Exercise and Wisdom
Unpublished talk by Bubba Free John
(Adi Da Samraj)
October 22, 1978
The following is from an informal talk given to a group of
devotees about exercise after one person who had a pacemaker
asked him about exercise and hatha yoga.
Avatar Adi Da Samraj, 1978
hen we think of exercise we generally think that exercise is some sort of violent activity that steps up the heart rate, works the cardiovascular system, makes you perspire, and obviously certain kinds of exercise or activity do this. But it’s not altogether necessary to move fast.
Westerners, Americans, people who listened a lot to the American Heart Association, (laughter ) and worried about cholesterol and all that sort of stuff think that they have to storm the blood vessels, unclog themselves you see. They do a lot of violent exercises, a lot of calisthenics, a lot of running. But this is a style of exercise that’s based on a certain fear, a certain interpretation of how the body regulates itself and gets to survive, gets to be healthy.
The adepts of Ancient times you see were not really exponents of violent exercise for the most part. They basically recommended changes in one’s attitude and regulation of movement, regulation of activity, living gracefully, moving gracefully, and transcending the flight or fight mechanism. The mechanism that gets established in us when we have to respond suddenly to a threat, you see, we are all a little bit like caged animals, we still have a lot, in the vital a lot of instinct for flight in the face of threats even attack in order to kill something for food or kill something to protect ourselves.
The reason why people living in cities, people living in mass society are anxious and uptight is because this mechanism is always stimulated and yet the response doesn’t get to be lived out. As a result, you get restriction, tightening, and dietary and other habits work along with this to indulge yourself to make yourself feel better you see, to have a sense of contact, a sense of being sustained.
“A body submitted to God for 80 years looks a lot different…than a body that’s just been indulged for 80 years. So the old should be a principle witness within the community.”
So many of our habits, including this notion we have of what exercise should be and what it should do for us, are reactive, are based on a false understanding of what life should be. If we can come to the point of responsibility for this mechanism of flight or fight, this mechanism of anxiety, that obstructs the body-mind, then we need not be so dependent you see on violent exercise.
If you can be alive from the Heart, if you can live as a devotee, then the exercise that is appropriate for you is more gentle, more graceful. And the kind of exercises that might ordinarily induce rapid heart rate you see are not necessarily going to be of benefit to you, not necessarily even something you can practically endure very well. So you should become responsible for yourself whole bodily in the spiritual sense, then observe your own response to situations that require reaction of a physical kind. That would step up the heart rate normally. But for the most part, let your exercises consist of hatha yoga and walking and standing and moving and breathing, as described in Conscious In Exercise.
That fullness you see all the things that are truly significant from the point of view of bodily health are already involved. We are just, we live in a very vulgar world, a very vulgar society in which we are supposed to be always very aggressively and vitally stimulated, matter what you do.
That’s the style of city life, Western life, American life. If you happen to have personal qualities or physical conditions that make that not altogether possible for you, in some sense maybe you have an advantage, because the conventional solution is not really possible for you, at least not as others might live it, you are obliged then to find a more graceful pattern that also promotes health in you.
Everyone must become responsible for the mechanism of reaction, constriction, and so forth that produces the opposite violent activity, hyperactivity in order to feel good. When you are uptight, what do you want to do? You want to be hyperactive. If you are not uptight, constricted, you see, you are naturally more graceful.
Meditation, for instance, is not a violent activity you see, it’s a graceful process, graceful in the highest spiritual sense, but also graceful in the sense of how it appears. It’s essentially a natural, clear and not passive but still and full affair. When meditation begins very often, it is preceded by various kinds of activity that represent purification, kriyas, and such, you all know what kriyas are. (laughter.)
Kriyas are more or less kinds of violent activity, automatic pranayama, if you haven’ t experienced it, you have observed it in others, the breath becomes quite violent, you see. Kriyas, the body, becomes violently moved. Even mudras and such with the hands or face may have a certain kind of violence; these events are not themselves meditation. They are the signs that the current of life is preparing the body-mind for meditation. Meditation begins when the body is balanced, kriyas are signs that the two sides of the body are to come into a position of harmony. Until they are in harmony they are sort of up against one another; you see the body at each of the plexuses, plexi? (Laughter), but when that current can flow naturally, these opponents, these two sides of the body become more like lovers you see. They come to a natural state in relation to one another.
Therefore all of the currents that produce movement, activity, perception, conception, action, reactivity, you see, all of that ordinary affair below the brows comes to rest. The body-mind naturally intuits this current in which the body is floating. And it is that it is in that case that meditation begins and meditation goes on for a while seeming to be a relatively inward affair in which you must be physically in repose, passive, even apparently inverted, eyes closed. And we could say though that meditation is itself a kind of purification, a preparation for transcendental realization, the perfection the perfect sacrifice of the Heart.
