Author at a Temple
We as men are under siege in a lifeless, dead, concrete jungle. ONLY our spirits, spiritual power, and creative imaginations can transcend these barriers.
We all know we are supposed to exercise in some way, shape, or form daily. Whether most men do or not is questionable. There are few men I know who are not under a rigorous business and personal schedule, so finding the time to do so is a challenge. Yet, in the midst of our daily battles with the system, the machine, or whatever you want to call it, most men would go straight crazy if they did not find some sort of physical release of the stress. For many, some type of exercise is the tool they use.
Where does one’s spirit fit in? Do you believe such a thing is important at all, or needs maintenance, like your body does? Those of us embedded in metropolitan settings of the West have little opportunity to encounter this realm. Maybe if we go on an occasional hike, or visit in nature, or end up at a funeral, we perhaps give a passing thought to the spiritual world.
The world men of the “developed world” move about in is a world of the dead —a world of dead matter. There is virtually no life vibration in it whatsoever. We drive around in dead metal and plastic vehicles on our way to the office. In the office, we sit entombed in four walls made of dead material (concrete and drywall). We suck into our lungs dead air processed via a heating or air conditioning system.
We spend our “waking” hours staring blankly at a dead glass screen emanating man-made “light.” For hours we look upon these “all-knowing oracles” of computer or smart phone screens — looking for answers. Our whole modern man-made life moves about in a plane of lifelessness stone, plastic, metal and glass. Here, in this realm of dead things, there is no spirit. There certainly is no god, other than the creator of all this empty stuff — man himself.
This is why it would seem a waste of time to pray, meditate or engage in any activity linking you with the “invisible” world of the spirit. In our Western world of concrete, glass, plastic and metal, “spirit” carries as much importance as unicorns, mermaids, and ghosts. Living in the world of the dead makes spirit seem imaginary. A worthless fantastical image in a kid’s mind. Move over, Santa Clause. Give Spirit and God some room. God is dead.
I traveled last year at this time extensively with my family along the west coast of Ireland, where my grandmother was from. It is rural, to say the least. It is raw nature; cold wind, emerald grass, animals, waves, and lots of weird rocks. There, even the rocks are alive. You know so because they speak to you. Their energy shoots into your feet as you walk upon them. The ravens and crows look at you, in fact THROUGH you. God, Spirit, and life invade your senses. You cannot help but see and sense the unseen world, made visible through the “sacrament” of creation and nature. You are surrounded and impacted by all things living.
West Coast of Ireland
When I left that island of my ancestors, I was different. I have been a Christian since I was 21, and have maintained a “spiritual” life in some way, shape, and form, since then. But in Ireland, along the rugged coasts which were once home to my long forgotten ancestors, God and Spirit reawakened something in me that had died in the concrete jungle of Los Angeles. I moved from the realm of dead things into the world of the living.
The same thing occurred to me during my seven months of traveling in Africa. No one needs to “convert” most Africans to God. God is all around them. Spirit and nature are all around them. Africans (and rural Irish) live, and move, and have their being in Spirit. They do not need to look for it, it is the water they swim in and the air they breathe. Like Van Morrison sang, it is not why? Or Where? Spirit “just is.”
Having been back to the West and walking the concrete streets, the “Concrete Jungle” as Bob Marley called it, I have had to remember to discipline my body and mind to remember Spirit. To cultivate spirit. To keep my Spirit alive, when everything around in the city tells me “man” is god, and spirit and God are dead.
We as men need to keep our health vibrant through physical exercise. I train people to do so through the amazingly powerful mediums of marital arts, Tai Chi and Qigong. Yet, we as men need something more. Our responsibilities place so many demands upon us, we have to build up the strength and muscles of our spirit if we are to survive and thrive in this world of the dead. We need to “get woke.” We need to “stay woke.” We do so by cultivating a spiritual practice the we do (just like physical exercise) whether we “feel like it,” or not.
There are few people these days in the West who consider themselves “religious.” It is like a dirty word. We all call ourselves “spiritual.” Yet, there should be no shame in learning from and exploring traditional faiths to mine the richness of their legacy. We do not need to reinvent the wheel.
I say this because there are three men that I personally look to as social justice heroes: Dr. King, Malcolm X, and Bob Marley. All these men were men of faith (Christianity, Islam, Rastafarianism, respectively.) They followed and affirmed scriptures, communed with and served their spiritual communities. And they were fearsome warriors of justice.
The Buddhists traditions have given us many similar examples of strong, empathetic warriors of peace (Thich Nhat Hahn, for example). Our “developed” world has been so systematically and systemically separated from spirit, it is difficult for us modern men to place back the pieces —to make sense of this life. This is all the more reason we need to step up and reintegrate spiritual practice into our daily lives.
We as men are under siege in a lifeless, dead, concrete jungle. ONLY our spirits, spiritual power, and creative imaginations can transcend these barriers. If we are going to be there and strong for our loved ones, our families, and even our own personal dreams — we desperately need to build up and workout our spirits, as well as our bodies.