Monday, July 7, 2008

A Response, of Sorts

As a rule, I don't publicly respond to comments that people leave on the blog. I have that policy for a couple of reasons. First, hardly anyone leaves comments! Second, I have the advantage here, in that my words appear on the main page of the blog, while a comment has to be sought out. So in all fairness, if I'm going to respond, I pretty much email the person who leaves a comment and let it go at that.

However, there was a comment left on my post Burnout, Spirituality Style that I feel I must respond to publicly, simply because I fear my words were misunderstood and it might have appeared as if I was advocating something I actually oppose. So, if any of that interests you, click and read on ...

Okay, first, I'm assuming here that you read the post. Now here's the comment, written by someone in India (Wow, I've gone global!):

I was looking for spiritual blogs, here I found yours, dear, tell me one thing which I didn't get in your article, that when you're getting training to be a spiritual leader, your mentor told you listen to your spirit and body, that's fine, but next line !!! 'when hungry eat, when tired sleep, when energetic move, don't you think through these things, we'll depend on our body, many times body says go to sleep, go take rest, mostly it say so, then should we keep on fulfilling it's wishes like this??

I must admit, at first I was taken aback by this comment. But the more I thought about this individual's words, the more I thought that perhaps it could be understood that I was advocating a hedonistic spiritual path. You know, sleeping, eating, and having fun instead of practicing the spiritual disciplines. Well, that is not what I meant at all.

Remember, both Buddha (explicitly) and Jesus (implicitly) advocated a type of "middle of the road" approach to faith and spirituality. In the Christian tradition, stories abound of Jesus being criticized because he ate and drank (!) with sinners, and talked about not going to extremes. The Buddha tried the ascetic life, and it almost killed him before he chose the path that would lead to his enlightenment. Jesus did fast in the wilderness, but he also talked about putting ones faith in God, and not worrying about what the future would bring ("Consider the lilies ...").

So when I said that my mentor told me "that I need to learn to listen to my body and spirit. When energized, move. When tired, sleep. When hungry, feed. That sort of thing." what he meant was that we need to listen to what our bodies say, but at the same time not go to the extreme of letting them take over our lives. In other words, when tired, sleep, but not so much that we stay in bed all day and all night. When hungry, eat, but don't become gluttonous. And so on. Find that happy medium and stick with it.

If we refuse to listen to what our bodies say, everything in our lives is affected. When I'm exhausted, I don't think clearly. I become irritable, and my perception of reality is skewed. The same happens when I'm hungry, or when I'm sick. My relationship with the Divine suffers, especially if I try to plow ahead with my spiritual life when my physical and mental selves are suffering.

Hopefully, all of this makes more sense now. I will say that I'm not sure what tradition the person who left this comment comes out of; my attempts to go back through her blogs (most of which lacked posts) and the websites to which she linked didn't reveal much. Not that it matters in the long run - she raised an issue and I hope I've answered and ended any confusion as to what I was trying to say.


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