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-A Jewish Blessing-
From the time our minds start talking, our souls start asking questions. Where are we? Why are we here? What does it all mean? What, if anything are we supposed to do?
Science with its many answers often comes up short. Scientific experiment in controlled situations, may have some real proof to some of the whys, wheres and whatfors. But real life is messy. The mistake of modern science and its religious followers is the mistake of human arrogance. Scientists cannot answer the "Ultimate Questions" nor does science present us with the "Ultimate Truth". Once the realization of sciences' failure dawns on us, we clear the way to discuss the connecting enterprise: religion or what I term our spirituality.
Just as we have tools of science to answer life's questions, so do we have implements to help us in our spiritual quests. To answer the question "where are we?", we must develop the ability to see ourselves and our place in our community. Visualization is an important tool in our search for spiritual answers. When I was in the park with my granddaughter I went to lift her onto a swing. When I couldn't lift her I heard my mind offer a plea rather than a prayer. No! No! Not yet! I'm not that old and decrepit! An image appeared of an old, feeble granny, who in a few years would be incapable of carrying groceries, going on walks, playing with her grandchildren or enjoying the physical life with her husband. This was not a pretty picture. This was not a good place for my soul to be. I knew, though I had long given up attending places of worship, that my soul needed a new home. When I started going to the gym, I was pleasantly surprised to find again the spiritual part of me I had taken so much for grant ed. When I was lifting weights, I found myself in a state of well-being. I felt I was balancing my mind, body and spirit. I felt healthy and strong. I felt proud that I was taking care of the container that held my life force.
I learned to use visualization to motivate me toward physical achievements. I learned how to set and reach goals. Seeing my body change and grow stronger became an incentive to work harder and achieve more. The more successful I was the more motivated I became. The energizing feelings of a pump sensation and learning the joy of the effort itself made my spirit soar. Eventually I took up kickboxing. I also started going on long rides with my husband on our tandem/recumbent bicycle. My mind, body and soul knew that wherever I went in life, there I was.
There used to be an old joke that went: "Marriage is like an institution, but who wants to be committed to an institution." Although this joke made all those "loners", who didn't know any better, chuckle in their beers, the spiritual value of commitment was lost to them.
Commitment is one of the tools used to help us discover "why are we here". Once we achieve self-enlightenment we try to understand our place in the community: our home, our city, our state, our country and even our universe. Our religious teachings begin at home. As we get older and experience more, we adapt our beliefs not only to our parents, but to the society around us. Some of us just feel comfortable with our homogeneous religions. Maturity and life's experiences may make the old religious practices more meaningful. What we believe in always requires a leap of faith. If we do not believe in a particular path, nothing and no one can make us see the truth in that path. Belief is not volitional.
Because the world changes, the interactions with the world change too. At the gym the feeling of self-worth and social acceptance is well nurtured. We are all there to train our bodies and minds to be stronger and healthier. We form a mutual admiration society that praises hard work and progress. When I train or help others to build, it gives me a sense of place. The commitment we put into our lives toward producing and nurturing, helps us bring the mind, body and soul into balance. The commitment I learn in the gym helps me understand my commitment in other arenas. All I have to do is look at my husband, children, grandchildren and friends and I know why I am here.
From: A Garland of Love by Daphne Rose Kingma
Once we have decided "where we are?" and "why we are here?", we can then explore "what does it all mean?" The tools enabling us to delve into the meaning of life are concentration and discipline. There are as many ways to develop and use these tools. In order to achieve a state of well being, we try to learn about life and our place in the world. Many religious scholars and philosophers study whole lifetimes to come up with answers. Exposing ourselves to regular study and meditation will help us find our own personal answers. Continually examining our inner spiritual growth in relationship to the world around us will enhance our ability to find meaning to life.
-Tao Te Ching-
In some countries there is a belief that inner and spiritual growth comes from exercise. People practice Tai Ch'i (Ch'i being the Life Force). Tai Ch'i is gentle movement of joints for flexibility, while developing an inner awareness from concentration. If you ask some people at the gym, they will tell you that life is lifting weights. A gardener will tell you that flowers and weeds hold the secret to life. A scientist will tell you that evolution holds the truths about life. A politician will tell you revolution gives meaning to life. We who are busy with day to day living and working also develop varying philosophies about life's truths. Spirituality is part of the solution in our search for the meaning of our existence.
To me the meaning of life is life itself.
-Dorothy Day, Leader of the Catholic Worker movement
What if anything are we supposed to do? A spiritual tool that is at our disposal is persistence. We are born and we die. Whether we attend church, synagogue, zendo, ashram, temples or common meeting places or we choose spiritual consul alone in our homes and workplaces, we must continue living and learning about ourselves, our nature and our community. Those of us who go to the gym to build and lift, discover that through diligence and hard work we are able to build strength and maintain good health. With persistence we learn more and grow stronger.
-Traditional Christian Grace-
We may pray that the fates will be kind and the furies merciful. A prayer is a display of our gratitude for life itself. I recently learned that we are made up of stardust. Perhaps we are born again into the vast universe of stars from which we came. Perhaps that is how we go home.
I wish to thank M.J. Ryan who edited the book A Grateful Heart
I also want to thank again the Deep Thoughts calender people for their inspirational sense of humor.
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