Feb 11 2020
Mental gymnastics is the practice of re-framing an activity so as to shift the way we are experiencing it. I use mental gymnastics in order to bring more joy and pleasure to the activities of my daily life, because that’s the world I want to live in… a world with abundant joy and pleasure. Housework is a great example. Cleaning the bathroom, washing dishes, vacuuming, all can be viewed as chores, or I can view these things as opportunities to create beauty and ease in my environment that I’ll be able to enjoy in the coming hours and days. Car shopping is another one, although it took about a year for me to be able to shift this mindset. I needed a new car, and dreaded the time-sucking process of finding a new one. After months of resistance, including hauling off and buying a car that really didn’t meet my needs, and thousands of wasted dollars later, I found the right framing for the task. I turned it into a challenging game of ferreting out a vehicle that met the rigorous standards suggested by my mechanic, which seemed nearly impossible. However, I could see that if I succeeded, I would own a gem on wheels. Within days of making this shift, I got super focused, motivated and the car appeared.
This practice can be used on just about any activity or situation. There is a way to find fun and pleasure in the most unlikely places, provided that we are sufficiently resourced with inward creative agency and positivity. In order to get good at this, it really helps to have a creative play partner. Someone who also believes that “reality” refers to all the limiting beliefs that keep us attached to the status quo.
So now let’s talk about spiritual ambition. If you’re reading this, you are a spiritual seeker of some kind. You’re curious about what else is possible for humanity and for yourself in this lifetime. You have a hunch that there are worlds beyond the one you experience every day even if your rational mind is good at reinforcing the “reality” of the mundane world. Somewhere, inside you, is an audaciously spiritually ambitious essence, a part of you that wants to believe that you can heal yourself, others and the world. Some part of you believes that you are the answer, or can at least see the answer or answers. Despite all your fuckups, mistakes, weaknesses and confusion, you have an inkling that you do indeed have what it takes to ascend, to lead, to guide and to inform the world into a better place.
It can be uncomfortable to even talk about this or to acknowledge this kind of ambition. Because most of us, all our lives, have been internalizing messages that tell us we are not this. We are not worthy, we are not enough, we are just… NOT. The bullies on the playground, the boys who threw rocks, the girls who sneered, the teachers and parents who unconsciously belittled. Those memories live in us and keep the spiritually ambitious side of us safe, by keeping its voice quiet. Well I am here to tell you that this voice is right, I can remind you that you do have what it takes. You are worthy, you are enough.
It’s helpful to be aware that when this voice does begin to emerge, or finds a way to take action, it usually comes tinged with ego. The word “ambition” comes from the Latin root ambire which means to go around canvassing for votes, getting approval from others. So we decide to begin to share our spirituality, to invite people to events, and maybe no one responds, and our feelings are hurt, our ambitions, hopes and dreams are dashed. “Spiritual ambition”, by definition, requires other people’s involvement.
What are the mental gymnastics that allow this innocent urging to express itself in a more pure way? How can we leave the tinges of ego behind and welcome soulful spiritual longing into the world with simplicity and ease?
Let’s go on a little journey here together. Imagine yourself driving a car of spiritual ambition, rolling on the wheels of your desire for growth and ascension. And as you are driving, you see a small religiously shaped building (temple? church? ashram? shrine?) with a sign on it that says “Devotion”, and it has a parking lot that is far bigger than the size of the building would practically require. Something urges you to pull in and you park your car in the lot. You get out of the car and see some woods behind the building, and you begin following this inexplicable urge to walk towards the woods. Once you enter the forest, you hear running water and walk towards the sound. The fallen leaves under your feet cushion your steps and your eyes alight on the moss and ferns around you as you approach a clear, burbling stream. At the edge of the stream, you take a seat and look around you, and your eyes fall on a small sign that must have been placed there just for you that says “Service”. You close your eyes and connect to the sense of peace and joy that has led you to this place, that is embodied by the flow of the water, and that you feel when you know that you have shown up in pure devotional service to something or someone you love.
Devotion is this deep sense of loving that which we cannot see or touch, yet know without a doubt that it is there. This is a safe place. Now that you have gotten out of the deceptively fast car of ambition, and instead come to a place of pure spiritual yearning, you are now emotionally bulletproof. There is no rejection, there is no shame, there is no way to get anything wrong.
You can now serve from here.
In summary, I’m inviting you spiritual seekers to use your capacity for mental gymnastics in order to shift spiritual ambition (which is often dependent on other people’s involvement in your journey) into devotion and service to the inner life.
Blessings and love to all, and go love the world as only you can do!