I think that vigorous exercise is a way to practice—to be a strong warrior. A spiritual warrior. A warrior who believes in right mind, speech, and body. Truth. Enjoyment. Manifestation.
This is my practice.
“When we find ourselves in a situation in which our buttons are being pushed, we can choose to repress or act out, or we can choose to practice. If we can start to do the exchange, breathing in with the intention of keeping our hearts open to the embarrassment or fear or anger that we feel, then to our surprise we find that we are also open to what the other person is feeling. Open heart is open heart.”
~ Chögyam Trungpa
Sometimes, I am too pissed off to spend an hour and a half on a yoga mat.
I will admit to the following: I am not a good practitioner of meditation. There are times when I am calm enough to meditate, practice, and interact with people peacefully and mindfully. Sometimes, though, I need to be aggressive. I notice my angry emotions and deal with them physically and mentally through intense running or lifting. I need to expel anger and energy. We all do. Or we all should.
In our own unique ways.
And I’ve found that I can do that best through rigorous exercise. I spend at least an hour a day expelling energy without inhibition. When I don’t do this, my physical needs are not met and I cannot meditate, write, or think. I become angry at people I usually love and interact with peacefully. Maybe your way of dealing with anger is through gardening. Or drinking. Having crazy sex. Whatever.
What is a good life? I am asking you (and I am asking myself) what it really means to have a good life. I am not asking you what the American Dream is and means. I am asking you to tell yourself what you really want in life.
And go get it.
Sick of being fat? Go for a hike and stop eating Cheetos and ice cream. Sick of being angry? Find an outlet. I just told you mine. Sick of being lonely? Ask someone on a date or go talk to a human at a coffee shop or buy a puppy. Sick of being broke? Go work or learn a new skill. Feeling sick? Find a remedy. Sick of feeling stupid? Read a book. Feeling caught up in your own head? Go volunteer somewhere or care for a plant. Bored? Turn on some music and rock out. Go notice the trees outside or the weather or go talk to a neighbor.
As humans, we have basic needs. Food, water, shelter. We also have other needs: Love, affection, physicality, family. And then there are tertiary needs: Catharsis, knowledge, dreams. These are the needs we ignore most often. Without addressing them, we see life as bleak. We fail to wish for things. We fail to see life as something grand, beautiful, even perfect. If we begin to develop our minds and bodies more, we are able to appreciate the basic things we all have and need to sustain life.
So in a utilitarian sense, dreaming, wishing, and developing gives our feeble minds something more to be grateful for. When we develop ourselves past the basic American day of waking up—of reading a newspaper, going to work, and coming home to a home-cooked dinner and going to sleep with a partner who we view as less-than-exciting after all these years—we begin to taste what it is like to live in every moment with gratitude, with aspiration, and with the pure intent of becoming something more than human.
We are all more than just human bodies. We have personalities. We have all fucked something up before. Maybe we are disabled. Maybe we lost a loved one. Maybe we are broke or have lots of debt.
Regardless of what we don’t have, most of us do have a body. We can ignore our debt, get away from people, and become more fit to face life by exercising. Even if it is walking.
If you’re angry, don’t fake it and try to sit down and meditate. Acknowledge it. Work through it. I mean really work through it. And work hard.
I think it is important to combine mind and body…to have the drive to work ourselves hard. To become strong. To be more than just humans. For me, being a strong woman—a warrior—means that I have to run and lift.
“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.” ~ Joseph Campbell
We have to meditate. We have to exercise. We have to eat and sleep. We have to love. We have to challenge ourselves. And that’s about it.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Photo: Photo of author courtesy of Brandon Sheehan