What Does It Mean to Be Physical?

Last weekend, I was at a sports bar here in Portland with a bunch of guys watching the Red Sox game. Part (thankfully not all) of our conversation went something like this:

Mike (looking at one of the other televisions): “C’mon, golf isn’t really a sport.”

Jim: “Are you kidding me? Golf is awesome.”

Mike: “Nobody said it’s not awesome. It’s just not a sport. Most of those guys are really out of shape.”

Rich: “Mike, have you every actually played golf? It’s so hard! I’ve been playing for years and I can barely shoot a 90. These guys are consistently around 80. They’re amazing athletes. What gets me is NASCAR. How can you be considered an athlete when you’re driving a car?”

Tom: “Why not? You don’t think it takes a lot of strength to drive a car at 200 miles per hour and keep it under control?”

Rich: “Maybe it does, but not the same kind of strength it takes to hit a home run or play in the NFL.”

This went on. And on. And on as these debates always do. (I’m stopping this description now to save you from having to experience it as fully as I had to.)

Some people really like to very rigidly judge what is athletic. The same goes for being “physical”. In our culture, it’s common to classify activities and experiences as solely and exclusively emotional, mental, or physical, and there are a lot of commonly agreed upon notions of what makes something physical.

Let’s come back to that in a moment. Fast forward to later in the weekend, I was hanging out with a few friends listening to instrumental cello music while had dinner and chatted. I was truly struck by the music. I was enjoying it so much and feeling it in my bones, in my heart—all throughout my body. As particular notes landed for me, I felt this surge of something. I don’t know what it was. But I felt it—in my body.

I’ve been playing with being more musical in recent months, mostly through singing. When I was particularly stirred by this one song, my friend offered to teach me how to play it on her piano. So we did that which was a blast, and I really felt that too—in my body. I was using my hands and I was listening to my friend’s cues and the parts she was playing that I was playing along with. As we made the song start to come to life, it really occurred to me how much of a physical experience I was having. Cool, right? This is just one of many experiences I’ve had in recent years in which I’ve felt completely immersed in my body while doing nothing close to a workout.

Photo 113--Woman Listening to Music

I used to think I was being physical only if I was:

  1. Sweating
  2. Breathing hard
  3. Fatiguing my muscles
  4. Doing something that was improving my strength and/or endurance

What a narrow definition and range of being physical, right? I’m glad I’ve opened up my definition of physical experience so much and I invite you to consider your definition of being physical.

Have you considered the possibility that you are being physical 24 hours of the day? That your body is with you, and part of your experience of life, at all times?

What would it be like to savor the physical experience of everything you do today? How would this enrich your life?

Here are a few possible activities through which you may like to to play with savoring your physical nature in the coming days:

  1. Eating a meal
  2. Taking a shower
  3. Hugging a family member or friend
  4. Walking outside at various times of day
  5. Singing
  6. Dancing
  7. Laughing
  8. Crying
  9. Being in nature
  10. Falling asleep

The next time you do these activities, open yourself up to the full physical experience. As yourself, how am I feeling this in my body? Have fun “out there” (in your body).



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