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Strengthening our “spiritual muscle” when the weights get heavy
When Kevin Costner was Robin Hood back in 1991, he posed a question to a young archer, who had been showing off his skills to the group by shooting arrows at a mock target in the distance.
“Can you do it with a little distraction?” He asked the boy. “Can you make the shot when you must?”
Moments later, he was put on the spot when Maid Marion remarked with a smile, “Can you?”
There is so much valuable information available these days to help us ensure our wellness, prosperity, joy and love. We know what to eat, how to go about our day, how to relate to others.
We know the value of meditation, yoga, Reiki, crystal therapy, hypnotherapy, hydrotherapy – the list goes on and on.
As we try out different things, we learn what works best for us; what we best respond to, relate to and can stick to…at least most of the time.
But for all we say and do and learn, what happens when the pressure is really on? When the distractions set in?
Can you continue with your daily meditation when the kids are sick and the deadlines are pressing and you’re fighting with your partner?
Does Reiki still help you centre and heal when you’re in the midst of a crisis of faith?
In other words, can you make the shot when you must?
The final reps are the ones that count
During a training session one day, my personal trainer pulled me up on the fact that I had been skimping on the last couple of repetitions in every set of a particular exercise. I said that I was struggling to get through them and surely the ten or so I’d already done each time was enough.
He explained to me that there is little value in the first three quarters of a set in weights training. You lift a weight enough times for your muscle to fatigue, but then it’s in the final few repetitions that you’re really pushing the muscle – that’s what strengthens it. Just doing enough repetitions to reach that point works the muscle, but it has no lasting impact. There’s no growth in that.
I see how the same is surely true for all of the healing work we do for ourselves and our spirit.
If you get into the habit of meditating every day, every week, or whatever it may be, you are training your mind to quieten and to get ‘out of the way’, so to speak, so that you can commune with the stillness within.
Naturally, the mind is likely to protest, first loudly, but then subtlety – subconsciously creating distractions to draw you away from your meditative practice. It’s how you respond to this that determines whether or not you strengthen your healing resolve.
This is not to suggest rigidity within a routine (unless that’s desired). If you need to change when you meditate, or even how long you spend, you can of course be flexible, but it’s when you start abandoning your practices on the ‘bad days’, because you’re usually ‘so good’, that you may be missing the point of the exercise.
Weathering the storm
We all have days that flow nicely and feel harmonious, and then others that are more reminiscent of trying to teach an over-caffeinated monkey how to drive a manual car.
Sometimes the techniques we’ve learnt over the years to remain centred, to connect to our higher self, to attract abundance into our lives and so forth, are much harder to tap into than usual.
It’s in these moments – in the darkness and in the confusion – that we at least need to try.
Back at the gym, my trainer said that he would rather I try to finish all of the reps, even if it meant he would help me lift the weights, rather than giving up with one or two left to go.
It’s better to ask for help and push through the space you’re in than to write off your experience into the “too hard” basket. That experience may be exactly what you need right in that moment to shift through an old pattern or belief, or simply an old way of doing things that no longer serves you.
So do you give up and go back to the “old familiar”, or surrender to the experience and open up to something new?
What a difference there is between surrendering and giving up!
A more extreme example of this would be a crisis of faith. When the walls come crashing down and you don’t know if you even believe in what you’re doing anymore. Sometimes this signals a change in course. But sometimes there’s a still, small voice that suddenly seems so close and so distant at the same time, that’s willing you not to give up.
In those cases, simply acknowledging that inner, sacred voice - just knowing that it IS there, no matter how inconceivable that might seem to parts of you at the time - is exactly what is needed in order to push forward.
It’s in lifting the heaviest weights that we build our physical muscle – and in lifting our heaviest burdens that we build our spiritual muscle.
When the world says, "Give up,"
Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."
About the article
First Printed in Inner Self magazine, East/West Edition 24, page 10
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