Daily Exercise is something I have been practicing since I was 12 years old – I don’t know otherwise. In that sense, the ritual practice of strenuous movement has become a primary religion to me – literally. I have often been ashamed to share that for fear of offending those of more ornate and historic faiths; that my greatest faith lies in the belief of, and the ritual practice of playing games with gravity. But that is my reality.
In the most wonderful sense though, it is the having of exercise in my life which brings me closest to any possibility of a god, a reverent life in my community, or on my planet. I have only recently come to realize and embrace this concept; that the having of this something is paramount in my ability to appreciate anything, and to give back in any way. Outwardly, my workout time seems self-serving. Inwardly, didactic in ways which reach far beyond this self.
With daily exercise as a spiritual service for me, right eating choices throughout the day are my primary form of prayer. Just as prayer better connects a person to a faith, the more I reach out to my daily practice of exercise through good eating choices, the better connected the inner me and the outer me become. Food praying poises me that I am better able to take on and serve the world, and the people in it.
As in contemplative prayer, there is something cleansing about the observance of right eating. Not just eating the healthy meal, but actually taking time to consider it as I prepare it. Thought, combined with the tactile observance of cutting the vegetables, steaming the brown rice, assembling crisp salads, and biting in to the fresh apple are a literal prayer and sacrament – I give and I get, simultaneously. My body and my spirit liven up expressly when preparing, and when partaking in more natural foods. I feel fortified, and better able to participate in the great dance.
Conversely, when I withdraw from taking care of me with food prayer, it isn’t long before I become less connected to life and to people – less willing and less able to contribute. On the heels of poor eating I often experience feelings of lethargy, inability to accomplish, and even shame and guilt – just as there can be guilt in not praying, or praying for a lesser purpose – to outrun an earned circumstance.
I liken eating poorly, despite that one may regularly exercise, to going to church each week for the message, but driving away after the sermon only to hit the trail of sin again. Or, to not give any further consideration to faith again until the following Sunday. As soon as some leave the church, it’s right back to taking more than they give. This kind of hit and run faith is too common, though as modern Americans we do hit and run living pretty well.
Whether your connection to exercise is one of reverence, out of obligation, or out of medical necessity… be you an athlete, fitness enthusiast, surfer, runner, dancer, or weekend warrior of any variety, I suspect you will better connect with, and benefit more from your ritual movement, by better connecting in-between movements with good food – thought and prepared for good reason, as a form of right obedience.
It is long forgotten that the purpose of eating is to survive the day as best we can; to better prepare the body to serve the next day – and to serve the world. Contemplating and eating more of that which comes directly from the Earth brings me closer to, and better prepares me to serve he who (might have) created it. Be well. rc