On a regular basis, I am involved in numerous activities to further my spiritual growth.
On Sundays, I go to church. When I am in Atlanta, I attend Mt. Paran Church of God, where I listen to the incomparable Dr. David Cooper, bringing my journal and taking notes that I then read over for days and weeks and months afterwards.
This summer, I spent a lot of time at Unity North in Blairsville, where the hugging portion of the service takes about five minutes.
When I am in Savannah, I go to my mother church, Christ Church on Johnson Square.
On Monday evenings, I go to the Atlanta Soto Zen Center for meditation. Afterwards, my neighbor Steve Hart leads a discussion in Zen philosophy. I bring the shawl I am currently working on and sit and knit and listen.
On an ongoing basis, I read A Course in Miracles. This summer I was able to attend the Course in Miracles study group at Unity North and in Atlanta I meet with friends and we read the course after sharing a pot luck supper on Wednesdays.
And of course, I pray. I bless my healing space every day, I pray before sleep, I pray for my students, clients and readers, I bless my food and I pray constantly to receive guidance for my life and work.
I also turn to my favorite author, Dr. David Hawkins, M.D., an enlightened person who endorsed my book, Healing Depression: A Holistic Guide back in 1997. Practically every night, I pray to be directed to the page in one of Dr. Hawkins’ books that I need to read at that time.
So here is my point: I realize I am never “done.”
I never get to the point where I think I know it all, spiritually speaking. In fact, the more I go to church, meditate, read spiritual books and pray, the more I realize just how little I actually know. I consider myself a Bible illiterate, not that great of a meditator and a novice at A Course in Miracles.
The point is, however, I never ever give up.
I never get to the point where I think, “O.K., I am now a spiritual person, let’s check that off the list and move on to something else.”
The benefits of spiritual training are obvious to me.
While there are short-term benefits, such as being able to handle the stress of whatever comes up in my life with greater equanimity, there are also long-term benefits, such as having a greater depth of insight to be able to help my clients. As I arrange my zafu at the Zen Center, I often remember the scientific research that shows that when enough people in any given area meditate, the crime rate actually goes down.
I feel I am contributing not just to myself but also quite literally to peace on earth.
Just as with spiritual work, many people come to fitness to solve an immediate problem.
You may find yourself carrying excess pounds.
You may have injured your back, your shoulder, your knees.
You may feel exhausted and depressed and have lost your energy.
Whatever. You have a reason. One day, you wake up and decide it’s now important for you to get fit.
Initially, as you begin a fitness program with me, you may notice immediate benefits.
You lose weight.
Your back, shoulder and knees stop hurting.
You regain your drive, enthusiasm and energy.
I remember getting a call about a year ago from a prospective client.
She was overweight and wanted to know just how long I thought it would take for her to lose her excess pounds. She wanted to get it done so she could check that whole fitness thing off her list and go back to overworking, disconnecting from her body and ignoring how she really felt. She did not say those words exactly, but at the end of the day whether she realized it or not that was what she thought she wanted.
“I believe that fitness is a life-long adventure,” I said to her.
Apparently we did not see eye to eye as she did not sign up to work with me. She wanted to find someone who could help her just check that item off her list, as if being thin and looking good were something you could achieve and not actually make an effort to maintain.
Many of my clients come to me to lose weight, heal their back, shoulders or knees, but once these goals are accomplished, the smartest ones keep training.
Just as with spiritual training, ongoing physical fitness training has both immediate, short-term benefits as well as long-term benefits. Some of these benefits just seem to come out of nowhere and surprise you.
This past week, for example, I took four trips to ACE hardware one morning to purchase 48 bags of cypress mulch. Each bag was maybe about 26 pounds. I could only fit 12 bags at a time in the back of my Prius, which is why I had to go back four times.
With the first load, I offered to help the guy on the loading dock put the bags in my car. He very gallantly refused. Then I surprised him by coming back and back and back.
“Are you unloading all those bags yourself?” he asked me during my third trip with some concern on his face.
“Yes,” I replied. No problem.
Nothing in my body hurt as I hauled those bags out of car, carried them up the steps to my garden and spread them around my yard. I didn’t hurt while I was doing the job or the next day either.
In fact, I thought it was so much fun that I timed myself to see how long it would take me to carry one load of 12 bags – the amount that could fit in my trunk – out of the car and all over the garden. 10 minutes, 48 seconds. “Not bad for 53 and in menopause,” I thought.
All the weight training I do made it easy for me to lift not just one bag but many. All the yoga I do had given me a strong flexible back so I could lift, bend over and reach with zero problems. All the qi gong I do had taught me how to maintain excellent even energy. All the hiking and walking that I do had given me strong legs to carry the bags up the steps.
One of my regular fitness clients is always regaling me with stories about friends of hers who are on numerous medications, who have a terminal illness or who fell down and broke something and are visiting various specialists to find out about surgery. To me, spending your week going from one doctor to another sounds very boring.
Meanwhile, my client keeps on ticking – no drugs, no illnesses, excellent energy, stronger than she looks. She gets it. She has regular appointment hours with me and she keeps them.
Yet another long-term client has faced constant resistance from her husband about our work together. He thought all you need to do to exercise is walk around the block. While my client can do activities that are beyond the experience of many people even half her age, her husband just had hip surgery, had to walk with a cane and is now needing her help for basic activities of daily living. She is having the last laugh.
I thought I would make a list for you about the benefits of ongoing physical fitness training with me:
1. Even when you want to give up, if you have an appointment with me, you will get your exercise done, do it without hurting yourself and have fun even in spite of yourself. I can’t tell you how many clients I have who have been injured just trying even one exercise class from a confident but less knowledgeable fitness professional.
2. You will look and feel younger than all your friends.
3. You will learn how to work out smarter, if not necessarily harder. You don’t need to spend hours and hours or be bored or miserable.
4. You will learn how to have a healthy relationship with your body. When you are connected, you will know when you are tired and need to stop working, and when you eat you will know for sure when you are full and be able to stop eating.
5. You will maintain your strength, flexibility, stamina and fitness.
6. You will have better self esteem. What happens on the inside to you is equally important, in my mind, to whatever changes you experience in the way you look.
7. If you do happen to hurt yourself (one of my clients injured her knee after falling while trying on high heels in a department store), you will know the right person to fix it, get it done, work out safely while being injured, not lose your fitness level and be back on track in a reasonable amount of time.
8. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to look good in their bathing suit. In this day and age, once you are past the age of 25, this takes some work and you have to be pretty consistent to maintain that.
9. Even if you would never be caught dead in your bathing suit, looking good in your clothes is a very achievable goal. I am always amazed how many clothes for middle aged men and women are fancy versions of tents or bags.
10. You will make working out a normal, every day part of your life. It will feel more normal for you to find ways of exercising no matter whether you are on vacation, highly stressed, busy with your work or whatever. Regular exercise will become like brushing your teeth.
If you are ready to be a regular, consistent and safe exerciser, come and and make an appointment with me. We can talk about where you need to begin and make progress at your pace. No matter how fat, injured, dejected or discouraged you may be, anything is possible if you have the right coach to guide you.