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Sometimes, I feel very poor spiritually. I wake up, I shower, I put on clothes, I feed my boys, I eat a spartan breakfast, and I go to work.

I spend my day at work thinking about how pathetic my life is.

I come home and look in the mirror. I look about as pathetic as a feel.

Recently, I wondered how long it had been since I received a compliment. I couldn't remember the last time someone had seriously paid me a compliment.

I remembered well the last time someone had insulted me, in fact remembering the last several instances.

My girlfriend had quoted "The Night before Christmas": "And it shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly."

One of my friends had said, "You're fat."

And when I look in that mirror, I see what they say. I see the reflection that they've given me. In my mind, I know neither was serious. In my heart, I hurt.

How does this make me feel as if the wealth of spirituality in the world has left me stranded on an island?

Religion is tied to the body in many ways. Certain positions cause ecstatic experiences, while gnosis can be attained only through separation from the mundane world.

How does it sound when a guy writes this? What should I care what people think?

A feminist scholar would tell me that my reaction to how I look is because an unfair standard has been set on my body by those around me. Action figures, movie stars, and the people my girlfriend coos over all have flat stomachs. This means that I should too.

If I can't live up to that standard, then I'm useless.

The feminist scholar would be wrong.

What has happened is that my own reality requires that I get that flat stomach. There is something out there that is calling to me, demanding that I do this. It doesn't ask because it no longer finds me attractive. It doesn't ask because it's run out of fat jokes.

It asks because it cares.

What the hell is wrong with the way I look? Nothing.

What the hell is wrong with the way I feel? Nothing.

What the hell is wrong with the way I am? Everything.

I am fat. This isn't a perception by society, nor is it a perception of a select individual. It is the perception I have of myself, and it gets in the way of my spirituality.

I don't care about how others see me. What I care about is my connection with the Gods.

But my girlfriend will laugh at me if I do sit-ups. They kill my back. Crunches are worse. No one takes a person who is exercising seriously.

I hate exercise. It's painful, sometimes excruciatingly so. But I'll do it because I've been asked to by my religion.

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