From Yogi Aaron: The following talk is inspiring and practical. Many of us wonder what it takes to tread a spiritual path. Many students always ask what it takes to live a spiritual life and want enlightenment now. Well, on the one hand, it can happen now, and on the other hand, one needs to enact consciousness. So one the one hand it is easy, and on the other hand, it is not so easy.
So enjoy this piece on Spiritual Fitness.
The Importance of Spiritual Fitness
Let me tell you about Orion. He’s a big, muscular guy. An ex-football player, and an ex-marine. He’s a body builder now. He looks like an Arnold Schwarzenegger type. He manages a lumber yard in Virginia. He’s pretty fit.
Last weekend was Orion’s 30th birthday. He was celebrating it by going on a yoga vacation. We both attended a retreat for yoga teachers and advanced practitioners.
The first session was an intense warm up routine. Lots of stretching, in many different ways, to get the muscles warm and limber. With a deep focus on breathing, and biofeedback. Yoga is meditation in postures.
Orion knocked his back out. It hurt him the rest of the weekend. He dropped out of the program, eventually taking Vicodin. His back was so stiff and hurt so much.
I felt sorry for him.
I asked him how he prepared for the yoga retreat.
He didn’t. He hadn’t practiced yoga in 3 years. He thought he could just pick it up again. I think that was the football player or the body builder talking. The retreat had very clear preparation steps. We were to detoxify our bodies for two weeks. And we were to practice as much yoga as possible. Daily. At home, with DVDs, or in yoga classes. Orion did none of this. And he suffered the consequences for it.
You’re probably thinking something like, “I’d never do something like that!” A whole weekend yoga boot camp. Forget it.
OK, I’m the yoga freak here.
But I know you’ve been through similar situations.
Think back to your college days, or high school.
You’ve got your final exam tomorrow. How do you study for it?
Well, best practices say study a few hours each day, over several weeks.
But how do you study for the exam?
You pull an all-nighter, cramming for the test. You fall asleep around 3 or 4 am. The next morning you wake up, drink a pot of coffee, and hope for the best.
That is if you wake up in time for the test. I once had a student sleep through his final because he pulled an all-nighter studying.
Some of you are triathletes or marathon runners. How to you prepare? Do you wake up the morning of the Chicago marathon, and decide over breakfast at McDonald’s, I think I’ll run the marathon today.
You plan ahead and start practicing months in advance. You need to get ready.
Our religious traditions are filled with stories like this.
Spirituality does not happen over night. It requires practice.
We heard the Taoist tale of King the woodcutter. And how he prepared for his sacred task of carving a bell stand. It was no ordinary bell stand, but an elaborate one for a temple.
In the Jewish tradition, Miriam is the sister of Moses. She is the only woman in the Tanakh, Hebrew Scriptures, named a prophet or a prophetess. When the Hebrews escape from Egypt, she leads the people in celebration. She sings and dances in victory. It’s “The Song of Miriam.” She inspires the Hebrews, and they rejoice with her. These are her spiritual practices. Our choirs still do this today.
In Christianity, we have John the Baptist. He eats locusts and honey and lives in the desert with his renegade band of followers. He wanders from town to town, preaching the coming of the Messiah. And he baptizes people, that is, washes away their sins. That’s his spiritual practice.
Islam has Mohammed. He learns Judaism and Christianity from his fellow merchants. He rejects the idolatry of his people. He begins to worship the one, God. He goes to the caves outside Mecca to meditate in solitude and silence. There, his revelations begin. That’s his spiritual practice.
India gives the world Gandhi.
He’s a corporate lawyer. A graduate of British education in India and England. A very proper gentleman. But he believes in human rights, and he fights for equality. He organizes all kinds of boycotts, and protests, and marches in South Africa and in India. He breaks unjust laws. He opposes segregation, Apartheid, discrimination, excessive taxation, mistreatment of the poor and underprivileged, and especially the British occupation of India. But he also realizes that he needs to prepare himself. He needs to become a different person, so he could effectively transform the world. From this realization, comes his teaching, “to be the change we want to see in the world.”
“To be the change we want to see in the world.” That is the essence of spiritual fitness. As a child, he grows in up a religious family with Hindu devotionals. As an adult, he examines the religion of his youth. And explores other ones as well. Sound familiar?
Gandhi develops his deep spiritual practices gradually, over his lifetime. He experiments a lot. And he sticks with the practices that work for him. It’s trial and error.
He meditates every morning. He prays. He studies scriptures.