01 2 / 2012
Robust in the snow …
On a recent ski patrol training, a friend asked me about a section in my book on “Robust and Authentic.” My recent blog entry on “grace” discusses the spiritual benefits of having inside you a spectacular pair of attributes: gratitude and generosity. These are true virtues. Today is a good day to discuss another pair of not virtues but filters for your life. These are the two filters you will want to use when choosing activities. If you think about it, all you have is the time contained in your life, and the time of your life is determined by its activities. And by activities, I mean something physical actions—exercise, sport, adventure—which, by the way, you should be doing every day if you can.
Authentic, port and starboard
The filter of Robustness asks: does this activity get you up and about and raise your cardiac activity level. A robust activity sets your body in motion, and engages your cardiovascular, musculo-skeletal, endocrine and neural systems. If you are doing something robust and wearing a heart rate monitor, its readout will rise up into a good heart rate target zone. Robust means that it is exciting, very exciting. It excites your heart, most of all, but it also excites your mind. Robust for me has meant kayaking, canoeing, cycling, hiking, climbing, skiing, running, swimming, playing tennis and other activities. After I do them, I feel good physically, but I also feel good mentally and spiritually. I feel morally good, too, because I know that for an hour or two of my life I have done something for which I was designed. If someone proposes that you spend Saturday slumping on the couch watching a ball game (that is, someone else doing a robust activity), well, I just don’t think that passes through the filter.
Visit the yellow and red zones once a day, if possible
The filter of Authenticity asks: is this activity absolutely authentic to you? You are drawn to it, you are not just passing the time. If you are doing some sort of activity (boating, hunting, golf, tennis, hiking) merely because your family has always done it, or because your neighbors or office mates do it, it is likely that it is not authentic for you. It could be, of course, but that would be an accident. Even if the activity is robust, that is, it raises your heart rate and gets your adrenalin pumping, that does not mean that it is also authentic. Authentic means that you have chosen it, and that in some way you may not completely understand, it speaks to you, it sings to you. It could very well be that none of your friends or family actually understands why you want to run a 100-mile ultra-marathon or build an anagama kiln in your backyard, or go hiking in the desert to look for petroglyphs. And you don’t have to be able to explain it. We don’t have to explain ourselves to others, we just have to be accountable to our true self.
His family doesn’t have to “get” it, as long as he does.
Sometimes I see people my age scurrying to get out of photo range. I don’t like the way I look. Well, gee whiz, do something about that. Can we judge whether or not Ralph is doing something robust and authentic with his life? Yes, and no. If Ralph is 140 pounds overweight, suffers from sleep apnea and is looking into supplemental oxygen and an electric scooter, then I can say with certainty that his activity choices have not been robust and authentic.
Words fail me
We are meant to stand and deliver, deliver movement, that is. It’s possible Ralph has passed the point of no return, but as an optimist I don’t like to give up on anyone, especially since I believe each of us is a real miracle. Ralph should begin, at a minimum, with a slow walk around the block, and see if he can begin to reverse the damage he has done. You and I know this already, all we have to do is drive by an elementary school and see the children at play. We are meant, as a species, to stand up and motor forward, to climb high and see what’s over that ridge or the nearby headland. I love it when I feel my heart pounding in my chest—it means I’m alive. Physiologically we are meant to raise our heartbeats in exercise to strengthen the heart muscle, improve circulation and oxygen uptake, increase bone density, improve digestion, raise HDL and lower LDL, reduce stress, increase energy levels, burn body fat, sleep better and look better. If we do it, we are acting morally. If we do not, we are committing a sin against ourselves. If you haven’t heard your heart beating 2 beats to a second in a long time, see a doctor, get cleared and get robust (and authentic).
Man, as man was meant to be, climbing, rising …
Copyright © 2012 Douglas Wilson McCarty
All rights reserved.