Strength Training

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While on a call with a spiritual direction client yesterday, we were talking about all the ways in which hir life is shifting. I said:

“Seek out that which strengthens you.”

It felt like good advice for us all.

Some challenges are things we can rise to. Other challenges just serve to grind us down. Some friends are the same. So are some movies, some music, certain activities…

What do you need for optimal strength? Different food choices? Deeper meditation practice? More prayer? A change in how you approach exercise? More laughter? Books you have to study instead of race through? Conversations with viewpoints that differ from your own? More sleep? Less sleep?

This week I took a Pilates class that left me feeling taller and more solid than when I walked in. I get a fair amount of exercise, and some of you followed my explorations with my former trainer. In the last year or so, I’ve been self-motivated: four mile bike rides with sit ups and push ups in the middle. Small amounts of morning yoga at home after my prayers and meditation. Kettle bells. Jumping jacks on work breaks. But I haven’t pushed and stretched myself. I’ve maintained my strength, which is good, but the one hour class felt strengthening in a different way. Someone else was guiding me to do things I would not otherwise. My body loved it. I’m planning to go back.

We all have default settings, whether high or low. Those default settings mostly maintain the status quo, and sometimes serve to weaken us over time. To grow in strength and resiliency, we need a change. Some of us need to slow down and deepen. Some of us need a push toward greater motion. What we need is to rise to – or sink into – a challenge.

What do you think you need? Or what are you already engaged with? In other words:

What strengthens you? 

I look forward to reading your insights.

21 Responses to “Strength Training”

  1. Michael

    I have found that a daily practice helps strengthen me spiritually – even if that’s just lighting incense at the altar with a prayer of thanks. One thing I do need to add more of, to strengthen spirit, is meditation. It’s not so much as having the time as finding the correct timing to not be disturbed. Over all, though, as you touched on above, proper nutrition and exercise are huge factors in how I’m feeling. I’m doing ok with that, now, but it’s an area that could always be improved. I do hope you find your way back to strength training – it’s the part I like most!

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Michael, one reason I love meditating in public – at actions etc – is that I can just sink fully into myself no matter what is going on around me. The energy around me becomes more contrast to what I can touch in my core. I can then “hold” it all, in a way.

      Kettle bells and body weight workouts are a form of strength training that I’m really digging these days. I loved my time at the gym, but also like the flexibility of not having to go somewhere in order to get exercise.

      Reply
  2. Jude

    Timely post for me today. I am searching for lost strenght. What strengthens me is follwing and interacting with positive minded people. Reading what they have to say helps me try to rebuild me from the inside out.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Wonderful, Jude. This is one reason I appreciate the spiritual reading I do. Glad you share that! When we feel we have lost strength, adding in one simple thing is such a help. Too often people set themselves/ourselves up by trying too much too soon. To rebuild takes time and some amount of patience. It seems like you are setting a good course for yourself.

      Reply
  3. Jim Dickinson

    It is hard these days. Contrary to popular perception (I have a good PR guy), I can be pretty sensitive to all the misery around these days. Just haven’t been able to get in the gym this week. I think this has as much to do with the sudden ‘spring forward’ in the clock as anything else, though. My circadian rhythm evidently does not adapt well to sudden changes! ha.

    That being said, I have set a hard goal of being in the gym on Saturday morning to kill the funk (stretching and yoga-ing on Friday…) and I am really enjoying the kettlebells these days. I like the kinetic energy of it as opposed to static/limited motion isolation exercises. I have also determined that 30 minutes on the elliptical is too short for real gain and 60 is too long for my joints at the moment, but a good, intense 45 is perfect for getting me the runner high and making progress. HA. I find my range of perfect has shrunk with age.

    I also found that working out supports better eating for me but not the other way around, if that makes sense. Eating well for a couple days does not make me feel like being in the gym, but being in the gym for a few days organically makes me want to eat better – crave better things… so, step one is always making myself get back to the gym – by will – until the malaise passes and I take joy in it again. Discipline leads to workout leads to better nutrition leads to feeling better leads to being less stressed, more centered and a kinder person in general … and it all works better for me, more organically, if I keep the music playing and singing along loudly and with gusto (remembering the words seems to be optional)… HA!

    I am a simple man (minded, anyway). So, sticking to the proper order of the elements of the spell seems to be important to staying strong these days… and the right soundtrack will pretty much get me through anything, if I take the time.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      I like the idea of the “proper order of the elements of the spell”. That feels really helpful to this conversation.

      (and I agree with you about exercise making me want to eat well.)

      Reply
  4. Steve Smith

    When I was younger, I pursued strength for its own sake; the things that I gained but which had no roots in my heart were shed over time. Nowadays, strength for me begins with an idea or a little dream. It grows with the help of more experienced guides, people who have both the strength I’m looking for and great joy alongside it, who can help me challenge myself more and more. And it lasts when I can offer it in true service and generosity – when I have a reason to maintain and grow it.

    It leaves me with a question to ponder – when do I seek strength simply for the joy of having it to use? The concept seems strange to me – and I find that interesting.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Beautiful. I look forward to a time when you answer that last question. For me, having strength to use is a joy. It’s quite a gift to feel strength in motion. It is a gift to have that ability.

      Reply
  5. Rosalind Lord

    Thorn, I love how, as always, your postings coincide with what’s going on in my life.

