Spiritual Experience Is Accessible to the Most Uptight People, Says Jersey Yogi
By this time of year we don’t need to hear the hackneyed statistics any more. We already know: lots of people make New Year’s resolutions, very few keep them.
The specific resolutions range from losing weight, to helping others, to falling in love, but the overall theme is self-improvement.
“I think most people not only want to be better off, they also want to be better, period,” says Jim Starr, a computer programmer, hospice volunteer and author of “Jersey Yogi: The Unintentional Enlightenment of an Uptight Man,” (www.JerseyYogi.com).
“A lack of spiritual context may be undermining the efforts of millions who try to improve themselves each year. These people may benefit from an outside-the-box option that does not occur to them – a spiritual one.”
Like so many men from his hometown of Matawan, N.J., Starr was doing his best within the confines of contemporary Western tradition – working for a living, paying bills, raising a family and looking forward to the weekend barbecue with friends. After experiencing a curveball in his plans in the form of a devastating sports injury, Starr underwent a profound, spiritual transformation which led him to find deeper significance in his life.
“If it could happen to me, it could certainly happen to you,” says Starr, who offers the following suggestions for spiritual emergence.
• Lose the notion that you’re “not the type.” “I was an apprehensive, cynical and pragmatic guy from New Jersey who thought all the New Age stuff just wasn’t for me, but the emotional suffering triggered by my back injury ignited an improbable series of coincidences that shook me out of my ordinary world,” he says.
• Realize that misfortune can be a portal leading to spiritual actualization. A tragic flaw we all share at some point in our lives is the inability to see the good possibilities in a bad situation. For many, this will be the year to endure trauma like divorce, an accident or a death in the family.However, it’s traumas such as these which often lead to change for the better.
“There have been several breakthrough moments since my injury – made possible because of my injury.”
• Understand that transformation may upset social mores. After developing a daily meditation practice, Starr decided to experiment with changing his lifestyle to one without meat or alcohol. This was difficult for Starr because his extensive network of friends bonded via barbecues and other social opportunities to drink beer.
“These relationships were very nourishing, and I liked drinking,” he says. “But, in the end, I was looking for something more profound and meaningful in my life. The people who really care for you – family, close friends and new friends – will be there for you through your changes.”
• Embrace the notion of a “spiritual vacation.” An extended visit to an ashram, a spiritual hermitage or monastery, can be like a deep-tissue massage or a relaxing vacation in that a pilgrimage stays with you.
“When I spend a couple of weeks sitting on the beach in New Jersey, it’s hard for me to notice whether I’m making any personal progress,” he says. “But when I get back home to my normal routine and surroundings I’m always amazed at the difference the vacation has made. Ashram stays tend to be like that for me, too.”
“Most of us are on a kind of autopilot, a track we’ve been on since our birth, but you don’t have to follow the track indefinitely into the future,” Starr says. “More of us can wake up from this arbitrary path and live a truly amazing and beautiful life.”
About Jim Starr
Jim Starr is an author, philosopher, certified Rolfer and avid student of the human condition. Currently residing in Colorado, he is also a computer programmer, hospice volunteer and amateur musician. A Rutgers graduate and true native of New Jersey, Starr plays plenty of handball and has won the Colorado state championship in his age division numerous times. He has lived the story of Jersey Yogi: The Unintentional Enlightenment of an Uptight Man, (www.JerseyYogi.com).