Body, Mind, and Spirit
November 2, 2009
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Body, Mind and Spirit
My feet found the mountain paths yesterday and led me far and high on an ancient road I had not found in previous journeys. I often set my direction for my walks, pointing myself to the places that beckon the most, but as I often allow the mountains and the canyons to guide me. I have walked these hills for years and am familiar with the sacred spots where people before me worked their flint, stood guard or made camp. So I am with those who carved and pecked their art into the stone, a sign board for all who came after them. I cannot ever fancy myself being the first wanderer to find these places, but also know I am one of few who frequent them on a regular basis.
I found myself straining at the first steep ascent, having not climbed in weeks but rather taking a few more casual ventures down the arroyos I had never explored. My time has been well spent on other ventures but cannot replace the elation of attaining the higher haunts. They are well worth the effort of the climb and even the strain has its returns as my muscles recall their uses. I find the strength to persevere and in but a few minutes have the added vigor to climb the next hill. I find that our bodies, as well as our minds, given the chance and the determination, have a phenomenal ability to rebound from inertia, given there is a sound foundation to return to! Having climbed these hills, having even run up the slopes, it is simply a matter of making it past the nominal effort to find that selfsame vigor of the past. My heart speeds up, my lungs expand and my muscles stretch, soaking up the added oxygen and giving me the strength I require. My mind suddenly finds the greater depth of perception, perhaps from the adrenaline but in equal proportion from the concerted effort that is missing in more casual pursuits. Something greater is required here, another doorway flung open onto a far broader perspective, literally as well as figuratively as I turn to gaze back across the Vista del Valle Ranch!
I have often pondered how it seems such a challenge to apply myself to the things that are the best for me. There are dual reasons for this; the added effort, the denial of more pressing need such as work vs. play, the ease of taking the lesser task over a greater challenge. There is always the temptation of immediate gratification and it is so easy to slip into the comfort of inertia and put off such things for other days. In time it becomes easier. Yet for me there is always the nagging sense of loss and the absence of the genuine elation that can only be found through the genuine effort to achieve some greater goal. Though on the short term we can appease ourselves with some simple pleasure nowhere in that will we ever find the lasting reward of the purer pursuit. Even as I can wander down the arroyo and find the pretty stones left behind from the torrents of rain I can never see over the high walls of the wash to the horizon.
Perhaps for some people simple satisfaction is adequate, but not for me. I fancy myself to be amongst the thrill seekers, but in rhyme and reason more than excess. I need not feel the rush of a plunge from great heights, no more than the adrenaline boost of risking life and limb, but challenge I require. I want to test my muscles, my wind and my mind. I want the heightened awareness to kick in as I climb a steep rocky slope, to watch where I place my feet and my trust, be it mountain or highway, where my instinct alone can guide me. I want to hone my skills, physical and mental, to where they can serve me best, so I can make a flash judgment and have it be sound. There are the same opportunities to address these desires as there are to placate them. As always, the later be readily in reach while the previous will be something to work towards. Such a sad state of affairs that we have learned to cater to the lesser of the two. We even condemn those who make the other choices to being seen as “over achievers” or extremists of one sort or another, non-conformers, for the lives of those who decline the higher pursuits pale in comparison to theirs.
I cannot afford the risk of inertia at this point in my life, for I have reference points to look back on. There have been times when I sought and allowed myself the thrill of the instant pleasures, and I have lived to pay the price. In fact, I believe that having done so makes it even more difficult to attain the goals I have set for myself. My resilience was weakened, the very fibers of my nerves and wit stretched beyond their capacity, and the horizon widened further than the limits of sight. Just as once we have allowed that extra layer of fat cells to form on our waists and thighs, those same voids refill quickly once they have been emptied. I believe our minds do the same, and once the vessel has been stretched any input slips into those empty spaces before it reaches our senses. We must ever reach for a greater height to replenish that. Can it be restored? Only if it remains full, if the effort is a constant, so those spaces, and that muscle memory, are continually replenished, and the voids are never again emptied.
Years ago my mother pointed out to me someone who had worked to achieve a great deal of muscle mass, biceps, pectorals, etc. She explained that having increased these muscles to so great a size this person would have to devote the remainder of their life to maintaining that state of fitness. Otherwise, she advised, it would fall to flab, having been increased beyond its normal boundaries. How well I have learned this as years of hard work kept me slim and fit and those behind a desk allowed the flesh to soften. Even as I gained few pounds the flab outweighed my muscle and my clothes grew taunt as the muscle became soft. I regained that fitness last summer, with no small effort either, but have promised myself to never allow the rebound of such excessive bulk. This means I too must work hard the rest of my life. Such a requirement is a small price to pay for the returns, for even as I must apply such a discipline to my physical activity, so it replenishes my mind as well! For me the pleasure is tenfold of the pain, for to lose my strength, to relinquish the fitness that has been restored would be to surrender my mind, body and spirit. That is far too great a price to pay for even a moment’s pleasure!