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Jerry Gifford
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Physical Fitness, Psychology & Wholeness
Dec. 2010

The Physical Body & Psyche

It Starts at the Gym

I had an illuminating conversation with a young African American man at the gym yesterday and I think it important I share some of the contents of that meeting. Important because it does have a great impact on the psychology of the individual and not just the physical as one would think when talking about physical fitness. Being a student of the psyche I tend to examine all things important to our psychology. Having made physical fitness a part of my lifestyle for the past 30+ years I have the experience that lends support to what I am about to say. And having transcended the mid-life thing I feel embolden even more to make such statements.

In our quest for wholeness, that inner search that does let us find true harmony and bliss in life, anything of experience in life is a psychological event. Included in such experiences are the physical. All physical experiences are also psychological experiences. Not all psychological experiences are physical experiences, they can be merely mental. In that context, for anyone who has reached that milestone of mid-life and beyond, the physical condition of the individual takes on great importance. Physical fitness, taking care of the temple {or a lack of it} becomes a regulator of the psychological mind. It is simple equation, a common sense thing, one that most totally ignore.

The conversation took place primarily because of the age of the young man {34} and my age {60}. He was playing full court basketball with other men his age and I was engaged in my regular routine of shooting basketball. These guys are in pretty good shape and no doubt were enjoying what they were doing. But they had little advantage over me because my physical abilities let me run and jump like a younger man. I was sharing the court, playing on a side goal while they ran the full court. Having performed this basketball routine for two years now others have taken notice of my 'unusual' routine. And abilities. There was no exception during this event, these young studs could not help but notice my vigor and prowess shooting a basketball. I stood out.

Now let me say that this is not about me, my ego self. This is about having lived a life where physical fitness has been a very important aspect. My generation {Boomer} was the first generation where physical fitness was an experiment{it started out pretty mucha fad with glitzy fitness clubs and spas, great 'pick-up' places for both sexes}. An experiment that proved that taking care of oneself does make a difference. Physically and psychologically. Many studies have shown the benefits of physical exercise and many of us Boomers who have taken of the mantel of good physical health are living proof. We now know as fact that physical fitness not only enhances the quantity of life but also the quality. It is a fact, one that over the past 30 years {I began my routine by losing 40 lbs in 1979-80, the same time fitness spas became a fad} has shown that taking care of oneself physically does work as the studies show.

Psychological Benefits
But there are greater benefits to physical fitness than just the physical. At age 60 I CAN run and play like a much younger man. Psychologically the benefits of good health provide a sounder psychological health. I don't have the ailments, diseases, physical limitations most my age have to endure. I don't have the psychological impairments associated withe poor health, don't have to take untold numbers of pills and medications to maintain my good health {two aspirin, a fiber supplement and a one-a-day vitamin supplement is the extent of my meds}. The mental strain of waking up every morning knowing my health is in decline is not an issue. Life is vibrant, not limited by disabilities or fear of injuring myself because of a weak physical body. I am not 25 and my body does let me know that. But neither am I the 60 my parents generation experienced. It is not by accident, it is by design.

Psychologically I have endured my share of 'events' and experiences that can taken a toll in my life . Two of my three failed marriages were within this time frame and so were many other psychological events that could have debilitated the mind and body. Looking back I can now appreciate how physical fitness helped me stay grounded. Having being a student of Jungian psyche for the past 18 years I can attest to the fact that good health has made a great difference in my psychological health, in the present. Having experienced a 40 year high school class reunion in 2008 I am witness to the realities of how most my age have aged. It was not a pretty site. The old proverb, 'pay me now or pay me later' takes on a whole different meaning when applied to the health of someone who is my age and beyond. I wish only that more of them would have had the discipline, and I emphasis discipline, to taken better care of themselves. Too many of them have already made the transition and most of the rest are in decline. Physically and psychologically.

