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5 Ways Weight Lifting Can Make You Mindful

5 Ways Weight Lifting Can Make You Mindful

Weight lifting is one of the most mindful things you can do for your yourself.

Stay with me here.

It’s hard to think of weight lifting in this way. You usually think of grunts, Mr. Universe competitions, and scented baby oil, not the lotus pose.

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The discipline of weight lifting has a bad rap. Unfortunately, it kind of deserves it. Most people do it to look good in a bathing suit or to stretch out their t-shirts. The rest of us, though, do it for more thoughtful reasons.

Here’s my story. I was a fat kid for a long time. After I “successfully” lost over 50 lbs thanks to a yo-yo diet (hence the quotes), I went looking for a healthy exit plan. Part of that meant finding a physical regimen I could stick to. One day, my roommate took me with him to the gym, where I stumbled upon weight lifting and fell in love.

Around that same time I started mindfulness meditation to calm my restless mind. I wasn’t sure if the two could co-exist. One is explosive and intense, while the other is calming and peaceful. To my surprise, I found both to be rewarding mindful endeavors.

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I’ve been doing both for many years now, and the truth has only gotten more clear. Lifting has granted me a healthier body and a more mindful noggin’. Who would’ve thought that throwing around some iron would become such an enlightening journey.

I recommend weight lifting to everyone, regardless of their personal goals. And now I am recommending it to you. If you want a more mindful state of living, it is for you.

Here are five ways I’ve seen lifting bring me closer to zen-master level.

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1. Here, now.

When I am lifting I am only focused on what I am doing. It’s just me and that stubborn barbell. Part of it is about survival: you need to focus; otherwise, you can lose your motivation or even hurt yourself. In an age where everything is equally “important,” and your attention is so divided, practicing this level of focus is refreshing and restorative.

2. Beginner’s mind.

During one my first days at the gym, my roommate came over and stopped me mid-workout. “No no. You’re back is all wrong. We have to practice basic form.” It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it, when you lift, you always have to be mindful of the basics (i.e. form, movement, and being body-aware). That beginner’s mind must never go away, or else you risk getting cocky and building bad habits. You know that guy who swing dumbbells around like a he’s playing bocce ball? Don’t be that guy.

3. Tiny steps.

Above all else, you need patience. It’s a long, but satisfying, process. You can’t jump from one weight bracket to another, or go from a simple exercise to a complex one overnight. There are a lot of steps in between. The mantra of “trust the process” fits well here. You will be amazed at the results you get if you do the work, and follow the many tiny steps with mindful attention. You will be, in essence, chiseling yourself a little bit every day.

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4. Pain is temporary; strength is not.

One day, I had a crisis of faith. I stopped half-way through a workout and thought, “Why am I doing this? To show off a six pack?” I found my true motivation, and it’s one shared by many lifetime lifters: getting stronger. Lifting tests you, physically and mentally. These tests can be painful. They are short periods of discomfort. But when you push past this, always chasing a stronger you, you will come out at the other end rejuvenated with pride in your natural fortitude. You just willed a heavy weight to do your bidding. You just sweated out two more reps than last week. “Yeah, I did that.” It’s invigorating to accept the pain and become stronger because of it.

5. There is no (challenging) spoon.

No pain, no gain. It’s a silly slogan, but it’s true. To grow you need to keep challenging yourself. When you lift, you have to mentally prepare for the challenge in front of you. Part of being mindful is accepting the hard stuff. Over time you will build an attitude that frames challenges in the positive. Challenging situations are just opportunities to learn and grow on your path to becoming a better version of yourself. Those 10 squats that just set your thighs on fire will make your legs stronger than ever.

Namaste, meathead.

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Last Updated on August 13, 2020

12 Benefits of Meditation That Improve Your Body And Mind

12 Benefits of Meditation That Improve Your Body And Mind

As a mediation teacher, I am constantly confronted with these two questions regarding the benefits of meditation:

1. Why can’t I enjoy the benefits of meditation continuously?

I ask back: Is it maybe because you see mediation as a technique, performance, or some exclusive activity? The answer is: yes!

Or, because your mind is constantly evolving on the past negative attachments and traditional habits? After careful thinking they answer: yes, probably!

Although meditation is very simple and challenging at the same time, in the above mentioned case, it’s not easy to benefit from meditation, especially when approached with the idea that it has to be learned, studied, or applied. Meditation is to be seen as a natural, mental cleansing process that happens on a basis of awareness on a moment-to-moment experience. When that takes place, the benefits of meditation are continuous.

2. What is the purpose of meditation?

The purpose of meditation is to accomplish a level of consciousness for mastering the mind and uniting with the finest, deepest, and subtlest part of yourself as a being.

It is a conscious process of observation of the mind—helping the meditator to understand the structure of its mind and the quality of its content. During this process, countless benefits of a physical, mental, and spiritual/philosophical nature arise for the meditator.

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Meditation as a Fixer and Benefactor

In this article we’ll have a look at the primary and the ultimate benefits of mediation, which improve your body and mind at the same time. For the sake of clarity, readability, and tangible experience, I have separated the benefits into three groups.

You can change just about anything you don’t like about yourself (psychologically, as well as physically) through meditation. However, this is only possible with a specific approach, when your brain allows the benefits of meditation to do their work.

This means not to interrupt the benefit with other thoughts, but to let their effect implement itself in your body and mind. This approach is crucial.

The following exercises will make you feel the benefits of meditation instantly, but the continuity of the benefits of meditation on your body and mind depend on the discipline of your brain, how you manage external stimuli and your thoughts.

Less Physical, More Psychological

Even though the practice of meditation is more psychological and less physical, the first benefit we’re going to experience is both physical as well as mental.

