Sunday, August 31, 2014

Exercise Enlightens

Photo by Raja Sambaslvan.
Going to the gym gives me a good workout--body, mind and soul. If I get myself to the gym, I improve my physical fitness, my cognition, and my peace of mind.

It took me a while to recognize that the gym at time offers me spiritual enlightenment. It's not just the endorphins talking.  The gym offers some insights about life when I take the time to notice.

Photo by Bob Cotter.
1. We are all equal at the gym.  All people are equal when faced with fundamental tasks such as walking on a treadmill.

It doesn't matter how old we are, where we live, how much education we have, or what we do for a living.  The only question is this: can I move my feet to keep pace?

From time to time, I look around at all the people on the cardio machines or all the people in the exercise class and feel great unity with them. We are all united in our quest for greater physical fitness.

I sometimes want to break out in song.  But that would spoil the moment, so I just note the swelling in my heart and smile.

2. I can't lie to the gym equipment.

Photo by Hector Alejandro.
No amount of rhetorical spin will persuade the treadmill that I'm more fit than my habits have made me.

Either I can keep pace, or I need to get off the machine.

I can tell all my friends that I can run for 30 minutes at 4 miles per hour on the treadmill.  They might be impressed. But I can't keep a very good pace for very long if I haven't logged the time.

3. I try to enjoy each day because "impermanence is all."

Photo by Greg MP
Even though I often work very hard to improve my fitness, I also need to "let go" of my elaborate goals and enjoy the moment.

After all, there are no guarantees. I am not going to live forever. I really have no idea what quality of life I can maintain as I age.

Even though I have fitness goals, it's important not to cling to them too tightly.  Being resistant to change can lead to anger, frustration and depression.

Nothing last forever--including my health, including my body, so I need to enjoy the moment.

When I show gratitude for my present level of fitness and acceptance of impermanence, I feel waves of peace wash over me with each breath I take.

4. We are all moving through the cycle of life.  

Photo by Tiffany Berry.
I have felt the greatest sense of transcendence at the gym when I perceive the cycle of life.

Once in a while, I perceive time flowing like a river.  I hear the hum of the machines, I see people streaming in and out of the front doors, I hear my own breath.  All the people around me feel part of one organism working in harmony.

Everything in the building becomes poetry in motion.

It's a bit like I'm seeing my life flashing before my eyes.

I see children in the pool or when people drop their kids at the gym's daycare. I see teens, young adults, midlife adults and older adults.

Past, present and future collapse for me when I see all working towards the same goal at their own point along the life cycle.

These moments provide me a great sense of peace, which I try to revisit when I grow too afraid about the aging process and the impermanence of life.  So even when I'm not inside the gym, I can carry these spiritual insights with me throughout my week. And even if my level of fitness decays, I can hold onto the spiritual strength I'm developing along the way.


Transcending Age
What Theory Do You Use to Describe Aging?
Outrunning Father Time and the Grim Reaper


  1. That photo with the granny and the little baby just pictures what you say! Exercise's for all ages, the sooner the better but it's never too late.

    1. Yes, every body. Thanks for your comment. (Sorry for the delay. How did I miss seeing this. GAH!) Be well, Lily.