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  • Writer's pictureBrian Lissak

Why I Turned My Office Into A Jungle Gym

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

“Whatever increases, decreases, limits or extends the body’s power of action, increases, decreases, limits, or extends the mind’s power of action. And whatever increases, decreases, limits, or extends the mind’s power of action, also increases, decreases, limits, or extends the body’s power of action.”

- Spinoza (1632-1677), Ethics

I am, of course, speaking a bit tongue-in-cheek when I say I turned my office into a jungle gym. All I really did was buy a balance beam and a free standing pull up bar. They take up minimal room. The pullup bar slides neatly into my desk - a raisable standing desk, of course - and the balance beam is really just a skinny 4 foot long wooden pole that can go under the couch or against the wall in the corner. Small as they are, they have a profound impact on me throughout the day.

(balance beam in front of the couch; pullup bar under/in front of the desk, which I pull out onto the rug to use)

We are all human animals, and I am by nature an especially active person. I need to move and use my body. I begin to feel dull, anxious, depressed, uncreative and un-imaginative if I am stuck at my desk or in my therapist chair for too long and not moving. From my experience, everybody does. Even though I love my work and find it meaningful and inspiring, if my body is too stationary, my mind becomes rigid as well.

As the Spinoza quote above highlights, and as I’ve learned over and over in working with countless people, the mind and the body are not cleanly separable. We are not floating heads on ambulating bodies. In a very real sense, our brain exists throughout our entire body in the form of our nervous system. There is constant communication happening, and I use that to my advantage and my delight.

If I’ve been sitting for too long, or feel a bit antsy, or foggy, or confused, or need to think something through, or know I am not seeing all the angles here, then I get up and I move. I balance on the beam, walking forward, backwards, and otherwise, or I monkey around on the pull up bar, or I hop back and forth between the two. As I need to keep my body balanced to stay on the beam, or slowly manipulate my body in the non linear, non rigid poses I am exploring while hanging from my 2 hands, my brain needs to similarly find balance, or move fluidly as my body does. Even if I only have a few moments randomly throughout the day, it makes a noticeable impact.

I’ve felt in real time how that feeling of anxiety in my chest will dissipate as I simply try to maintain my balance on the beam. I’ve been able to have great ideas (to me, at least) or breakthrough thoughts while hanging upside down, because I am literally looking at things from a different perspective.

This isn’t exercise; this is play. While I also love hard core exercise, and know experientially, intuitively, and scientifically how important that is, we need creativity in our lives. Otherwise we begin to feel like automatons living someone else's plan of a life for us.

I’ve learned how simple it really can be. Move your body, move your mind. Let your body explore, let your mind explore. Balance your body, balance your mind. The reverse is also true of course: static body, static mind. The choice is yours.

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