Fitness, Spirituality & The Quality of Your Life
Spirituality has two basic drives. It's first drive is for you to be not as defined by the the circumstances of your life. We can call this freedom. You need to be less governed by the events, people and contexts that you find yourself in. When you don't have freedom, the quality of your life suffers and you remain entrenched in the limitations of your life as it presently is.
The second drive of spirituality is for you to be more present, connected and engaged with your life. We can call this fullness. While you need to be less governed by the circumstances of your life (freedom) you also need to be more present to what is going on in your life. The quality of your life erodes when you become less connected and engaged with what is happening. Attuning to your relationships, vocation as well as your self that is in the world improves your life and the quality of the lives of those around you.
Fitness used to be optional. Generically speaking we can say that "back in the day" evolutionarily speaking movement and survival were intrinsically connected. You had to move to hunt and gather, often times throughout much of the day light. Today we live in a different world where many of us are what we can call "knowledge" workers. If you are a knowledge worker you gain the means to support yourself by creating, following and managing information flow. If this is you then you can spend large portions of your life without moving much. You can spend the vast majority of your days inside a small circumference facing some piece or pieces of technology and or people. In the meantime, movement spikes while walking to the bath room, someone else's movement circumference (office) or to get into your car to then sit still while technology loco-motes you.
Lifestyles that support sedentary patterns will kill you.
Biologically speaking inactivity sends powerful messages to your body and they sound like this: "you are sick" or "you are dying." Chronic persistent inactivity meant you were sick or dying 10,000 years ago. Today ongoing inactivity sends the same biological messages.
The result, many of us need fitness. Our lives depend upon it in a very direct way. You need an intentional period, each day, to rigorously move your body. Please note, I said "each day" as 3 days a week is not enough. Each day you are not vigorously moving your body you are likely shortening your life. Fail to move and you are actively drawing death just a bit closer to you. So whatever you do, move!
But it is not enough to just move your body every day. Fitness needs spirituality. Movement needs to refine both your ability to be more free from the circumstances of your life as well as your ability to be fully present in the circumstances of your life.
Sadly much of the movement that happens as people move their bodies is an expression of dissociation. Movement that is divorced from attention is a form of dissociation. If your attention is not placed on or into your movement you are likely dissociating from your fitness. I often see people on the stair stepping machines, stationary bicycles, treadmills and the like exercising as they read the latest issues of fitness, fashion and sports magazines. Occasionally I see folded up sections of the today's newspaper in front of glazed over eyes. Or, better yet, they are watching TV as CNN's latest coverage of the political campaign to the White House flickers before their eyes.
Fitness is often riddled with dissociation. Dissociation is a function of not having enough freedom yet simultaneously being unable to be present in life. You dissociate precisely where you are too controlled by the circumstances of life and unable to be present in your life. That's when you "check out" so to speak.
The body is perhaps one of the most challenging dimensions of life. Most adults have tremendous difficulty not being dictated by the embodied circumstances and thus they have immense limitations when it comes to being present to their embodied sensations (this shows up by stunting results yielded in fitness and in every other facet of adult life). Many adults have yet to grow, reinforce and strengthen the neurological wiring and processing power to be genuinely free from their body yet at the same time present in the fullness of their body.
Fitness is an ideal training ground to grow the faculties of spirituality. Next time you train, don't “check out” to what's going on in your body. Check in. Turn your attention into and upon the embodied sensations of movement. You'll find that you will yield much more in return.