficult for beginners, and it's good of her to include suggestions for wrangling the distracted mind during practice.

In all, Crafting A Daily Practice successfully introduces several time-honored spiritual practices with a grounded approach that is both encouraging and organized. Recommended for any newcomer to spiritual practice and for people seeking to reawaken their practice, with the caveat that they might decide to wander off the book's well-marked path once they've re-engaged the work of their souls.

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