Guest Column: The body and mind are wonderful things to waste, but not often - The Explorer: Opinion

Guest Column: The body and mind are wonderful things to waste, but not often

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James C. Sandefer

Posted: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 4:00 am

At some point along life’s highway we pause, peer into the mirror, and reel backwards in amazement at the appearance of the person staring back at us. Surprise, it’s the person we’ve become. This, and a number of other age-related issues, formed the topics of a recent conversation with my good friend Richard.  

Inevitably, we lose track of time while racing through our careers/lives while mindlessly flipping the monthly calendar pages. During these times it never occurs to us that the current phase of our life will eventually run its course and seemingly dump us onto Reality Street. Ker thud; but where are we? Did our mind take a break during the past few decades and suddenly resume functioning today? How did so much time elapse so quickly and seemingly without our awareness of it?

More often than not we awaken to the fact that we’re no longer adolescents or even young adults, we’re merely older, and that has to be okay because there’s nothing we can do about the age factor. However, the manner in which we mentally perceive our present stage of life is critical. I’ve sometimes spent days agonizing over the times that used to be and the myriad of things that were formerly interesting to me and I could do on a whim, but no longer. And then I mope around for a while, ponder my options, and eventually come to the realization that I didn’t arrive here with a Rule Book of Life. Nope, we basically begin life with a ker thud onto the delivery table and away we go, blazing through life for years as if we actually have a clue when in reality we’re learning on the job. 

Of course, we could have listened to our parents, but at that adolescent phase of life we were certain that we already knew more than they could ever teach us. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, oh my. Nevertheless, we continued wandering along amassing an interesting array of experiences, some good, some not so much, and a few that would have preferably been avoided altogether. But even during those times we often failed to pay adequate attention to many of the things going on around us that could prove invaluable later in life, but seemed to be mere nuisances or inconveniences at that particular time. We were always in a rush to get somewhere. 

Asking when the correct time might be to begin paying attention in life is somewhat of a trick question because it will vary from person to person. But the general answer would be whenever we comprehend there’s something we’ve been missing and would like to begin claiming during the remainder of the journey. And that begs another question; what’s coming our way and how will we know it when we see it? Keep in mind the Rule Book of Life that we weren’t given on day 1 and you’ll quickly realize how to formulate the correct answer. Eureka! Life is a series of experiences and adventures, most of which we never could have envisioned, especially during our early years. Now you’re getting the hang of it. Much of life is created as we go along, and the remainder of it is a matter of simply paying attention and listening—a lot.

Another eye-opening event that inevitably occurs during the journey is the recognition that it’s much easier to get into something than it is to get out of it. A prime example is fitness, and the range of training options that were formerly at our disposal whenever we chose to take part in them. However, one morning we awaken with new aches and pains, but attempt to disregard them until we stroll into the workout room or decide to burn some calories on the spin bike. At that moment our body sends a new, clear message: you’re not doing that today. So you make the correct decision by not pushing it and chancing an injury; merely waiting until tomorrow, no big deal, right? 

Guess what? Tomorrow comes around, but your body doesn’t; it’s still in “take a break” mode. You receive the message via a sharp pain, or possibly a mental message saying “maybe another day, or even next week.” Before you know it a week or more has passed and you’re still easing back in your recliner pondering some sort of workout, but the motivation just isn’t there. The next thing you know another annual season has rolled around and you’ve become a house slug. The fact is, the older we become the easier it gets to make excuses for not doing things, especially ones that require some physical effort and maybe even working through some pain, other than the kind related to an actual injury or medical condition. Once again, our mind wins the battle.

Eventually, it becomes far easier and moderately acceptable to procrastinate. We allow our mind to totally control our physical activities, and most anything requiring more than a modest amount of effort to complete. In effect, we’re not only wasting our bodies, but also our minds.

So what can we do about this body and mind wasting phenomenon? First and foremost, simply decide to do something. It’s okay even if it’s nothing more than taking a casual walk to the mail box and coming home to read all of the mail--do it, that’s a start. Tomorrow, take a relaxing walk around the block, and then come home to read an interesting magazine article or one chapter from a book. You’ll find that by easing into a regular daily routine of doing something physical and mental, but not particularly strenuous or mind numbing 5-6 days per week, your body and mind won’t vigorously and immediately recoil. Before you know it you may be adding some former physical and mental activities that were enjoyable, and none of them have to be performed in a competitive or time pressured mode. You’ll probably notice that doing something that’s even modestly active and mentally engaging on a regular basis makes you feel better physically and elicits a mental clarity, and you’re likelihood of sticking with it increases over time.  

While the body and mind can be wonderful things to waste on occasion, doing it regularly is far less desirable than the alternative of remaining physically and mentally engaged. It’s time to reconnect with your body, mind and life in general. Do it for you--now!     

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