By Laura Castanza and Julia George ©2008
Webster’s Dictionary defines fitness as “the state or condition of being physically sound and healthy, especially as the result of exercise and proper nutrition.” Other definitions broaden fitness to include “physical and mental well being as well as our ability to be suitably adapted to our environment.”
If we relate to fitness as possessing good health or physical condition due to diet and exercise, most of us focus on only the physical aspect = our body. The concentration of Gyms built in the last 40 years typifies the growing need to be physically fit in our culture, and we have become consumed by an assortment of programs designed to pump us up or slim us down. Body Building competitions, Triathlons, Marathons, extreme sports, pro sports, etc., are indicative of our obsession to be physically fit and competitively so. But what drives us as human beings to perform at these high levels of physical activity? Is it for personal power, friendly competition, the endorphin rush, a better body image…? When fitness is propelled by competitive sports, the “good health” aspect can get lost in what becomes an over concentration to excel or perform. The tonality of our human vessel/body is overruled by our ego whose only goal is to be bigger, better, faster, stronger, and tougher in order to gain advantage over others. And the glitch is that we are never satisfied with our own performance! It is only when we choose to become aware beings and redirect our motivation, that we become healthier both physically and mentally.
When we include mental well-being into fitness, we broaden our capacity to achieve good health, but to what extent? Is “mental well-being” derived from a scientific and quantitative approach: mental sharpness, agility and IQ (our ability to master a Rubik’s cube, Sudoku, or answer trivial questions)? Or is mental well-being related to a more genuine understanding of how the mind works; its own cycles, conditioning, and duplicity, that triggers our emotional body and its complexity?
Mental agility, health, and fitness have more to do with our stability and balance of mind rather than trivial pursuits. How we think and perceive our reality, consequently taking action, will define our mental fitness. Because we largely base our decisions on how we feel and our emotional state at the time, it is necessary to become aware of this dynamic process.
Emotional awareness is vital to mental fitness. Feelings are fleeting, and when we monitor our thought processes, we can create a healthier state of mind. Working out our thoughts is more resistance training than attempting to bench 600lbs. When we take on the task of being constantly aware of our mind, we can work through our imbalances and the “unfit” areas of our perceptions.
Entering the mental and emotional arena moves us beyond that which is superficial and closer to our soul. Unlike the body we consciously relax more often (mostly through sleep), the nature of our mind never seems to rest during waking hours or in our dream state. Often times, we physically push our self to exhaustion in an effort to distract ourselves from our own thoughts, which can be unstable at times. There is no way out of our head, so in an attempt to become more fit mentally, we must take disciplinary action; the exact same action we take when we wish to become more physically fit.
Meditation is an excellent discipline to create balance within. There are many different techniques: guided, sitting, walking, etc. All we have to do is commit to practice, whatever our choice in style. The point is to become the silent observer of our thoughts and release our attachments that are responsible for our thoughtless reactions in every day life.
As for our “ability to be suitably adapted to our environment,” we often refer to it as employment; are we “fit” for a job. But applying this thought to a bigger context, we can raise the question of how well we are adapted to our environment, planet Earth. It’s a full-time job to live, and if we are to live fully, we must live in harmony with everything around us. It takes more than mental and physical vigor to coalesce in our world, so how can we do so?
What lacks in all these definitions of fitness is that of our spiritual body. Can there be total well-being without acknowledging the things we cannot explain – the immaterial, intangible, and incorporeal? And what happens when we are mentally and physically compromised by injury, illness, and ultimately death; do we have the wisdom to experience a full life when our physical abilities have diminished?
Spiritual fitness is what really allows our physical and mental health to be fully integrated into our lives. There will be times when we are incapacitated physically and/or mentally, and emotionally stuck. These are the moments when we literally feel caught between a rock and a hard place, unable to navigate on our own. Those moments are a living nightmare for all of us because we as humans are uncomfortable being out of control, and that is when insanity can strike those “unfit” places within our psyche.
Spirituality is essence. It does not subscribe to any thing in particular. It is neither religion nor ritual. It is a seed within all of us that grows from our connection to all things, including each other, and the larger natural world. Spirituality is the acceptance of things as they are without any mental interference.
Our ignorance of our spiritual body impedes our ability to surrender to injury or illness and we miss valuable lessons when forced to stop, and instead feel victimized by our circumstances. As we become more aware and readily surrender to things as they are, then we can receive the gift(s) we have been unable to accept before. These are our “Ah Ha!” moments and bursts of brilliance, innate within all of us, which magically appear when we open our self to the benevolence of the Universe.
Our natural evolution and growing shift in our consciousness demands that our lives have more meaning and depth; or we will remain perpetually dissatisfied despite a body as tight as a drum and a mind as sharp as a tack.
By expounding our definition of fitness to include these concomitant qualities of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, we are able to live more fully and affect our environment in a positive and enduring way; a process beyond self gratification; fulfilling our lives and our soul purpose here on Earth.
For more information or to discuss this article one-on-one, contact Julia George/Aquarian Age @ 561.750.9292