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Spiritual growth means changing unwanted habits


"Paying attention is our great and proper work.”


--Mary Oliver, poet


Our growth in the spiritual world means that we need to find ourselves moving

closer and closer to our true self. In yoga, that true self is called “atman,” which

is our core self or the Divine Spirit/Consciousness within. Yoga also suggests

that there is a very practical way, besides meditation, to moving closer to our true

selves. That way is “by embracing an attitude of friendliness…toward those who

are happy,”…and “an attitude of compassion … toward those who are

miserable,” …and “an attitude of happiness … toward the virtuous [those who are

good and doing loving things]” …and non-judgment … toward the non-virtuous

[those who are criminals and doing bad things.”


Believe it or not, that’s all we have to do! We just need to eliminate “animosity,

cruelty, jealousy, and self-righteousness” in our thinking about others and we will

be growing leaps and bounds spiritually. We will become truly divine, perfect and

infinite, as the Yoga Tradition says, or, as Christians say, other Christs.

But that’s easier said than done.


Why? Because of our entrenched, unconscious patterns of fear, doubt,

insecurity, and selfish pleasure. These patterns, called samskaras in Yoga, are

the under-water portion of our lives. They are the parts of us that challenge the

ocean’s current, that doesn’t move even for boats larger than the tip of the

iceberg. So then, what do we do about our spiritual growth? Is it useless to

even attempt to change?


Our task is to pay attention to what we say to ourselves and to others.

Every Saturday morning during the Summer and early Fall while at the Fond du

Lac Farmers Market, I invite people I know and don’t know to come to a free yoga

class. Sister Donna Innes, Sister Mary Rose Obholz and I give them a coupon for

a free yoga class. They often say that they would really like to get back into yoga

or that they would like to learn yoga and I know that those statements are just

expressions of their desire. Rarely, do any of these people change their minds

and come to a free yoga class at The Center for Spirituality and Healing. Why?

Because it is very difficult to change one’s habits.


However, that habit of doing something that we might really desire and that might

really be good for us can be changed when we seriously “pay attention” to what

we are saying to ourselves or to another. Every time we say, “I should do that” or

“I would like to do that” or “That’s a great idea,” those automatic responses are

coming from our spiritual core. Our spiritual core is constantly giving us

suggestions on how to grow and be happy. Those suggestions come from those


inner comments that we make. Oftentimes though, we don’t really listen to what

we are saying to ourselves or others and, therefore, we are not listening to the

Christ within or the true self. We let our mind forget it and go about doing what

we’ve always done…not attending to our inner guidance.

Paying attention is indeed a “great work” and it is hard work. But in reference to

our spiritual journey, it is the “proper work.”


I bow to that Divinity within you.

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