How To Develop Spiritual Muscle

Spiritual Muscle

People think I have a large life. My energy commands a room, but it’s not intentional. In fact, sometimes I feel I have two personalities. 

My exterior confidence was trained through directing, leading and teaching large groups of people as a music educator, performing musician, and my role as a Buddhist facilitator. When I’ve had the opportunity to lead, there was no room for ego or attention to myself. There was a task to be done. 

I’ve honed a skill to focus on the task at hand without regard to how I feel. I appreciate this because it enabled me to accomplish a lot as a teacher, chorus conductor, faith leader and performing musician. It allowed me to see beyond myself and do more than I would have otherwise envisioned had I stopped to ponder my capability.

ATTACK OF DOUBT

On the flip side, my alter-ego is debilitatingly shy and constantly fighting doubt. Through sheer life experience and in particular debt to my SGI-USA Buddhist philosophy, I’ve managed to function well beyond this insecurity.

But it attacks me relentlessly when least expected with insomnia. Even when I thought I’d confronted my inner demons, fear and doubt insidiously assault my thoughts until the wee hours of morning.

I combat it with my intellect, of course. I speak to myself with a voice of calmness about reality and fool-proof strategies to turn away my inner demons. I try distracting myself with reading, deep breathing and imagery of relaxed, happy visions. I chant my Buddhist mantra while attempting to empty the barrage of negativity swirling in my brain. I get out of bed and stretch. I write my thoughts in my journal and fight the battle until 3am, despite exhaustion. Finally, I drift off for about three hours of rest.

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

MAKING HEADWAY

This darkness has beat at my inner doors my entire life. I’ve dramatically lessened the effects of it. It used to cause such stomach-upset agony I couldn’t function beyond bed-rest. It caused me to develop respiratory issues. I had no stamina against this demon. I continued relentlessly attacking it from the inside out with my determined prayer—and forged directly through it until I gained strength over it.

I no longer have those anxiety attacks that shook my whole body with nausea or stomach pain. I no longer get respiratory illness or stage fright. I have no qualms about public speaking, performing, 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 doubts rear their ugliness to challenge me.  That’s how I know I’m on the right track.

VICTORY OVER A STRONG OPPONENT

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

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 fueled by belief in the human heart. My heart. 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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