We should exercise, not because we feel bad about ourselves and our bodies, but instead simply because it’s good for us. Surely that’s reasonable? How did it all get this bad?
What I value the most is this: exercise teaches you about your body and mind. It brings relief from pain and makes moving easier. It encourages self-knowledge and reflection. It can grow your critical mind and give you perspective without feeding your judgmental impulses. It creates peace, when it’s done well, it improves confidence and subtle awareness. It is challenging to describe.
But when you chase the beauty standard and neglect your character it erodes your sense of confidence and self-worth. Then it creates anxiety, not peace. It feeds depression and desperation, it does not help to calm your mind or centre your spirt.
Sometimes I struggle to articulate myself.
The how and why are important. How you train matters. What you seek matters. You will become better at what you practice so try to avoid the practice of harming yourself. It’s a skill you don’t need to develop. The more you believe you will only be happy with yourself in the future, when you’ve lost the weight – this is like a skill too. The more you feed it the more it grows. Then in future you will be well practiced at believing that your body is wrong. You don’t need to be well practiced at that.
Often people wonder about the Shaolin dilemma. Why do Buddhist monks train in martial arts, in techniques of combat when Buddhism is all about nonviolent compassion?
When you understand, in your body, how to negotiate conflict it filters through to your mind, in time. And when you are unafraid and someone seeks to harm you, instead of panicking and reacting blindly out of fear, you can engage and listen, and resolve the situation in other ways. I have some experience of this.
In time you may learn that eradicating your vulnerabilities is not the goal. You can never achieve this, but you can learn to protect them. They connect you to humanity.
Training the body frees the mind. But feeding fears makes them grow. Pandering to hatred encourages the roots to grow deeper.
It is not wrong for a human to be soft. Why is hardness so desirable? Are we so afraid of feeling?
Exercise is good for you, fundamentally. But how did it all get so screwed up?
-- END OLD MAN RANT --