In memory of my mother. Much of this is by rights her work. I'm coming to this from a perspective of a solitary Witch Misconceptions cleared up here (no, my Mom was not a Witch), and that is where I got a lot of my experience.
Be honest with yourself. Some ways of doing this include sitting alone in deep contemplation, practicing dealing with unpleasant truths by dragging them out into the open regardless of personal comfort, and finding out the hard way that you don't like a given person, place, thing, or situation. This is the most important thing in any spirituality because if you can't be honest with yourself you'll be in a prison of your own making.
Strive to be good. As good, positive, and kind as you can possibly be. Every minute of every day! It's impossible to control the world, but you can (usually) control your mind. And if you can do that, then you can do anything, and be anything.
To assist you in the above, you might want to have a mantra you repeat to yourself to remind you what's important to you. Mine is "kindness." But I bet you could think of something that suits you best.
How to meditate without a focus: Set a timer for five or ten minutes. Sit comfortably in any position that works for you. You don't have to sit with your legs crossed or full lotus or whatever; in a chair is fine, as long as you keep your back straight. Close your eyes, rest your hands on your thighs, and relax as much as you can, physically. Let your mind rove wherever it wants to but keep in mind the intention to relax the mind and let it float in nothingness. Let the thoughts and emotions float by like clouds as you breathe. Remember that this is to give yourself a break from thoughts, mental busyness, and overwhelming emotions and let your mind rest. Eventually the thoughts will cease and you will feel different, but in a good way. Then, the overwhelming emotions will start to chill out a bit. Let yourself feel them and think them, but also let them pass you by and let them go. Practice makes perfect, so try to do this at least once a day, every day. It has significant benefits. You can do this when you're stressed, during work breaks, while traveling on a bus or plane, or anytime. The Headspace app and Netflix series can help you with this.
How to meditate with a focus: Same deal as above, but focus intently on something, such as a positive ideal like peace, self-love, or compassion.
It is recommended to meditate outside every day possible. Be sure you wear bug spray, but other than that, it's probably the best way to chill out while getting in touch with nature. You might want to try this: find a spot out there you really like and sit with your back straight in any position you can manage. Imagine the boundary between your skin and the outside world melting. Then imagine the boundary between your inner self and the outside world melting until there is no "you" anymore. If this spooks you, you can always pray to a higher power for protection as you do this or ask your guardian angel to protect you. Guardian angels exist for everyone regardless of religion. They're a thing.
Guided meditation: This can be basically anything that you guide your mind through. It is best to keep it simple. You can write your own guided meditations for anything at all; the only limit is your imagination. Here is an example: In the same position as above, imagine that you are on a beach, listening to waves. If you're game, then record yourself on your phone or another device with a meditation you walk yourself through.
Meditation while in action: Use meditation with or without a focus as you go about a simple task, such as washing the dishes or taking a walk. Actually, it is possible to do this so often that your life becomes more clear-cut and you generally feel less hazy about your reasons for doing things. This cultivates your awareness.
Creating a shrine or sacred area: Quick! What's sacred or super important to you? Got it? Create an area in your living space dedicated to it. Done.
Once you have defined what is sacred to you, then logically you should defend it. If it's nature, become a treehugging nutcase like me. If it's something else, do what you must, but don't hurt anybody.
My fiance is from Texas and says that in Texas you are raised to do someone a good turn every day. He says that he tries to do something good for someone three times a day: at work, at home, and on the road.
Journaling: At the end of each day write down anything you want to remember. Every month or so, go over the journal to monitor your way of thinking and day-to-day conditions. Then you'll see if you can change your thought patterns for the better, or change your habits or life in some way.
Make a list of things that make you feel right at home and happy. Then whenever you're lost, look at the list and try to bring more of those things into your life. You can also make this into an art project or collage.
How to run an experiment to see if anything spiritual is even remotely based in truth: Find something to prove or disprove to yourself. Maybe a guess about something in the universe or something other people devoutly believe in. Once you've picked the subject of your experiment, spend time studying and analyzing it. If it's safe, interact with it, reach out to it, try to observe it, play around with it. Then run an experiment using the Scientific Method. If you're lucky a pattern will emerge. If you're not, well, tough.
