Ways to enhance one’s spiritual growth and effectively improve upon it are many. From meditation to yoga, yogic breathing to Qi Gong, there are all kinds of ways to sharpen the spiritual pencil. These methods are wide and varied, especially with the internet being around. We chose where the information comes from, we each of us decide what movements our Soul Kata will involve. Some people take these ancient methods and re-vamp them and then sell them to line their pockets. There are people who sell the methods for spiritual improvement as well as the ones who sell the idea that all of these methods are bunk and the best thing to do is clear oneself of all that rubbish to be in a place where those things aren’t a hindrance. Either way, there are people abound who are trying to sell you spirituality and many of them have become very wealthy doing so. I have gone on considerably about this though and don’t intend to do so again.
Rather than constantly reaching out to find new and different things to add to your spiritual regiment why not make the effort to perfect the one you’re already on? The practice of kata is described by Charles C. Goodin thusly when he was asked how many movements are in a kata: “The answer is ‘one.’ The only movement that counts in any kata is the movement that you are doing. The one that you just did is over. The one that comes next has not yet begun. Only the one you are doing counts. It requires 100% of your attention and effort. Thinking back or ahead only subtracts from the movement at hand. Doing any movement with 100% of your attention and effort is the practice of kata. Kata is not simply the sequence or pattern. With one perfect movement, the kata is perfect. Kata is not a question of how many but of how well”. I mean to say that it tends to be a habit in America to over-consume. People do this with spirituality too, it isn’t about how well, it’s about how much. Each of us knows innately what resonates with our way of life and our way of thinking. Each of us can feel what is right, learn from what we feel and move forward.
My belief is that in our society we are taught to leave our fate in the hands of others, to “trust the experts” but that only ensures that we never will be experts ourselves while it ensures that the experts will always have people there to line their pockets with money to show them how to do things they could just as easily do for themselves. After all, who better to be an expert about you than you? I’m not in general the type who comes off as a spiritual cheer leader, if anything I tend toward the cynical, urging people to pilot their own spiritual plane rather than leaving it to fate, or to God (or Goddess) or to wanna-be Gurus who only want to be of service to themselves and the lining of their pockets rather than to living spiritually and just being a living example.
So I suppose a soul kata is just the practice of what you already know, just as kata is a practice of movements you already know. Whenever my daughter learns a new kata I watch her practice it. I see her pause, concentrate on each part of her body to make sure the position is correct. Sometimes do the movements out of sequence and get a little frustrated. She’ll go back and do it again and again until she knows it. After that, she practices, getting better and better at it each time. Even when she moves forward to the next test, the next kata and the moves are more complicated she doesn’t ignore what she has already learned. She continues to practice the old katas along with the new ones. What I have seen in people all too often is that they begin learning a spiritual path, or at least the nuts and bolts of one, and then, once they believe they have it figured out or know the moves, they go on to the next one all but discarding the old. It would be like switching from Tang Soo Do to Shotokan after advancing only one belt level. Not that I equate a spiritual journey with levels, I mean this only metaphorically. Still, it brings to mind the word “practice” with regard to its use in the term “spiritual practice” for that is what it is, something to practice. One way to tell if a person is enlightened is that they don’t go around saying that they are enlightened or claim that they know all things, especially when they claim a “master level” of numerous different and varied theologies.
I keep glancing at the title of this piece at the top of my screen and it brings to mind the fact that there are many folks out there who do not believe in a soul. I suppose that is just fine, replace the word “soul” with whatever word you wish that is your version of something akin to a soul, either way the point is the same. Spirituality is meant to be practiced, worked at and ultimately each individual has to do the work. My daughter won’t get her belt unless she puts in the time and learns the moves. She will get nowhere if every time a new fad in martial arts comes along she gets distracted by its shine. The challenge is to not let the shine wear off of the one you have already invested in. One way to do that is to practice and get better until you shine on your own, so bright that it doesn’t matter the name it has or the color of the belt. So much that it is just there, a part of you. To just be the best you can be in each moment, not taking what you have learned for granted or stressing about what you are meant to learn next. If you are in that place where you are one with yourself and your own path, the lessons you need to yet learn find you. The path opens up before you like a flower and all you have to do is walk it, secure in the solid foundation you have set for yourself through your practice.