Grow a pair.
It is not every day you get told to “grow some spiritual balls”—not the Christmas balls kind of balls, or the sports balls kind of balls, but the balls of the manly kind.
The term “grow some balls” is often used in the context of toughening up, of being strong and not being passive. This little nugget of advice came unexpectedly and from an even more unexpected source. A small Tibetan Buddhist nun swathed in maroon robes delivered the punch line and left a distinct impression on me and the other 100 or so people listening to her speak. But then again, Venerable Robina Courtin is no ordinary nun, so one would expect her advice to be, well, different.
“Growing spiritual balls,” she said, “is hardening up.”
It is not being weak when it comes to our spiritual practice. It is so easy to cherry pick in the spiritual supermarket, but what often happens is we dilute our path; we lose track of a lineage and water down teachings to suit our own liking. It is easier this way, as we can fit our spiritual practice into our busy and bustling lifestyle and our practice becomes a must have accessory like the latest Lululemon stretchy pant rage. The parts we like are often the easy ones to be part of, the sexy and cool things to master like handstands and arm balances and high level guru tantra. We put the too hard parts into a box we label “don’t like” and put them to the side, lock them away and tell ourselves that we are “balancing” our needs with a path. We are happy to spend hours in a studio practicing “yoga” but find it impossible to sit for 10 minutes each day and meditate.
A path is not always easy. In, fact it can be fucking hard.
It can be tortuous and relentless and honest and raw and real. It is in that that we find the beauty, the simplicity, the truth. In any spiritual path, we require discipline and practice and time. We require honesty and integrity and even some dedication. Through practice we grow, through practice we see, through practice we learn to unlearn. It requires not only practice but patience and perseverance and in fact some spiritual balls.
Pick your spiritual poison, be it yoga or Buddhism or Christanity or Hinduism or Muslim and practice it. Learn it, live it, be it. It doesn’t matter which path you chose; it matters how you live the truth of the practice and how well you honour your tradition.
It does not mean that the journey is not filled with lightness and fun or love and creativity. In fact, it is the opposite. The more you put in, the more you get out. It really is that simple. Nor does it mean we all need to run off and shave our heads and become monks or nuns. We just need to do our lineage justice, we need to implement the teachings and experience the learnings. His Holiness the Dalai Lama often speaks about ritual in Buddhism.
He says reciting prayers or mantra each day is not so useful if your heart is full of contempt for people and you spend your day being unkind to those around you.
In my words, don’t sit and click your prayer beads for an hour and then walk out the door and kick the dog and call the post man a dickhead. Likewise, don’t sit in a yoga class chanting om and thinking you are holy than thou and then bitch to your friends later about the annoying new person who landed next to you and disrupted “your practice” with their uncoordinated asana.
Growing spiritual balls is about having tough love, not for everyone else, but for yourself.
It is having dedication and determination and being honest with where you are at. What do you like doing, but what do you avoid? Can you spend hours on your yoga mat, but cannot sit and be still for even five minutes? Do you recite mantra, but hold onto anger? Cut the crap excuses and try something different. Take the different path and stick at.
Grow some balls.
Spiritual practice does not only happen on a yoga mat or meditation seat or in an ashram or temple; it happens in every moment. How you interact in the world is a reflection of your spiritual path. Our relationships, our ability to deal with destructive emotions, our levels of satisfaction and happiness are all indications of our progress.
I had the privilege of a private audience with Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo recently and when we asked her about practice her advice was to start with loving kindness, if this is all you do you cannot go wrong, but first, you need to practice loving kindness to yourself. So in the context of spiritual balls, be fierce, be determined, but do it with loving kindness, especially towards yourself.
Fleur Carter is yoga lover, nomadic wanderer, coffee drinker, writer and personal development coach. She left her HR corporate gig to follow her dreams of travelling, volunteering and working with people on their personal development and growth. She lives in the north of India, studying Tibetan Buddhism, and dreaming, daring and doing (and helping others do the same). A qualified Yoga Coach/Instructor (RYT 500) she combines her leadership development and coaching experience with her yoga knowledge to work with individuals and groups supporting them in transformation and change. Dare to live. Connect with Fleur at fleurcarter.com | twitter @fleurcarter or on facebook.
Editor: Sarah Winner
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