buddhism / exercise and workout / vow / zen

All Exercise Is Meaningless

Cat + Weights

“C’est La Vie”
Photo by kcxd

Every bit of exercise you do is meaningless.

Don’t Just ‘DO IT’
For years, I did things without knowing why. I may have had reasons, but they were hidden from me. Living at a Zen monastery changed that.

Before every activity at the monastery we said a dedication. We’d recite a chant and then dedicate the merit to someone or something.

After a while, I stopped thinking about why we did it.

When I left the monastery, I noticed that many activities lacked weight. This was especially true for exercise. I wanted my efforts to be more than just an ego game.

Check, ‘Me’ Out
Fitness can become all about me, me, me. I want to have a six-pack so girls will look at me. I want to ride faster than everyone else, so I feel like a king.

This focus on the self makes parts the fitness industry hollow, shallow, and inauthentic.

I wanted it to be different. That’s when I remembered the dedications at Great Vow. So, I wrote a dedication for exercise.

All of a sudden, my exercise became an act of service.

I was exercising:

  • To have more strength to help others.
  • To help clarify my mind.
  • To live longer and serve more.
  • To support my family and friends.

This simple dedication changed the meaning behind my workouts. Best of all it can do the same for you.

A 4 step guide to writing a dedication for any purpose.

1. Write down a truth: What is it that you need to remember? Something you know is true in your heart, but often forget.

Some examples are:  Anything is possible, Exercise isn’t selfish, I may not do it today, but that doesn’t mean I won’t do it someday.

2. Write down an intention: An intention is similar to, but not the same as a goal. It has more to do with internal energy rather than external measurement. It’s something only you can judge.

Some Examples are: I will feel more confident, I will move with more ease, I will change my life.

3. Write down who or what it’s for:We never exist in complete independence. If our course is only devoted to ourselves, the pursuit becomes hollow. When we dedicate our effort to others, it becomes much more.

Choose someone or something to dedicate your effort to. It could be an individual, group, or energy.

Some examples are: I run for my children, I’ll keep going for anyone who’s tried to lose weight and failed, I’ll keep trying in gratitude for the gift of life.

4. Write down what you want to embody:It’s not just about what we do. It’s about how we do it. How we do something is what makes it transformational.

Some examples are: I will embody the persistence of a mighty river, I will embody the strength of Martin Luther King, I will embody the energy of compassion.

Now that you have, your four sentences play around with them. Try putting them in a different order or change the wording.

A client of mine discarded sentences 2-3 and uses her first sentence alone. Do whatever it takes to make it your own.

Finish Line

photo by Candice Villarrea

Keep on Keeping On
All exercise is meaningless, until we realize it’s meaning.

Moreover, seeing our motivation can be very powerful. This process helps find what drives you. Most of all, coming back to your dedication will keep you going when the path gets steep.

I’d love to read your dedications. If you want to share it, please post it below.

Here is the dedication I often use:
My body is subject to old age sickness and death. Nothing I do can change this. I put forth this effort that I may be able to approach everyday with more courage, wisdom, and compassion. I dedicate the merit of this effort to the liberation of all living beings. May my every step embody the path of liberation.

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4 thoughts on “All Exercise Is Meaningless

  1. Gentoku your blog always has depth. I am not sure how you are able to post so frequently, but you never skimp on meaningful content. Thanks for this, it’s really great!

    • Thanks Laura! There are two things that help me more than anything else:
      1. I try to write an hour everyday. It’s a challenging practice, but does produce results.
      2. I get my posts from everyday life. Most of what I write about comes up in conversations with clients, friends, or partners. Many are things I’ve tried myself. The universe is always blessing us with wisdom if we can just stop and take the time to hear it.

  2. My body has been beautiful in all its forms and sizes. Physical exercise helps my body and mind meet life’s moments as they arise. Practicing with my physical body will allow me to make more room to practice compassion in daily life. I exercise for every wild being who has ever felt the pull to move, especially for those who are afraid to follow that pull. I will embody a graceful dancer, a fierce hunter, and a loving matriarch.

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