Have you ever found yourself suddenly intrigued by mystic inquiry, only to find yourself disillusioned later or that you needed to find an equilibrium? Spiritual gymnastics is a term we will use to describe this phase of spiritual awakening and growth.
While sometimes lessons that come to us via mystical means might just be true, it can be a spiritual rabbit hole as well and we are not discounting mystical and psi practices, by any means. We are simply hoping to identify one of the potential pitfalls and recommending use of personal discernment when engaging in “that which cannot be explained”.
A Spiritual Awakening
There are many wonderful teachers, training and tools out there to learn from when one has made a decision to seek deep within and become the best version of their self that they can be.
Throughout history, there are countless examples of humans who attempt to seek greater meaning and purpose in their lifetime and excel at it. The term self-actualization describes this, a term coined by Kurt Goldstein and the process expanded upon by Abraham Maslow. This does not directly pertain to a spiritual awakening necessarily, but to the innate drive within each human to become that which he or she can be, thus it can extend to all aspects of an individual’s life, be it partnering, parenting, health, wealth, creativity and so on.
Indirectly, however, spiritually fit and emotionally intelligent humans are far more likely to self-actualize. Ideally, becoming spiritually “awake” would be the natural outcome in the process of growth and development while working toward meeting our maximum potential, simply a direct result of “right living”, but unfortunately this is not always the case.
Spiritual awakenings may occur to anyone at anytime in their lifetime, either gradually in the process of self-actualization or as a direct result of pain-motivated growth. For instance, spiritual awakenings are often described in the process of healing from an event that may have caused an individual to fall short of their true potential.
Individuals who have undergone extensive trauma, endured extremes of hardship, sustained severe personal tragedy, socioeconomic upheaval, substance abuse or mood disorders are often redirected on their path toward their anticipated true potential in the wake of life circumstances.
Some never make it back after such losses, but those who do often speak of a spiritual awakening as part of this journey toward their newly and more spiritually directed life, often quite transformed as a result. Some contemporary examples might include the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Victor Frankel, Eckhardt Tolle, Pema Chodron, and thousands more that deserve mention.** (**Please do not be disturbed if you do not see names that come to mind, as there are too many to mention, but please feel free to add them in the comments section below).
Sparks and Jumpstarts to Spiritual Growth
Pain is a powerful motivator, as humans subjected to circumstances outside of their control will attempt to seek and find a new equilibrium when knocked off course by a hurricane in their own life. Sometimes just a brief sense of communion with something deeper to their inner nature which connects them to the whole is the spark the lights the fire to overcome adversity. For others, it might take substantially more than that.
While not everyone has a burning bush or white light experience on a path toward spiritual enlightenment, many do; such an event could be called a spiritual jump start. Such events are often described as an intense and undeniable “knowing” that everything will be all right, even in the worst of circumstances.
Unfortunately, the jump start that sets one upon such a path does not necessarily guarantee that the path will not become obscure in the future. Continued growth requires fuel and may arise from many sources.
Spiritual teachings and teachers are plentiful, yet spiritual seekers can often be misled either by their own thoughts or by very well-intentioned guides, becoming derailed from the very path they are trying to find and follow. As a spiritual journey is a very individualized and internal one, dependency upon any particular viewpoint can create obstacles to progress, despite the most well-intentioned supporters along the way.
The commonality, however, is that once awakened, each potential distraction that might lead one away from the path set in motion may contain a deeper and darker consequence to the seeker; the spiritual gymnastics phase of spiritual development is what we describe below, as it can be a cautionary phase.
Spiritual Exercises Generally Accepted as Beneficial
There are very important exercises used by the seeker to maintain themselves on the path toward self-discovery. Here are a few examples of known practices generally accepted as conducive to maintenance of spiritual growth:
Prayers are intended to be a form of devotion, confessions of weaknesses and surrender of self-will, requests for relief of suffering of self and others and petitions for guidance.
Expressions of gratitude would be an example of devotion that can almost immediately shift perspective and mindset, even in the worst of circumstances. As an exercise, it can transform a lack-based mentality to one of abundance rapidly, no matter what might be taking place on the outside.
In times of darkness and despair, speaking honestly to a higher source allows for release of painful energies of sadness, fear and anger. There is comfort in honest expression and technically speaking, a higher source generally already knows what lays buried within, thus there is no need to hide behind polite or reverent words.
