I'm an avid exerciser. Today, Penny and I went to our Pilates class at six this morning and worked out on the Gravity Training System machines for a half hour, guided in this at times gruelingeffort by our coach, Colleen. I can tell that the year or so of Pilates is making a difference. I'm stronger at the core, which is the aim of Pilates.
And I always feel better after working out--be it at Pilates, or following our Tuesday morning spinning class, or after my swim three days a week, or following a vigorous walk/ run at other times.
(Occasionally, I might play a round of golf, but golf, I find, takes too much time, and at 55 years of age, I want to make every minute count; I do not have the luxury of thinking, as I did as a high-school golfter, that I live in a world of infinite time.)
I also feel better after I work out, spiritually, which also builds up my core spiritual strength.
Now, I admit that one thing 12 years of Roman Catholic schooling did for me was turn me into an incredibly--some would say, compulsively--disciplined and organized person. So, my particular spiritual discipline might not be for everyone, and I'm not recommending it to everyone; it's right for me. Only for me.
Here it is:
Daily, I meditate for 20 minutes; listen to NRP's "All Things Considered" report yesterday afternoon on the benefits of meditation: 30 minutes daily will heal the brain, researchers say. I'm working toward adding an additional 20 minutes at the end of the day.
In addition, I read Morning Prayer from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, study one of the lessons and occasionally write in my journal about it. I also write an entry in my journal every day. In the evening, just before Penny and I turn out the lights, we read Compline together or the short devotional form in the Prayer Book for the end of the day.
In my spiritual Pilates program, call it, I also have a coach, called a spiritual director. She is Sister Ann of the Society of St. Margaret, an Episcopal order of women religious of which I have been an associate for nearly 20 years.
As an associate, I follow a rule of life, similar to an exercise plan that my fellow exercise enthusiasts at the local fitness center use as a guide to getting and staying fit physically.
Part of my rule of life is to pray the daily office, one of the Prayer Book prayer servcies. I commit myself to special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I pray daily for my fellow associates. And I support the good works of the Society of St. Margaret with my giving.
To build up one's core strength, one has to have a plan. One has to put in the time and effort. One has to be disciplined and persevere, even when one feels like sleeping in or taking a day off altogether.
But when one does put forth the effort, the results are impressive. Have you ever seen those marathoners or Iron Men and Women competitors at a fitness center? They're serious athletes. You see it in their bodies.
Similarly, to get fit and to stay fit spiritually, we also need to have a plan and follow it. That rule of life is essential. It needs to include time for silence, regular prayer (of whatever kind you can do; God asks us to pray as we can, not as we can't. ), Scripture reading and reflection for deeper and lasting life, regular worship in church with other Christians, service to others, and giving to one's church (among other worthy bodies) for the spread of the Kingdom of God's love.
And we need a spiritual guide, a coach, to help us develop our own rule of life, to keep to our plan, helping us when we're about to give up, to see us through with his or her wisdom on the spiritual life when we encounter difficulties, as we inevitably do.
Remember, our spiritual enemy's aim is to draw us away from God and from the community of believers, to dominate our souls and lives, and ultimately to destroy us. Be careful, I Peter says, the devil prowls around, looking for fresh prey. I am not so sophisticated, so much the rationalist, to believe that the evil one does not exist and seeks mastery over me and other people who love and seek God.
Get fit physically and spiritualy. Stay fit in both ways. And live deeper, more joyfully, and longer, yes, even eternally.