6 Steps for Building Strength

"To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind".  That is from the first line of the optimist creed and I've written about it here before.  The first time I read that line it stirred something deep inside.  I was in awe.  How do you get that strong.  I treated it as a koan for several days.

I'm typically a cerebral person.  I spend most of my time in my head - reading, thinking, planning, listening to music.  Even when I'm involved in my favorite outdoor activity, hiking, I'm in my head for a large portion of the time.  It was last year that I started taking physical fitness serious for the first time in my life.  I'm getting to an age were I need to take care of myself or hiking in the mountains is going to be out of the question.  I've learned a lot about getting physically strong in the last year.  Here is a quick outline of what I've learned.

To get strong and achieve overall physical health one should:

  •  Get proper nutrition.  A mix of protein, healthy fats, and low sugar carbohydrates ( vegetables ).  Minimize or eliminate junk food.

  • Routinely walk, swim, or otherwise move around slowly.  This not only keeps your heart beat up and blood flowing but results in optimal chemical and hormone balance in the body.

  • Occasionally lift heavy things.  Push your muscles hard - near their limits without tearing or breaking anything - a couple of times a week.

  • Get your heart rate up a few times a week.  All out sprinting, swimming at a fast pace, biking hard, or really giving it all you have for short bursts of time. 

  • Get plenty of rest.  Give your body a chance to heal and recover.

  • Repeat forever.

Could there be a similar program for mental or spiritual strength?  I think that it would be very similar.

  • Feed your mind good information.  A mix of instructive, inspirational, and entertaining material.  Take time to learn new things, inspire yourself, and enjoy yourself.

  • Routinely participate in life.  Be constructive daily in the small ways - smile, offer help and love to everyone you meet.  Be responsible and proactive doing what needs to be done each day.

  • Tackle some large problems.  Use your mind - solve a large problem, create something new, find a new way of doing something.

  • Get passionate and make a difference.  Do something that really excites you a couple of times a week - something really fun or something really meaningful.

  • Take time to be grateful and enjoy life.  Rest.  Give your self a break, you deserve it.

  • Repeat forever.  You're never done!

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
Spiritual strength, Mental Health, Zen Buddhism


  1. Good reminder one needs both inner and outer strength. I have not been good about lifting weights... yet. But I have been lugging a lot of wood into our house for the wood burning stove. It's been cold in NY.

    1. I would count lugging wood as lifting weights and cardio together!


  2. You have great lists here on how to stay healthy physically, mentally and spiritually.

    When I feel that I'm out of balance, stressed out, or I'm running on adrenaline, I choose to incorporate activities into my day that will break that cycle. Such as learning a new dance, it is something that charges my brain as it involve focus and concentration and it is already a form of physical exercise.

    1. Hi Patricia,

      Thanks for reading. Nice ideas.


  3. Brilliant. Thanks

  4. Hey, Dan, some really good practical advice here. Each one a gem . . . take time to be grateful . . . smile . . . simple things we sometimes take for granted but forget to do, but they are so important.

    1. Hi David,

      Thanks. Honored to have you here The Endless Further is in my opinion the best Buddhist blog on the internet.


  5. I really like the comparison. I am already there when it comes to my physical health (just need to continue this for the rest of my life) and I am working hard on my spiritual strength.

    I love these tips. I love your blog in general, always a good inspiration.


  6. Hi Maya,

    Thank you for the kind words.


  7. To get routinely active we need to build it into our days. I've taken a local job recently which allows me to cycle or walk to get there.
    To be routinely spiritual is harder. I guess it's about thinking differently about what happens, living in the moment and being mindful of everyone - not just those who claim to be important.