May 242011

Today I climbed up  Daigozan, the hill behind the famous Daigoji-Temple outside Kyoto. It is a place of importance also for the Yamabushi, the ascetic mountain hermits. Their exercise is extremely hard, the Yamabushi dedicated themselves to walking long distance every night in the mountains and pray, for several years.

While climbing and sweating and catching for breath, I wondered, if all “real” or “efficient” exercise has to be painful at some point, and why?

For sure, if you always stay safely within your comfort zone, physically and emotionally, you cannot progress. You just stay where you are, and who you are. Only leaving this zone stimulates your body and soul to change!

We all know from sports, if the heartbeat does not go up, there is no stimulus for the body to adapt to higher demands. If we do not use our brain, the neurons re-organise, and we will loose our intellectual ability.

So, I thought while still climbing, the pain is no purpose on its own when practicing, it is just a signal from our body or soul, that a change is requested (and will for sure happen). No need to fear or avoid a certain healthy level of it …

Does this ask for a fierce and strict teacher then? I hope not!

I believe, if painful exercise is forced upon you, it can cause severe damage! The motivation to reach out beyond your current limits comes from inside yourself, it is your intrinsic motivation, which might well let you accept the pain and tiredness coming along with the joy of intense practice. But there is no you must from the outside!

Your Zen-teacher is maybe just an example, someone who might help you to discover your own intrinsic motivation. For sure, he himself went through all this pain to a certain degree, and that is why he is as he is. And hopefully he protects you from doing too much, when super-motivation drives you beyond healthy limits of exhaustion.


The view from the top of Daigozan is just great! It was worth all the efforts … but the more dangerous part of a mountain tour is always descending, not climbing up!