Exercise Your Demons

Mindfulness-Based Stress ReductionIn my last column, I advocated using anger as a motivational tool for exercise. I still believe anger is a great way to get your ass in gear, but what happens to all that leftover aggression once you’ve pounded out a few miles on the treadmill, or punched the hell out of a heavy bag?

Where does all that excess rage go that exercise doesn’t burn up? You know, the kind of rage you have toward climate change deniers, birthers, the NRA, and Fox News? Sweating it out at the gym usually does the trick. So will ranting on your right-wing friends’ Facebook feeds or yelling at the TV.

But most likely, the ire goes right back into your body, which is the worst place for unused pissed-offness.

So that’s why in this article, I’m advocating for peace. Peace-of-mind, that is: how to get it, where to find it, and how to keep it.

Sometimes the best place to exercise (and exorcise) your demons isn’t in a boxing ring or a spinning studio, but through simple meditation. I practice a form of meditation called MBSR, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. I’ve been doing it for years and it works.

treva brandon scharfMBSR is a mindfulness-based program that was designed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center to help people with pain, and a range of other conditions and life issues, including anxiety, depression, and political indignation (I included that last one).

Sign up for MBSR, and you’ll be committing to an eight-week workshop that will change your life. Taught by certified trainers, MBSR entails weekly group meetings, homework, and instruction in three formal techniques: mindfulness meditation, body scanning, and simple yoga positions.

There are over 1,000 certified MBSR instructors in nearly every state in the U.S. and in more than 30 countries. Even Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan is into it. In 2012, he published a book entitled A Mindful Nation; he also helps organize regular group meditation sessions on Capitol Hill.

I have found that what exercise doesn’t fix, 10 minutes of silence and breath work usually will. So will a nice glass of Sauvingnon Blanc.

I participated in my first MBSR workshop at a small private home in Santa Monica. Aside from teaching me valuable stress-reduction skills, it gave me a sense of community and camaraderie with my fellow meditators. There were people from all walks of life, all ages, all socio-economic backgrounds, with all sorts of reasons for being there. The environment was supportive, nurturing, and very illuminating: everything I needed to combat the stress I was feeling at the time.

Along with my daily exercise regime — which might include swimming, running, teaching indoor cycling, or engaging in any other endorphin-inducing activity –- I use daily meditation to round out my program. I have found that what exercise doesn’t fix, 10 minutes of silence and breath work usually will. So will a nice glass of Sauvingnon Blanc.

“The results? I’m more calm, centered, and focused. I still am disgusted with the world, but I control it much better.”

treva-brandon-14A 2014 Time Magazine article described meditation as “The art of being mindful, finding peace in a stressed-out, digitally dependent culture may just be a matter of thinking differently.”

So if you want to exercise your demons, give peace a chance.

For more information on MBSR programs, classes, and counseling, go here.

Treva Brandon Scharf

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