When I confronted one of my students, an English major and a serious student, about her excessive grammar and spelling errors in her lab paper for the Computer Science class I was teaching, she replied, “. . . but this is not English class.” Therefore, she didn’t see it necessary to pay too much attention to her writing. Also, most of my math students could solve problems from their textbook, but challenged with a simple real-life math problem-like balancing their checkbooks or figuring out how much does that dress, marked 50 percent off, really cost, without using their calculators-they didn’t know where to start.
We often find ourselves in these kinds of situations. We know everything about living a healthy life through diet and exercise, and yoga and meditation, but when it comes to applying it into practice, most of the time we fail. We take up aerobics and yoga classes, join a health club and attend meditation sessions, or study Tai Chi and Reiki, and we start feeling good about ourselves while at it. But when the aerobics class is over and the meditation session comes to an end, we go on with our old ways of living and even find excuses to indulge-snack on that chocolate bar or extra scoop of ice-cream. After all, we are allowed, now that we’ve just sweated so hard during the exercise class. We tell ourselves that we can always get back to the gym or on the yoga mat and work out, when we need to, as if what we learn in our aerobics classes or meditation sessions belongs in a box, safely locked and kept away from the stresses, frustrations, and worries that make up our daily lives.
Although some things, such as books, photographs, home-made videos, and mementos, are meant to wait for us in a box or on a shelf, exercise, yoga, a healthy diet/healthy life should be part of our everyday existence. Instead of locking these healthy aspects of our lives away in a box, where it’s easy for us to forget about them, why not keep them within reach and make them part of our lives? If we do use them on a regular basis, they’ll become part of us and help us become better persons.
Meditation yoga, exercise, and art heal us as a whole-mind, body, and soul-and help us become more spiritual, more in touch with our inner selves, and more aware of the world around us. As a result, we become more at peace and remain in the light.
In time, our spirituality reflects not only in our own lives and our work, but in everything and everyone we touch. T. J. Banks is such a spiritual person. She is the author of Souleiado and is also a contributing editor to laJoie. Her works have been published in many anthologies and online publications, including Soul Menders, Their Mysterious Ways, Until We Meet Again, The Simple Touch of Fate, Eternal Moments, and Touched from Above.
T. J. Banks has always leaned toward the spiritual and grew up with a strong feeling for nature. “I grew up in a Reformed Jewish household and attended Hebrew School regularly, so I grew up with a very strong sense of God,” she explains. By the time she turned 12, her daughter Marissa’s age now, she was experiencing God and all things spiritual most fully through nature.
Spirituality influenced her personal and professional life in more than one way. When she was 34, her husband, Tim, died in a car accident. “It wasn’t my first experience with death, sudden or otherwise, but it was the one that blasted our world apart,” Banks says. In the process of rebuilding “that world,” she started to explore a lot of “New Age-y practices,” but she soon realized that she was losing touch with who she was and what she really believed in. That’s when she became interested in energy work-in Reiki, in particular. She took a series of workshops with a Reiki Master. Today, she is certified in Reiki I and II and is happy at the level that she’s at. She can do the hands-on healing and even send long-distance healing to friends and family members who are going through some rough times or who are sick.
Some of us can reach a balance in our lives through meditation, others can reach it through art. Writing is art and, as art, it can help us find our inner peace and a state of stillness in our minds. Writing, as art, can also help us become more spiritual. We can use our creative side and become more at peace with ourselves simply by listening to that small, still, inner voice, and following it. That’s what T. J. Banks does, although “sometimes it takes awhile to see where it’s heading, but, ultimately, it will take you where you need to be,” she confesses.
There is a creative seed in each one of us. In times of need, our creativity comes out to help and guide us, and see us through the tough times.
Being a writer by profession, T. J. Banks uses her creativity to work things out through her writing. In her novel, Souleiado, she uses time-travel and other paranormal elements to explore the nature of grief and work out her grief over her husband’s death. Although what she writes may not be an exact parallel to her real life, there’s always a spiritual, emotional correspondence. “Writing helps me get at the truth of the matter-what something signifies for me,” she says.
“When I write from my heart and soul-when I’m tapping into my intuitive wisdom-then my aim is true,” T. J. Banks explains. When she doesn’t write from that place, when she writes “untruthfully,” as she says, then there is only discord. “The truth does set you free: [O]nly when you have achieved that kind of freedom do you find spiritual peace.”
Meditation helps us find the stillness of our minds. It also has tremendous benefits for our health and our minds. T. J. Banks and her daughter, Marissa, took Tae Kwon Do for a couple of years. They found the brief meditation period during the class very beneficial and very cleansing. But, because T. J. is “not much of a sitting-down kind of person,” she started running and found out that meditating comes more easily to her when in motion. The actual rhythm of running and the contact with nature puts her in a meditative state. “Meditation on the hoof, so to speak,” she says. “Insights would come to me then, and I felt myself kicking into high gear spiritually as well as physically.” T. J. Banks’ daily morning run helps not only her body, but also her inspiration. It’s her way of “tapping into a sort of universal energy bank,” as she explains it.
Nowadays, we have more choices than ever of ways to get in touch with our inner selves and to balance our lives. We don’t have to choose between exercise and yoga. We can combine them in a Tai Chi class, for example. As beginners, we may think of Tai Chi as yet another form of exercise, but, in time, we become more aware of its energy-work aspect.
T. J. Banks first started Tai Chi 5 years ago and, in time, became aware of the subtle shifts of energy around her. These days, Tai Chi is an important part of her life. “Sometimes I can literally feel the energy pulsing through me and it’s a powerful sensation,” she explains. She enjoys it so much, she even evaluated the possibility of attending the class with her cast on-she has a broken ankle these days and, unfortunately, she has to put her exercise routine on hold for awhile. “I miss [it] very much,” she confesses.
Running meditation and energy work can only enhance her life, giving it a more honest, more spiritual dimension. It can do the same for us. Regular exercise, yoga, and meditation can help us heal from within and bring us closer to the light and peace we’re so eager to reach.