Fitness Meditation

A revolution is coming, can you feel it?

15 years ago I staggered in from the gym, I had done 10 sets back to back of 400lb. squats and 350lb. dead lifts, and plopped on the couch.  I instantly found myself in that vacant, souring, expansive space.  My inner boundaries reached the limits of eternity; a physical feeling of energetic fullness vibrated all thru me.  No thoughts entered my inner sight, my sense of self expanded outward to include the whole of the room.  I rested in this hypnotic density until I realized what was happening, then I thought “here I was”.  The moment thoughts enter consciousness the purity of the moment is over, labels sully the silk of eternal connection.  When I let thought go however, the moment came back, no fuss, no effort.

One thing to keep in mind is that I had been trying to mediate for 6 years before this, with no luck.  Then, this one auspicious day it happened.  Thru no effort at all.  This ultimate meditative experience was the result of another totally unrelated experience, yet one that led me directly to the meditative theatre.  My exercise routine.  Admittedly it was an intense workout, but it was the exercise that produced the meditative experience.  Go figure.  Two things needed to be engaged for my mind to relax and fill me with emptiness: body and mind.

I have been meditating this was for a decade and a half, so it is fascinating that last February, Rutgers university conducted a study that demonstrated exercise and meditation when practiced together, reduce depression by 40% in people with the clinical disorder, and in non-clinically depressed people alike.  These are massive numbers.  This is not new either.  Mystery schools always did it this way.  This is the way the Tendai monks seek enlightenment, and of course we can’t forget about the original flavour, the Shaolin monks.

If you want a guaranteed ticked to ride to that happy, expansive, still-mind place, train first then meditate.  It’s as easy as it gets.

In short, fitness & meditation make you feel really awesome. The combination of exercise and meditation is the most powerful practice for instant focus, clarity, stress reduction, happiness and hot abs. We’re talking about super-fast enlightenment kids.  Super fast.

H

Exercise Transcendence

Exercise leads directly to the enlightened state.  We have all heard of the runners high.  The same thing accompanies all major physical efforts and the mechanisms behind this phenomenon are bio-chemical.  Body made chemicals that make you feel awesome.  The runners high may fade, but according to Rick Hansen PhD., and Norman Doidge M.D., the brain can change according to how we use it.  Consistently stimulating the brain to produce feel good chemicals creates a slow change in how the brain works even when not training, so we feel happy and clear more often.  I feel happy and decisive about creating flow around me for days after my 100 k bike rides.  When I don’t train for a while I can feel the darkness slowly creep in.  This may make exercise a dependancy like anything else, but at least it’s a healthy one.

The fitness and suppleness of your body directly determine the health and flexibility of your mind.  Fitness creates mental confidence and decisiveness, which will lead your body to do seriously awesome things.  One totally awesome feedback loop.  Fitness is physical and enlightenment is spiritual, yes.  No.  Fitness & enlightenment represent the yin & yang of a single human experience, presenting as two things because of a culturally induced division.  To feel what we want to feel, real joy, exuberance, love, contentment, meaning, purpose and transformation, we have to work for it, in this case literally.  When we do so, when we train, the enlightened state is ours.

There are five specific neurotransmitters, or hormones, that makes us feel like we are floating high and feeling fresh after exercise.  They are:

BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor):  This helps learning and memory big time, it literally keeps the brain young.  This could be one reason why really fit older people totally act and move like much younger people.

Endorphins:  Your own personal opiate stash!  Endorphins are natural pain killers and are released in response to intense stimulation.  Anaerobic training or eating a Carolina Reaper will cause a nice shot of Endorphins.  I recommend the training.

Dopamine:  The motivation molecule.  Dopamine is so dope, it helps us focus on tasks and feel real good–euphoric even.  It gives us a competitive hunger and deep drive to pursue out goals until the finnish.  Dr. John Ratey found that exercise increases the base line level of dopamine receptors in the brain!  That’s huge.  People low in dopamine just kinda sit around and mope, like their high on mopamine…

Serotonin:  This is the molecule of self control and delaying gratification until you have completed the task at hand.  To get focused, get moving.  You need to love your training and be pumped about it tho, if you feel forced into it, exercise will not release serotonin.

