In the Indian philosophy known as Samkhya, they observe that not only do we have 5 senses but we also have 5 “organs of action”. We are not just sensing beings of consciousness but have physical bodies that exist and function in the field of karma, action, energy.
Our bodies are designed to be doers of activity.
Yet with the advent of the automobile, television and the Internet, many of us have become couch potatoes. We have sedentary jobs and live increasingly high-stress sedentary lifestyles. The top diseases are a list of western illnesses of affluence, of excess. And we’re exporting these horrid habits to the world.
Yet most westerners see themselves as leading a relatively healthy lifestyle. But low levels of activity and a high fat diet (read dairy and meat) are two of the main factors that put us at high risk for developing chronic illness over time. The same basic issues show up as a litany of disease. But doctors are not equipped to treat these problems. All they can do is suggest lifestyle improvements and prescribe drugs that moderate the symptoms. Unless we take some responsibility for our health, our quality of life will slide.
Most traditions speak of the evils of sloth and excess. Sloth is even a “deadly” sin in Christianity. Another word for sloth I use here on the blog: Inertia or Tamas. That which is a barrier to clarity and spiritual progress. Ooops.
Even spiritual practices can be used improperly to culture inertia. For example, the Vedic idea of Tapas. This is generally understood to mean abstinence but tapas means warming. This is what gets inertia moving, get things flowing again. Yet, if it is done as resistance, it becomes another form of inertia – not warming.
Or a great effortless meditation. But if we fall into the habit of dwelling on our life or sleeping rather than correct practice, that will bring us inertia too.
Some people view the body as a hindrance or something to be ignored in a spiritual practice. But your body is your vehicle of expression of the Divine. It is your means to embody spirit in the world. It has such a rich potential that is beyond our normal conception, allowing the cosmic to be right here in the physical.
There is also the oft-mentioned principle of dying the cloth. If we want to make the colour of spirit fast, to embody our spiritual development, we have to bleach that experience in activity to make it fast. And repeat. Lots of activity is part of a balanced spiritual practice.
Need more grounding? Activity is your premier way. It brings that developing spirit into the body.
We want to treat the body with respect. Not with extremes or harshness. It needs enough activity to thrive. Getting into the flow of the simple act of walking can become a spiritual practice in itself that brings you happiness. But this doesn’t mean walking to the garage or the ice cream shop. It means half an hour or an hour a day. Really getting into the flow of it. If you’d like a metric, 10,000 steps a day brings you an “Active” status. Under 5,000 is sedentary. A pedometer worn throughout the day will show how you’re doing.
Also, if you eat quality food that is whole and natural, particularly plant-based, you will fall away from the extremes that addictive sugar, caffeine, and low quality carbs bring. And by natural I don’t mean a package labelled “Natural”, I mean comes from nature rather than a factory. You won’t find that in the inside aisles of a store. This isn’t about counting calories or starving yourself. It’s about putting quality into your mouth. Just eat natural and you’ll feel satisfied.
Enough activity and the right food and the body will celebrate and support us. Yum.