The Urgent Call

It lies within you, thirsting.

Like a baby bird chirping desperately for its mother’s return to the nest to bring the food that will keep it alive, there is a yearning that lives within you, and it calls incessantly. It can be satiated with the smallest of moments, and it has a camel’s resistance to thirst, but if you ignore it too long, it will shrivel and die.

And as it does, color will fade from your world. Meaning will ebb away, enjoyment will wither, and you’ll sit around trying to remember a time in your life when richness existed. You’ll get dry, stiff… and when you hardly recognize the crusty you that you’ve become, you’ll chalk it up to being busy. Or being a parent. Or being a professional. Or getting older.

But it has nothing to do with any of those things.

The Urgent Call is your spirit’s need for connection. Like the migrating herds of the plains of Africa, who travel thousands of miles every year in search of life-giving food and water, your spirit has an essential drive to feel its connection to all around it. It’s the reason we seek community. It’s the reason we search for purpose and meaning in life. It’s the reason we feel better when we’re on a spiritual path, and it’s the reason that it doesn’t really matter what path that ends up being.

urgent

What matters is that you connect.
What matters is the Urgent Call gets listened to.
It doesn’t matter how your Urgent Call gets fulfilled, only that it does.
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Put The Power Of Ritual To Work For You

Chanting monk

Why, in seemingly every tradition, are there ritual practices?

Because rituals work, that’s why. They work through repetition; through continual practice, the attentive mind learns the steps until they are memorized. Once the mind’s focus is no longer needed to complete the ritual, it goes on “auto-pilot”, and the adept can repeat the ritual and focus the mind deeper, awakening the heart/soul/whatever (depends on the ritual, of course). This allows for a much deeper level of presence to be had, transforming the result of the ritual, and the mind of the practitioner.

Or, as my martial arts teacher would say, “First, the mind teaches the body what to do. Then, the body refines the movement, teaching the mind how it wants to move. Finally, body and mind are united as one.” He also said that once you performed an action 10,000 times, you had it mastered.

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I Was Going To Write About SOBCon, but… Part Two

L-R: Kane, me, Cree, Garrett

L-R: Kane, me, Cree, Garrett

No exploding tires, no big catastrophe this time, don’t worry.

But I had it in mind to write a great review of what happened at SOBCon08, and then I thought—especially in light of all the great reviews being posted out there—would that really be helpful? Would it help you to hear about the things I did, the food I ate, the people I talked to, and the sights I saw on my trip to Chicago this month?

No, not really. It probably wouldn’t. (Other than to give you social proof that SOBCon is great, and you should really go next year if you’re even at all curious.)

So, what would benefit you?

  1. I had a great time. Now you can be happy for me (thanks).
  2. It was a great catalyst for a number of decisions I needed to make, and you’ll be hearing about the fruits of those decisions very, very soon.
  3. It reinforced for me the importance of friendship, community, and why it’s so great to go to events like this.

Because the information I heard was great, but it didn’t make as large an impact on me as when I went last year. At SOBCon07, I had been blogging about three weeks… so the information presented blew me away. Everything that anyone said was so helpful, so new, so eye-opening.
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Want To Be A Better Person? Be A Spiritual Generalist.

Yesterday I talked about a system of fitness called CrossFit, to help make the point of General Work Preparedness (GWP). In a nutshell, you take a generalist’s view of what it takes to be successful at work, rather than a specialist’s, by not just focusing on improving your working skills, but by becoming a better all-around person (more details here).

Well, to be perfectly transparent, I’m a CrossFit addict now. I live and breathe all I can of it, because I find it more exciting than wearing a hand-buzzer at a networking convention. I’m subscribed to their journal, I frequent the message boards, and I work out (mostly) along with CrossFit’s 3-on-1-off schedule. It’s the bees knees, baby.

I read something on the CrossFit message board the other day that struck me as having great value, and not just in fitness terms. Damien Del Russo (one of the thousands of community members) wrote, on a thread about losing weight:

Keep in mind that CrossFit is not meant to be a weight loss plan. That is one of the effects of being fit, but not the point of the [program].

Because CrossFit is about creating a "broad, general, and inclusive fitness" (a hallmark tenet of CrossFit), it doesn’t focus on one particular result, but on the ability to get better across the board: speed, strength, agility, coordination, etc.

