ANNOUNCEMENT!! Join the Be Fit To Sit: Mindfulness and Fitness Group starting
Sunday Sept 23rd 3pm at Irving Park (Future meetings will alternate between NE and SE Portland)
Spiritual practitioners of all walks have long used body movement as a way to ground the mind in the present moment. The goal of this group is to support the healthy function of the body in order to aid in the practice of meditation and mindfulness whether running, walking, cycling, swimming, standing, sitting, or lying down.
I attended an event the other night for my Buddhist Sangha where we were treated to an amazing performance by a classically trained Indian dancer. At first I had been watching the performance from the back of the room where I was running the sound, but on the longest piece I moved forward so I could sit very close and watch her dance. I was amazed when I got right down next to her how much different the experience was when I was closer to her. It was engrossing.
There was this human body in front of me displaying the nimble expression of emotion and spirit. You could see tendons stretching, muscles taut and flexing. You could see and even feel this gentle, springy poise and strength. It was beautiful. And it struck me that not only was this dancers body a thing of beauty, but the reality is every human body is a fine tuned machine. How often in training have I treated my own body like a old clunker?
There is a tendency sometimes to treat the body like it must be whipped into shape. If we just bang on it enough then the old TV set will show the picture we want to see, a fit form of beauty. When I started training for triathlons this year I often would skimp on the warm up and then try to run as fast as I could, pushing my pace. I didn't respect the fine details and all the delicate parts, that make up my system. And guess what happened? You got it, I started getting little injuries, little cracks in my system. First it was shin splints, then I had IT band problems. Part of me thought it was just that I hadn't worn my body in yet. But I realize now that it's because I didn't work with the subtlety of my own form. My zen teacher used to tell me, "never force mechanical things, if it isn't moving there is a reason, take the time to figure out what it is."
This advice is essential for anyone seeking a balanced body and mind. Often the language used by the fitness industry acts, as if the body is a piece of steel, that can be heated and pounded into form. In reality our bodies are more complex than a super fancy sports car or fighter jet. By doing things like warming up properly, exercising with a sense of awareness, stretching, and engaging is an exercise plan that builds strength and conditioning over time, we can honor the fine tuned nature of our body. But if we ignore what our body is saying at every turn, push it beyond what we can do at the time, and fail to treat it with respect, we reap the results of that attitude.
This isn't to say, that when seeking to have a better fit there will be no discomfort. There does need to be a bit of pushing and cajoling that occurs. But we must do our best to find the balance between pushing and forcing. Discomfort is ok, maybe even a little ache or pain occasionally, but in general consistent persisten pain is best avoided.
Take some time this week and reflect on a time when you haven't treated either your body, a relationship, or another piece of fine tuned machinery roughly or cavalierly. What was the result? What if you had tried a more gentle approach? Then think about what could you do to manifest respect for your body in your life this week.
Maybe you could honor your body with a healthy meal. High end cars often need special fuel. Or, if you have chronic injury, finding a warm up routine that helps strengthen that area. Or you could even try taking better care of your body by taking a bath, or getting massage, or even just thanking your body for helping you out. No matter what it is, if we treat our bodies like a fined tuned machine, our bodies are much more likely to respond in kind.
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Thanks and Be Well