Happy 2019! I like to think of the secular new year as a time to renew our commitment to our bodies and to physical health. Yes, I did actually join a gym last week.
What do weight machines and an elliptical have to with the inner life and social change? Its pretty simple – a cared-for body is a powerful vessel for building the relationships of love and justice that so many of us yearn for. No matter our ability or health, when we take steps that are within our control to bring our body and mind into alignment with our spiritual work, it can be even more powerful.
Challenging our bodies can also be a metaphor for the bold action we want to take in the world. No matter what our physical ability, whether its holding a pose for a few seconds longer than last time or challenging ourself to push out that one last bench press, we are drawing on the same inner-resources needed to knock on one more door, have one more one-to-one meeting with a person we don’t really know, or challenge a racist comment. Most of the time I recommend spiritual exercises for building these muscles. Now I’m thinking about how the discipline of building my physical muscles might actually come into my work!
Exercise can also provide unexpected opportunities for Holy Chutzpah, or Azut D’Kedushah. Rebbe Nachman writes: “A person needs holy boldness so they will be bold like a leopard against people that want to block and disparage and not back down or be shamed before them…because their intention is holy and these disparagers want to confuse and block them from the way of life. One must overcome them with great boldness.”
These “disparagers” can also be our own inner-voices and internalized oppression. What boldness can you call on to pursue “the way of life?” I have several doctor appointments I’ve been putting off, one for over two years. I need to draw on my love of my own life and honor for myself to overcome to inertia and fear that is keeping me from taking care of my body. My goal is to finally set up these appointments in the next few weeks
Who or what are your “disparagers and blockers” from the “way of life?”
May 2019 be a time of healing of body and healing of spirit as we build a world that honors both power and compassion, key ingredients in any sustainable future.