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Thursday, March 1, 2018


“A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting, nor by thinking about what he will think when he has finished acting.  A man of knowledge chooses a path of heart and follows it; and then he looks and rejoices and laughs; and then he sees, and knows.”  Don Juan Matteus

I was perusing a spiritual journal I subscribed to for over ten years.  It was something that I used to read devotedly, daily, like a bible. Then, things changed.  I changed. The journal didn’t have the impact on me that it used to.

While reviewing my myriad journals before releasing them to charity, an advice column entitled “Flexing Your Spiritual Muscle” caught my eye.  A woman wrote in saying that her yoga class had been dismissed with the teacher’s missive to “flex your spiritual muscle.”  The reader thought Teach was joking, then did a double-take when the teacher specified a term for it, so she wrote in to the column, “Do we really have a spiritual muscle?”

The columnist answered, “Yes, if you view body/mind/spirit as one.” 

Okay, I’m with the columnist there.  All of our systems, energetic, biological, psychological and spiritual, work in concert. If one aspect is off, it affects all others.  Heck, if you have a paper cut, it can mess up your day.  

I was shocked when the advice columnist responded that the yoga teacher was probably referring to the psoas muscle, and spent the rest of the piece discussing the meaning and import of that particular muscle.  The psoas may be an important muscle, but is it spiritual?  If the body is spirit made manifest, (which I believe) aren’t all body parts spiritual, from your nose to your toes?

For my money, if the woman who wrote in regarding her yoga class had used some spiritual “muscle” in the first place she would have simply asked the yoga teacher what she meant by her statement.  How hard is that?  

Your spiritual “muscle” is not the psoas.  It’s your will.  Your mind.  Your awareness.  And your ability to take right action based on your knowing, or even based on your lack of knowing (as with the yoga student’s confusion).

It’s empowering to examine your own mind/body connection.  Everything generates from the mind when you accept responsibility for your life.   You are an energetic transmitter and receiver based on your thoughts, feelings and beliefs.  Your body reflects what the command center dictates. “I’m stressed, I’m worried, I’m afraid of germs, cancer, aging, death” vs. “I feel great! I’m so happy.  I’m at peace, I’m relaxed, and I feel good about myself and my choices.”  Your body hears you.  And it responds to the stress levels (or peace) that you orchestrate for your self.  Despite the fact of outside circumstances, you’re the conductor when it comes to how you deal with them.  Will you react graciously or maniacally?

I’m aware of the psoas only because my chiropractor, Dr. Zev Roizer of NYC (who is a genius, once pressed his fingers deep into my abdomen above my pelvis, producing excruciating pain that zipped through my body like lightning. 

“What the hell was that?!” I exclaimed. It certainly wasn’t a bone, though, as a “network chiropractor” (essentially an energy worker, which is why I love him) he incorporates the musculature and energetic systems into the skeletal alignments.   

Dr. Zev explained that he was pressing on my psoas, which was tight.  When he released it and completed the rest of the profoundly relaxing (except for the psoas incident) treatment, I was a new woman.  He has what I call “The Vulcan Touch.”  When I lie face down and he gently touches my neck, I become completely tranquil, to the point of feeling out of body at times. 

If you’re stressed, you hold tension in your muscles, which then puts sustained pressure on your skeletal system, creating imbalance.  Everything is connected, or as one gym friend of mine joked (a very funny gal who was learning anatomy so she could teach dance to kids) “The hip bone is connected to the thigh bone, and the thigh bone is connected to the pussy bone!” because she was so overwhelmed with memorizing details pertaining to human anatomy. 

It’s obvious to me that exercising your spiritual “muscle” means having backbone, some chutzpah to do what’s important for you.  Not only having integrity but taking action instead of just giving lip service to your ideals.  Living in integrity means matching your words to your deeds.  In other words, follow through on what you say, no matter how small, and be somebody people can count on.  Say what you mean.  Namby-pamby people say one thing and do another, and that’s another way of describing a liar.  

What of “spiritual” people who talk a good talk and pray or meditate, but don’t do anything practical?  Prayer, meditation, and raising your vibration are all very powerful practices.  But being able to set clear personal boundaries, communicate directly, and take positive action is imperative. Your head may be in the clouds, but your feet must be firmly on the ground.  You’re entitled to change your mind about things, but clearly communicate that fact to others who are depending on you.   How many people think nothing of telling “white” lies?  There’s nothing innocent about an untruth.  Lies muddy your energetic field.

A terrific example of integrity and spiritual muscle is Desmond Doss in the movie Hacksaw Ridge.  Based on the true story of a very religious medic who enlisted during WWII, he was brutally hazed by those who looked down on him for refusing to touch a weapon. He was finally allowed onto the front lines after two years of extreme abuse and a court-martial, but he was determined to serve his country and help his fallen comrades while cleaving to his standards.

His accomplishments blew everyone away, including his tormentors. Despite the horrific violence, I was so taken by this film that I saw it twice.  I was fortunate to hear both one of the screenwriters and director Mel Gibson speak after the film in a Q&A.  The screenwriter was asked to sum up the movie in one word.  I thought to myself “faith,” but he answered “principle,” and I realized that was the stronger answer.  Desmond stayed true to his principles by exercising spiritual muscle. 

