"Muscle-up" Your Soul
The word “atrophy” is defined as, “A wasting away or failure to develop, due to inadequate nutrition, exercise, etc.” It is commonly used to describe the loss of muscle tissue in an individual. Such a loss may be the result of injury or illness, however, the most common cause is simply lack of use. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Use it or lose it.” Many people look at what has happened to their body after years of living a sedentary lifestyle and following poor nutritional practices and become depressed or even angry about the shape it is now in. Oftentimes they then look around for someone else or something else upon which they can place the blame and relieve themselves of any if not all accountability.
When people experience a loss of muscle they also often experience other negative effects on their body. This is because when a muscle’s mass and strength are decreased it affects other metabolic systems in the body as well. For example, some people find they have decreased endurance. Others, especially senior citizens, may complain that they feel cold all the time (muscle is exothermic and helps regulate body temperature). And as many of these systems decrease in function, the individual finds themselves doing less and less.
But wait a minute, folks. Don’t freak out. There is good news. The fact is that your muscles haven’t really gone anywhere, but are in effect lying dormant, desperately waiting for a stimulus to reactivate them and bring them back either to the shape they were once in, or pretty close to it. In some cases, depending on your lifestyle, it may even get them into better shape than they once were.
In the same way that our muscles will atrophy if we do not use them, our soul can atrophy as well if we do not take care of it. Soul, spirit, life-force, energy core, I don’t care what you choose to call it, in the same way muscle atrophy can negatively affect other metabolic systems in our body, allowing our soul to atrophy can have very negative effects other areas of our life. We may lose the zest we once had for life and instead find ourselves frequently becoming depressed or despondent. We may lose our sense of drive and motivation and instead waste an enormous amount of our energy on such things as worry, anxiety, procrastination, etc.
And in the same way that we can live a sedentary lifestyle with regard to our body, we can also live a sedentary lifestyle with regard to our soul. Sedentary ways of the soul can include such things as staying within one’s comfort zone, refusing to take risks, becoming locked into set ways of thinking and acting, allowing our own self-beliefs to limit us, etc.
But once again, here is the good news. Your soul, like your muscles, has not disappeared or gone somewhere else. It’s still there, lying dormant, desperately waiting for a stimulus to revive it and let it shine in all its glory. And as long as there is a pulse, there is a soul that can be revitalized!
If you discover your soul has atrophied or is atrophying, then you can start rebuilding it the same way one rebuilds muscles that have atrophied, through some form of development program which stimulates growth -- a sort of “soul fitness” regimen if you will.
As with rebuilding atrophied muscle, the stimulus for our soul needs to progressively overload it in such a way that it allows for positive adaptation to occur. The proper level of intensity is essential. If it is not intense enough then no stimulus for growth will be presented. At the other end of the spectrum, if it is too intense then we may not be able to sustain it and as a result give up and call it quits. So the goal is not “too high” or “too low.” The only person who can decide this is you.
Muscle-rebuilding is not just about doing the work. Allowing proper time for the muscles to recover is another crucial element in the overall equation. Likewise, it is equally important for soul-rebuilding as well. Like the recovery phase in strength training, keep in mind that your purpose in training is to build up your soul, to enhance its capacities. So be sure to include time for rest, reflection and contemplation in your program.
Finally, in the same way that nutrition and diet plays an important role as we are rebuilding (or building) muscle, mental nutrition and diet plays an important role in rebuilding our soul. What we feed our body is our choice. What we choose to feed our soul is our choice also. I wrote a blog titled “Breakfast of Champions” awhile ago that discussed the idea of what we feed ourselves daily. The following is a brief excerpt from it --
"In the same way that what you put into your body is important, what you feed or put into your mind at the start of each day is equally important. Beginning your day by feeding your mind positive, ideas, etc. can go a long way in helping you deal with the challenges and stress you may find yourself coming up against during the day. It doesn’t matter where the food comes from, positive thinking books, spiritual writings, books of quotes, etc.; the container is not what’s important, but rather the medicine within it. If you put crap food into your body you will get less than satisfactory results from it. In the same way, if you ignore feeding your mind or put a bunch of junk into it (pessimistic or negative thoughts, etc.) you will get poor results from it."
So make sure that you are taking in the proper mental nutrition and feeding yourself what I refer to as (forgive the pun) “soul food.”
A proper "soul-building" program can help "muscle-up" your soul. It can you move from where you are now to where you want to be. It can broaden the scope of what you can or will do. It will afford you the opportunity to reclaim your true self, actualize your full potential, and live life to the fullest.