Spiritual fitness and goal setting

Posted: Sunday, November 08, 2009

The fall weather and shorter days provide a wonderful opportunity to slow down after a busy summer and take time for spiritual reflection. One way to approach this review is to assess our level of "spiritual fitness."

We all know about physical fitness and its importance in our lives, and lately there has been much in the media about the importance of building and maintaining mental fitness. Yet, how often do we think about our spiritual fitness and how to strengthen or maintain that aspect of our existence?

In Eckankar, the religion of the light and sound of God, we believe in a multi-dimensional existence, inhabiting physical, emotional, mental and spiritual "bodies." You may have heard the phrase, "We are human beings having a spiritual experience." Eckists believe "we are Soul having a human experience," and each lifetime is a classroom for soul. We are here to learn lessons about love, specifically how to open our hearts to give and receive more divine love with others, ourselves and God.

Similar to review and goal-setting in other aspects of our lives, writing certain steps are helpful: 1) Review where we are now on our spiritual journey, 2) envision where we would like to be or areas we'd like to improve and 3) review the challenges we may face in reaching our goals.

In the process of spiritual goal setting, beware of certain pitfalls. It's tempting to set up spiritual goals and expectations that are unrealistic, at least within the timeframe established by our ego. Choose one area or one step to take at a time. The spiritual journey is a fluid and dynamic process, changing as we change, growing as we grow.

Another tendency is thinking spiritual goals have an endpoint, a place we can stop and no longer work on our spiritual fitness. As a spiritual seeker, I spent years attending different programs for a weekend or longer, even spending a couple of months in a yoga ashram. My immature illusion was that I would find that perfect "weekend to enlightenment," similar to the perfect diet where I could lose 20 pounds in one weekend! I hoped to reach some permanent state of enlightenment, where I could then reside in continual bliss!

I've reluctantly learned that spiritual fitness requires consistent commitment and discipline. There is no endpoint. There is a saying, "Chop wood, carry water - reach enlightenment - chop wood, carry water." In Eckankar we say, "Heaven is a state of consciousness that must be re-won every day."

Honestly facing the challenges to our spiritual growth is vital to the process, for those are the issues that trip us up on our journey. Whether the challenges are practical such as being too busy or a belief system such as "God doesn't care about me," acknowledging them is the first step in changing them.

Living in a fast-paced society can make finding time for spiritual fitness a challenge. However, finding 5 to 10 minutes during a 24-hour period is always possible and the effort will begin to change us. Ironically, devoting this time to our spiritual fitness creates more time and energy for the rest of our lives.

Examining old spiritual beliefs or fears can be revealing. One technique for letting go of unhelpful beliefs is to visualize laying them on the altar of God, surrendering them to the power of Divine Love. Another technique is writing down what you'd rather believe in a short statement, and then writing it 15 times a day for three to four weeks or until it feels believable for you. If the wording feels like it needs to change during the process, then allow it to adjust to your changing consciousness. Again, spiritual growth is a fluid process.

The Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu, said "the journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step." Overcoming spiritual inertia can begin with writing one page in a journal, reading one page in a spiritual text, one period of prayer or contemplation, or one conversation with God. Even sitting with eyes closed and focusing on the breath for five minutes is a wonderful refresher, clearing the mind and opening the heart.

• Wendy Hamilton is a Clergy member of Eckankar, the Religion of the Light and Sound of God.

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