Oxytocin:  The love hormone.  When this peptide is in your system you feel deeply connected, in love even, with those around you.  Oxytocin rushes into the new mothers system after giving birth, strengthening the bond.  Young lovers experience constant surges of oxytocin which is why puppy love is so intense.  Players of the game (soccer, hockey, etc.) create deep, lasting bonds because of the constant rush of oxytocin.  Exercise gives it up too.

Exercises will keep our systems full of all these good things.  The affect is the enlightened state.  The chemicals will fade after the workout, yet because of neuro-plasticity, the brain will become re-wired over time to think the way we do when under the influence of these feel good hormones.  It’s all good.  The more you train, the better it gets.

Exercise is the single vehicle that will transform you into the person you secretly imagine being.  Nothing else will do.  Granted, exercise supported by whole foods, clear open-mindedness, service and earth connection.  Humility with your freak assault is important too, or you run the risk of becoming a nuance to humanity.

Purely cerebral endeavours can inspire temporary excitement, exultation, even embodiment, yet lack the staying power of a pulse busting sesh.  When we live purely in the head, the mind must create complex story lines to repress the truth of our slowly deteriorating body.  Without fitness, we end up in a really weird fantasy world; furries?

H

 

Seven Steps to Enlightenment

 

First off, enlightenment is not spiritual fantasy.  Enlightenment is situational clarity, right action, contentment in the being we co-manifest and the pursuit of ones life purpose.  If we take the practices of enlightenment to the top shelf, it is total transformation of our genetic substrate into the fully activated being; but this discussion exceeds the nature of this simple blog post.

The single biggest challenge to enlightenment is letting the ego, go.  Ego is the lower animal self that perpetuates the reactive state of base human being.  Ego colours how we think, and this creates what enlightenment means to us.  Is enlightenment a beautiful fantasy world like a thumping technicolor music festival?  Or is enlightenment the naked spartan warlord sipping black broth by the river?

To be enlightened is to embrace the grit and shit with a smile.  Ego gets in the way because ego is a big whiner.  Ego loves comfort and pleasure and resists the work of self, because this denies hedonistic gratification.  To find joy in the difficult is a big challenge.  This is not easy and doesn’t happen over night.  It comes in waves and chunks.  Try to give up ego and it laughs at you.  Hysterically rolling around on the floor, eyes wide pointing up at you gasping for breath.

Ego aside enlightenment is nothing more than the lived feeling of optimal being.  It’s nothing spiritual at all, just total clarity.  Enlightenment is the lived experience of freedom, lightness and strength in our lives.  Life without judgment or attachment.  Living in the wisdom and acceptance of the essential nature of how things are.  Stripped of our own should.  Life as an extension of compassion & service towards all living things.  So then, how do we get there?  I’ve lived the process for 23 years and have had many teachers along the way.  I’m not there yet, but I have a few thoughts.  Seven specific things I feel we should think about if we think about enlightenment…

  1. Presence.

This is mindfulness, basically.  When we live not in past regret or future anxiety we have arrived: into presence.  Part of this is radical self awareness.  To become aware of and connected to your actual behaviours and the state of your ego recklessness.  Cathartic.

In the buddhas brain, Rick Hansen Ph.D describes how a mindfulness practice can literally rewire the brain for happiness and joy.  This primarily, is what enlightenment is all about yah.  I mean, hard wired joy like a radical hardware upgrade to your fat-attic itself.  According to Hansen’s research, the practice of mindfulness makes is easier to stay in a positive mind-frame.  The more you are in this positive space, the more your brain will create neuronal pathways in the brain that consistently produce a positive state of being–because the brain has been hardwired to be like this!

Norman Doidge, the bestselling neuroscience author and psychiatrist out of Toronto researched for decades about how the brain can change at any age.  We call this neuroplasticity.  Neuroplasticity was first described in the late 18’s by the ‘father of neuroscience’ Santiago Ramon y Cajal as “neuronal plasticity”.  Since then decades of research has proven the brain can be shaped by our experiences.