The Scientific Method:
Simplified, the Scientific Method goes like this: Make an observation, ask a question, form a hypothesis (testable explanation), make a prediction based on the hypothesis, test the prediction, iterate iterate iterate iterate iterate iterate (use the results to make new hypotheses and predictions and repeat the entire process over and over again). Here is another method of explaining it: ScienceBuddies
Several things worth running an experiment on in your daily life: 1. Does a loving Creator actually exist? 2. Does karma exist? Both are very difficult to set up quantifiable experiments with but you can certainly try it for yourself. I have had interesting results with these experiments, so I recommend it.
NEW 9/9/20: if you wish to come up with a hypothesis, it helps to keep a good experiment in mind so that you can test your idea in the real world instead of with wishful thinking. This is helpful for everything in life.
Learn logic. Resources: A brief introduction to logic Get acquainted with deductive and inductive reasoning Logical reasoning questions and answers Wikipedia List of Logical Fallacies A textbook of logic Mathematics in 10 Lessons Alice in Wonderland
Experiment to see if the right thing to do always hurts less than the comfortable thing to do. It's usually a whole lot scarier but man, when you at least try to do the right thing, at least you can look back and be proud. In my whole life, that has been my experience every time but try it for yourself.
Other nondenominational spiritual practices anyone can do
Beginner's Hoodoo for (almost) everyone
If you are a Hoodoo rootworker or similar I bet your eyes nearly popped out at that. Apologies. For those of you who don't know what Hoodoo is, it is a system of spirituality and magic (the intentional or unintentional manipulation of natural forces) that anyone who is not evil or sociopathic/narcissistic/dark triad can use without training. Why learn magic at all? I wasn't going to bother putting this in here but unfortunately, those who don't use swords can still die by them, and thus those who misuse magic can easily attack people who do not use it. In other words, I'll teach you a little so you can defend yourself. If you follow these directions, your life won't change for the better overnight but you'll avoid a whole lot of bad and provided you put in the necessary work, things will change for you. You might be wondering at this point, what's the difference between Hoodoo and Witchcraft? Well, Witchcraft isn't a religion, it's a job - you WILL wind up working your butt off to make life better for yourself and those around you, and it really isn't for everyone. Witchcraft (and most other kinds of magic) is a practice of actually imposing your personal will onto the world around you, and it requires rules, training, devotion to the Powers That Be, etc. let's just say it's the boot camp of religions because if you decide to demand the wrong thing out of life you will promptly get your ass handed to you. Unfortunately this can cause a big mess in other people's lives too, hence the bad reputation. Hoodoo is a practice of opening the door for the Divine (or all that is good in the universe, or whatever you think is Sacred and good; seriously this isn't a one-religion's-size-fits-all scenario) to come into your life and work magic on your behalf. They are not the same. You do not require training to work Hoodoo, nor do you need to be of any religion. All you need is a pure heart, sincerity, and an open mind.
***A note on the good, the bad, and the confused in the Occult: generally speaking Occultists of all persuasions fall into one of those three categories. The third is the most prevalent because of the amount of crappy information drifting around. Good Occultists are the second most prevalent but are rare. Bad Occultists are the least prevalent and the most famous; where all of the bad reputation comes from. I have noticed something very distinctive about the few bad magic workers I've met in my life: they are never satisfied. Ever. Nothing makes them happy, they're always searching and seeking and scrabbling for more, more, more! It is not a good way to live life. Don't do that.***
There are five major things you must do if you wish to get started in Hoodoo:
1. Light a candle to the Ancestors of Hoodoo before you even start, and thank them for creating Hoodoo. The Ancestors of Hoodoo were the slaves in the South, Native Americans, and very poor Southerners in general who had to create magic in self-defense in the most dire situations. Respect them. As time goes on, you should create an altar to the Ancestors of Hoodoo in your home and light a candle to them every day, offer them a glass of cool water every day, and keep that altar clean. Have it face East. Never do Hoodoo without paying respects to the people who created it. That's not right.
2. Establish some kind of relationship with your physical ancestors. No, I don't mean call up the dead and ask them for things and bother them, no no no. (In fact never do that.) Look through their things, think about the kind of lives they lived. Visit their graves and clean their tombstones. Put their pictures up in your home and remember them with pride. Tell their stories. If you believe in a higher power, pray for them, and ask your higher power that if it doesn't bother your Ancestors in any way, for your higher power to send them a message from you that you appreciate them and what they did for you. Do this every day.
