This is the section I’ve been waiting for. The irony is, there are few things I would rather not do than exercise today. A few days of not sleeping more than an hour or two at a time and I turn into a puddle. Not only is my vision blurry, my appetite all over the place, and my moods unpredictable, but my body just doesn’t respond the same way to even the idea of movement and activity. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve slept well (but they say it gets easier when baby turns 4, so I’m almost [half way] there!) and I’m starting to notice these magical windows of vitality that open up every so often when I’m rested enough. If the timing is right and I happen to be walking next to one, I can jump through and enjoy a few consecutive days of energizing exercise. But then I miss a couple nights of even mediocre sleep in exchange for waking more times than I can count on my hands and feet, and I’m out of commission for a week.
It feels harder for my mind and my emotions than for my body, though. I struggle with letting myself rest when I need to. It’s so difficult for me to accept that I have to slow down when I’ve finally started ramping up. Perhaps when I say I’m looking for ways to experience joyful exercise, I should remember that that joy has to be found not only during a yoga class or a cardio high but also in the pockets of rest in between routines—no matter how long my body wants them to be. Does acceptance equal joy?
I’m a goal-setter. I love to make plans and log my progress as I reach my objectives. I thought everyone was like me, but then I shared my wide-eyed excitement with my husband and the look he gave me was a mixture of shock and disgust. But that’s ok, because the passion I have for setting targets and monitoring progress far overshadows any insecurity I have in showing my crazy to the world.
One of the ways I put my iPhone to good use is by using apps that help me track my progress. I often use The Habit when I’m starting a new routine and want to get myself used to a change, like for example when I was walking 3-5 miles a day right after I gave birth, or after I bought 30+ yoga classes through various Groupon sales and wanted to make sure I got my money’s worth. I derive so much joy from pushing myself to do more exercise than I thought I could or from working out on more consecutive days than I have before. It’s so easy to lose track of how many days I’ve worked out in a given week or when the last time was that I went to the gym for a morning sweat session, but if I make a goal to go twice a week and there are only two days left to tick those two tasks off, you can bet I’ll be at the gym today and tomorrow.
I’m really grateful that I’ve found ways to make a fun game of it for myself. Even though I haven’t reached my latest goal of exercising every day for an entire month, I’m happy to continue working toward it.
The issue with me isn’t as much about being active as it is about surrendering to life’s unpredictable nature and letting go when things don’t turn out the way I planned them. I think that’s where joyful exercise can turn very quickly into a reason for self-loathing. Instead of getting back on the horse tomorrow, I feel as though I’ve ruined a great streak and the only fathomable solution is to emotionally eat my way to the next enlightened moment when I can bare to face my gym clothes again.
Deepak talks a lot in this course about the benefits of walking. I shared a quote on Facebook from the course about how “walking for 30 minutes, five days a week, can add more than seven years to your life,” and a friend of mine share a link to the video above in response. I’m not the biggest fan of walking because my hip flexors start pinching and my hands swell well before I feel I’ve had good enough of a workout. But if, instead of walking to exercise, I walk to explore a new neighborhood or a new city when traveling, it becomes an incredible joy. I’ve had some of the most memorable conversations of my life with my husband while we were walking together. I’m hoping to be able to create more of those moments in the future with all the people I cherish in my life. And so, in this sense, walking creates the ideal environment for me to cultivate joy—through connection with the partners with whom I share the journey. It’s a beautiful thing.
This is one of those eternal truths that I repeatedly manage to forget. When the realization returns to me, I revisit a blissful state of euphoria as I experience the joy of physical fitness. Is exercise a path to longevity? To beauty? Perhaps, depending on how you define them. I wasn’t raised to incorporate exercise into my lifestyle, but that was no one’s fault. My parents did the best with what they had, and for that I’m very grateful. But over the years, I’ve realized that there were people around me dedicating as much time and energy to maintaining their physical fitness levels as I was to studying and being nerdy.
At first, I asked myself how they could possibly find value in what they were doing—perhaps they were lean and toned but what was the point of dedicating so much energy to the physical shell when what is on the inside is so much more important? Well, the universe heard me and I think I’m starting to understand the answer to my own question. A holistic (whole) approach to health and well being includes every aspect of our experience, no one being any more important than the other. Without a healthy physical body, we may be limited in the opportunities available to us to explore the other facets of a rich life of bountiful experiences that help nurture and nourish us. Without a still mind, we have little hope in accessing the peace that being present bestows. Connecting the two—the mind and the physical body—we create an unshakable foundation upon which to walk our path. It’s a beautiful thing.
Course 6 complete. Final thoughts: From an e-learning perspective, it was a lackluster experience. If it weren’t for the videos with Deepak talking to the student directly, the content would have been less robust than that of an average website’s on the same topic. But, in order to understand what I mean by lackluster, it’s important to understand the type of online student I am: I like an intensive experience. I enjoy being challenging by multiple reading assignments, pushed to examine the intricacies of interwoven theories that have no obvious solution. And in terms of online engagement, I prefer when a live person moderates each step of the learning process by provoking timely discussions and incorporating current news and developments in the world that coincide with the material we’re studying.
I’ve already mentioned the issue of cohort size, but it’s an important one to reiterate here: online class sizes larger than 30 students to one moderator don’t work. Fifteen is already pushing it, but the business model is usually difficult to sustain with such low numbers. The reason small classes are so important is the same whether we’re discussing learning in a face-to-face or in an online setting: in order for people to connect on a meaningful level and more deeply engage with the learning material, they have to be able to chew on it, digest it, and then talk about their thoughts and idea with others who are engaging on a similar level. With almost 650 students in my class (that’s the number of participants listed as I completed the last course), there was essentially no opportunity for communication. It’s counter-intuitive until you think about the practicality of weeding through so many redundant comments and similar discussion threads that would take you hours on top of the allocated time to actually study the course.
That’s my commentary on the technicalities of the learning experience. As a final thought, I’d like to touch upon something that’s far more important than how well the course was designed: what I learned. In each of the six courses that make up the Timeless You program, a light illuminated a part of myself that I had either forgotten or hadn’t consciously seen before. I’m walking away from this experience more awake and more secure in my ability to change. With each additional year that we spend on this planet, we run the risk of embedding harmful behaviors into our personalities. If we don’t take a close look at what we’re really doing—how we’re behaving toward others, ourselves, and the environment we occupy—we perpetuate destructive patterns of complacency that result in stubbornness, inflexibility, and self-hatred. Without taking opportunities—like this course—to reevaluate our perspectives on life, we allow blind-sightedness to corrode our connection with the most powerful, radiant, and limitless part of ourselves. Believe it or not, remembering who we are takes less effort than resisting the natural order of the universe. It’s a beautiful thing.
A special thanks to seminars.com, grandparents.com, and of course to Deepak Chopra for allowing us to take part in the Timeless You program. Although not necessarily easy, it was an enriching experience that has opened my eyes to the lessons I’ve got to work through next. For that, I am most grateful.