When you train this way, and follow balanced nutritional guidelines, your body finds its natural and optimal balance. If fat needs to come off of you, it will. If you need more muscle, it’ll grow. If your heart needs to be more fit, it gets stronger and more efficient. So, you train for inclusive fitness, and that’s exactly what you get.

Now, the "crossover" part…

It’s easy to get specialized when it comes to spirituality and personal development, and start compartmentalizing our goals, such as:

  • "I want to work on my anger."
  • "I want to be more patient."
  • "I need to learn how to forgive myself."
  • "I need to be better at managing stress."

And so, we launch ourselves into programs and initiatives to try to develop those aspects of ourselves. We read books and take classes to learn how to communicate from the heart, do mantras to help us become more compassionate or relaxed, do service projects to learn selflessness, and so on.And in the quest for the solitary examples of what we think will make us better at certain things, we lose sight of what we can do to make us better equipped to handle the multitudes of situations that come our way each day. We strive for compassion, for example, because we think that’s an element of being a better person. What about working on becoming a better person all-around?

Train for connection, end up compassionate

In all the spiritual paths I’ve learned about, the fundamental teaching is connection. The more you can connect to your inner self, the better off you are. The more you can connect to your fellow human being, the better off you are. The more connected you are to the natural world, to the spiritual world, to your thoughts, emotions, and body, the better off you are.Is that it, then?

Of course not; it’s way too simplistic (and wrong) to imply that one focus will do it all for you. In CrossFit, we run, because running builds one kind of endurance. But we also lift heavy weights, and do bodyweight exercises, and gymnastics, and on and on. Multiple points of focus to train your whole body. And the cool thing is, when you’re a better deadlifter, you’re a better runner. And jumper, and rower, and cyclist, and anything else you need to do.

In your spiritual/personal life, you’re also going to need to focus on a multitude of topics in order to best develop the whole of who you are. The better you are, for example, at tapping into your spiritual connection, the better you’ll be at all kinds of other personal skills.

The trick is to kick your spiritual couch-potato tendencies, and get going.

And how, pray tell, do you do this?

Well, in the words of Michael Valentine Smith (Robert Heinlein’s protagonist in Stranger In A Strange Land), "I am only an egg." I wouldn’t endeavor to be more inclusive, than say, Buddha, Lao Tzu, or any of the world’s Prophets.

Because even if you’re "spiritual, but not religious," you have to admit that the experience of thousands of years of spiritual practice and personal development can’t just be tossed aside because it doesn’t fit your paradigms.

Am I saying that you should adopt a formal religion? Heavens, no. I mean, go ahead if you want to; I’m not against them if your intentions are clean and your discernment strong. What I am saying, though, is that success leaves clues. There are teachings available from the spiritual and religious doctrines of the world that, when practiced with a certain degree of self-responsibility and awareness, can yield immense benefits in your personal development, and help you build a "broad, general, and inclusive spirit" — path or no path.

And if you don’t have a "path" already?

Then start simple: Get to know yourself. Spend time inside (your heart, not indoors). Connect; with yourself, with others, and with whatever sense of "Oneness" you perceive and/or believe in. Live responsibly. Act sincerely. Extend a hand graciously, and receive one just as amiably. Love. Love some more. Forgive. Be grateful. From there, follow your heart.

Is there more?

Of course there is. Keep watching this space!

How Do You Orient To The Divine?

This is a huge topic, I realize… one that I couldn’t do justice to in a single post (or a single lifetime, perhaps… but that won’t stop me from beginning the conversation, at least.

It seems to me that there are two primary ways that most people and most paths orient to the concept of God/Divine/Oneness/Spirit. It’s either inside of you, or outside of you.

The “outside of you” folks probably think of you and the Divine, the Divine being ‘out there’, and you trying to reach It. Your quest is to experience proximity to the Divine, and feel what it’s like to merge with the Divine, or, be in service to whatever It asks of you. (Because of the difference seen between man and Spirit, this is called, “dualism.”)

The “inside of you” folks probably think of the Divine in you, as ‘in here’, and you seeking to experience the fullness of It in you and through you. Your quest is to experience no absence of that Presence, to be filled 100% with the seamlessness of the experience of what is. (Because of the lack of difference seen between man and Spirit, this is called, “monism.”)

To the dualists, Divinity is something to be reached.
To the monists, Divinity is something to be realized.

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