An excerpt from Chapter VI – The Theory of Lightness: The Physical Facet – out of my book, A Glimpse of Heaven: The Philosophy of True Health…
“Contemporary empirical statistics substantiate a belief which is commonly held within the health and wellness arts that I teach and coach (and obvious on many levels): It is that a significant majority of people are chronically ‘out-of-shape’ throughout most of their lives. Additionally, in working with people on a regular basis, it is clear to me that a considerable majority of people go through their lives being much more muscularly tense than is necessary – not unlike a perpetual demeanor of isometric tensity. When one adds an unhealthful dietary way-of-life into this mix, it becomes, particularly in the long-term, significant unhealthful behavior manifesting as addiction to a highly problematic lifestyle – a culturally promoted, near-institutionalization of physical and emotional imbalance and weakness, and promoting of chronic disease.
Within the traditions herein, people relearn the arts of walking and/or jogging/running, and learn the arts of tai chi chuan and chi kung. These practices are all means by which the human body is meant to move – inclusive of movement congruent with hunting, gathering, and martial applications. I don’t teach yoga, albeit it offers significant benefits. These arts help promote a more healthful left side/right side balance, and a healthy homeostasis of the central nervous system. They abbreviate heaviness and stiffness, promoting lightness of the body, mind, and spirit, e.g., enhanced coordination, strength, relaxation, balance, flexibility. Many sport activities and forms of aerobic exercise, including dance (like tai chi chuan itself), can promote similar benefits.
Self-disciplined effort toward realization of greater mindfulness…learning to control stress and anxiety, and ‘ownership’ of a truly healthful practical and philosophical way-of-life, move one toward enjoyment of profound benefits. It is taking True Responsibility for one’s own health and wellbeing – which obviously necessitates a significant level of determination. Albeit, through this true effort one can realize, enjoy, a genuine ongoing sense of true happiness. It is the ‘journey,’ not just the ‘destination,’ which can become a substantive complement to one’s happiness when one develops a healthful way-of-life, not just a ‘quick fix.’
In these traditions, the practice of chi kung and tai chi chuan promote practical insight into the notion of learning to move as if one’s mind, and each of one’s body parts enjoy a deeply enhanced intrinsic connection – enhanced congruity through relaxation within movement: It is, as said earlier, “graceful, relaxed, fluid, connected.” It is moving meditation.
Nurturing this ability is not unlike a form of physical and mental therapy for preventing and treating stress. It can be greatly complemented by unblemished witnessing – learning to lighten, clear the mind of heavy internal dialogue (inclusive of pernicious cyclical thinking). Moving in this highly relaxed fashion and performing abdominal breathing in apropos timing with the movements greatly enhances the benefits of mobility and exercise. It is an important aspect of practical physical, emotional, and even spiritual lightness in being.
Abdominal/diaphragmatic breathing is a skill which is a most important part of these arts: As silly as it may sound, it is believed that most people do not know how to breathe. Therefore, it needs to be relearned as an art, not unlike relearning how to move, relearning how to walk (as mentioned earlier). It is believed that most people have incredibly taut diaphragm muscles, inhibiting the full utilization of their lung capacity. This lack of utility hinders the uptake of truly healthful, appropriate amounts of oxygen throughout the body, most particularly to the brain and extremities. Refined, deep breathing, after self-disciplined practice, becomes natural, and just like exercise, it additionally promotes a healthful flow of relaxing hormones – inclusive of enhancement of brain cell connectivity (considerably helpful in dealing with stressors such as anxiety, depression, etc.).
An additional significant aspect of the Theory of Lightness relates to the attainment of a healthful dietary way-of-life – as reflected in the ‘handed-down’ notion mentioned earlier herein: “our desire of food should not consume us and destroy our health.” In taking the point further, the notion of true health is inclusive of a healthful sense of ‘lightness’ congruent with the following point: One should eat light foods – healthful and low in calories, with a high nutrient density, versus heavy foods – unhealthful and high in calories, which have a low nutrient density. Light foods promote realization of lightness and health, and heavy foods promote realization of heaviness and poor health. Such analogy may seem quite simplistic, though it is quite profound in its practical outcome: The consumption of heavy food serves to consume us, so-to-speak, not unlike that of a slow poison.
When considering the concepts herein, many may believe that they are unreasonable, or that life would be ‘no fun’ if we took away the unhealthful ‘fun’ out of life. Many might believe that life is ‘too short’ and difficult as it is – and/or believe that these notions are unsubstantiated. To be clear, a great majority of the concepts set forth herein are empirically substantiated and not simply based on opinion. Even so, and as admitted earlier, it is obvious that substantial healthful changes do require intense ongoing true effort – incredible self-discipline – the development of refined skills which significantly enhance our quality of health, and hence, our quality of life. Though the development of such wherewithal is very difficult, is it possible that a genuinely healthful way-of-life may be worth the trouble – no matter the level of difficulty? Is it possible that the healthful benefits resulting from taking true responsibility for our own health and wellbeing could be like a glimpse of heaven – maybe even evolving into common glimpses? One may be doing oneself a terrible disservice if one ‘knocks it’ before one has truly tried. But please remember this: It will never work if you ever give up – and there is always room for improvement, greater mastery. These are among the rightful gifts and blessings of true health.” (Copyright 2011) — Dr. Glen Hepker
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