Dozens of researchers across many years such as John Kabat-zin Ph.D, Richard J Davidson Ph.D, J Scumacher, David S Ludwig MD, Ph.D, Paul Grossman Ph.D, Robert Archer Ph.D and many others have suggested that mindfulness can lower stress, boost the immune system, improve the quality of life, among many other benefits.

Mindfulness is transformative, in essence.

Everything is improved with mindfulness.  Some believe this is all you need.  This presence is the gift, remember.  There is a long, hot, sweaty trillion year line up of souls waiting their turn to take a ride on this life.  What are you thinking about on a roller coaster?  During your favourite pastime?  During the more challenging moments of your life?  You are thinking about nothing but the density of the moment you are in.  This is life.  Most of enlightenment is nothing more than finding the richness of this life as we live it everyday.

2: Kindness (towards all life).

“Kindness is my religion” – The Dalai Lama.

Several minutes off the ferries coming from Vancouver Island we pulled to a stop beside an industrial chicken truck, when we were hypnotized by the beast.  That’s right.  All the other chickens flitted their gaze about but this one bird held a fixed gaze on us for the entire duration of the stop light.  Those purple-blue eyes I shall never forget.  The moment burned into my mind for ever.  That chicken connected to lyndsey and I like a feathered prophet; gazing deep, rotating its head side to side hitting me hard with that crazy chicken vibe.  This chicken had the ire of consciousness and begged us to help her/him.  I did nothing.  But I would not eat any part of my white master.  From that moment on, both Lyndsey and I were vegetarian.  To be honest I had one slice of Hawaiian pizza at Granville Island-my favourite, smoky pig chunks-but that was it.  I ate fish for a while but now no more flesh of beasts.  I still have to give up eggs and the little cheese I still indulge…

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

Susan Smalley Ph.D, writes that we find happiness in the small interactions in life, this is what improves the quality of everyones life.  Psychoanalyst Jacques Areness believes that kindness is the new bravery.  Areness asserts that our culture of general cynicism is driven by people who are unhappy with themselves.  Behaving badly then, is a defensive mechanism to prevent emotional pain.  People are closed off to avoid showing emotion, which could allow others to prey on our vulnerability.  Being perpetually angry and cynical is totally fatiguing, it drives us apart and perpetuates dark social times.  We are social creatures who evolved to connect with others for basic survival.  Only thru connection do we find true meaning and purpose in our lives.  Kindness is how this happens.  We deepen into this when we extend basic kindness to all life.  I feel better when I move the worm off the road, when I take the spider outside, when I show genuine love towards the disfigured dog.  And the dog feels better, too.  I have just made a better world.  Psychologist Piero Ferrucci advises seven strategies for cultivating kindness, thereby opening up as a person, one of the first things we need for our enlightenment: empathy, modesty, patience, generosity, respect, loyalty and gratitude.

We could call kindness love, compassion or whatever.  Love is the way.  Kindness is the mechanism thru with love manifests.  Kindness is a love spread.  Cupids compote.  When I am kind to you, you are kind to others, and our world becomes a kinder place.  Hard to do for sure, but what worth having isn’t?

3.  flow

“No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible, until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.”  J.S. Mill.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Mee-Hi Chick-sent-mi-hi) has spent the last several decades researching flow.  Flow is the psychology of optimal experience.  What state of mind allows us to feel like we are living fully, are connected to our true meaning & purpose and to the unseen force of nature?  The state of flow.  I experience flow while riding my mountain bike thru the local hills.  It’s like a dream-time state of transcendental fluidity.  My muscles, heart, lungs and surroundings unify and this moment becomes a four dimensional experience of universal wholeness.  I may get this road bike riding with the group, but I have yet to get past the lung burn and suffering.

“The best moments usually occur when a persons body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile…for each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.”  Flow p. 7.