This benefit happens literally immediately, right at the moment of meditation. It is the essence of mediation basically.

The First Benefit of Meditation

The first benefit of meditation is twofold:

  1. Improving inward attention (sharpening the mind)
  2. Relaxation of the body

Let’s do it right now. This benefit consists of only one step, and it is very simple to perform. It goes like this:

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Sit still and pay attention to your exhalation.

That’s it! Technically, the whole journey into the world of mediation begins here and nowhere else. And right here, you benefit from this step in the following way:

When you pay attention to the flow of your exhalation (gentle, deep, effortless exhalation), your body begins with the process of relaxation instantly (your heart rate slows down, your nervous system calms, and tension in your muscles is relieved).

When the nervous system calms, your mind calms down, and, more specifically, less thoughts are produced by your mind. How, exactly? By applying one of the most valuable mental skills—attention—the mind follows the breathing and has no space and time to generate any other thoughts. Only when the attention goes off the breath, other thoughts are constructed, and the mind is accelerating with thought production again.

Keeping the First Benefit Effective and Ongoing

Here you apply the approach of not letting the relaxation and attention process get interrupted; rather let the effects of these benefits implant in your body and mind as deeply as possible.

This is to say, the instant relaxation and inward attention happen at the same time when you follow the flow of your breath. Repeating this process—creating a constant rhythm out of the breathing and the attention—you create a process of meditation.

Keep your attention on the flow of your breath and see how the calmness of body and mind begin to rule your present moment. The longer you stay connected to your breathing, the stronger you’ll feel the benefit. Start with 3-5 minutes at a time without doing anything else, and increase to 10-20 minutes and onwards.

Can you think of a better, simpler and quicker exercise that can relax the body and improve attention in this way, at this speed?

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This benefit takes you to the second one.

The Second Benefit of Meditation

While still working with the first benefit of mediation, you slowly start to see the second benefit of mediation, which is fourfold. I call it the major value of mediation:

  1. Energy (physical and mental strength)
  2. Observance
  3. Peacefulness (stillness, and space of mind for deeper observation)
  4. Patience

Peacefulness is the source of a blissful life. The energy is the fuel to express that blissfulness. Whatever we want to accomplish in life we need: 1) Physical and mental strength, 2) Observance of that energy, 3) Peacefulness—the calmness and stillness that creates space for freedom of being and creative thinking, and 4) Patience for the process of accomplishment.

You can only get creative in thinking and boosted with physical and mental energy when you get in touch with the deepest levels of yourself—when you harmonize your mental and physiological activities. How do you do that? Let’s try it right now:

This step involves the observation of the two separate movements of your breath. After paying attention on your exhalation, you have prepared your body and mind to really see and feel what true peacefulness and true energy means.

1. Energy

Keep your attention on your inhalation (inhaling gently, deeply and lightly) and feel the new energy (new oxygen) flowing in your body. The inhalation is the symbol for aliveness and vitality. It is the the primary act that connects the baby’s body with the outside world after coming out of the womb[1]. Each inhalation is a new opportunity for your body to revive, regenerate, and renew itself.

2. Observance

The observance comes during the process of meditation, enabling you to see the physiological benefits of introducing new energy to your body. Use that benefit by utilizing its effects, and create deeper observation into yourself. With every single inhalation, this observation will enable you to generate even more energy, mentally and physically.

3. Peacefulness

Keep your attention on your exhalation, and feel how, out of the relaxation, peacefulness is spreading throughout your whole body. The exhalation is the symbol for relaxation and peacefulness. Only through meditation can you realize what absolute peacefulness means.

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4. Patience

The meditation delivers the previous benefits to you immediately and opens up the possibility for many other benefits and great virtues. A specific one to mention, which is essential for reaching the ultimate benefits of meditation, is patience. If you have experienced the aforementioned benefits, it means that you have invested a certain amount of patience into mastering yourself and your mind.

The Ultimate Benefits of Meditation

Patience is a key quality when it comes to the ultimate benefits of meditation.

Since the mind is the tool that reveals everything, mediation is the method for the proper utility of the tool.

The above mentioned benefits of mediation lead to the ultimate benefits of mediation—qualities that depict what makes a human being human. As you dwell in a meditative state of being, the following benefits begin to emanate:

  • Diligence: the persistence for righteous effort to reach an intrinsic value; inner strength.
  • Temperance: to express self-control and show excellence in managing the physio-biological and mental necessities
  • Courage: using righteous effort and braveness to look into the weaknesses of yourself and at the hardship of your life, endure it and patiently overcome the obstacles
  • Loving kindness and Compassion – a capacity to care, understand, and tolerate other people’s state of being, wishing them freedom from suffering.
  • Wisdom: the moment when you feel that mediation gives you the feeling and the knowledge that what you do relating to life and practical affairs is just.
  • Equanimity: that puts you in a state of composure, and you experience an ongoing blissful state of being.

These are the 6 ultimate benefits of meditation that put your body and mind in a state of health and balance.

Final Thoughts

Mediation exists to put order in your mind and awaken the best of you, to reconnect you to your goodness and your inborn intelligent capabilities.

Meditation is the window to your true Self. It gives you a panoramic view of your heart’s greatness. It shows you the true meaning of love, freeing you from the dungeons of ignorance and despair. The power of meditation dismantles the evil that’s trying to cloud the beauty of your heart.

Your heart, body, and soul are the bridge over which the challenges of life frequently carry their heavy load. Meditation is the support of that bridge. Make use of that support.

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Featured photo credit: Mor Shani via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Medline Plus: Changes in the newborn at birth

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