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Mar 24
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What Role Can Exercise Play In Shambhala Practice?

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By “Jackie Writing Jackie”

Meditation has a key role to pay in Shambhala practice, but Buddhist belief does see a vital link between mental and physical well-being, and the Eightfold Path clearly envisions both. In a more symbolic sense, the path of Perfect Livelihood reminds human beings that they are more than capable of handling karmic cause and effect. There is no need to depend on other people because they have the strength to handle the demands and obstacles posed by daily life. Strength means more than resolve: it also includes physical strength, which is intricately tied in to how human beings feel and think about things. By working on physical health, it is easier to stay energetic, motivated, and inspired, even when life throws unexpected obstacles in one’s path.

Perfect Effort And Energy Expenditure

The path of Perfect Effort prizes working hard towards a goal. All sentient things have a tremendous amount of energy within that needs to find its outlet. Through physical activity, energy is also increased – it is not the wasteful kind, but rather, the type that can help you be a better person both to yourself and your community. Science backs this idea. For instance, one study by researchers at the Karolinska Institute showed that exercise helps stave off many problems – including stress and depression. “Well-trained muscle produces an enzyme that purges the body of harmful substances,” said the scientists, indicating the extent to which your activity levels can affect the way you view and interact with the world.

Right View And Fitness Levels

Right View envisions a human being’s ability to change and grow without judgement. In the realm of exercise, this involves adapting to circumstances and to one’s own fitness level, allowing for change, improvement and failure along the way. Workouts that function well are those that are well tailored to each individual. Thus, you may be new to working out, and you may decide that the heavy CrossFit workout a friend is doing is not for you.

Starting Small

A sport that can be well adapted to beginners – such as cycling – may be more enjoyable and therefore more motivational for you. Being flexible would then involve not only choosing a sport that matches, but also the equipment that is both comfortable and adapted to your needs. In the case of cycling, a bike that suits your height will ensure that exercise is neither painful nor uncomfortable. Right View asks the individual to adapt to circumstances, but it can work the other way around as well – the circumstances and nature of workouts can also adapt to the individual.

Right Intention And Goal Setting

Right Intention involves asking yourself what you wish to get out of a particular training session or exercise plan. Sometimes, it pays to pause to see if the path of physical activity chosen is in line with one’s original intentions. Thus, if you originally started working out because you wanted to feel stronger and more confident, it can help you to accept so-called ‘failure’ with a more positive outlook. You may set a goal – for instance, a new speed or weights record – which, despite hard work, you don’t achieve. By looking at your original intention, however, it can help you to stay focused despite small set backs. Sometimes, goals need to be readjusted and adapted, which is also in line with the path of Right View.

 The Buddhist way of life embraces meditation as well as exercise as a way to channel energy in a positive direction. If you are starting out, choosing cardiovascular and strength workouts that are adapted to your abilities and interests can help you stay motivated. Being aware of bigger goals rather than individual small ones is another vital component of staying motivated and inspired.

After taking a career sabbatical to become a mother, Jackie now writes full time on topics ranging from health and wellness right through to news and current affairs. She has, in the past, battled problems with anxiety and panic, and in her spare time she volunteers for a number of local charities that support people with mental health issues.

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