For the experiential component of my world religions classes, the first project was to get in touch with “your wonderfulness within.” I made it clear that this is better known as the spirit of God within, and has different names and interpretations in various religions and secular psychologies.

For the students, the simplest and most popular option was conscious breathing. Simply take time to let your attention rest on your breathing. People wanted to know if they were doing it right, and I would say that if you’re feeling some calm, that’s fine. By the third week some remarkable experiences would begin to surface. And I would mention that these experiences might possibly be explained in neuroscientific, psychological, or spiritual terms—or all of the above.

The next most popular option was centering prayer. Take time to close the eyes, choose a word to symbolize your intention to consent to the presence and activity of God’s spirit within. The next step was to select a name for that presence, and I would always emphasize that it was not necessary to use a religious word.

Most beginners prefer definite instructions. The option that almost no one ever took was to simply develop a loving friendship with God. Take time to walk together outdoors. Share thoughts and experiences, listen for a while to discern a possible response, and allow the friendship to grow.

Growth in spiritual experience leverages our development in every “other” area of life. The indwelling presence of God is a source of energy, power, wisdom, insight, love, peace, creativity, purpose, and guidance. Spiritual experience is not the special preserve of mystics. Ordinary practices of prayer and worship can be graced by a sense of presence. And loving service imparts a special quality of divinity along with its practical benefit. When I speak of the spirit within, much of that I mean is that we can personally know the Father (no matter what name we use). As our spiritual experience grows, so does our contribution in the universal family.

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