Mel Gibson was asked what the film was about and he answered, “It’s a love story.  The love of God expressed through the love of man.  Agape.”  I liked that.  Despite being devoted to his fiancĂ©e, a nurse back home, Desmond broke his back to save the lives of the very men who had beaten and humiliated him in training.  He put his faith on the front lines, and performed superhuman feats of bravery. 

You don’t have to be perfect (what’s the definition of that, anyway?) but you do have to do something if you claim to “be on the path.”  You can’t just wear a “Spiritual Gangsta” (one of the silliest sayings ever) tee-shirt. I take care of business.  No procrastinating.  Being insightful, I’ll often offer a behavioral suggestion or a shift in perspective to people I know grappling with issues.  

As you probably know yourself from trying to help people, they often respond with excuses, like “yeah, but…” then launch into a defense of their chosen paths of pain. I’ve gotten upset watching things go south for folk I care about. Being honest (and hoping to help) I’ve spoken my mind regarding the situations.   But they inevitably carry on with the same ill-fated choices.

How about spiritual or religious hypocrites?  I knew a "religious" gal who regularly attended church with her boyfriend (not with her husband, who’s not religious) and I was dumbfounded by the story of a small town preacher who had an affair with a married congregant then killed her husband so he could be with her (from the Netflix docu-series Murderous Affairs).  In preparation for the murder (which the victim’s wife was in on) the young preacher wrote a letter to his mistress, “We have to be strong and do what the Lord wants.”  Huh?  

Then there’s the personal growth teacher I used to revere.  His adult child was banished when she accused him of sexual abuse in her childhood, something I never would have believed years ago when I was still following his teachings. While an accusation is not proof, I’ve become aware of other things regarding the man that lead me to believe her story is plausible.

Having spiritual backbone means not always being nice or compliant to appear “loving.”  That’s people pleasing and stems from insecurity (fear) not love.  Use discernment to decide one’s course of action.  Being “nice” to others is most certainly not more important than being true to your needs.  Please your self first, and let your choices pertaining to others come from a place of well-being.  Show others what it’s like to have real self-esteem and to truly have your heart in it when you do want to help.  Giving from the heart vs. giving from obligation are two totally different animals.

I know “gentle souls” (read "passive, and/or fearful”) who meditate and pray but don’t speak up or set boundaries in their lives. Their finances are a mess. Their health is off. Their families are dysfunctional.   If there is one aspect in your life that’s off and you refuse to address it, it taints all other facets, like an infection that turns to gangrene.  You can’t pray it away without also taking action.  The outside always reflects the inside. Use your soul searching to take clear and direct action. 

People deny their issues because they feel the problems reflect poorly on them.  They want to keep up appearances, maintain their reputation. They would never admit this to anyone, least of all themselves.  They simply default to the numbing drug of denial and delusion, shrugging off serious problems as less serious issues, or rationalizing them as something else altogether, particularly something they have no control over (and therefore no responsibility for).  As a result of the subterfuge, nothing gets fixed.   

We have control over everything. No, you don’t control the weather and what other people do.  But you do color, shape and conjure the details of your personal life by virtue of what you think, choose to believe and feel.  If you are a fearful person, you attract the very things you fear.  If you are a relaxed, confident person, you attract circumstances and people that reflect your potent state of being.  Your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are solely under your jurisdiction.  There are no accidents. Contemplate that thought, and empower yourself.

Thinking happier thoughts, thoughts that make you feel good, is a start, and so is processing and understanding your unhappier thoughts so you can dispense with them. When you start doing this work, the mist will begin to clear.  Your life will work better as you release thoughts that drag you down and embrace thoughts that feel better, empowering thoughts that align with what you want, not what you're running from.  You must then take action based on the empowered thoughts, feelings and beliefs, using your spiritual muscle to build the life that you want.   There’s a feedback loop between what you think, feel, and do.  Lasso your rope around sunny skies and white clouds.  You don't have to sit in a puddle on the ground in the rain without an umbrella. Take care of your self. Engineer your well-being.

Facing your fears is always healthier than crippling yourself with delusion.  Nipping something in the bud saves you years of allowing your life to fall into disrepair and decay.  That being said, if a dismal detour is the road that you, friends or family take, respect the choice.  Sometimes lessons can only be learned the hard way.  But lessons can be learned without misery.  We make life easier or harder with the direction we set our rudder, based on our belief system.

Speaking the truth clearly has its consequences, whether the issue is political,  financial, or personal.  But I want to be known for who I really am, and I want to know others for who they really are, too.  No games, masks, posers or liars.

A slippery slope existed for me in the past regarding other people’s problems. Pointing out that they were driving over a cliff seemed the friendly thing to do at the time.  Now I know that it’s not.  People choose their cliffs.  Heck, people carve them before tumbling over.  Since I’m not so much into cliff-hangers these days, I’m spending less time with people who like to do things the hard way.   

