When I stood alone on the benches, my goal was to observe and understand what was happening within me. Primarily, I tracked the thoughts and emotions passing through me, while simultaneously striving to distance myself from them. This was important because when they consumed me, the situation didn’t improve. As described in the book, particularly in the chapters “Transformations of the thought stream” and “Consciousness beyond thoughts,” I worked with my thoughts every time I managed to notice them and detach from them.
Now, let’s pay appropriate attention to a crucial aspect – our body.
From a physical standpoint, standing on the bench for an extended period and fixing my gaze on a single point proved to be quite challenging. I want to remind you that I did this to avoid distractions and to give my full attention to the inner world, aiming to calm down, concentrate, and begin to notice what was happening there. Initially, I could only maintain this position for a few minutes, as discomfort emerged in various parts of my body. Especially in the neck, shoulders, back, lower back, and hip joints. I tried to adjust and release painful areas, aiming to stay in this position for longer, because when I wasn’t in it, I struggled to manage the situation within myself. While attempting to reduce the pain and find a more comfortable position, I noticed that the rational mind willingly participated in this process without requiring effort. It started to resemble a game to the rational mind because releasing different parts of the body slightly altered my body’s position, creating new problem-solving tasks. It was like rearranging a mosaic – moving one piece triggered the shifting of others, making it a captivating exercise for the rational mind. Furthermore, as the criteria for task completion were the quantity and location of pain, and pain is perceived directly, there was no need for thought – just sensation and gentle adjustments here and there as a response. As a side effect, a sense of psychological relief emerged. This happened because the rational mind prefers to focus on one thing rather than several simultaneously. When engaged in adjusting the body, the quantity of thoughts significantly decreased.
This dual effect was tremendously helpful. Being able to maintain a comfortable body position for longer periods, coupled with the reduction in thoughts due to the rational mind’s focus on a more crucial task, gradually led to a state where one could sustain this condition for an extended time with minor adjustments when necessary. More information about body care can be found in the chapter titled “Taking care of the body”.
The author does not hold professional titles like a doctor, biologist, sports coach, or fitness instructor. Instead, they aim to utilize facts and minimal logic or reasoning to simplify complexity. This approach helps them gain a better understanding of what the body is and what it needs, all within the context of the book and its relation to our consciousness.
Our daily activities can involve physical movement or be performed in a static position without physical strain. Those engaging in intense physical activity require rest, often involving minimal movement, such as sitting or lying down. Conversely, people who engage in sedentary work or minimal movement need active rest, often through activities like walking, sports, or other forms of movement. Following this basic principle can help balance physical strain and rest, allowing the body to train and recover without overwhelming it.
Is the body designed to remain still for most of the time, and can anyone survive without movement in nature if no care is given and there is no source of food?
The author acknowledges that they neglected their body’s needs for a significant period. However, they recognize the importance of maintaining physical well-being. The phrase “a sound mind in a sound body” illustrates the direct link between physical feelings and our perception of the world.
In youth, energy levels are high, and physical well-being is often taken for granted. We wake up with enthusiasm, remain motivated throughout the day, and have the energy for action. As we age, this becomes a luxury. While taking care of our bodies might not completely restore this youthful state, it can lead to gradual improvements in how we feel physically.
Older individuals might experience discomfort or limited mobility. It’s worth noting that even in a lying-down position, movement is possible—gentle, free-form movements that are executed slowly and without strain. If getting out of bed is possible, transitioning between lying and sitting positions, shifting weight between legs, or engaging in a light stroll can all be beneficial.
Challenges with movement aren’t exclusive to the elderly. For instance, individuals with certain mental disorders might resist moving, even if they are capable, or they might deeply believe that movement won’t help them. Take depression as an example. If struggling with depression, trying something as simple as moving for at least 10 minutes until you feel slightly out of breath and sweaty can be effective. This can be achieved through slow jogging, climbing stairs, walking up a hill, or any activity that requires exertion, even though it might be the last thing you’d want to do. Doing this every morning can make your day better.
Although the concepts discussed may seem logical, we often don’t follow through. The combination of distrust that movement can improve our state and the resulting lack of movement contributes to insufficient activity, which ultimately doesn’t benefit us.
According to scientists, the human lifespan is encoded in RNA/DNA, and if we exclude genetic anomalies, the average lifespan should be relatively consistent among individuals within specific groups, such as within a country or region, gender, culture, or other general characteristics. However, statistics show that the average lifespan has decreased with the modern lifestyle over the past decades. Many studies attribute this to the increasingly dynamic, stressful, and demanding modern lifestyle that places more physical and mental stress on the body.
The question arises whether the genetic code encoded in RNA/DNA has significantly changed over the past decades, considering that the human species has existed for a long time.
