Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Our Spiritual Gym

This is Laura’s fourth and final Lauratorial, which appeared in Earth Quarterly #4, April, 1999.

Anyone who hangs around me or my writing for a while knows how I adore metaphors. It’s my favorite/easiest way of relating to life. Well, I just had a good one come to me yesterday when I was riding my bike to the post office to check the EQ mailbox.

First though, let me set the stage a bit. A week ago my neighbor’s dog had puppies, seven of them, eight originally but one died. I wasn’t able to see them until a few days later when I low-crawled under the porch on my tummy with mamadog jumplickdancing all over me. There, on the soft dusty ground, safe and warm, lay seven black sausages with tiny ears and noses. They were all asleep and roused slightly when I brought their mama’s energy in with me. "What an adorable miracle," I said.

A few days later, right before bedtime as I was comfortably doing very little at home in my sweatclothes, our living room was besieged. In roared three little neighbor girls, ages 5 to 8, all caroling at once (but not in unison) about their rabbit Skittle having her babies! Right now! Please come and see! Well of course Neil and I spared not a moment getting out the door and across the street. There, in her silky nest made of her own body fur, crouched big mama rabbit, beautiful, serenely ejecting babies like gumballs from a gumball machine. The babies didn’t look like baby rabbits. They looked like (sorry to use food again, but that’s where my head is, folks) a heap of hot dog piggies. They were slick and bright pink with a stray wild foot coming up to the top of the pile now and then. Some of them had black polka dots on them, making them look like hot dogs that got dropped in the dirt Whenever I got a glimpse of an ear it was apparent that what we had here were indeed baby rabbits. Those minuscule bugs bunny sticky-up ears were unmistakable and unbearably, unbelievably rabbity. Wow, struck me as another miracle!

So, here we have these babies being born with not much in the way of survival skills other than the basics, which is all they really need at that point. Then came the drive-the-lesson-home event. A married couple came over to interview Gordon and me about bees, about which we happen to know a few things. These two people are, as well as being writers, parents. They brought with them, by default, their eight-month-old son, Walker. What a guy! All muscle, charm, desire and trust. He wasn’t yet performing the activity he was named for, but he was definitely working on it. He never stopped moving for the entire hour and a half we were with him. He maintained constant motion in his dad’s arms, moving this way to see what was behind him and then that way to check out his muscle connections. He was obviously getting all the circuits tested, rigged, wired and juiced up for action. He had no worries, mate. He had total trust in dad’s arms, and their ability to maintain an even strain throughout all the body work going on. When dad put Walker on the floor, Walker’s feet went right down into future walking mode position. Not having the slightest degree of balance yet, Walker’s body would lurch forward and back, arms flying and flapping about. Dad’s arms were right there all the time to manage damage control of the situation. What was Walker doing? Just exactly what he was supposed to be doing: setting his instruments, trying out his sea legs, getting his gimbals attached and functioning, connecting circuits.

Okay, so are you ready for the metaphor? It’s about the gymnasium, building muscles. If I took a toddler into the gym, he could maybe pick up some very light weights. He would have very little control of them, and would perhaps do some serious damage to toes or mirrors if not supervised. We wouldn’t exactly refer to him as a weightlifter. But let him grow up, say 15-20 years, and he would probably normally be able to heft the 100 pound weights, maybe more depending on his body size. With no training and no exposure to weightlifting, most average folks could lift some weights and do some repetitions. If, however, I took my toddler into the gym with me every week when I went to do my weight lifting, let him get some experience, gave him some age/size appropriate training over a series of years, what would he have then? He would have a body that is capable of lifting considerably more weight and doing it on purpose in an organized way.

So it is with all of us, I believe. We get born and appear pretty lame, pretty puley. But we DO grow up—I mean in a body way we get bigger and taller, able to do lots of things pretty much automatically. I mean a certain amount of growing just happens, from hot dog bunnies to sausage puppies to heaving pre-toddlers and on up to "tall personhood." Everyone and everything just grows bigger and a bit more capable of handling life in general.. But to grow a certain specific set of muscles or skills or abilities--that takes specific training.

Now what I would like to leap to, with my metaphor in my hand, if you don’t mind, is the "spiritual muscle." We all grow up into tall oak trees or full-grown dogs or daddies pretty much without direction, like the non-weightlifter. But if we want to become spiritual heavyweights, we would probably benefit from some guidance and direction. This can, and does, come from both within and without. For some it may be an organized religion, for others it may be just the "still small voice that thunders in the silence" within. Lots of other ways. No matter. As many different ways as there are different patterns of spots on rabbits. The point is about the being conscious of what we are doing and trying to invite it into our experience. Life itself is the ultimate miracle—the infinite, unending miracle of life growing itself. Wow, thanks!

The spiritual gym can take an infinite variety of forms. For me, it is my morning time with God—that reality of myself that comes through whenever I am aware of it and make time and silence for it. I have been in the habit for many years of not letting my feet touch the floor until I have at least acknowledged this presence that I would prefer to go before me and straighten things out in my life. I have a ritual—mental exercises first—that I use to talk my mind out of itself and into being silent. Then I flex my Awareness Muscle¬¬being aware of Consciousness. So I sweat a bit in the spiritual gym first thing every day—every day that I want to be even remotely a success, that is. Then I work at coming back to my gym several times during the day. At least once each day on purpose I sit down with my timer for 15 minutes of exercising my mind into stillness and my awareness muscle into strength. It works—at intervals unplanned by me, I am rewarded by having my muscles take me to a new higher plateau, much higher than I have actually earned by my efforts. Then my lessons get harder because I can lift more weight. Whereas physical muscles are probably finite in how much they can be built to lift, I suspect the spiritual muscle is infinite. Infinite like infinity, where you can never get to the end of it—you could always keep adding one more and one more... That’s the way I do it. I can’t stand the way I feel if I haven’t exercised for too long a time—my body feels crummy and my life doesn’t have "flow-throughness."

When we on purpose take ourselves to our spiritual gym, (whatever neighborhood that lies in), and purposefully and with awareness give our spiritual muscles an appropriate, well-scheduled, disciplined workout (whatever our level), our spiritual muscles grow. Then life becomes more manageable, less painful, less frightening. And, like Walker, dad’s everlasting arms are always there—making corrections, shoring us up, and insuring that we will continue to meet our challenges at whatever level we currently need them.

So, keep on sweatin’! Miracles are normal.


Anonymous Jacques Conejo said...

Great Sharing. Great Counsel. Great Metaphor.

It's certain that humans in recognized and unrecognized times and spaces, did indeed benefit from those words... Including myself, right here - right now.

These seeds of consciousness, again sown, remain vital for eternity.

Again, thank you for sharing those writings... You know you've hit the mark when these writings from 10 years ago are as real and important today as they were then.

Kinda makes one wonder if you'd consider doing some more writing from your current perspective. Hmmm?



7:32 AM  

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