A confounding, frustrating, and wonderful thing about our bodies and minds is that they gravitate towards balance. Our bodies need to be in a state of ease at least some of the time, and things like prolonged negative emotions and overtraining place us in an unbalanced, unnatural condition.
Sometimes we recognize the imbalance and try to fix it; many other times we ignore it. And once in awhile, the mind – or body – leads us towards balance unconsciously.
This happened to me recently. I’ve been weight lifting four times a week for a year now. It’s the most consistent schedule I’ve had in 10 years, and I’ve seen remarkable benefits. My energy level is high, my health is excellent, my body is muscular, and my mind is more peaceful. But what are the unintended and perhaps even harmful effects of doing the same things over and over?
For one thing, repeating any activity for a long time is bound to lead to overuse injuries. I’ve had some shoulder, knee, and wrist problems since beginning weight lifting again. I’ve mitigated them with physical therapy and modifying my routine. I have accepted these things as a result of doing something I love and that has given me many, many benefits.
More hidden consequences came to light recently when I finally did something new, something I’d thought of a few times during the past year but always let fade out of my awareness: belly dancing.
It’s not like I’m looking to become a professional belly dancer like my instructor. It’s also not like I’m looking to gain anything from my lessons. I was simply drawn to it for reasons that were definitely not conscious at the time. Now that I’ve had two classes (my third is tonight), I realize that by seeking out belly dancing, my body and mind were seeking balance. Weight lifting, a passion I’m not willing to give up and which has given me so much, also serves up tight muscles, a lack of flexibility, and yes, a drive to create a body that is “better” than the one I have. Belly dancing is a more flowing, gentle, and natural practice that encourages accepting your body no matter what its size or shape.
The interesting thing about trying new things is that once you are open to it, opportunities just sort of happen. I’d had the idea of trying yoga for a few months but was having trouble pushing myself to do it. Then this past week a good friend asked if I wanted to try a class at a new yoga studio that just opened up. Having done two classes now, I can see very clearly how much I need more flexibility in my body. Not only that, but I suddenly see other possibilities that yoga can bring: a way to relax and be within myself that is spiritual and meaningful.
Opening yourself up to new things may be a process, like it is for me. Consider how your body and mind might be out of balance and imagine different possibilities. Then, let the opportunities begin.