The Zen of Exercise

So, let us begin with this most important and powerful section, the wisdom and understanding of the importance of taking care of your body through exercise.  That is, what is necessary to contribute to the fullest awakeness and aliveness and awesome function of the sacred vehicle you’ve been given, your body. My Zen teacher, Gempo, said it simply: You should do at least one hour of exercise everyday if you are going to be able to handle, with clarity and balance, the intense practice of transformation. Simple. At his retreats each lunch period had an hour scheduled to workout in some fashion or another. In my experience, this a actually a rare component of spiritual practices, except perhaps the Gurdjieff work where you count on having your body utilized, worked beyond your comfort zone through movements or work tasks. Your body is an instrument for your soul, your essence to express through, and the healthier your body the more capacity for receiving, experiencing, and embodying states of Essence, well-being, love, etc. So where and how to begin. Truth is, most people start in too hard and fast and usually create such agony and suffering for themselves that they last a week or two with their attempt to create a fitness program, and leave with the deep impression of aching muscles as their last glimpse of an attempt. That is, they set themselves up for failure because they don’t know how to start slow and build up slowly. They launch like a racehorse and fail quickly. Bummer for sure!

That said, there is a load of hope for you to enter the world of exercise and succeed, that is, not hurt yourself, cause over-the-top painful muscles, and learn to relax into the joy of moving your body and feeling your energy increase. It’s all learnable. Starting slow and smart is the key. Remembing, all real transformation comes slowly, not quickly, is the stuff of real wisdom. A great book to read to get a sense of your possibility is Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit and Sexy, Until You Are 80! by Chris Crowley. He lays out the why and how of starting into a fitness lifestyle, and gives you the basics. Many who have read this book said it allowed them an entry way into a world that felt distant and mysterious. However, if you are an ex-athlete, your first job is to rethink how to approach fitness. It can feel like it was just yesterday that you were able to race around like an Irish Setter with infinite energy, and rarely a sore muscle. So you, dear friend, need to learn how to be a beginner. Of course, you don’t believe me and will have to push yourself like you are an eighteen-year-old and injure yourself. After you do that, read the book. There’s a good chance with intelligent exercise regimens that you can rebirth a lot of that native energy and spunk, but you’ve got to start slow. And if you are a Type Three, well, we’ll send you many prayers. You know how you are. You will race to get yourself into a specimen of fitness because that’s how you are wired, and if you can just put the brakes on a little, you can spare yourself a much longer journey to the top of the fitness heap. Just sayin’. 

There is also a book for women named Younger Next Year for Women and a follow-up book for both of them called Younger Next Year: The Exercise Program which gives you the possible exercises you can utilize for restoring a body that is strong, flexible and aerobically capable, which by the way is a joy to experience. Once you’ve got a taste you won’t turn back! 

Of course there are lots of books on fitness. Buyer be aware–many offer the illusion of a fast, quick journey into ideal fitness. Fact: the real journey, where you gain fitness and keep it, is slow and steady, turtle-like. You’re trying to create a do-able habit, like brushing your teeth every day. Slow, steady, consistent…that”s the formula.

Go to this website for support in your exercise practice…https://www.youngernextyear.com/

There are a variety of ways to start an exercise program, the first primary principle being start as a doable pace such that you are not mind-blowingly sore the next day. Contrary to what you might have learned about exercise, hurting yourself guarantees that you will quit exercise. You first priority is actually ‘feeling good’ after a workout. If you can create states of well-being that you sustain then you will keep showing up. Nobody can actually figure this out for you, but there are frameworks you can work with, experiment with, to find what works for you. To be continued…


Scroll to Top