How To Develop Spiritual Muscle

People think I have a large life. My personality strikes some as dramatically assertive, confident and bold.  My energy commands a room, though it’s not intentional.  In fact, sometimes I feel I have two personalities. No, I’m not mentally ill.  Or at least not diagnosed yet.

My point is that I’ve learned assertiveness through directing, leading and teaching large groups of people as a music educator, performing musician as well as through my role as a Buddhist faith facilitator.  When I’ve had the opportunity to lead or facilitate, there was no room for ego or attention to myself. There was a task to be done. So I’ve honed a skill to focus on the task at hand without regard to how I personally feel.  I appreciate this training, as it enabled me to accomplish a lot as a teacher, chorus conductor, faith leader and performing musician.  It allowed me to see beyond myself, to accomplish more than I would have otherwise envisioned had I stopped to ponder what I personally am capable of achieving.

ATTACK OF DOUBT

On the flip side to this, my alter-ego, or what I’ve believed to be my true personality, is  debilitatingly shy and constantly fighting against self-doubt.  I don’t know where this lack of confidence comes from, but it has always been there to some degree. Through sheer life experience and in particular debt to my SGI Buddhist philosophy/practice, I’ve managed to function well beyond this insecurity to a great deal of success.

But this insecurity attacks me relentlessly and when least expected.  Insomnia.  Even when I thought I’d confronted and addressed my inner demons, fear and doubt insidiously attack my thoughts till the wee hours of morning.  I combat it with all my intellect, of course.

I speak to myself with a voice of calmness, reminding myself of reality and fool-proof strategies to turn away my inner demons.  I try distracting my thoughts with reading.  I try deep breathing and imagery of relaxed, happy visions.  I chant my Buddhist mantra, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, while attempting to empty the barrage of negativity swirling in my brain.  I get out of bed and stretch. I write my thoughts at 1am.  I fight a battle until 3am, despite feeling completely worn out physically.  Finally, I drift off for about three hours of rest.

In the morning, of course, it all seems perfectly stupid.  In the light of day, my evening struggle seems like a mirage.  Except that I feel exhausted for two days afterwards.

MAKING HEADWAY

This war against darkness has beat at my inner doors my entire life.  I’ve lessened the effects of it dramatically. It used to make me physically ill, so I could not function beyond bed-rest and stomach-upset agony.  It caused me to develop respiratory issues.  I had no stamina against this demon for years. I had to continue relentlessly attacking it—from the inside out—with my determined prayer—and forge directly through it until I gained strength over it.

I no longer have those anxiety attacks that shook my whole body or gave me stomach pain or nausea.  I no longer get respiratory illness.  I don’t get stage fright and have no qualms about public speaking, performing, directing or facilitating.  I don’t worry about what people think of me anymore.

But when I’m striving to reach a personal goal, or break through to a new level of success in any aspect of my life, my self-doubt and fear rear their ugliness to challenge me.  Now I know I’m on the right track when I’m battling my inner darkness.

VICTORY OVER A STRONG OPPONENT

My Buddhist practice confirms that this is an obvious sign of my inner growth; I’m pushing myself beyond comfort and growing my capacity larger than before.  There is resistance so I may develop my spiritual muscle.  This most powerful opponent enables me to forge my true self and full potential.  Anything easy would not warrant a victory celebration.

So I’m on to these twin evils (fear and doubt); They appear so I may open the path to my future with my true essence—my inner power, my self-confidence, my belief in the power of the human heart. My heart.

So I wage on—with a resolute vow to never give up until I win absolute victory.  I know it is a test of my faith.  A chance for me to see how my determined prayer—starting from the inner realm—manifests in tangible, conspicuous external proof, based on the interconnectedness of life.  I just have to do the inner work first. Take that, doubt and fear. Take THAT.

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