Exercise as a Practice

Dumbells for Sale by Andy Wagstaffe

Dumbells for Sale by Andy Wagstaffe


In 2002 I received the gift of 30 extra pounds. After a year of brownies and beer with little physical activity, my body sent me a message. I recognized I wasn’t going to be fit forever, and that it was going to take work. So, I started running again.

Yes, I needed to lose weight. But the gift was the telegram that I needed to be more embodied.

Committing to exercise was an important decision. First, I started feeling better. Not only could I walk up stairs without being fatigued, I felt my musculature. I become more attuned to aches, pains, and thus, other signals that my body is sending.

Second, weight training, running, and stretching offer me a chance to live between being goal-oriented and being process-oriented. As anyone who exercises knows, there are days when the body does not want to perform in the way the body thinks it should. Every repetition, stride, and hold of a stretch offer me the chance to ask the questions:

  • Am I listening to my body?
  • Am I pressing too hard?
  • Am I challenging myself?

These are not just questions for exercise, they are questions for life. When I press too hard, I risk injury and am apt to lose form. When I press too hard in other areas of my life the same is true. I risk sickness and fatigue, as well as becoming less effective and present.

But I also love the challenge. So, every trip to the gym lets me be in dialogue with this tension. I have the opportunity to feel embodied, strong, enduring, flexible, and alive. And I have the opportunity to listen to myself and learn when to retreat.

Tags: , , , ,

Thinking Too Much


“Thinking only begins at the point where we have come to know that Reason, glorified for centuries, is the most obstinate adversary of thinking.”

Martin Heidegger

There are two things I hear my mentor say most often: “Where’s your heart?” and “You seem to be thinking a lot.” We have been in relationship long enough that I immediately know what he means. I’m thinking too much. I’m in my head.

When I’m in my head, I enjoy life less, I’m less nimble and adaptive, less creative, and I’m less aware of people and energy. It’s not a “bad” state of being. In fact, my habitual way of being – relying on my analytical self – is necessary for survival.

From a very early age, I was told I was intelligent. Living in an age and place that values this intelligence – the ability to learn and synthesize knowledge – means that I was encouraged to rely on, demonstrate, and increase my own intelligence.

While I received accolades (especially from the systems that reward this intelligence), I became less attuned to the things that matter most to me. Relationships, with others and myself, did not develop as well as long as I focused on being or looking smart.

It’s not that the brightest and happiest people “think” less, they just depend less on their analytical thinking. Einstein and DaVinci are examples, as are many of the greatest innovators throughout time.

I know when I’m embodied, I am more alive and able to connect deeply with myself and others. The intuitive mind is not just in my head, it pervades my senses and flows through and around me. This is when I’m creative and have a capacity to sense “what is.” Sadly, it’s hard to stay there. I revert back to my habitual ways of diagnosing, explaining, and planning.

PlansSees Possibilities
DissectsSees Connectedness
VerbalizesSenses Energy
Has KnowledgeKnows

The analytical mind is a good thing, we’ve just become too dependent on it.

“The revolutionary thinker must go beyond thought.  He knows that almost all his best ideas come to him when thinking has stopped.”

Alan Watts

With all the challenges across the globe, we can’t think our way out of this. We have millions of intelligent people but are not solving climate change, poverty, violence, etc. It’s going to take more than our rational minds to bring about a better world.

Tags: , , , , ,