Most people recognize the value of physical exercise, and can see how it improves strength and other physical attributes. Some people recognize that the mind can be exercised, and that intelligence can also be increased with practice. (Genetics plays a role in intelligence, just as it does physically, but a body or mind unused will go soft.) One final area is spirituality, which relatively few people (at this time) see the value in developing. Spiritual qualities like compassion and intuition can be increased, if we’re willing to exercise them.
One of the main forms of spiritual exercise is meditation. The simplest form of meditation is a sustained concentration upon a particular subject. In typical meditation, one focuses on a particular object or concept, considering and contemplating all its facets. That exercises one’s ability to stay focused and avoid external distractions, which is useful in today’s internet age. ;) Meditation can also be done as a group, which can be a powerful way to connect and work together.
Too often our lives are overfilled with physical activity, emotional reactions, and mental chatter, leaving little room for spiritual consideration. In other words, we sometimes let ourselves be dragged through life by bodily urges, emotional turmoil, and random ideas, instead of consciously and mindfully living life. Meditation allows more subtle vibrations to be sensed, like leaving the light pollution of a noisy city to be able to notice and experience the stars in the serenity of nature. This state of being can be called imagination, intuition, hearing the inner voice, and many other names.
One might think that those who meditate aren't accomplishing anything useful. That’s technically true, but only in a mundane sense. Inactivity on a physical level can mean one is more active on deeper spiritual planes, which have great opportunities for service. Which is more productive and meaningful: Physically earning a million dollars, or energetically building respectful understanding between people and nations?
We inhabit physical bodies, and the body is a wonderful tool, but we are not our bodies. That can be seen and proven after physical death, after which we exist much as before, but without physical pains and so on impinging upon our consciousness. Similarly, although we experience emotions and even thoughts like watching a movie, we are not our reactions and interpretations. Being aware of our core spark of conscious awareness allows us to better use and integrate our body, feelings, and thoughts.
Meditation, like physical exercise, can be done incorrectly or excessively. Aligning with the spiritual shouldn't mean abandoning or disliking the physical. Proper meditation is about actively tuning in and focusing, not passively tuning out and disconnecting from the world. The balance of bringing spiritual inspiration into a productive physical life is nicely covered in the classic adage based on Matthew 4:4, “One cannot live by bread alone, but neither can one live without bread.”
My book “Evolution of the Spirit: Our Journey Through the Universe” contains more information about meditation, in chapter 13 “Spiritual Practices”. ♥