I was in a dark mood today and did not want to go to the gym. I went anyway.
There were two reasons for this. The first is that my muscles and joints don’t care what mood I’m in; they need the work out they need in order to be strong and healthy.
The second reason is that there is a place on The Path of Joy to push yourself to do what will make you stronger. Working through tension and conflict – both internal and with others – requires fortitude to get through the moments when you want to give up. Anything you do that builds your stamina and endurance will help.
Often I write in this space about the importance of self-care – including not overworking and giving yourself the time for rest, play and renewal you need. That remains essential. But pushing yourself in the right moments to go a little farther than you think you can is another facet of self-care.
“Strength training” – both physical and mental – is about expanding your capacity and therefore your options. To have the greatest freedom, empowerment and joy, you need to choose long-term benefit over short-term comfort when they conflict, at least most of the time, and especially when what feels comforting could really do some damage. There is no good time for the alcoholic to take comfort in a drink.
Strength training for the mind and will, as well as the body, will make a difference when the going gets rough in any part of our lives.
Overworking when you need to rest or play and slacking off when you need to work out are equally detrimental. But how can you discern in a given moment what you really need?
One spiritual practice is to ask the question, “What need is most alive for me in this moment?” When you have clarity about what you really need, you will have a context for choosing your next right action.
I went to the gym this morning in part because the need to have more structure and rhythm in as a container for creating balance has been coming up. When I got to the gym I easily moved into doing the same exercises in the same order. I could feel myself resting in that structure, even as I was getting stronger by working out.
I could also feel the way in which I was strengthened some part of me that likes to tell myself the story because I am energetically sensitive and intuitive (which I am and which was leading to my dark mood this morning). I am also fragile.
You have to stay in self-connection to know when to stop – and when to keep going in order to build your capacity. Today, pay attention to do and not do various activities. What needs are alive for you in the moment? Which choices will bring you the greatest long-term benefit if you follow them?
I left the gym in a lot better mood than I went in.
With You on the Path,