What’s your spiritual warm-up?

(Part 1 of 2):  My great passion growing up was gymnastics.  Four times a week I took public transport for an hour to get to practice, spent three hours at the gym, and then retraced my steps to return home after dark.  Homework happened on the train and bus. Thanks to an amazing coach, I was competitive at the state level and eventually became a solid member of our club’s second team.  Meanwhile, the first team kept moving up until they reached the top tier of the German gymnastics leagues, which meant I got to mingle with many of my childhood heroes – gymnasts I had admired on TV.

I learned a lot from gymnastics – how to overcome fear, how to trust my coach, how to acquire skills step by step, and the impact of consistent dedication – and I learned about the critical importance of appropriate preparation.  Most of the injuries any of us gymnasts sustained happened goofing around before we had properly warmed up and stretched. Our bodies weren’t ready, our minds not focused.

Warm-ups, of course, aren’t limited to gymnastics or even sports.  Musicians warm up and tune their instruments or vocal chords before they perform.  Actors, orators, and comedians prepare their bodies, minds and audiences. Conversations start with facial expressions and verbal introductions before they turn serious.  A worship service has various elements that help warm up the heart and soul before going deeper.

How surprising then that so often we leave our homes in the morning without warming up or stretching our hearts, our minds, or our spirits in preparation for the most important activity of the day – being the human being we aspire to be.  Sure we can wing it and get by. But why would we?

What if we treated getting ready for our interactions with our friends, our co-workers, our community with equal care as all the other activities that we know benefit from a proper warm-up?  What might we do each morning to be more prepared for the whirlwind of the day, the shifting chords, the unexpected twists and turns our hearts, souls and minds will encounter?

Sure we could just goof around and assume we won’t get hurt or hurt anyone else.  We can hope our human instrument is tuned just right each day. We can rely on the dexterity we acquired yesterday or before.  Or we could acknowledge the importance of daily practice. Like the pianist Horowitz said: “If I don’t practice for a day, only I notice.  If I don’t practice for two days, my wife notices. If I don’t practice for three days, the world notices.”

What is the practice you do (or might do) without which the world would notice and be a lesser place?  Send me an email, talk to me, text me. Next month’s musings will continue these reflections.

With great aspirations,
Michael

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