Is it Wise to Be Physically Vain?

Life’s most important goal is to love all others.  Although many may disagree, I believe it’s vital to put all others before self.  So, that’s why I faced an existential crisis when I deleted an article on fitness I wrote yesterday for The Voice Magazine.  What troubled me was that I promoted fitness vanity as much as, if not more than, the spiritual and health.

Vanity is a vice; fitness is a strength.  So, I looked up “fitness” and various religious philosophies to determine its spiritual crux.  This is what I found:

Sikhism, which is a young religion I love, embraces fitness.  At least three gurus promoted exercise regimes.  The idea was that one should be physically strong to be spiritually strong.  So, from that perspective, bodily strength empowers the soul’s goodness.

As well, Islam embraces the view that fitness brings peace.  And a peaceful state fosters reflections for spiritual advancement.

Further to this, Judaism emphasizes moderation and has verses that recommend fitness and a healthy diet of vegetables.

On the other hand, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism are tied to yogic practices, which are often physical and spiritual.  Traditional cornerstones of yoga consisted of meditation and a release from worldly attachments.  Bodily vanity, however, is a worldly attachment because we leave our bodies when our souls exit this realm.  So physical vanity should be avoided.

And Christianity states that the body is the temple of God and that women should dress modestly.  Therefore, we should care for our physical beings without inflating the ego.

Given this, I came up with the following conclusions on what fitness spiritually means to me:

First, fitness is not best meant to aggrandize the physical body.  Instead, it’s a means to make oneself look more pleasant to connect with others more readily, not on a physical level, but on a spiritual one.  Second, fitness enables one to stand straight and sport a confident, lively smile for every passerby.  Next, the highs of intense fitness more readily enable a person to laugh and feel joyful throughout the day, which brings joy to others.   The exercise mindset also yields more life opportunities, enabling tremendous wealth potential.  Moreover, that wealth can be used to make others’ lives easier.  Fitness also fosters the health and strength essential for reflecting carefully on our thoughts so we can refine them. In addition, the endorphins of fitness help us enter a heightened state of love for all living beings.  Just as importantly, a healthy body helps us endure life’s struggles and heartaches.  Life’s challenges are gifts meant to help us grow.  Therefore, with fitness, we have an easier time overcoming hardship.   Lastly, a healthy body means longer life and, thus, more time for developing wisdom.

So, I think a fit and healthy body should not be a physical idol.  Instead, it should be a vehicle for spiritual and personal development.  And it is my view that the love of all beings is the ultimate end goal of existence.

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