Lifting Weights from the Inside Out: How OM Has Transformed My Connection to My Body
by Marie-Elizabeth Mali Jan 9, 2016
Like many well-intentioned people, I kicked off the new year by joining a gym. Because I haven’t lifted in a couple of years I hired a trainer to help me get back in the swing of it and remind me what order to work the muscle groups. It’s all coming back to me now . . . back and biceps . . . chest and triceps . . . but with one significant difference: now I practice Orgasmic Meditation (OM).
Right away I notice that the experience of working out has completely changed. The main difference is in the quality of my attention and ability to stay with discomfort. OM builds the capacity to keep attention focused while staying connected to the body. There’s less clinging to “good” sensation and less pushing away of “bad” sensation when it’s all observed as sensation. At the gym, I notice that instead of speeding up and using momentum to get through sets as they get harder, I slow down and increase my focus on both the positive and negative side of each rep, as well as my breath and overall form.
My trainer compliments my connection to my body and likes how focused I stay as the sets get harder. I smile to myself. He thinks it’s because I’ve lifted weights, danced, and practiced yoga before. My history does influence me, and I know that my ability to keep moving through discomfort in a mindful way has grown due to my OM practice.
As we work my legs — scary because of limited hip mobility and arthritis pain — I revel in each small motion that teaches me I’m capable of moving and regaining strength in my limbs. I feel joy as my trainer adds weight three times to the leg press because my legs demonstrate that they can handle more than we thought they could. Who cares that the range of motion is small? My legs are working and my sacrum realigns itself with the leg movement and pressure against the seat!
Most minds tend to orient towards what we do wrong and what’s missing. OM trains the mind to focus instead on what is. At the end of an OM, both practitioners share a “frame,” a moment they felt a sensation — any sensation, however small — in their bodies. When working my hamstrings and glutes, I notice that I can push the bar back further than I expected, my left glutes tire more quickly than my right, and my right hip flexor is shorter than my left. I focus on keeping my legs aligned and adhesions begin to melt. In the past, my mind would have latched on to the strength and mobility I’ve lost and I would have left the gym demoralized. Instead, focusing on what is makes working out my legs a fresh experience filled with curiosity, surprise, and gratitude.
My trainer says that everything is a conversation with gravity that gravity will win. I push and pull against gravity to get to know myself better through that conversation. I work with what is to get stronger. I face the discomfort of expanding my range and dust off my inner strength and determination.
In OM, we talk about “havingness” level as the homeostatic amount of good we feel we can have in our lives. If things get better than that, we’ll often subconsciously sabotage them to come back to homeostasis. OM expands our havingness level by expanding the capacity to stay conscious in higher and higher amounts of sensation. In the past, I’ve often gotten injured just as I started to feel great in my workouts. I see now that I didn’t believe I could have the body I wanted so I didn’t listen to my body and pushed harder than I should have. Now my focus is on tracking how my body feels moment to moment, from the euphoria of heart-pound to the burn of a bent leg. Instead of working out from the outside-in like before, I now work out from the inside-out.
The gym I joined is Gold’s in Venice Beach, a mecca for serious bodybuilders. I see why I like it so much, a new experience since I never much liked gyms. Gold’s is filled with practitioners as dedicated to their path as I am to mine. Working out here reminds me of my morning OM and sitting meditation practices. The air oozes with commitment. The predominant sounds here are breath and the clang of metal, not aimless chatter. I feel a sense of approval and camaraderie as I move through the space. We all know that to get stronger we have to show up, push past self-created limits, and face discomfort. We are all in this together.
(Photo Credit: Synchrodogs)