“I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life."
Sometimes it seems that we are losing the quality of ruggedness in much of the popular spirituality of our age. In fact, if things in our life become difficult, we feel guilty, as though we did something wrong. According to the faddish "Law of Attraction," having positive thoughts will allow positive events to concretize in our lives. This of course is half true. People with a negative attitude often seem to have a whole string of challenging events and relationships occur in their lives. But the other half of the truth acknowledges that life is innately challenging, and that we are called to grow through our challenges and misfortunes.
Strangely, meditation and other contemplative practices are often promoted by pop gurus as guaranteeing greater physical and psychological health. Rather than employing a meditative mindset to elicit a sense of awe and wonder at the magic of life and to expand our sense of self to include the perspectives and struggles of a larger Whole, we instead are told to use these practices to guarantee greater personal health. What we fail to realize is that there may be times when meditation actually INCREASES our stress. We encounter the evil of the world within our own shadow side and have to deal with it. Or we may endure a "dark night of the soul" where our experience of the Divine seems to disappear, a natural occurrence when we are learning to incarnate and embody the Divine at a level deeper than mere experience and feeling. During these times, our blood pressure may go up, we may experience greater anxiety and stress, and our friendships may fall apart.
The spiritual journey is not for the soft or the weak at heart. At times it may seem like an existential, ontological version of what Teddy Roosevelt called "The Strenuous Life." But then again, this is something that any athlete knows. If we think of the athletes in our acquaintance, we will acknowledge the fact that they are often nagged by lifelong injuries related to their craft. If "No Pain, No Gain" is an acknowledged principle in athletics, why do we think it will be any different with SPIRITUAL athletics? I would advocate a return to ruggedness, both physically and spiritually. For THAT, I am convinced, is the ultimate healing.
Photo: Nokhu Crags, Never Summer Range, CO, January 4, 2015
Please visit: http://www.resourcesforspiritualgrowth.com/
Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.