Culturally, with every decade of life a person is allowed to do less. I once heard it referred to as “reaching the comfort-loving 50s.” When we’re young we want to do more. We have lots of energy, there’s lots we want to do, lots we haven’t done; we tend to be enthusiastic, excited. With each decade we get a little less enthusiastic and excited. Doing less is a reward; we “get” to do less as we get older, as we’re more successful, as we have more money, until we reach the age where we “get” to talk about our aches and pains. No thank you!
When we’re young, it can take a lot for the physical to feel difficult, but that’s because we’re young, not because we’re fit. When we’re fit, we enjoy physical activity because we’re fit, not because we’re young. We want physical activity; it feels good. We are sentient beings. A genuine experience of feeling good for a sentient being involves a body that is relaxed and strong and capable. Without that, our life becomes smaller and smaller.
George Bernard Shaw said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” In the same vein, we don’t stop being fit because we grow old, we lose physical fitness because we believe the voices saying it’s too hard, I don’t feel like it, I’m tired, I can’t—which renders those messages accurate! “It’s so hard, I don’t want to” must become our reason to forge ahead! This is how we find what is required to move past “too hard.”
“What stands in the way becomes the way.” -- Marcus Aurelius
When we’re fit, activity may be challenging but it’s not difficult. When we’re fit, we realize difficult is a label ego uses to fuel an “I don’t want to” conversation in conditioned mind.
When we’re not fit, a lot of physical activity will legitimately be somewhere between difficult and impossible. However, as soon as we get out of that ego conversation of negativity and defeat, we move into the world of challenging. As soon as we realize participation is more fun than doing nothing, that engaging is more enjoyable than avoiding, we’re ready to face down the ego voices that want to rob us of our body as well as our mind in the pursuit of robbing us of our life.
Those researching the subject tell us it takes 21 days to change a habit, 96 days to create a lifestyle. If we do something for 96 days it will become part of our lives. Now, of course, we know full well that after 196 days, or even 1,096 days, ego will be right there ready to distract and derail us. That’s fine because as soon as we see the pathway to success in one area of life we will realize the process applies everywhere.
Anyone reading this is capable of enjoying challenges that will leave the voices of ego screaming in protest. Patiently, compassionately, and tenaciously we begin taking the little steps that will turn our lives around. Just as in sitting practice. Can’t sit cross-legged for a half hour of meditation? That’s okay. Start those little practices that will take you where you eventually want to be. Maybe the first challenge is getting down to the floor. Fine. Learn some stretches you can do once you get down there. Focus on bending the knees. Stretch out the quads. Little bit by little bit. Hearing voices harangue you for being inflexible and out of shape? Good. That’s the opportunity to re-direct attention to the breath, which will come in so handy in meditation practice. Need encouragement? Talk with the Mentor. Make some recordings about why you want to be fit and strong, why you want to be increasing your wellbeing rather than letting it go. Listen to those recordings as you stretch.
Pick the smallest step you can and really enjoy it.
What we’re building is faith. Trust. We’re proving to ourselves that we can choose, that we can follow through, that being with ourselves is far more enjoyable than going with one more empty promise from an ego aiming to suck the last little bit of life force out of us—and then berate us for being a lazy, unfit slug!
So, what might you choose as a way to go up against the limitations ego has imposed? What would you like to do to prove to yourself that it’s enjoyable to roll right over ego’s “I don’t want to” into the fun of “it feels great to be in a human body”?
I’ve decided to start jumping rope.