Life is like riding a bicycle: to keep your balance you have to keep moving.Albert Einstein
Darrell Yardley rephrase: “Spirituality is like riding a bicycle: to keep your balance you have to keep practicing.”
Spiritual practice is what keeps us moving on our spiritual journey. It is the rear wheel of the bicycle that powers our journey. The front wheel determines our direction, our path, and is the choices we make about our journey. The bike’s frame is the guiding principles and values that holds it all together and supports us. The pedals supply power to the back wheel and you supply your power to the pedals. The practice, the pedals, our power, keep us moving forward on our spiritual journey. The practice and guiding principles are what help us keep our balance in life.
Lose your balance and it’s splat! Like road kill–a mess on the highway. Maybe, road splat, is a better metaphor here. Because, like the cartoon character, Ziggy: you picks yourself up, dusts yourself off, check to see that nothing is broken or amiss, get back on your bike, and start pedaling again. If something is broken, you fix it, or get it fixed as in my recent post. Sometimes duct taping it has to do as a temporary fix.
The other day on my bicycle I had a spill when my bike locked down, and I couldn’t get my feet our of the pedal clips in time. Right in the middle of the road…and here came a car (see earlier blog). The lady driver stopped and offered assistance, but I was okay, embarrassed maybe, but okay. In this case, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and walked the bike back to the truck a block or so away when I realized the derailer was messed up. Back to my shop for repairs. Nope. I had a bent derailer but good, not sure how that happened. (Ended up taking the bike in to repair to R.E.I. the next day.)
Before I go further, let me be clear about what I mean by spirituality. I am defining spirituality as a combination of inner-peace and personal growth. As discussed at greater length in my new Guru book (above), you have to have both to grow spiritually.
Ultimately, spirituality is about spiritual practice, and spiritual growth is about keeping at and extending that practice. Our practice provides the movement that keeps us in spiritual balance and allows us to grow. Spiritual practice is what enables us to cultivate deeper spiritual connections–with ourselves, each other, nature and the universe–and stillness. Spiritual practice is really about cultivating stillness, not movement. In that, it is from our inner, mental stillness that movement, or growth, comes.
Stillness as in the Biblical, “Be still and know that I am God” (Palms 46:10) or, “The peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). The former I would rephrase, “Be still and know that I am the Tao.” From a Buddhist perspective, stillness is about mindfulness–of being fully present and aware in each moment. With increased spirituality comes inner-peace or serenity, which translates to less suffering in a Buddhist sense as I discuss in Guru.
Inner-peace is a way of being, like my Guru on the mountaintop and is not the same as being happy…. Happiness is an emotion. Emotions come and go; they rise and fall in our consciousness. Inner-peace is a state of being. inner-peace has to be cultivated, nurtured like vegetables or flowers in a garden. Hence, practice is the cultivation. . Inner-peace allows these impermanent emotions to come and go, all the while maintaining an inner core of peace. Easy said, not so easy to do. I am still working on it.
In Guru (featured above), I focus mainly on how to supercharge the spiritual growth process through intense spiritual experiences, such as Native American vision quests and sweat lodges; Zen sesshins (intense meditation retreats); and other intense spiritual experiences. I also talk about spiritual growth in terms of spiritual fitness, analogous to evolutionary fitness, which is where the Guru comes in. However, even with these supercharging experiences stills lies the importance of practice. Slow and steady like the tortoise or plow horse, not rapid like the rabbit or a racehorse. Daily practice–this is the “movement” that keeps us in balance.
In our bike metaphor, I have not talked about the bikes frame. that is the guiding principles and values that hold it all together. For me those are Buddha’s teachings about impermanence, that our suffering is caused by our desire that things be different or remain the same, and letting go of that desire; about accepting things are as they are in each moment. Everything is impermanent; everything changes
How do we find deeper spiritual meaning in our ever changing, Orwellian Brave New World? Our world of the coronavirus, climate change, over population, pollution, world famine and disease? 130o in the Mojave Desert a few days ago! Fire tornados in California; wildfires and droughts throughout the West. Floods, famine, earthquakes, … on and on goes the list. Political unrest and division, racism, sexism, bigotry, divisiveness rather than inclusiveness, where bullying, ignorance, and denial are lauded and exploited. Unemployment and underemployment for many. It’s depressing; it’s overwhelming! Then, add to all this, as if all of this wasn’t already enough, our self-isolation during this pandemic to try to deter the spread of the coronavirus and protect ourselves, our families, and others. In the deeper core of many of us there is a call for inner-peace, for deeper connection, and to reconnect with Nature, our mother. In future posts I will address these questions and more in greater detail. Stay tuned.