Reaching For Higher Aspirations
In almost all areas of life human beings keep pushing the bar higher. When I was in high school in the mid seventies, we were greatly impressed by anyone who could play like Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page. Today we have eight year old kids playing Malmsteen and ten year old dancers making performances far beyond what we could have ever imagined. Progress in all areas of life happens because brave men and women come forth to raise the bar by achieving greater and greater accomplishments.
Similarly, there are many who are well-suited for achieving extraordinary dedication to spiritual pursuits with time and practice -- learning to sit with deep concentration in spiritual devotion for hours — jumping fully into the river of giving — living free from lust, greed, pride, anger, envy, fear and attachments, and living unaffected by all of the hype and brainwashing we learned from our society.
It is most fortunate that humankind is replete with accounts of the lives of great men and women; great because their spiritual achievements were far beyond what most within society are familiar with. These exemplars can be the greatest source of inspiration because they showed the rest of us what is possible.
At the same time, reviewing the lives of these these men and women can have the adverse affect of causing people to feel discouraged. Repeating what is written elsewhere: "...it might be helpful to think of our world as a spiritual workout gym. Some spiritual athletes will work out hard six days a week. Others will decide to workout more moderately three days a week to avoid creating an aversion that will hold them back. Many longtime spiritual practitioners come to see the path more as a marathon than a race. What is the right pace for one may not be right for another." Regardless of the pace chosen, holding great these exemplars before us can inspire us to make greater efforts at achieving deeper Divine contact.
The lives of the Desert Fathers were very extreme and I suspect in some cases very joyful. These high performers from 270 AD onward spent the majority of their lives in the hot desert where they sought seclusion from all distractions. They took vthe advice found in the New Testament to pray without ceasing to heart — to the tune of 16 hours or more a day! It is believed that some even maintained prayer in their sleep. Great inspiration can also be found in The Way of a Pilgrim, a more digestible version of pursuing unceasing prayer. Mother Teresa of Calcutta lived for decades in some of the most egregious conditions, sleeping perhaps four hours a night and giving the rest of her time to serving Jesus Christ by administering to the poorest of the poor. Today over four thousand nuns from her order go unrecognized for living day-by-day also under very difficult conditions. Millions of others live in monasteries dedicating many hours a day to prayer, contemplation and service. Of course, there are also millions of very dedicated souls who do not live in monasteries -- people who persist every day to concentrate their minds in meditation, take spiritual pauses throughout the day, and to give whatever time is available to achieving deeper Divine contact.
There are a number of ways that we can take steps to live closer to our deeper spiritual aspirations. Those who do not meditate can greatly benefit from gradually learning to direct their minds and focus it on developing a deeper relationship with the Divine. (Visit our “How to Meditate” page). Those who do meditate can increase the depth felt and time spent in this practice. We can also engage in spiritual readings, write, take meditative pauses throughout the day, attend inspiring events, build spiritual relationships plus give money and volunteer time to help others.
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