At first it was really hard to watch friends opening their veins and bleeding out.  I was incredulous about the things I witnessed.  Their mess, their abyss, got bigger and bigger.  Not only didn’t I want to watch my friends go down a black hole, I worried about my role in their free-fall.  Would I be expected to help pick up the pieces of their shattered lives?  When people around me make outrageously disempowering choices, what should I do?

Considering that people always do what they want no matter what I say (the nerve of them!) maintaining their illusions, delusions, and dysfunction, I’m developing a new spiritual muscle: learning to shut up. 

Whereas I used to offer advice in the past, nowadays, if someone’s life is a mess, I walk away from the disaster zone.  There’s nothing you can do to make others fix their problems, and it’s not healthy or useful to stay around dysfunction.   I’ve also learned that when you choose to see others as empowered instead of pitiful, your vision offers them strength (if they will receive it) to step up to the plate and do what needs to be done.  If they see themselves as victims, they’re done for.   If folk genuinely want clarity by exploring their distress with me, I’m happy to help, but I know far too many people who only play the blame game and don’t accept responsibility for their part in creating the mayhem in their lives.

When it comes to issues in my own life, I know to ask questions, set boundaries, and speak up.  I utilize my spine, my psoas, and my mouth.  Positive thinking without positive action is nothing.  If your house is on fire you get out and call 911.  You don’t sit and read the bible.

Backing off remains a big, big lesson for me.  Whereas speaking the truth was the daring and bold thing to do for me in the past (when I was still finding my voice) now that I’ve found it, keeping not only silent, but emotionally detached when it comes to other people’s drama represents a new learning for me.  My mother always said, “The duty of another is full of danger.”  Now I know what she meant.   

It’s easier now for me to detach.  Getting worked up over stuff I can’t change changes nothing, but shifting my attitude and my behavior does.   I can create calm amid chaos.  I can walk away from the disaster zone. When I do, I free my self with an energetic shift.   I create space for things to go better.  For me, at least.   You can’t save the world.  But being a healthy, happy individual adds positive energy to the planet.  When you think of all the ongoing mayhem, contemplate the power of being a force for good simply by living a happy life.  

Flexing my spiritual muscle now includes a “live and let live” attitude.  Dysfunction without the desire for insight doesn’t feel good to be around.   Nor does my anger, despair or frustration when I hold judgments about others’ choices if I hold a ringside seat to the debacle.  

As soon as I step back, I can regard them more dispassionately, and compassionately. But I’m not responsible for their pain or their problems.  I can love from a distance while trusting that they will attend to their life as I attend to mine.  What a great relief to know that you’re only responsible to run your own game.   You may think this outlook is selfish, but having tried to pry people out of emotional quicksand when it became clear they were choosing to stay put, I call it lifesaving.

People come to truth in their own time.  And sometimes not at all.   At any rate, it’s up to you to decide when it’s important to advocate for yourself or others, be it the environment, animals, or your own family.  But don’t be Atlas.  Carrying the weight of the world is his job, not yours.   The individuals with the problems are the only ones who can do anything about their situations.  Keep your eyes on the road and stop rubbernecking. 

Someone once suggested that I was advocating “tough love” because I felt that setting firm boundaries with her troubled son was the answer to her problem.  On the contrary, I think that continually giving in to someone else’s dysfunction (which she was doing) and cleaning up others' messes is the real “tough love,” for it teaches the troubled person to have no accountability, and creates a social invalid. To live in this world without knowing how to function in this world is not a healthy outcome.

“Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”  The eagle pushes her eaglet out of the nest so that the baby becomes a powerful, self-sufficient predator.  Allow the baby to stay in the nest, and it eventually becomes prey, not the powerful creature she was intended to be.

Dog “whisperer” Cesar Millan understands “spiritual muscle.” Problem dogs simply reflect their owner’s issues, be they anxiety, anger, or passivity.  Calm assertive energy is what dog owners must exhibit for their dogs to reflect calm submissive energy.  How many people do you know who exhibit calm assertive energy and establish boundaries, rules and limitations at home, socially, and on the job?

Whether you have a dog or not, consistently exhibiting calm assertive behavior is exercising spiritual muscle.  It means setting boundaries, and not feeling sorry for others, which reinforces their problems.  When you see others as sad, sorry, pathetic, you bolster a weak vision of them.  When you see them as capable, you empower them. 

As I come increasingly into my own power, my insight is queen and my knowing is king.  That’s why I’m not reading my old inspirational journals anymore.  I turn within for guidance, through solitude and meditation.  I’m “reading” myself now, like a cup of tea leaves.   

Flex your spiritual muscle and encourage others to do the same with your shining example.  

© 2018 Valerie Gilbert All Rights Reserved

Valerie is the author of RAVING VIOLET, MEMORIES, DREAMS AND DEFLECTIONS, SWAMI SOUP, and BRILLIANCE BREWING: A Meditation On Change. The books are available in print, e-book, and audio, narrated by the author.  

Valerie leads psychic development/guided meditation/past life regression/personal growth workshops in New York City, and privately.  A healer, psychic, medium, and channel, you may book private sessions through her website.

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