The Religion of Strength
Thu, Oct 25 2012 10:42 | Religion, Religious Experience, Spirituality, Strength To Awaken, Strength Training
A couple of weeks ago I was sitting on a bench in my gym recovering between sets when one of the guys who regularly trains there (who also happens to embody what I would consider a more rigorous practice than most) asked, "Did you just write a book on training?" I smiled and said yes, pausing for a moment as I searched for the best way to talk about my book in this moment; he continued about a coworker who was talking about Strength to Awaken and he said my book was like the religion of strength training.
I had to take a moment to really consider this framing - I was hung up on the word "religion" for what is probably an obvious reason. Religion has a lot of baggage. But as I softened into the phrase, "the religion of strength," I said, "Yeah, I guess you could call it the religion of strength training."
We dove into a really cool, yet brief, exchange, right there in the gym. He said something to the extent of, "I never thought of training like that before, but I've started to see how this has been a center for me in my life for years." We continued on from there; two things are still lingering with me.
1. The Religion of Strength & 2. Practices that help us find our "Center."
The Religion of Strength has started to grow on me since it was planted in my awareness. The term Religion is rooted in the concepts of bonding, to bind together and to join or re-join. It is in this sense (moving in a similar direction with William James' orientation on religious experience) that my book is absolutely a religion of strength and this is indeed one of the larger purposes of strength training. It is to join you with your larger strength as a human being and re-join you with facets of your strength that have become forgotten, obscured or lost in some fashion.
Training in this context is significantly different from what we often think of as training to get stronger in the conventional sense. Religion, at least in my mind, implies some form of worship and rigorous practice. So, how do we worship in the most mundane of places?
This what my book, at least in part, is about. But let's dive into a substantive response to this question right now.
The larger maturity of who you are is always yoking together, joining and integrating polarities. The sacred and the profane, pain and pleasure, being separate and being connected, being and becoming as well as freedom and responsibility (naming several) are held in a spontaneous conversation, with one always informing and co-creating and mutually establishing the other.
Your conventional self typically prefers to attempt to establish a static position, organized around preferences, that is in conflict with the other polarity. In strength training, or any form of rigorous physical training, the classic example is to prefer pleasure which is in conflict with pain. The attempt to get stronger in this context involves avoiding pain, which, as my book unpacks in greater depth, turns into a habituated strategy to maintain as much comfort as possible.
This is perhaps the most inefficient way to become stronger because it is not strength that is worshipped, but rather comfort.
As most of you are aware, genuine pleasure always involves some conversation or exchange with pain. These two are not as separate as our conventional selves often presume. So today, my invitation to you is to bind, join and bond your awareness with the dimension of you that holds, embraces and participates with polarities. Embody the self that is literally larger than polarity, and thereby able to integrate and participate in their joining.
Perhaps it is precisely this ability - to embody and participate with the full spread of polarity - that is more connected with "strength" than our conventional orientations. Perhaps it is stepping beyond our false simplicity of choosing this over that where we can find our more true, complex and beautiful center.
Let's build and discover this strength together today.