Monday, August 22, 2011

The Body The Mind

So I have fallen off the wagon once more, but I'm sure it won't be the last time. It's a struggle to stay on my exercise schedule when lacking energy, but I'm working on it. I know that it isn't in regards to my hypothyroid condition, but it is related to my lacking sleep. One week without a babysitter has turned into four months without one and so the nights I work I am lucky to get four hours before I have to be up with the little man then, of course, returning to my work shift that night. It's a cycle that is now taking a toll on my body and mind that I'm currently working to resolve. The good news is I haven't gained any weight, but I haven't lost any either.

While my body will always be a work in progress I find myself on an endeavor to read as many books on the "warrior" path as I can find. One reason is obviously for my own focus and to keep me determined to stay on the path when my body doesn't always agree. The other is because I'm working with some friends on a project that I hope will help others on the same path as me, both Celtic Reconstructionist (CR) and Neopagan Warrior.

I've recently been reading On The Warrior's Path by Daniele Bolelli. Chapter one is The Body As a Temple and while the chapter can be extremely redundant he does make a good point that I really never took the time to think about. Our society has seemed to disconnect the mind from the body. We see it all the time, advertisements for the various gyms around the area. "Join now with no registration fee. Get that bikini body by summer." We get pounded with workout videos and fad diet ads. We get told that in order to have your body fit the social norm one must hit the gym three or four times a week utilizing their specialty machines to sculpt and trim our bodies to look the way all the models in sports bras look as they flex on the screen.

As Bolelli points out we have lost our connection to our bodies because we have lost our connection to nature. Our ancestors lived outside within nature. They worked within it on the fields for agriculture, hunting for meat or even simply hiking for entertainment. Now, don't get me wrong, I have plenty of friends who go hiking or mountain biking and I envy them. They find the true beauty in the outdoors, but they are sadly in the minority. Because of their connection to their environment their bodies naturally stay fit because they are naturally active. Their health is stable without any thought to it because they use their bodies for what they were meant to do. Be constantly active.

But the author isn't merely pointing out nature as in the outdoors, he is talking about our innate nature as humans. One could say the same about dancers or athletes. They are naturally up and active. They don't need to think about their calorie intakes or getting to the gym. We have lost that connection to being active because our jobs have become more and more sedentary. We sit behind desks for hours a day at work at the computer or at home watching TV. We treat going to the gym or going for a walk as a chore. We treat our bodies like an after thought. I'm absolutely just as guilty of this.

I may love to beat the crap out of my punching bag, but it still doesn't make it feel like less of a chore putting on the gloves and workout gear right before. Then I have a set timer that I have to push myself to reach the end instead of simply listening to my body. I love my martial arts classes, but it's the same thing - getting dressed, going in the car and driving there is a chore that I'm not a fan of. And wanting to hike or bike, that was fun when I was a kid, but now it's maybe a once a year "special occasion." Why is that mentality okay?

When we separate the mind from the body, as Bolelli points out, we do lose a piece of the puzzle that makes us happy. As my friend Kym Lambert has been known to point out, when we work out we get "awesome workout endorphins." I know I've experienced that feeling of bliss even though I'm sweaty, I smell and I'm out of breath. Those same endorphins come from just being up and active. Anyone whose ever gone for a hike at the local park, played softball, or been an active gardener has experienced those moments of pure bliss when your mind is at peace and you're just happy.

When we treat our bodies as the temple they are we get healthy without the fuss of a gym membership and machines. We don't have to rely on the timers and the irritation of "getting ready." As we use our bodies in the way they were meant to be used and exercise them naturally as we do our minds there is the opportunity for a sense of total peace. Our health isn't a chore it is simply part of living that we have forgotten about.

As kids we played outside and stayed fit without a care in the world. We kept active, we wrestled around, we ran around the neighborhood and we stayed healthy. It was just something we did without thought. We wanted to be the fastest, the strongest and the dirtiest. Riding a bike wasn't a chore and playing in the mud was fun. This is a place I need to get back to. The author is right, as a Warrior, or even simply as a human being, balance between the body and mind is bliss. I already treat my mind as a temple by filling it with as much information as I can find. It's now time I start treating my body as a temple and that means using it!