A Bit More Accident Prone

Waking Up
Many different phrases have been used to express the spiritual capacity – the capacity to:
  • see beyond walls,
  • commune with divine mystery,
  • experience an internal caress,
  • hear our deeper consciousness,
  • experience epiphanies,
  • become awake,
  • usher ourselves into right relationship with life,
  • open our heart to life's blessed mysteries,
  • foster a greater love of self and greater caring for neighbor and earth.
Certain exercises can, over time, enhance spiritual fitness, strengthen the spiritual virtues.

In some ways, spiritual fitness lines up with physical, intellectual, and emotional-social fitness. In other ways, though, spirituality doesn’t fit the model of those other aspects of life. With physical fitness, you need a clear straightforward assessment of where you are, and where you want to be, and what the difference is. With mental skills, you can set as a goal to reach a certain chess rating, or to be able to do the Sunday crossword in under an hour, or to improve your score on one of those computer sites that will run you through a battery of skill-testing games. It’s harder to score emotional-social fitness, but the basic idea but there’s still a basic idea of seeing where you are, seeing where you’d like to be, and recognizing the difference. Spirituality is more a matter of seeing where you are, seeing where you’d like to be, and recognizing the sameness.

So the notion of spiritual fitness has a certain paradoxical quality to it. You’re already perfect – so what’s there to improve? Just this: remembering; acting and living out of a firmer grounding in your inherent perfection; having your judgments while at the same time seeing through the pretense that judgment is very important.

There is a place for judgment, evaluation, good-bad, better-worse -- and there always will be. Judging Mind has important work to do. The problem is that it works overtime. Spirituality is about seeing the appropriate, limited role for judgment -- while also holding in our awareness the wider context within which judgment has its little corner.

The spirit's message isn't that you are special or important. You're not. You're merely perfect – like everyone else.

Embrace Your Demons
The spiritual path, however, unfolds slowly, and in its own way, on its own schedule. If we try to push spirit, spirit will push back, and we'll get nowhere. This is another way that spiritual fitness doesn’t fit the model of physical fitness. You can make your biceps strong by forcing them to do the exercises. The spiritual "muscle" doesn't work that way. You can't make it strong. Love it and accept it in its weakness. Then -- only then -- might it decide to grow strong on its own. Development of the spiritual virtues can't be forced. If it happens, it's an accident. Spiritual practices do, however, make us a bit more accident prone.

Even if you do grow stronger in the spiritual virtues, you might not know it. One day maybe you'll notice that it's been a while since you yelled at the other cars in traffic -- or someone will say you're "a peaceful presence" -- or you'll realize you used to worry a lot more about finances. None of these, of course, mean you've "arrived." But they are among the possible signs of a spirit that's been given the affirming space it needs.

I began spiritual practice because I was beset by my various demons. I had been fighting them for years, and was not winning. Apparent victories were temporary, fleeting. The fighting just gave the demons a good work-out and made them stronger. Spiritual practices are ways to stop fighting. If I embrace my demons instead of fighting them, then they aren’t such a problem for me, or for the others in my life.

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This is part 3 of 4 "Spiritual Practice"
Next: Part 4: "Five Universal Pratices"
Previous: Part 2: "Spiritual Quotient"
Beginning: Part 1: "Courage and Uselessness"

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