The method and means of the prayer vary from religion to religion and spiritual teaching to spiritual teaching. The usefulness in seeking a variety of prayers is simply for keeping an open mind and learning from the processes of others and adopting it if useful to the individual in their own journey.
Meditation is another spiritual exercise and the goal of this is balance and calm the body while seeking communion, strength and inspiration from a source beyond the egoic self – the divine self, if you will.
While highly recommended, meditation must be tailored to the individual in a way that suits their disposition and waking life constructively. It is extremely important that when learning meditation that the seeker be aware that there are many types of meditation and not to be discouraged should he or she discover one method of meditation isn’t working well.
If one were to attend meditation meetings from different spiritual and intellectual sectors, the one commonality would be the number of individuals who state they just aren’t good at it or some who feel inhibited to admit it in the presence of others who seem to “get it”. A positive and simple solution is simply to try different types of meditation until finding the one that works, even if just briefly. As with any exercise, it gets easier with practice.
The benefits of meditation are well reported. It slows down the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, reduces tension, relaxes the mind and can be used at any time to re-set the day. Another commonly reported and supremely beneficial result of meditation can be sudden insights in the form of break-through thoughts or images that relieve the individual from a stuck point. Somehow, the quieted mind allows a breathing space for an elusive idea to come flowing forward once all the other mental noise has been removed, similar in the manner that insights are sometimes realized after a good night’s sleep.
3) Yoga (or other focused exercise)
The term yoga simply means union – uniting the physical body with the mind and the spirit. It is meditative and provides profound physical benefits in terms of flexibility, strength, coordination, balance and more. Some use traditional yoga but any physical activity where concentration and focus, coordination of breathing, balance and attention to the process that takes the person outside of their usual stream of thought with complete focused on the process might be considered yoga as well. You can ask any surfer, distance runner, martial artist, or dancer if they consider their sport to be Yoga and you would often get an affirmative answer.
4) Rejoicing or Ritual
Rejoicing in the form of ritual, such as singing, dancing, chanting and other practices which are expressions of gratitude, might also be considered another form of prayer and devotion.
Mysticism vs Spiritual Gymnastics
Here is where the spiritual exercises can get a bit trickier. Utilizing the term spiritual gymnastics is not meant to be derogatory, nor do any of the practices noted in the list below represent spiritual gymnastics. These are simply forms of mystical practices that might need more careful discernment in their use and practical application. Spiritual gymnastics refers to using any of these or even the more common spiritual exercises listed above in an unbalanced manner.
Practices such as these can astound and provide benefit, yet because they can be so fascinating and perhaps more immediately gratifying in terms of “answers”, they carry more potential to distract or unbalance the seeker. While prayer and meditation might not be as rapid in terms of clarity, the practices below can lead to a lot of misinterpretation contingent upon the practitioner and the recipient.
- Tarot and Oracle Cards*
- Spirit Guide Messages
- Messages in Dreams
- Fortune telling
- I Ching
- Energetic readings
- Oracle Cards
Not wishing to mislead or disparage these practices by any means; it can be delightful to learn that we can receive energetic messages about the future or our present situation. Many of these practices can provide valuable insight when delivered in the manner they are intended, sometimes with incredible accuracy. Many receive profound emotional and even physical benefits in energetic healing arts as well.
The caveat is that any and all of these exercises might best be entertained with a discerning eye and one foot firmly planted in the earth, as they can be potentially misleading and almost addictive in the process of discovery.
If unable to make a decision without consulting an astrological chart, the I Ching, a tarot reading or other similar practice without also applying practicality, prayer, and/or meditation to balance life choices, there is a risk of falling off the spiritual balance beam head-first onto a very thin mat.
Plain and simply, these tools can inspiring, instructional, and valuable, yet the messages received should also resonate within the heart of the recipient in alignment with spiritual principles the individual has chosen to live by. If the reading and spiritual principles align, it would be reasonable to assume the path ahead will be relatively smooth.
With profound respect we wish to emphasize that how, when, where, why and to whom anyone chooses to find and seek spiritual strength and connection is an entirely individualized process. We do not profess to have expertise on what works best for any individual, group or organization.
Our purpose was simply to inspire conversation and provide some commonly utilized tools.
If you wish to add spiritual exercises that you have found beneficial or have other comments, please add them in the space provided below; we appreciate your participation and suggestions!
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