January 2014

Strength and Balance, From the Core


While treating me for some sports injuries, my physiotherapist recommended some Pilates classes. Through his clinic I was able to enroll in a series specially designed for people with back issues. That certainly described me.

I had already been introduced to Pilates through fitness instructors who incorporated a few movements into our routines. However, this was my first time to experience it so fully, with the result that I finally understand the difference between “abs” and “core.” Related to both balance and strength, the physical “core” is often overlooked in favor of other, more visually obvious muscle groups.

Soon I found myself thinking about the parallels to my own “core” as symbolic of my own spiritual self.

My core self is that part of me that holds everything else in place. Though invisible to the eye, a weakness within it is readily detected when life feels out of balance and confusing. When I know who I am, what I am doing, and am both confident and resolute, then my core is intact.

A strong physical core protects other muscles from injury, and a strong spiritual core protects me from thoughts and actions that might otherwise be harmful. It does this by being the locus of my most important beliefs. This is the source of my integrity, with my actions reflecting my beliefs.

Strengthening my physical core requires time and commitment to a series of exercises. Among the mechanisms for doing this for my core self are thoughtful reflection, study, open-mindedness, frank consultation with others, and perceptiveness.

To be physically balanced means to coordinate body parts. Within my core self it means being coordinated with other personal qualities. John Kolstoe offers this list from a Bahá'í perspective: “The highest kind of strength, confidence and reliance in one's relationship to God is required to maintain the balance.”

My relationship to God, as mentioned in that quote, is the key to this entire discussion. The motivation for strengthening my core self, the practices for doing it, the focus of the results — all are linked to my own spirit. The connection to my Creator is ultimately what is inside of me and is what comprises the authentic me.

Sometimes the Pilates exercises are not especially exciting, and I would rather be doing something more active. And yet I know that discipline and patience will bring results. This may require setting aside other activities that are otherwise tempting or distracting, but having confidence in the outcome impels me to continue.

In contrast, the exercises required for my core self are never boring and never finished for the week. So this is where the comparison between physical core and core self falls apart. I strengthen my spiritual core through daily living. This includes finding happiness in all circumstances, being truly thankful for my life and its blessings, being generous to others, expressing love through service, prayer and meditation. Through practices such as these I become more strong and balanced — all the way to the core.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2014