So after a time, all of this inverted relatively passive meditation has done its work and the body-mind ceases to be an obstacle to the direct intuition of God.
So in the seventh stage of life, you see no particular mode or mood or attitude, physical or mental is the specific sign or realization. That realization is constant, perpetual. But the Heart has become responsible for the body-mind. The body-mind naturally is surrendered to the Heart, the true Heart or the Divine Person, and so there is a natural Gracefulness to the devotee in that stage, when he must respond very actively, very forcefully in the play of course, in general, is capable of that. Fundamentally he is like a person in deep meditation, while engaged in the affair of life. Not you know all the time woozy and unresponsive. But clear and still, body and mind constantly in every moment bowing to the Heart.
This seventh stage is also the stage in which all aspects of the body-mind show their most profound signs of transformation through the agency of the Divine Power. So the seventh stage itself is proof that the right form of our realization of existence is essentially a graceful one, and those patterns with which we must become integrated that do serve our health, our well being in the ordinary world are essentially graceful and not violent. They are not passive beyond activity, but they are not hyperactive or reactive. So you all exercise but exercise in this way is not mere exercise, it is actually a form of consideration of activity. You study exercise; you study action, you study the process in yourself whereby you act in the world by engaging in conscious exercise, in consideration of it. In other words, all of this conscious exercise that you engage in twice a day is a kind of meditation or sum yama on action on the process of the body and emotion and thinking so that you may ultimately become responsible for it.
Violent kinds of exercise like calisthenics are something like kriyas then. They are the beginners level of exercise. They are also a kind of exercise that some people happen to enjoy. But calisthenics, or relatively violent activity or exercise in our way are not really to be considered something in principle different from hatha yoga. The same principle is to be considered in any exercise we may engage, and that principle is essentially graceful in nature. It is simply a matter of the feeling surrender of the body-mind into the life current. You don’t have to move quickly to do that.
Some people prefer to do that. Others at least temporarily think that they should do that. Most everyone likes to engage in some heavy physical activity or games or whatever sometimes. But what truly should be going on in all the forms of our action, our movement is this feeling submission into the Divine Presence. And that is essentially a graceful matter. Now your physical characteristics to some degree will determine how much forceful more or less violent exercise is useful for you. Not recommending that you become sedentary, you see. You must adapt this body-mind to the current of life, and you must take into account all of your own characteristics in that process.
It is simply that if you should maintain a certain level of intense physical activity, you must realize it as surrender, feeling surrender in that moment into the life current, the Divine Presence.
If you come to a stage when less of that kind of activity is useful or appropriate for your physical condition, then you still must realize that same surrender you see.
Generally earlier in our lives when we are adapting the physical, when we are still carrying on the unfinished business of the first stage of life or continuing that kind of adaptation, we are moved to engage in strong physical activity, in the form of exercise games, work, intense sexual activity and so forth.
At a later stage of life, we tend to become sufficiently adapted in the physical that it ceases to be the primary factor in our moment to moment adaptation. We become subtler, more associated through feeling and subtle aspiration. So as the person enters into his 30’s, his 40’s generally quite commonly, at any rate, is less inclined toward intense physical activity, engages in less of it anyway.
Particularly if he is a devotee, if he has literally become adapted to the life current, his movements, his qualities will become more graceful, his or her. And this is why in ancient times and in traditional cultures, the elders held a position of respect. Not merely because they were old but because it was presumed that they had gone through stages of adaptation and realized a certain level of even bodily wisdom was, in fact, superior to that of children and teenagers and younger people. They represented a stage of life toward which everyone was moving, and therefore, it was useful to have that witness there in the form of someone who had lived through it.
In a society such as ours, you see it is only a state of stimulated vitality that is considered to be aliveness, and so the old older people must struggle you see to seem like young punks, and in fact, all people simply are old punks for the most part. (Laughter.) They don’t represent any higher wisdom you see, because in general, they have not adapted to cultural stages, higher structural stages of human possibility. They have really moved up to some position in the third stage of life where they shuttle back and forth between there and lesser stages and persisted in that mood all their lives until they began to physically degenerate.
But most people you see do not adapt beyond the third stage of life, do not even come to the point of maturity in the third stage of life. Very few people enter into the fourth stage of life in this society, which is without culture. As a result, we don’t see much of higher adapted personalities in this culture, this society. We see people more or less of the same kind everywhere. And not much gracefulness, not much serenity, not much bodily confession of the existence of God. If God exists, you should be able to see it in the body of older men and women. Because such bodies have been in the fire for a long time you see, a body submitted to God for 80 years looks a lot different you see than a body that’s just been indulged for 80 years. So the old should be a principle witness within the community