It seems so easy. Was it an April fools chapter? Chapter ten writer Dawn Bennett asks me to raise my heart rate for at least 15 minutes every other day for the month of April. But why do this? And in what way? How will I do it? For what particular purpose?
My chapter training these past 9 months has led me to consider these questions closely before taking any action on making changes. I thank Dawn for leaving the questions and decisions open for me to consider on my own. I am not fooled into believing this to be a simple challenge. Doing the physical task daily along side exploring the questions that follow could turn this month into a deeper endeavor. Sure we can all raise our heart rates but what really happens when we do? And how are we affected when we do? Does it always help? Is it always in a healthy way?
After a few months of questioning, probing and meandering through so many esoteric existential questions in my surreal island setting you would think that I would be aching for some kind of down to earth physical interaction. Well, guess what? I am! I have been yearning for it!
During my time on the island I was in constant motion naturally – hiking, walking, swimming, and snorkeling. While there, I developed a rhythmic flow and a beginning balance between mind-body and spirit. Being back stateside, I have already noticed an immediate decrease in my physical activity – driving more, walking less. Swimming and snorkeling has been replaced by grocery shopping and commuting. Not only has this change in activity lowered my energy level but I am also feeling it emotionally. Let’s just say I’m a bit crankier?
Granted a lot has changed besides my decrease in physical activity. The weather, my physical surroundings, the color palette out my window, my living conditions, my immediate community and the amount of people who I am now dealing with on a day-to-day basis, to name a few. Leaving the island at this point was not something I wanted to do, but something I needed to do. I had to return to the east coast to take care of some very real and physical life situations including my current job, my remaining bits of belongings, my car here, and primarily my mother’s transition to a new home. (the latter being what has landed me in my now current home base of Central Pennsylvania.)
In the first 6 months of the Living Chapters project, I looked closely at what effected my mind-body, and spirit based on the different themes selected. (Body/Kinesthetic, Logic and Order, The Environment, Existential/Spirituality, Purpose, and Interpersonal Relationships) Looking at each of these themes individually, I was able to see how shifting my habits in mindful ways could greatly effect my emotional, physical or spiritual health. With health and growth as my focus, I decided to dig further repeating the themes during this second six months. The question now is not, how can I develop a mindful habit to affect these areas in my life but how can I develop mindful practices and learn how to balance the different areas in my life. Can I now learn how my environment affects my mind? Or how the mind and emotions affect the body? And doesn’t the body affect the spirit?
Thus far in 2014, I have been teetering on the see-saw, trying to balance my emotional (chapter eight) and spiritual worlds (chapter nine) while becoming a pro at adapting to ever-changing new environments (chapter seven). I think it’s about time to jump back into the physical world by adding the body back into the equation. The physical needs to addressed in conjunction with the mental and spiritual aspects of my life, rather than being separated from the two.
Amy Rothstein, the existential chapter writer from September got me started on this track. She reminded me that “One of the core agreements of existentialism is that being human means we will experience anxiety.” Which to me is the way that most of us raise our heart rate on a daily basis in an unhealthy way without even noticing. Amy also asked me to be mindful of my breath, body/extremities, movements and actions while looking at how I access and experience comfort as well as discomfort in my body. She asked me to identify how my body reacts to stress or anxiety and to observe my body in different situations and emotional states.
I feel that re-visiting some of her more complicated requests along with my direct and simple current challenge this month may help me stay on the path for a fuller mind, body and soul connection. So yeah, its time to get my jump rope and running shoes out again but this time with greater goals in mind. Let’s get physical shall we? Not only seeking a better body and energy level but in a quest for a healthier balance and a different mindset.
Will you take notes with me this month? Follow the pitter-patter of your own heart in the next 30 days. Is it fluttering in happiness, anxiety, adrenaline, dance or drama? How does the state of your physical body and rate of your heart affect your mind and spirit?