September 2014

After Training - Doing


I love being physically active, and I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to exercise almost every day. My workouts are for fitness, in contrast to people who are training for a competition or a team sport. Considering the difference between our motivations, I have been thinking lately about the distinction between preparing and performing, between training and doing.

Athletes train. Musicians practice. Artists sketch. Actors rehearse. Inventors test. Students study. Writers draft. But sooner or later, it’s time to DO whatever all this preparation has been about.

Regardless of the time and effort put into training, “doing” is a different experience, frequently harder — it’s supposed to be. For example, I can manage all of the routines and drills in a group cycling class. Yet, on a rough outdoor trail I might walk my bike up a steep hill and use my brakes downhill for fear of missing a curve. And even though I lift weights, I still need John’s help in opening jars.

This is how life works, as we have experiences that prepare us for greater challenges in the future. How we do in those preparations is reflected in how we handle the challenges (tests) later. And since the tests will require us to go further than we did while training, we feel satisfied when we get a chance to perform our best, at whatever it is we’ve been practicing.

Taking this to a higher level, we might ask ourselves what we are preparing for by living this life. The Baha’i writings state that we are spiritual beings, and one of the purposes of this life is to prepare us for the next. A human embryo cannot envision what this world is like, but it grows physically in its journey toward birth. Similarly I cannot know what the next world will be like, but I am growing toward it just the same.

Recognizing that life in this world is a journey to the next enriches my experiences with meaning and purpose. And I feel empowered by knowing that I can improve and grow; I can advance my spiritual development.

It is easy to be cynical in these times. Political divisiveness, crime, economic hardship, environmental degradation — these truly test us. On the other hand, if we were to view these tests as an opportunity to improve the world and ourselves through our reactions — and furthermore see them as training for the next world — we might have a more enlightened perspective toward them.

As humans we live both privately and publicly, and who we are is shown in our deeds. As Abdul-Baha said: “You are the reality and expression of your deeds and actions.” This tells me that applying what I learn in this life is an act of integrity. I may not be able to choose how I am tested, but I do have control over how I face my tests. Perhaps it sounds too simple to say it all happens through practice. But that is how it works.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2014