Meditation or Physical Exercise...Which Type Are You?

I’ve never gravitated towards meditation or forced stillness (I know, I know, it would be really good for me). I’m not sure if my resistance to is a combination of stubbornness and fierce independence, or what I learned at home.

My parents, Israeli immigrants, had a treadmill in our basement, and my mother still drives to the JCC for vigorous workout classes. My father was a star athlete, the winner of the Israeli Olympics at Shot put at age 17. I’ve always had my father’s stamina (not his coordination), and as a tomboy growing up as the middle of three girls, I was the designated sporty type too, and very competitive. Running, biking, a mean game of Ping-Pong or tennis, and dancing the night away to techno or pop-80s were the kinds of physical activity I enjoyed.

I tried Yoga when I lived in LA, naturally, but preferred the spin classes (now prettified with a new title, “Soul Cycle”), high-speed stationary biking to the beat of a playlist. But still, the class thing didn’t appeal to me. I don’t like having to be somewhere at a designated time, or fight crowds, or talk and smile at people when the whole point is getting with myself; curling up inside my thoughts (or running away from them).

I hear this often: “Cougel, you would love Yoga!” and “You should try meditation!” and “Come to 8am Vinyasa!”

My response: “No thanks, not for me.”

They persist, “Okay, I know you don’t like to get up early. There’s a 6pm Kundalalalala class!”

“During happy hour?“ I say (no I don’t, but I think it).

And, “How about trying the bar class?

“I only frequent one kind of bar class.”

Yoga and meditation, Kabbalah and Buddhism, were often recommended to me when I was at the most lost and pivotal points in my life, like when I was in the throes of deciding whether to leave my ex-husband.

Psychics were suggested to me too. Astrologers. Tea leave and palm readers and phone conversations with anonymous women who could ease my burden by knowing my time of birth. Don’t get me wrong – I was tempted, and sometimes I still am. I do believe in the gift of sight, of intuition, and many friends of mine have been helped enormously via these types of spiritual advisors.

I would gather their information, and a few times, I even reached out, but when it came time to pull the trigger, I didn’t go through with it. Why? At first I thought it was because I was afraid of finding out something I didn’t want to know (Like the time when an Indian man at a midtown bar told me that he reads palms, looked at mine, then burst into tears of fear and sorrow.)

It’s because at the time I was still impressionable to others’ voices and expectations – and out of sync with my own. If I got a sneak peak into parts of my future, would it affect the choices I made now? Would I be reacting to that information, rather than just going with my gut?

And then – since I met my husband and reconnected with God, I realized that trust and faith in something bigger than myself is sufficient and steadfast guidance. Prayer is a form of meditation, and so is accepting that for me, getting answers or a quick fix from a gifted counselor doesn’t align with who I am. I had to, as my husband helped me realize, pray through it, practice, do the work, and trust that answers – often hidden – don’t immediately or plainly appear.

So maybe that’s the reason that guided meditation as a practice doesn’t appeal to me. Maybe it’s the reason it never did.

My friend recently recommended an App called “Headspace,” a digital platform for guided meditation and mindfulness. He swore that it would change my life – I could listen to it while I jogged in my new neighborhood, or on the subway to work. It would force me to bounce the noisy thoughts and clear my head, reconnect with myself, and relieve my stress. I enthusiastically downloaded the App on my phone and planned on trying it.

The next morning, when the hot sun streamed in through our curtainless windows and woke me up at 6:45am, my face and head baking from being shoved under a pillow all night, I decided to go for a jog in Riverside Park. My new backyard of miles and miles of green and water (without having to move to the suburbs). I had a long day of meetings and client outings ahead of me, and I knew that clearing my head would help arm me for it.

But I didn’t touch the mediation app. A calm, soothing voice can’t compete with Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” or pissed off Linkin Park. I ran over three miles, the blue sky, the little boats, and people of all ages running or biking past me made me smile with joy, and by the time I got home, my headspace had been cleared.

Yes, I know that Yoga would be good for me, and I think there will come a time when I will turn that corner, try it, and realize that it’s the most amazing thing in the world – and write all about it. But right now, I’ve got a little block in the way. Could be timing, could be my aversion to following a pre-set instruction manual or teacher (which was never my bag), or resistance to learning something new. Or, it could just be me.

What type are you, and why? Are you the kind of person who relieves stress through mental and physical stillness, by slowing down, or does physical speed and exertion do it for you?