Spiritual Exercises

By Steven A. Hitz, Founding Director
Author of Launching Leaders

July 20, 2017

One of my millennial sons has introduced me to some meditations.  I have always considered myself a person who finds peace in solace; always trying to connect to the “Gods” and to discover a sense of contentment beyond the nearest bag of Cheetos and a cold diet Pepsi.  This innate desire of connecting is most available to me through the ritualistic habit of a daily devotional which is sometimes encumbered by schedule and duties of the world that we simply put first over centering the soul.

Looking back on my life, especially in business, I chose entrepreneurial endeavors as it allowed me to choose what mattered most (to me), and didn’t leave my direction to the winds caused by others desires which I felt were often rooted in power, greed, and self-absorption.   When I finally left the firm I had sold my business to, though it ended abruptly, a great burden was lifted and my mind and soul were free again to wander into paths I felt come akin to.

I am sensing that our millennial friends feel the same way I do and that is why they must understand the why behind the what, the “so what” behind the marching orders, and why they are so cautious regarding hierarchy and status quo.

In a very real way, the patterns that surround meditation, pondering, and even prayer, seek answers regarding how we should live our lives and deal with answers we obtain regarding metaphysical and ethical content.  While I understand the theme of many millennials is to be spiritual but not religious, what I believe I hear through that mindset is to figure out first who you are, before you decide to engage in a community of like believers.   In this quest, in meditative terms, the seeker is introduced into stoic practices (reactions or thought processes free from passion and unmoved by joy or grief) which are represented by logos (the natural principles that govern).   Learning to act without judgment, while at the same time recognizing that each person gets their just rewards based upon their actions, is a bit confusing; but I get the idea to address the moment or event with (1) will, (2) action, and (3) perception.

I once had a good friend who after analyzing situations, would sit back, scratch his chin and say with the voice of a James Earl Jones, “It is what it is.”  Or in the words of Marcus Aurelius, take life’s events with “the art of acquiescence.”

I apologize if I’m sounding a bit philosophical, but to discover for one’s self their true path and direction, or as I might refer to the Millennial True North, one MUST learn the practice of spiritual exercises.  The reason is to not just survive, but to thrive in our daily existence; or as the French scholar Pierre Hadot noted, meditations are “Spiritual exercises composed to provide a momentary stay against the stress and confusion of everyday life.”

The practice of finding the meditative daily devotional that centers your soul, and its companion of journaling the experiences of life—-putting on paper those things the mind and heart render as revelations to the soul, is a center piece for being holistic and content.  It also has everything to do with success, however you define it.

Marcus Aurelius, who was the emperor of Rome in A.D. 161, wrote much about his spiritual and ethical reflections.  His spiritual exercises helped him strike a balance between image and idea—-a method to help him act with prudence and ethics as he ruled an empire.  The practice of deep thinking is a practice that helps shape life.  For example, one of Marcus’ writings states:

“Remember how long you’ve been putting this off, how many extensions the Gods gave you, and you didn’t use them.  At some point you have to recognize what world it is that you belong to, what power rules it and from what source you spring; that there is a limit to the time assigned you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return.”

In my book Leadership by LIGHT: Principles That Empower, there are several invitations to practice your meditations, ponderings, and prayer—-to make it a practice to develop spiritual exercise so that you may live a most meaningful and holistic life.  Some invitations are to discover your true identity, to find and establish your core values, to make plans in your life, to find and adopt mentors, to create habits of success, to learn the lessons of financial fitness, effective communication, and the great endeavor of giving back.  ALL of which are accomplished through the arts of spiritual exercise.

For each person, these exercises will look as individual as the person.  The beauty of it all is that as you progress through this transformation, there will be a contentment that shines through—-some call it self-confidence—that strips off the disguises we have worn for so long as our true selves are revealed.

Let’s learn a lesson from Marcus Aurelius and not put off the opportunities that are before us.  I invite all of us, all generations—especially our beloved Millennials and X’rs, to take the time to meditate and record the revelations to the soul.  Acting upon these inner discoveries will bring color to our lives and we will leave the world a better place because we inculcated the practice of spiritual exercises.   For what it’s worth, you can still enjoy a bag of Cheetos and a diet Pepsi while doing so.

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