Living with Full Spiritual Intensity

I will share with you a wisdom that appeared to me 50 years ago when I was a senior in college and I walked out on the football field. I thought, “What am I doing here? This is only a game.” The other part of the wisdom was that yes, it is only a game but if you do not play it intensely you’re not going to do very well. I wasn’t one of the bigger players but I was the caption of what ended up being an undefeated college football team. This was all about intensity. As we look at life we see that it is also just a game and if we don’t play it with full intensity, as if it were real, we don’t learn the lessons that we are meant to learn in this lifetime. The trials and the tribulations that we have to go are not fully experienced, because we think that it is just a game. The paradox is that although it is just a game, you have to play it intensely so that you get the tremendous benefit spiritually.

This takes us to a third level, which is the path of liberation. Sanatana Dharma is the natural way of living that leads to liberation. What does this mean? What became clear to me after spending 7 years in an ashram was that, even though there were a few thousand people that traveled all the way to India, the few people who were extremely committed to their own sadhana (spiritual practice) were the ones to receive the fruits of their journey to India. We say spiritual practice, but really we are talking about a way of life rather than a practice. When people applied themselves fully, intensely, and with aliveness, they received the full benefit. The people who were more interested in socializing in Amrit (the snack shop) got something (such as mosquito bites) but they didn’t really get it. There is a paradox here. We cannot effort our way to God (through diet or the other lifestyle foundations). There is more to it than self-effort. Yet without the self-effort, the other wing of the bird, Grace, doesn’t take you to where you need to go. The intensity with which you live your spiritual life is key, and then we also have the grace factor. This leads us to ask the question: How do we simply live this way because it is a turn-on to living at that level of intensity? This is not the same as an adrenaline high.

There is that quality of necessary application. The ancient rabbis used to meditate for an hour before their hour-long prayer period, then they would meditate again for another hour. This was three times each day, which amounted to a minimum of 9 hours per day. This is another example of intensity. It takes you to going beyond yourself in your daily life. For me it was a question of being pulled along by the energy. How do you get pulled along? You have to be in the right place. It is the intensity, the showing up, that enables you to be in the right place to be pulled along by the energy rather than forcing it. There’s some deep wisdom in living at the fullest intensity. It is said that when the matriarch Sarah left her body, she was alive for all of the 127 years of her life. That aliveness is about intensity. This is key to spiritual life. We also have devotion to the Divine, opening your heart to God and in general, as well as the ability to sit and meditate for long periods of time. These are all part of the intensity.

May everyone be blessed with the heart wisdom of that intensity in the play of spiritual life. Amen.

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