Today, I direct readers to what may seem an unlikely resource for spiritual information and advice. The Art of Manliness blog is incredibly varietal, with loads of information and advice on exactly what its title promises.
For example, a recent article discussed growing one's hair long without looking like an unkempt scarecrow in the process. Shaving, grooming, and apparel advice is offered. Sports, outdoor activities, behavior, and comportment are touched upon, and much more. Philosophy and spirituality come up, as well. While we suspect most of the articles are directed to younger males, they are interesting and valuable to a 70-year old now and then.
Many articles can be helpful to the character development of young men. I believe young women may benefit from reading it to understand males better and recognize proper behavior and desirable character traits in men.
Today I was pleasantly surprised and gratified to read an excellent article on the history and practicality of an ancient Sanskrit text, the Bhagavad Gita. I felt the author was terrific at both. Read it here: 4 Key Insights From the Bhagavad Gita
CloudMeditation advocates spiritual efforts that are "practical." We take an ecumenical approach to spiritual endeavors. We believe scriptures, precepts, beliefs, rituals, and methodologies may help "narrow the lane" to specific spiritual pursuits tailored to the individual "us." However, we stress that ultimately "You Are Your Own Teacher!"
CloudMeditation firmly advocates not allowing oneself to get too enmeshed in detail, which can easily lapse into inertia, simply going nowhere fast, as is said. Examples: Should I sew myself a kesa (a bib-like garment worn over one's clothing symbolizing adherence to Buddhist precepts)? What about a robe or an altar? Is strict adherence to some specific creed or list of tenets essential? What should I read? Do I need to sit like a pretzel or bow on my knees?
Ahh, and teachers, which one? How does one assess the quality, character, or spiritual attainment of one Guru, Pastor, Lama, Roshi, Rimpoche, Priest, Rabbi, or another? How do they rank? It's a bewildering task to rank them, quite unlike ranking a private with a sergeant, a captain, or a colonel. Stir in CM's experience and assertion that one may learn far more from teachers or mentors who lack one or more positive characteristics. But, to benefit, one must be awake and aware, clear-eyed and unensnared. Confusing, isn't it? Confusion paralyzes.
CloudMeditation firmly advocates "being and doing" over all other elements of a spiritual practice. That said, study aids (scriptures, creeds, tenets, tracts, teachings, etc.) are most helpful when practically utilized. After all, we're not monastics or religious studies students.
Regarding these aids, older is generally better. A great example is the Christian Bible. It's been around a relatively long time. It has and does appeal to a broad range of people. There is a wealth of discussion, interpretation, and varietal practice to consult for guidance (some good, some bad, and some utterly sinful!).
Secular sources can be helpful to one's spiritual practice. For example, the ethics of Confucius offers an ideal model for relationships. A fair number of spiritual traditions agree that all elements of Creation are interrelated.
Affection, Benevolence, Filial Piety, Harmony, Integrity, Loyalty, Peace, Propriety, Righteousness, Shame, Trustworthiness, and Wisdom are virtues recommended in Confucianism.* Wow, that's a full plate of practices! Thankfully, practicality allows us to consume it the best we can, one bite at a time. Patience with others and ourselves is also a Confucian virtue.
Let's return to the Bhagavad Gita. It's ancient, that's good. It derives from even older sources. Many adherents, past and present, have learned from it. Some Western heavyweight devotees are mentioned in The Art of Manliness article. So there's plenty of discussion, interpretation, and practice we can refer to if we desire.
But, most importantly, the Bhagavad Gita offers ageless practical advice for our present everyday existence. It does it through great storytelling. It's an easy read, and one can just "be" with it and "do" with it, as The Art of Manliness article illustrates most admirably. Check it out. Enjoy!
*Confucian virtues and Chinese adolescent development: a conceptual review
Authors: Daniel T.L. Shek, Lu Yu, and Xiao Fu
From the journal International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health