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John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
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Aerobics and Altered States

At some point during an extended aerobic workout, many exercisers describe moving into an altered state of consciousness - a place in which the rational mind is temporarily quiet, when the sense of separate self is overpowered by the sense of connectedness with everything that exists. It is a feeling and a deep knowing" of peace and balance. Similar descriptions are found in religious literature. Many of the techniques used for meditation are present in a good run or an extended swim, for example. Both exercise and meditation contain a point of focus - a word or chant, the breath, or the repetitious act of simply putting one foot, or one arm, in front of the other again and again and again. A rhythm is set. Often the rhythm takes over. The runner becomes the movement. The meditator becomes the sound. For centuries, repetitious movement has been the basis of religious ritual in many traditions. The Sacred Dance again! The American Indian, the African tribesman, the whirling dervish, the yogi - all have made use of the moving body in spiritual practice or communal celebration. The Hindus' Nataraj is a dancing god. China's Taoism is based upon the flow of the moving universe; the art of tai chi, which developed from Taoism, is a representation, a dance, of this flow.

Many who have grown up in Jewish or Christian homes never learned that dance and movement could be a form of worship or prayer. Church was a place for sitting still and listening or reading. Singing may have been OK, but moving certainly wasn't. Maybe we heard about Shakers and "Holy Rollers" - more than likely as the subject of jokes. At best we were uninformed about what they did and why. The mind alone will never grasp the fullness of creation. Mind, heart, and body moving in harmony may begin to approximate the totality that is "God."

A body that moves is a body "taking shape." Regular exercise can firm muscles, shed pounds, and add a healthy glow to your complexion. Liking how you feel and how you look are among the rewards. When you think of yourself in more glowing terms, you "enlighten" those around you and can approach them with greater confidence. You are less dependent on other people for approval because you know yourself,and you approve of what you know.

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