A "Spiritual" Workout - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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By Hong Wu
My current goal is to develop what I'm tentatively calling a spiritual workout. I have three main sources for this.

The first source is hatha yoga, or physical yoga. The main goal of yoga (which means meditation) is not to get into shape or to become more flexible (although this does happen if one is practicing effectively) but to use the process of trying to get into shape as a vehicle for spiritual growth. This most obviously takes on the form of increasing one's discipline and power over their own body.

The second source is Taoist texts. In Taoist spiritual alchemy (which includes physical exercises), there is an attempt to use the physical body as a template for creating what I might call a "spiritual body", or as translated by Arthur Avalon, "the immortal fetus in the state of complete serenity".

A third source is my own intuition :excited: Also zen, the meditations and concepts associated with it are not very mentally taxing. I don't think that exercise by itself can be sufficient, it needs to be mentally categorized and contextualized somehow.

One early goal I have is to cross reference Hindu and Taoist concepts of the chakra points in the body with publicly available information we have about health. The idea is to create a workout regimen that is not just effective physically (since that is what people want) but in practice is more than just "working out" and is really a spiritual exercise.

As I wrote in my much maligned "deep thinks" thread, what was often an excess of mental energy in past eras is being increasingly replaced with an excess of physical energy, as highly intellectually demanding jobs become more common, we don't have the luxury of pursuing transcendence with our mental energy if we also want to satisfy or fulfill other kinds of obligations.
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By Hong Wu
The Phenomena of the "2nd Wind" explained...

Hello Friends,

Where does this term come from?

This “2nd wind” refers to the sudden period of ease following a sustained period of discomfort. Runners even have their own term for it: the “runner’s high.” What happens to you neurologically is that your brain adapts to your discipline to persevere through discomfort. Your brain doesn’t like the difficulty of your exercise, so it asks you to quit through various messages: little pains, hunger, headaches, nausea, and distracting thoughts. If you continue to ignore these distractions, your brain concedes that you won’t quit, so it rewires your nervous system to make the exercise easier - called “neuro-plasticity.” Your brain decides if you’re going to continue with this activity, it’s going to at least make it cost you less energy.

Got this in one of those chain emails, I thought it was interesting. Exercising until you hit your "second wind" seems like an obligatory part of a workout.
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By Hong Wu
The Point at Which You Hit the State of Flow

Dr. Csikszentmihalyi used the graph to the left during his TED.com talk to illustrate the point that in order to achieve a flow state, a balance must be struck between the challenge of the task and the skill of the performer. On the vertical axis you measure how challenging the activity is, and on the horizontal axis you measure your level of skill at that particular task.

Striving to achieve the "state of flow" in your work seems like a good rule of thumb and this seems like a good explanation of how that's achieved.
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By Hong Wu
It might seem presumptive that mental energy is superior to physical energy from a transcendental perspective. Even so, there might be ways to make the application of energy ubiquitous and in doing so, to possibly make up in quantity what is lost in quality, such as when someone doesn't have the option of dedicating as much mental energy as they might like towards religious pursuits.

This brings me to kinhin, also known by other names, it means sutra walk in Japanese. Zen Buddhists believe that it is possible to meditate while walking. Walking is of course something that most of us do every day. If it were converted into a spiritual exercise, that could mean harnessing a significant amount of energy.

Anzan Hoshin described walking meditation as "to feel a step when taking a step, in other words, to take a complete step." There is a basic hand position recommended, to make a fist and then cup it in the left hand, hooking the thumb of the left hand into the right hand, the elbows slightly apart and held in front of the body. Unfortunately this might look strange in public. A compromise for regular public use that some people might be more comfortable with would be to do the same thing only with the hands behind the back, at which point it would look like a more normal walk.

Of course, walking with your hands behind your back wouldn't qualify as meditation in of itself. At a minimum someone has to seek "mindfulness" and this may be challenging in an active context. At the same time, walking is so natural and easy for most of us that it is not impossible. An intermediate form of mindfulness is to "notice what you are noticing". Even though a completely blank mind may not be possible (or advisable) while walking, you can still withdraw in a sense by noticing what you are noticing or thinking about, or to put it another way, by paying attention to your own mind. At high levels, paying attention to what you are noticing would mean noticing every detail of each sensation of a step.

Source: http://wwzc.org/dharma-text/kinhin-dignity-buddha
This most obviously takes on the form of increasing one's discipline and power over their own body

This is how it has always been done: first tame the body and then tame the mind.
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By Hong Wu
I've realized that bad posture, nerd neck and health problems from sitting too much are huge, chronic problems in most of the world today.

Previous "workouts" were directed towards a physical goal that someone had to accomplish. When I was younger, bad posture, nerd neck and back problems were a non-issue. As I get older they start to mount in seriousness. Although sitting, having good posture and "nerd neck" would not have been considered physical challenges in the past (when most of the population was younger) the world's aging population is actually physically challenged by these things today.

So, I had what I think might be a great idea. Why not develop a workout that doesn't focus upon bodybuilding or general sexiness, but which instead focuses upon giving you the strength and endurance necessary to maintain good posture, resist "nerd neck" and avoid the back problems associated with too much sitting? As such, the next workout that I'm going to try will focus on these areas: neck (which is hard to exercise, but I've ordered a weird head harness that can hold weights, I'll try not to injure myself), shoulders (strong rear delts, which are often neglected, can pull the shoulders back and encourage good posture) and the glutes and abs (these at least, a lot of people work on) to prevent spinal distortion, as well as some back exercises.

Specifically then, no more trying to destroy my biceps and pecs, the biceps being mostly a vanity muscle these days and the pecs if they are too strong relative to other muscles actually encouraging bad posture.
You don’t need weights for neck exercise. Look up exercises to prevent ‘positional vertigo’.
The best spiritual workout is just to practice positive, grounded thinking each day and don't litter or polute the earth!

It's supposed to be "daoist" not "taoist". Taoist is the old spelling and modern scholars use the 'd'. :)

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