“Cultivating vitality and spirit
Embrace this unity”
Vitality is the totality of energy of your physical being. Spirit refers to transcendental energy – the part of your energy that inhabits and vivifies your body, but is not dependent upon it, only visiting it as a guest.
For the Taoist, it is essential to nurture these two things. Taking care of our physical being, we live easier, and make ourselves more receptive to the spirit, aligning ourselves with the earth. Cultivating spirit, we align ourselves with heaven, learning to control our body without becoming attached to it.
Cultivating one, we enhance the other. What is good for spirit, is good for vitality – what is good for vitality, is also good for spirit. They are a unity – no difference should be made between them.
But, because of the materialistic philosophies of our culture, we only think about the vitality of the body, and ignore the crucial role the mind and spirit have in regulating it. Only cultivating vitality through physical exercise, with no concomitant refinement of the mind, will exhaust you, and be of little purpose. Only cultivating spirit through meditation and psychological practice, without also flexing our bodies, altering our lifestyles, and improving our diets, then all our spiritual achievement will be impractical, and our relationship with our bodies will be unhealthy and out of balance.
Many mystics were serious haters of the body. The body is a walking coffin, a ticking time-bomb, a prison for the spirit. It can seem like our greatest impediment to growth at times. But, the very difficulty of having a solid body is what enables us to make so much spiritual progress while we are in it. Our body can feel our resentment and hatred for it. We have to love it, or it will not comply with us, any more than a dog will return loyally to an owner who beats it.