catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 13 :: 2005.07.01 — 2005.07.14


Why get FIT?

I just spent a week in the physical realm. I went to camp in Colorado with our youth toting all of my books along. I was going to have plenty of time to read, to reflect, to meditate. But as it turned out I could barely get a page of reading in, I never journaled and the only time I intentionally meditated was when I taught the youth to do centering prayer.

So what did I do with my time? I sang and moved a lot to music. I walked wherever I needed to go. I sat on the beach and soaked up the sun. I ate. And when I had any down time at all, I napped.

I was a human doing. And that was just fine!

One of the legacies of the most world religions is the idea that the spirit transcends at the expense of the body. An integral approach recognizes that both body and spirit are essential for our growth and development as human beings and doings. Otherwise we risk going as a mosquito into the light. You've seen that haven't you? Especially with the advent of bug zappers? The mosquito sees the light: "It's so beautiful, I must go closer, it is all I want, all I need, I must go closer, closer," and ZAP, they're fried.

An integral life is a balanced life and one that recognizes the sacred value of the body even as it desires to reach higher spiritual planes. In fact, an integral approach recognizes that the biological line is the only line that has a terminal impact on virtually all the others. When the body is done, the other lines are pretty much done, too. Extending the biological line allows for greater evolution in all other lines. Lengthening the biological line gives me more time to reach stable awakening in other lines.

We hear this recognition of the value of the body in Paul's letter to the Philippians as he longs for a bodiless spiritual unity with Christ but understands the value of his bodily existence and the life that has been given to him and which he is called to live fully into now. We also hear this recognition in the bodhisattva vow of the Tibetan Buddhists, a promise made to put off one's own enlightenment and to continue to exist in physical bodily form until all beings are enlightened.

We can attend to our physical bodies in a variety of ways, through nutrition, exercise, massage, reiki, and sex to name a few. Frankly as I look at my own practices that the physical realm is my weak area. I know I should get some kind of regular exercise, but I don't. I just don't get off on exercise as a general rule. But I did find a new approach at my training in Colorado that has given me a whole new way to feel about exercise, and strength training in particular.

We learned FIT, Focused Intensity Training. FIT is used primarily with strength training, but I've also found myself using it while climbing stairs and riding my bike. The biggest benefits of strength training are to turn back the biological clock and to reduce osteoporosis. If you approach weight work for the purpose of developing beach muscles, you might get those muscles, but in the process you will actually shut down energy and interfere with subtle energy movement. FIT brings a perspective that honors both masculine drive and the feminine receptivity.

The integral cycle brought to FIT consists of a time to ground, charge, focus, and relax. First you bring your awareness to yourself and your surroundings by grounding yourself. Then you take a few short, sharp breaths as a way of charging your energy. Next you channel all of your subtle energy into a single part or focus of your body. Focus on the contraction of the muscle in the gross body. Instead of disassociating and picturing yourself on the beach and instead of visualizing having this exercise over and done, you pour awareness into the pain and then radically release it. Relax and expand your awareness.

The gross, physical body is strengthened by lifting weights. The subtle body is strengthened by the intense focusing of awareness, sending your concentrated life energy (chi) into each and every rep and set. The causal body is strengthened by maintaining contact with the ever-present witness that is simply aware of the sensations, sights, sounds, and feelings during each workout.

But a formal exercise program is by no means the only way to engage our physical self. Play is severely underrated in my mind. If you want to get more exercise then the most important question to ask is "What gets you off? What is rewarding?" So I exercise my body by bike riding with my husband or swimming with my kids. Play might involve boards and giant balls for balancing, hacky sacks for juggling, rapid-fire card games for hand eye coordination. And for me this summer it's going to include my first sky diving attempt.

For play to be fun it means we decide that we will make fearless mistakes. I know I'm going to fail and I don't care. And why do we fail in physical activities? Because of the force of gravity. We fall, we roll, we tumble, we crash. In play we don't attempt to defeat gravity, but to defy it. Gravity is another form of attachment. If we can dance with it and be at peace with it and come to love it, then movement is not something we do but who we are.

It has been said that God is the hyphen between you and me. If that is so, then play is the exclamation point! With balance, patience and practice anything is possible!!

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