I can't believe I'm saying this--I think I am addicted to exercise and I am so excited and grateful for this new reality in my life. Yup, feeling pretty preachy these days, I guess. At 45, it was time to get serious about getting fit or face a pretty unhealthy mid-life. I was gradually putting on a pound or two each year and felt tired and achy a lot of the time. That led to a state of low-level chronic depression and occasional fits of insufferable anxiety whenever the stress in my life got really ramped up. I think daily meditation was the thing that finally got me into a state of mind where I could start putting myself before my family and my to-do list and start making my own health a top priority. I started running last November and now I am also biking regularly on a great used road bike that my husband found for me on Craigslist. What is really cool about getting the exercise addiction is that a lot of people around me are getting more active, too, and we are all having a positive influence on one another. It makes me think that our whole society could really see some amazingly positive changes if more and more people got moving and we got kids more active at home and at school, as well. Dr. John Ratey, in his book,
From 'How to Love' by Thich Nhat Hanh
"If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can't accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don't make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform. So the big question is: how do we help our hearts to grow?"
I read this yesterday morning and it is really sticking with me. The metaphor is so powerful. When my husband started to micromanage me from across the room, as he tends to do, I could see that his words were like salt and I remembered this teaching. I took a breath, smiled to myself and imagined that my heart was expanding and the salt was not able to affect the quality of my being. I was able to witness the moment objectively, rather than getting hooked. Without this teaching, I might have gotten bugged and snapped back at him, which would have been counterproductive. Instead, I just kept moving and was able to stay in a positive frame of mind.
There are so many times when I catch myself being unskillful in my interactions with others and I beat up on myself because I have so far to go before I can be like my spiritual teachers. But then something like this will happen and I can give myself a pat on the back and see that I am making some growth on this path toward being consistently awake and at peace.
If this post resonates with you--if you are on a similar path, please leave a comment. One of my reasons for creating this blog is to generate a supportive community for like-minded folks.