Aside from the importance of caring for our bodies, it’s also vital to avoid harming them. Beyond minimal physical movement, abusing substances like cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and unhealthy food, lack of physical activity or exercise, and consistent sleep deprivation significantly increase the likelihood of heading down a faster path to decline.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Even those who don’t abuse substances, eat a balanced diet, engage in physical activities, and get enough sleep often fail to provide comprehensive care for their bodies.
While many people are familiar with the muscular and nervous systems, let’s focus on another fundamental system within the human body that often receives attention only when problems arise: the skeleton, comprising bones and joints. Without bones, we would be like soft creatures, similar to jellyfish. The human body contains over 200 bones and more than 250 joints. The count of joints may vary depending on classification criteria, as joints can be categorized as more mobile or more stable.
Bones enable the body to maintain balance as a solid physical entity and to move. Muscles attach to bones and generate movements, with bones facilitating the actual motion. Bones provide structure and rigidity to the body. Besides their role in movement, bones create the necessary space for internal organs to function correctly without being compressed or stretched.
Our skeletal structure is not always optimal, primarily because: 1) over time, our skeletal posture involuntarily becomes distorted for extended periods; 2) due to these distortions, some muscles become too relaxed while others become overly tense, attempting to compensate for the distortions, redistributing weight through the skeleton; 3) when we start feeling pain in affected muscles (usually the overly tense ones that cannot recover), instead of realigning the skeletal posture to its previous, more correct position, we unconsciously or consciously introduce other distortions to relieve the painful muscles.
To correct skeletal posture, a gentle approach is needed. To unravel muscular blockages, targeted, suitable, and regular training is necessary.
While moving the body is essential, it is neither a sufficient condition nor a guarantee of proper care. People might work out or engage in sports for health but experience injuries that temporarily restrict movement and exercise. For instance, this frequently occurs in activities like soccer, fitness, or boxing. Often, this effect results from incorrect technique combined with excessive force and speed, or in team sports, injuries might be unintentionally or intentionally inflicted by other participants.
Let’s take a moment to consider where our focus of attention is directed while we’re engaged in sports or physical activities. Where is our attention primarily directed during these activities?
Let’s examine a few examples from those mentioned earlier.
In soccer, we watch the ball and other players to determine our actions. In boxing, we focus on the punching bag, partner, or opponent. In fitness, it’s quite similar – we look at ourselves in the mirror, observe what others are doing, and eagerly count repetitions, sometimes grimacing due to the weight being heavy and our technique not being optimal.
In all these examples, our attention is primarily directed outward. Often, our goal during training is also external – to get the ball in the goal, deliver a successful strike, or simply look good – rather than feeling good.
However, our focus of attention can be directed inward as well. When we shift our focus inward, we sense how we execute the movement, or in other words, we feel how the movement flows through our body.
The quality of a workout is significantly influenced by the focus of attention during movement. This is due to the fact that we quickly improve our execution technique and simultaneously prevent injuries when we “listen” to our body and guide ourselves by its sensations, rather than using it merely as a tool to achieve external objectives, such as scoring a goal.
If we haven’t practiced our favorite sport or activity with inward focus, we can try it for some time and personally feel and notice the difference, provided that our chosen sport is suitable for this approach.
In team sports, it’s more challenging to direct our attention inward because, if not directed outward, the chance of losing the game or getting injured significantly increases.
In fitness, even though we typically work out alone, there are many distractions, and the weights can be substantial, increasing the risk of injuries.
The best scenario for directing our attention inward is when we can move in one direction or in a circle for a prolonged time without encountering obstacles or uneven terrain that would require our attention. This situation makes it easiest and safest to focus inward.
Examples of well-known sports suitable for inward focus include swimming and running. With these activities, we can direct our attention toward our bodies and feel how the movement cycles through us. The adjustments we make to our execution are mainly aimed at feeling as symmetrically circular as possible on both sides of the body.
Another key aspect after focusing inward is maintaining physical balance. All activities that require maintaining balance are favorable because they engage the entire body, not just specific parts.
To complete the picture, it’s worth mentioning practices that incorporate both fundamental components – inward focus and balance preservation. Prominent examples are Yoga and Tai Chi. These practices, originating from India and China respectively, have become popular worldwide.
Finally, in relation to the book’s content, it’s important to note that when we move, the volume of thoughts in our minds diminishes. Engaging in sports or other physical activities and focusing inward, we feel and adjust our movements, which flow through our bodies. Consequently, the rational mind becomes engaged, leading to a significant reduction in the quantity of thoughts. This connects to the concept of “Consciousness beyond thoughts,” exemplifying that our consciousness is not limited to thinking; we can be conscious without constantly thinking.