    I also love your phrase “Seek out that which strengthens you,” and highly thank you for it.

    Today, I did not seek out that which strengthens me. Rather, it found me.

    At least, that’s what it feels like.

    Today, I was in a situation that I was not only forced to confront, but where I also had to learn to let go of distorted notions about myself that helped me build up walls all around myself so no one could hurt me, but also limited me in a lot of ways too.

    And for this, I feel really blessed. When I learn to see things in a new light, it is a reminder that magick and the so-called “mundane” world are really one and the same, that they go hand-in-hand together. That the gods, goddesses, spirits, and allies are with you; even when you’re not thinking about this, even when it’s furthest from your mind.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      What seems so great to me, Rosalind, is that you allowed yourself to be present to the situation and present to yourself. That is also strength.

      Reply
  6. Jim Dickinson

    I think also that a real part of ‘strength training’ these days is a deliberate effort to de-compartmentalize life. Modern, western culture relentlessly pushes to break our lives into smaller and smaller pieces: the job, the family, the love life, the school, the faith… all pushed further and further into discrete bits. The roles are confounded with the identity – and we are really encouraged to do this (often to create marketing opportunities for those that would exploit the situation).

    A very real side-effect of that I think is that strengths that are operable in one sphere are not necessarily operable throughout the system. People forget that they ‘left their strength’ in the career persona – but that the same source could be useful in the ‘dad’ persona – that those personas are all part of one person. I see this all the time in session with clients, in that they often need to be reminded that what worked ‘over there’ is just as available ‘over here’. If they need an analogy (albeit an imperfect one), I suggest that the personas are akin to the laptop, desktop and smart phone they have: the same ‘apps’ (strength centers) can be on all of them most of the time and can be available as needed. Better yet, they can all be synched and operate as a single system. The separation is not mandatory – and in most cases is not really all that productive.

    So, I think that the exploration of having multiple identities is a good one, but at some point, obviously, there can be a danger of making them literally separate (dividing our strength centers) and, because of the times we live in, specific effort has to be put into bringing it all back to a holistic system (against the larger tide, often). Otherwise, we have, in any given moment, access to only a fraction of the horsepower of the engine.

    An easy example for me is that when I workout I send some of the energy I am raising (a prayer) to the group mind of my coven to support the work that everyone else is doing. That creates ‘flow’ from one part of my life to another… helps me, helps others – and, I believe, makes it more likely that the strength of body I feel when I work out and the spiritual strength I feel from contributing to something larger than myself and having care for others is more available throughout my life. Little things like that can make a disproportionate different, I think.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      I agree. Integration of all the parts of our lives is always strengthening because then we are not working at cross purposes with ourselves.

      Reply
  7. Christine Berger

    After a two year period of healting structural changes brought about by medical issues, I am now beginning again to strengthen on a physical level. This means more regular yoga as I used to do and the necessity to either dance or walk at least five times a week. As I exercise more I always eat better as well, seems to be a matched set.

    Reply
  8. Nimue Brown

    Working out how to balance properly – enough rest and downtime to have the resources to run/dance like a mad woman when needed. Much questing at the moment, and taking courage form your words to think that I can find a way of getting that enabling balance in my life.

    Reply
  9. Leni

    Feeling integrated helps me feel strong: feelin in communication with all separate parts, having them in cooperation. I’ve been investigating what helps me integrate, the routines and rituals that are the foundation of everything else. I call them Best Practices, and I really try to get as many in, in a day, as possible.

    The most essential of these, is the time I set aside in the morning, to sit, breathe, check in, and “clam my spirit.” It took years for me to finally get a regular daily practice, but that time in the mornng before leaving my bedroom really is essential for the rest of the day.

    Reply
  10. Suus

    So many things strengthen me, my spiritual practice, my exercise routine, spending time with my family, walking my dog.
    And now I added a long cherished dream: horse riding lessons. It feels amazing to ride these amazingly powerful animals, really connecting to them.

    I think embracing life in all it’s parts is particularly strengthening.

    Reply
  11. Thorn

    Christine, Leni, Nimue, and Suus, thank you all for sharing your experiences with us. I see there is a thread of similarity among them! I also enjoy seeing the different ways you each approach strength training, as well.

    blessings.

    Reply
  12. Denise Miller

    I am so grateful for the reminder to “seek out that which strengthens you.” Too often lately I have gone along with what worked in the past, what works for others, what fits with a philosophy I admire, and forgetting to check in with how I feel about what is happening in my life. Is there loving laughter, are there joyful moments in my day, a feeling that I contributed by some action to the magic of an ordinary day? I sometimes forget to check in to the depths that surround me in each moment and draw in a measure of the shimmering brightness of being human in the exquisite place that is this sphere. It has been easier these last few weeks because I have spent the time with my grandson who is three and for whom I will remake worlds to be wonder filled and lovely. I am strengthened by the people who call forth my loving spirit.

    Reply
  13. Ann

    Thorn, you ring the wake up bell for me sometimes. I’ve been swept up in the storm of transition, moving from a lover’s home to renting a room in an old house. Meditation is the piece that I had not found time for. So I took a few minutes out to reacquaint myself with the silence before writing this. A friend said “no storm in nature lasts forever,” and I am indeed a part of this natural world. Finding the silence in the center of the storm strengthens me. I liked what you said about using the outside energy as contrast.

    Reply

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