We benefit from strengthening, purifying, and expanding our spirits. Maybe the reasons for this are self-evident, but it’s worth touching on why we should put in the effort. A stronger, healthier, and more flexible spirit means a better and more harmonious life.
Our spirits govern far more in our lives than we give them credit for. It’s easy to imagine the world as spiritless and random, but reality is more complicated than that. This spirit-infused world goes far beyond the simple power of positivity or the laws of attraction.
Imagine a world where everyone and everything affects, and is affected, through spiritual laws as much as physical ones – where magic isn’t a special thing for a few, and life is permeated by the constant action of everyone’s spirits. That’s the world of the animist.
EVERYDAY MAGIC IS CALLED LUCK
People who have powerful spirits seem to find life easier. The things they want just seem to materialize. Barriers to their success melt away. Their coin flips might be statistically fifty-fifty, but they always flip heads when they need to.
These people are the professional athletes of the spirit world. Their spirits are naturally strong, quick, flexible, and generally talented. For the rest of us, there’s hard work, discipline, and teamwork.
And just like I’ll never be a professional athlete, I’m not one of these naturally lucky people. Quite the opposite. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get in good spiritual shape, take care of myself, and keep myself clean. We can improve our luck, and it’s worth every effort.
We can’t just wave a wand and make everything better, and knowledge alone doesn’t change anything. If we want to change, we need to first understand, and then act.
WE HAVE TO START WHERE WE ARE
Even though people speak mystically and at great length about the human spirit — the aura – really, it’s about as mystical as your liver. Your own spirit is not the great unknown, it’s simply the unfamiliar. Our spirits are a necessary and normal part of who we are. And most people give them about as much attention as we give our livers.
Naturally, our spirits expand outwards from our bodies about as far as we can reach in every direction, from above our heads down to beneath the floor. They extend to the front, back, and sides. And they’re used to connect to others, to find things, and to sense the spiritual environment.
In living our everyday lives, our spirit retreats down to about the shape of the physical body. It becomes like a second skin, like armor. For each of us, there are a couple of areas that are naturally more developed. For people who have experienced deep trauma, there may be scars or unhealed wounds. But, for the most part, the active spiritual self resides inside or close to the body.
Further, the spirit is sealed to the body – there are few openings through which spiritual power can pass in or out. We talk to people from behind our walls, but do not allow for deep spiritual connection. Interestingly, those with traumatic wounds might be more readily able to connect, but experience those connections more painfully.
THE WAY OF THE FIST (SUCKS)
Now, if you’re only going to have one way to hold your spirit, this “closed fist” approach isn’t a terrible strategy. Life is tough. Most people spend most of their lives with their spirits metaphorically clenched like a fist. It protects the sensitive areas. It warns off danger. Useful or not, it feels safe.But walking around ready for a fight also instigates struggles we might otherwise avoid. Just imagine what would happen if we walked around all day with our hands clenched, staring at everyone, and ready for a fight. Not only does it increase the chance that someone might oblige, but other people would also look at us suspiciously.
By always being on edge, ready to protect yourself, you don’t really make yourself much safer – except that if someone ever actually starts a fight, you’re “ready.” Spiritually speaking, this is the way we are taught to behave.
OPENING THE FIST
For our spirits to grow healthier and stronger, we have to learn to metaphorically “open the fist.” If you want to get a taste of what it feels like, just remember what it’s like to be alone in the wilderness, away from people. Just you, the water, the trees, the stone, and land. It’s these times that your spirit returns to its natural shape.
But we can’t all spend our lives as hermits in the forest. The good news is that there are ways to develop our spirits. We can regain our own size and strength while living among other people. It’s hard work, but it can be done.
I’ve spent a few years of my life studying the martial arts. I’m no badass, but I know a little this and that. The big lesson that has stayed with me over the years was this: the people who didn’t know how to fight who were most likely to start a fight over nothing. It was most often the people shouting, “I’ll kick your ass!” who understood violence the least.
The same idea applies to our tightened and defensive spirits. The best way to begin to learn how to open that “fist” is to learn how to make one properly. Without training, we spend our lives looking for a fight to justify our readiness and prove our strength. With training, we learn that it isn’t always time to fight. We find ourselves less scared when we don’t need to be, knowing that we can be ready when it’s time.
EVERY DAY, IN THE WILD, & WITH FRIENDS
The path to improving your spiritual power, your “luck” as it were, rests on daily work. Discipline and effort are needed to affect change. But that approach alone is a grind, so I recommend a three-pronged approach. Not all parts of this will be easy or even possible for everyone, but every little bit helps.
The first part is to engage in some routine of spiritual discipline. I discussed that at some length in The Power of Daily Practice.
The second is to find avenues to get into nature. Exposure to nature won’t, by itself, rebuild the strength and resilience of your spirit. But it will serve the dual function of allowing your spirit to relax into its natural shape and training you to recognize how that feels.
Third, find a spiritual group that fits your values and beliefs, and join. Simply being a member of such a group often helps to increase your power. (If it doesn’t, quit!)
A trained spirit won’t turn away everything that life can throw at you, but it can help you face those challenges.
ProTip: Spiritual power is not anathema to worldly power. Anyone who tells you different is trying to rob you of one or the other. But that doesn’t mean they’re the same either. These two types of power follow different rules and will shape you into different people.