Jack Lalanne was a pioneer of physical fitness in my parents generation and is a great example of how someone even older than I {he is 96} can attest to good physical physical fitness as a factor to his longevity and a better quality, and quantity to life. I suggest all take a moment to visit his website. He has a message that needs to shared.

We are living longer no doubt. But what percentage is due to medications and what to taking care of the self physically? In this world of self gratification and pleasures, more and more live longer simply because of the advances in science and better medications. But to what extent is the quality of life lost because of a lack of physical fitness, a good diet, enough sleep, and avoiding stress?
Pay me now or pay me later. It is as simple as that

Intuitive Psyche and Shooting Basketball
As I stated previously I have been using this particular basketball routine for about two years. I never played much basketball so my abilities were limited. When I do think of basketball it is more associated with a high school friend who was a 'Michael Jordan' type, an African American whose vertical leap was astounding for his height of 5'11" {he could dunk the ball but could also hit a 30 foot jump shot with a swagger like no other}. But to think I had any great abilities would be a lie to myself and a laugh for all others. So what I can do now with a basketball is beyond the norm of most 60 year old men if not many much younger than that. And I credit much of it to Jungian psyche. Let me explain.

Shooting a basketball involves several things. One is an ability to dribble the ball and proper form in shooting the ball. I practice dribbling not just to enhance my shooting but more importantly to maintain dexterity. I have very sensitive fingers and hands and that is a plus. And I have a natural ability to form, handing the ball from the dribble to the top of the shot as it leaves the hand. So much so if the ball doesn't go in it hits the rim. But even that isn't unusual, many can do that, even older men like myself. But what most can not do is take the ball on a rebound with one hand and put it in the air and on goal. Or take a shot on a rebound either with one hand or two and with my back turned to the basket put it in the right direction, if not in the basket. In other words I have developed an ability to shoot some uncanny shots, many of which can be described as amazing. I believe I can do this because of my 'intuitive' senses which I believe have been developed because of my studies in Jungian psyche. 'Touch is an intuitive thing and developing what is natural {intuitiveness plus other natural senses is what early man used to survive, and which has been lost} is one key to properly shooting a basketball. When you can let go and let the natural instincts take control there is a greater probability of success. Just as with working with dreams and letting my 'intuitive' senses take control {something I have had to develop over time}, shooting a basketball is also dependent on 'letting go' and using the senses. It is a natural instinct and by developing those abilities one can become more proficient in many aspects in life. Just as with the archetypes of the collective psyche, we all share these intuitive senses that provide certain abilities beyond what is thought of as the norm. They are ingrained within the psyche and for anyone who wishes to tap into those deeper aspects, there are abilities waiting to be utilized. At least this is my impression from my experiences, both from playing basketball as well as working with dreams.

What really makes this more interesting is the fact I thoroughly enjoy my workouts. Although putting the ball into the basket is fun the misses are more important because it is from that I get my exercise. I shoot the ball and keep shooting until I put into the basket. Often, and I think of this as much as an unconscious thing, I will miss the shot just so I can get the exercise. And what is most amazing is the most spectacular shots come when I get a rebound and just let the shot go. I often think of the spiritual aspect when I do this, something associated to my days with Unity churches and their motto for a good spiritual life {keep in mind my belief in god is not personal but one associated with the natural world}.
Let go and Let God

I hope to video my workout so to show how anyone can develop an ability to shoot 'ungodly' shots as well display how much fun exercise can be when using basketball as a routine for good health.

And finally let me say this one more time. These 'abilities' and disciplines I possess is not about how good I am but what one can do for oneself when they acquire a discipline and desire to be all they can be. I think it important not only to set an example but to be able to back up what one preaches. If one person benefits from my words then the time it took to write them down was well spent. I see it as merely following, and living, another aspect of the hero journey. Sharing what one has learned on their journey to wholeness.

With that said I must admit my ego takes notice everytime someone tells me I look to be in my early 40s. It is great to feel good and as great to look the part. But it also sends a message that when one takes care of the body the body takes care to look the part. Setting the example is what the hero would do and taking care of the body is what we all must do.

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