I follow a handful of fitness professionals including Jillian Michaels, Scott Sonnon, and Tony Horton. I read their wisdom, tips and inspirational essays on a variety of social media: Twitter, FaceBook, Google+ and their personal blogs or websites. Despite being known for their roles as weight-loss and fitness gurus, they are some of the most spiritual people out there. Their practical, results-oriented approach to life appeals to me on many levels.
Currently, these fitness pros share a theme in their writing – the issue of utilitarian, goal-oriented training. This isn’t goal-oriented in the ‘I want to weigh x-amount of pounds,’ but rather what do you want to be able to do with your body? A ballet dancer is going to require a completely different kind of physical condition than that of a triathlete, or a longshoreman, or a fireman. While weight-loss is often a short-term goal of many people in order to improve their health, it’s a very boring long-term goal. If you approach physical fitness as consistent methodology to improve your ability to perform your sport, your art or your job, you are much more likely to bring passion, enthusiasm and commitment to your workouts.
Likewise, fit people take their lifelong commitment to their art or sport and break it down into events or performances to create short-term goals. Runners train for a marathon, dancers train for a performance, and martial artists train for a match. They focus on every aspect of their resources: they frequently diet to support their physical needs, practice visualization techniques to train their mind, in addition to physical workouts.
For someone who has never been an athlete or particularly physically fit, a period of seeking usually begins after achieving a level of overall physical conditioning. They need to explore the world of sports and activities to find something that feeds their body and spirit. When they find something they love, their workouts and daily practice become easier to develop and customize.
This is not unlike spiritual seeking and magical practice.
When someone feels the pull of the occult, they usually begin their period of overall spiritual conditioning by reading a few basic books and performing the exercises therein. Hopefully during this time, they have begun to develop some foundational skills – a meditation practice and a sensitivity to energy. Perhaps they have begun to learn some breathing techniques and have started to hone their visualization abilities and imagination.
This is followed by a period of seeking. The spiritual seeker will read more books, network at meetups, conferences, and festivals. A seeker will ask questions, attend rituals and ceremonies and other events. The seeker is looking for that spiritual tradition that feeds their spirit and engages the whole of their selves.
Unfortunately, some of us get stuck in a perpetual motion machine of seeking. We become dabblers and dilettantes. We never commit to any particular path or tradition because they all look like so much fun!
Unfortunately, we lack a rich vocabulary with which to describe the varieties of religious and spiritual experience. Our culture tends to be disengaged spiritually; other than a few special ceremonies to mark rites of passage, we view spirituality or religious expression as something we passively take part in once a week. It may take Pagan seekers longer to find their true path because modern Pagan traditions require a hands-on approach. For many, it is a wholly new and different way of expressing one’s spirituality.
So, what are you spiritually training for? What are you hoping to gain from your spiritual practice? Are you looking for a cultural identity? Are you seeking power? Do you want to feel ecstatic joy or communion with deity? Are you looking for personal mastery or growth? What fundamentals do you need to apply to get in spiritual fitness for more advanced or specialized experience? Do you have a meditation or mindfulness practice? Do you have a daily devotional? Do you have a daily grounding, centering, and/or shielding practice? What can you do right now to reach for personal success?