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Healthy thoughts lead to healthy bodies

Published March 26. 2011 09:01AM

Clever fellows, those Buddhists monks of long ago.

They knew that ordinary, everyday tasks, like washing dishes, contained the spiritual quality that's the basis of Buddha's teachings if done with full awareness. They also knew that to get most ordinary people interested in Buddhism, they couldn't tell them to wash dishes.

So the monks used things that ordinary people wanted to know more about, like intricate tea-serving ceremonies or the ways of the samurai warriors, and stressed full awareness was necessary while pouring the tea or swinging the sword. As a result, everyday people experienced full awareness.

Some would be dramatically changed as a result.

After reading article after article upon his death about two months ago, I realized Jack LaLanne worked in the same manner as those Buddhists monks. Sure, LaLanne was best-known for mind-boggling stunts, like pounding out 1,000 push-ups in 23 minutes on a television show at age 43 or towing a boat across a bay while handcuffed and shackled to celebrate 60th and 70th birthdays.

But during his exercise show that ran for 34 years and when he hawked his Jack LaLanne Power Juicer on infomercials for the last 20 years or so, he exposed viewers to something far more important than a body capable of the incredible that had seemingly caused time to go from a march to a crawl.

He exposed them an indefatigably positive attitude. Day in. Day out. Or as the Buddhists say, "Right thoughts, right mind, right action."

And like those Buddhist monks hundreds of years ago, LaLanne sneaked in that part as part of what his followers really wanted to see: an unbelievable body and attention-grabbing exploits.

But it's because of what LaLanne said and how he said it not his body or what he did with it that allowed followers to do something absolutely necessary before they dropped 25 pounds or started exercising an hour a day every day. They changed their minds.

And they changed their minds by believing LaLanne's sayings, like "If a man makes it, I don't eat it" or "The only way you can hurt the body is not to use it."

I've been thinking about the Buddhists and LaLanne because of what a bicycling buddy asked me on a ride about a month ago. It was the first time we had ridden together in more than a month because bad weather had forced our weekend cycling to be done indoors.

He was clearly struggling to keep the pace I was setting, so he said, "How can you force yourself to ride so hard and so long indoors?" I shrugged, but later realized that I really do a three-hour indoor ride that includes a 30-minute race-pace time trial, a one-hour hill climb, and a 30 minute of speed work not with my legs but with my mind.

And my mind has been greatly influenced by profound sayings by great thinkers in all areas of life. I write them down, leave them everywhere, and gain strength from them. So as a way to celebrate LaLanne and possibly have you break free from the winter blahs and really get exercising again, here are a few of my favorite quotations and how I apply them.

"This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

If an unexpected snowfall kept my riding inside on a day when the forecast predicted I'd be able to ride outside, I'd cite this quotation. It would help me remember that an indoor ride is as good as an outdoor one if I get my head into it.

"You can't stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf." - Anonymous

I tend to think about this one when I encounter an unexpected problem at my other job as a teacher. For instance, the laptop computers that we regularly use often don't work.

Sometimes it's a network problem, but often it's because the student who used it last quite often in someone else's class didn't plug it in to be recharged. This saying reminds me that I can do nothing about the first fact, but that I can figure out a way to adapt to it.

"Accept your emotions, know your goals, do what needs to be done." - Dan Millman

Talk about a one-size-fits-all phrase. I can't think of a single thing I do throughout the day eat, work out, teach, write where this quotation does not have relevance.

When I use this quotation in school to get my students to focus on a task they may initially find distasteful, I say this: "You probably don't get psyched to brush your teeth, but you do so anyway. That's because your goal is to avoid getting cavities or losing teeth."

I gain strength and perspective from these and hundreds of other quotations like them, so I strongly suggest you do what I do. Seek out quotations that speak to you. Search for them in books or on the Internet.

Copy down the ones you like the best, read them frequently, and they'll positively affect everything you do.

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