A Splendid Animal?


 I can so readily identify with the determination of a young athlete to climb a mountain or run a marathon.

 For it has always been in me to go for it - to put myself to the test. I can recall, for example, when my blood stirred to learn about stair running as a young teen.

 I learned then that the basketball team at my Senior High School used to train by running the gym stairs - till they dropped

 Which inspired me! I loved the idea of seeing how far I could go before dropping. So I began to train by running stairs on my own.

 I felt I had no choice. For I was called to run! Irresistably drawn to stair climbing. Born to run stairs - two at a time.

 Then at sixteen, I made the basketball team and began furiously to run the bleacher stairs every day.


 I was passionate about it. And passionate, too, about climbing stairs of another kind - on another level. 

 For the call to run or climb exists on two levels, an earthly domain and a heavenly one. 

 There is a call to a bleacher stair workout, and a call to run the stairway to heaven. 

 To attain balance, wholeheartedness is required on both levels. 

 Henri Tracol calls the resulting state of coherence - this marriage of the physical with the spiritual - “the full stature of being.” 

 A certain fullness of being comes about when both physical and spiritual dimensions are engaged.

 To focus on the physical plane only is, according to Henri Tracol, to become but "a very splendid animal for the Olympic Games.” (The Taste for Things that are True)

 “Something is missed,” says he, if you’re in such a lop-sided condition. A physical sensation, yes, but inwardly hollow, spiritually immature.

 You have actualized one part of yourself, but neglected the other. 

 When will the neglected part receive equal attention? Equal dedication? Equal energy? When will the quest for spiritual realization begin?

 For as the New Testament asks: "And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world, but lose your soul?” 

 But, of course, who cares?

 The eyes of many respond by glazing over and looking away - uncomprehending. 

 And thus it is that, according to the Katha Upanishad, only “a few hear about the Self." 

 Only a few hear. For the many, minds and hearts are elsewhere.

 They are pumping iron at the gym. Dancing hard at night clubs. Feasting with friends. Chattering at cocktail parties. Climbing mountains or running marathons.

 The Katha Upanishad narrows the field even more by saying that even among those few who do hear about the Self, “fewer still dedicate their lives to its realization.” 

 It’s amazing, really! The quality of one’s inner life - the condition of the soul - receives almost no attention. The things of outer value almost always win out!

 And thus it is, according to the Upanishad, a wonderful sight ever to behold "the one who speaks of the Self.” 

 How rare to behold someone who is in search of "the supreme goal of life.”

 How rare is that one who earnestly searches for true being, perhaps rising early for meditation, alone in the dark, where nobody sees what you’re doing. 

 And yet such a discipline is a nobility of effort that far exceeds in value the effort to scale a mountain.

 I tell you that, for myself I would prefer to hear that one of my children had begun an early morning prayer/meditation practice than that he’d climbed Mount Everest. 

 I would like to hear that I had a child like the young prince, Rama, who struggled to awaken from the veil of maya - which is Yoga talk for the effort to pierce through the false illusions that men live by.

 The Yoga Vasistha tells the story of Rama who received instruction from the great sage, Vasistha, who told him spellbinding tales of spiritual transformation.

 The young Prince responded to the sage with these kinds of comments: 

  “Sir," said he, "there is not an iota of bliss in this world.” 

   "This life of mine is like a flash of lightning in the cloud of delusion." 

     "I am like a bird caught in a trap, and the fire of desire has scalded me.

      “Please point out to me that resplendent and eternal state, devoid of pain, doubt and delusion."

       "Will someone unlock to me the real mysteries? Is there not such a state of quiescence?” 

 Rama, it is plain, is tired of being a sleepy head, which is that condition described by Henri Tracol, as “too asleep to know that we are asleep.” 

 No longer slumbering, Rama, is intensely searching for true being. He’s on the stairway to heaven. 

 Henri Tracol suggests that you can know that you are awakening from spiritual stupor when you fully embrace certain blessed moments in your life.

 He describes these moments as when there is "a sense of balance, or right balance.” 

 These are moments, says Jacob Needleman, when soul appears. The experience of soul is when you inwardly cohere. All the parts of you come together.

 It is not therefore about some fantastic realization. But may rather be a  quiet awakening. 

 In such a state, you no longer feel greedy to cause a big splash - to draw attention to yourself. There is no need for any outward show. 

 Balanced, there is no longer the experience of that greed for sensations that Henri Tracol says is “against a real perception.

 After a while, these steadying moments come more readily and frequently. You are becoming established in the Highest, in God.

 You are now, in New Testament terms,training yourself in godliness - for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." (1 Timothy 4:7b-9)


Terra Nine, No Return