3. Firmly state, with all your heart, "Of my own free will, I align myself with all that is truly good, now and forever. I am a force for the good and only for the good now and forever." You'll need to say this statement long before any magic work unless you want to ruin your life.
4. Ensure you are mentally well and that you regularly use techniques to keep yourself that way. If you don't yet know how, then learn all you can until you can say with confidence that you are in a balanced mental state. Also see: Mental Health
5. Beware "the stupid." Many tragedies on Earth are committed out of stupidity; possibly more than those committed out of malice. As bad as it is to make a dumb mistake in your mundane life, in spiritual work like magic there is actually zero room for error. I mean it - zero. Therefore from now on you have to be on your guard not just of being unethical or giving in to things like the Seven Deadly Sins in excess, but of being dumb. There's no such thing as common sense (it varies from culture to culture and is often straight-up unethical and wrong) and neither smarts nor wisdom come to you without you working for them. Start working to get smarter, wiser, more ethical and don't stop.
Let's say you've done those five things. Now you'll need to cultivate a genuine spirituality of some kind. If you are already a part of a religion and are very satisfied with it, then you'll need to start taking it completely seriously. No more half-assing it or skipping observances or holidays. Dot the i's and cross the t's. If you are only going through the motions then you need to ask yourself why you are even in that religion and if it really suits you. Choose a spirituality, philosophy, or other outlook that is absolutely perfect for you. Find what you consider sacred (if you don't know, just go with "all that is sacred in the Universe,") and - this is important - ask, out loud, for it to help you find your path. Then dive into that path 1000%. You cannot half-ass spirituality if you want to work any kind of magic. Most importantly, you'll need a personal one-on-one relationship with whatever you believe is sacred, even if that's science or skepticism. The point is that it has to be your own personal truth.
Hoodoo is very explicit about what its magic is. Prayers, especially traditional prayers from religion (such as Psalms), are treated as magic spells in Hoodoo. Here is how to make them work as spells instead of merely speaking: Ask for them sincerely, without putting your personal energy into it or willing it to happen. Don't just speak the words; hope that your Higher Power will bring about what the words say. These have to actually be prayers; requests to a Higher Power, not affirmations. This is not you creating magical change, but opening up a pathway for the Divine to come into your life and help you. This is kind of like what a lot of people call "high magic" or "religious magic." Whatever. It works.
There are ethical considerations even when using prayer magic. For instance, never EVER harm the innocent. That's a recipe for disaster for everyone involved. "Harm" includes changing someone's mind without their permission so no, you may not pray or do a working for someone specific to love you. Yes, I just said that praying for the wrong thing is bad. For the purpose of this argument we'll say that you're an innocent so don't harm yourself either ok. Other things to keep in mind: You are NOT a Deity. You will not become a Deity, and it is not the goal of your life to become one. Avoid hubris. If it doesn't feel completely right and comfortable, don't do it. Be respectful. Ensure the only changes you make are positive ones. Be honorable and on your best behavior. Better to not do a working or say a prayer than to say the wrong one or do the wrong thing. Don't delude yourself or lie to yourself in any way because if what you're doing doesn't check out logically or conform to any kind of common sense, well, oh dear. Follow these rules or believe me it'll start to suck in short order.
Once you have done these things and understood the ethical considerations, then you can start to study Hoodoo in earnest. I recommend avoiding Cat Yronwode's books (she's a Satanist) and going with Starr Casas's work to start. I wish I could give you more than one resource here, because in my experience if you want to learn anything it's best to find at least three teachers or resources, but to be honest she's the only "real deal" I've found in Hoodoo books. Most of the other ones are cash grabs that culturally appropriate and blend together everything into a great big mess. Her work has a very Christian bent but keep in mind that you do not have to be of any particular religion. Paraphrase the Bible verses or make your own "asks," and direct them to Whoever you believe in, or to all that is Good in the Universe, or to any Divine Being, and remember to ask, not demand. I believe the Divine does exist regardless of if you believe in it or not, but all that you really need here is suspension of disbelief. If you are broke or have no discernable access to information then open up your mouth and ask any Higher Power, or all that is good in the Universe, to bring you the resources that are correct for you. Just do it. No one is going to have the same path through this work but I just opened the way for you. Good luck.