How are we to nourish our sacred selves in an age of technology and information? Is putting away our devices and praying more the answer? Is there a dimension of our physical experience that may lead us to recovery of what the writer Marianne Williamson calls the “fractured self” and thereby lead us closer to God? I say there is! It’s the gym.
There is no doubt that getting fit can lead to a stronger body; losing weight can lower blood pressure, it can improve your daily activities and prevent Type II diabetes. But can fitness principles make you a better spouse? Can the gym make you a better co-worker, more confident and less anxious? Can it move you past the plateaus in your life and permit you to experience a more enlightened perspective of life? Can fitness principles make you more conscious of your sacred self? I say yes.
We can not live a holistic inspired life if our body, mind and spirit is out of whack. Of the three, we’ve been most socialized to neglect our physical development, at the expense of our sacred selves.
In fact, the more fit we are, the closer and deeper our relationship to God. Holy Scripture backs this up: from Genesis 1:29 to I Corinthians 3:16 we are urged to care for our physical selves in light of “you are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you.” (ESV)
It is difficult for me to imagine a person whose body is de-conditioned, weak and susceptible to high blood pressure, heart disease and other metabolic outcomes being able to enjoy sound mental and spirit health. Sure, we can say we must enjoy life ‘in spite’ of these conditions, but how much more would one gain from life if one would give proactive attention to bodily exercise?
As I discuss in my new book Life’s A Gym: Seven Fitness Principles to Get the Best of Both, your best body is your best life. The more you get out of your body, the more you get out of life. Note how the Apostle Paul’s injunction in Romans 12:2 to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” precedes “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (ESV). From neuroscience we now know that a workout for the body does wonders for the brain (read: mental renewal).
Add to this the recent discoveries on how exercise can relieve depression and the evidence is clear on how physical care of the Body Temple can move us closer to our sacred selves.