Mihaly talkes about people finding flow in concentration camps, dead end jobs and prison.  The common feature among people in these circumstances is that they use their situation as a challenge to overcome.  This keeps their mind active and should they fail to quit, their dire situation creates a transformed self.  Shri Aurobindo found enlightenment in prison.  In the midst of meditation on the cold-hard concrete floor he suddenly realized that he cannot be outside of the presence of god.  Ever.

Flow is total engagement in an activity and this is when people report feeling happiest.  The interesting thing is, according to his research, Mihaly found that people rarely find flow in their leisure time, unless they have an intrinsically motivated hobby or skill they strive to perfect at every chance.  In free time most people report feeling board, or some form of existential angst.  We all need real challenge to keep us focused and interested.  During the course of Mihaly’s research, he found that people experience flow more often at work or during difficult situations than at times of relaxation.  Even if the situation felt uncomfortable during the moment.

This all suggests that we are designed to thrive on challenge and ordeal.  The original mystery schools of centuries past always made students practice intense physical activities in order to apprehend the nature of god and truth.  John Lennon said life happens when we are busy making other plans.  I consistently have my greatest creative  insights while riding my bike, playing with my daughter or simply walking Bodhi (our dog).  Creative insights just sort of flash into my mind at these times.  The state of flow is effortless being in a challenging moment.  The willing learn to adapt to difficulty and thrive there.  This is when we feel happiest in our lives.  People who shy away from adversity and challenge are consistently unhappy and board, and often turn to simple pleasures to fill the dark pit of psychic entropy in their lives.  This often leads to addiction and deteriorating mental health over time.

We could say then, that what is best in life is is flow.  To flow is to dominate all challenge and adversity.  To thrive on it.  Love it deep.  To thrive on challenge is to be ultimately human at our essential core.  This is when I AM.  Being in flow then, is a massive part of enlightenment….

4) All people are in their own development.  And that’s good!

You know how it goes.  Suddenly one day you feel the urge to seek the spiritual, and just as suddenly you’re the new guru with a certain wisdom everyone needs but doesn’t know it.  You see people living at a level of humanity you once lived at, rolling around in the mire, rubbing themselves with the filth of this world and you want them to suddenly wake up like you woke up.  You want to feed the poor.  You want to soften the rich mans hard profit ways.  You want to scream at the world to WAKE UP!

But the world does not want to listen.  Naturally.  This is because of what we call memes.  A meme is a world view, a belief system, or as google so eloquently put it “an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.”  We all pass thru various memes as we age, like it or not.  As do cultures, as does the world.  Individuals and cultures are all at different memes.  Clair Grieves, Ken Wilber and Don E. back are the major thinkers and innovators in developing this theory.  For a simple review of the nature of memes and cultural/spiritual evolution go here.

The idea in brief is that culture and individuals evolve thru stages of consciousness.  At different times.  During this evolution there are important moments, called fulcrums:  Major hurdles that once we get over, we are transformed.

The green meme is just such a hurdle, green comes after orange.  Scientific materialism is called the orange meme; orange comes right before green.  The orange meme is science.  The orange sensibility gave rise to industrialization and science dominating the western culture.  Think child slavery in Dickens London, time saving technology, the atomic bomb and all of the material standards we have come to accept as our birthright in this modern age.  Green emerged next, out of orange.  You see, as evil a meme may become, we need each meme to reach a level of social evolution out of which the next level may spring.  Like the jack pine needs fire for its seeds to grow.

The green meme is all about ecology, human rights, woman’s rights, animals rights, sustainability, green technology, equality, feeling centred living etc.  Orange scientific industrialization worked hard to create a material culture that could allow us to focus on things like equal rights and animal kindness.  Since world war II we have seen huge developments in these areas.

One of the biggest issues with the green meme,                                               is the idea of non-hierarchy.

This extreme equality actually prevents growth!  When you suddenly arrive in the green meme you feel liberated from exaggerated material need.  Your life feels simpler, you see many things with open eyes.  You suddenly feel more connected to all life, to the environment; you may become vegetarian, start riding a bike, it’s all good.  But here’s the catch, you believe you have fully arrived, that you’re enlightened already.  You feel we are all one, all equal and desperately want all people to join you on this higher plane of reason and joy.  Only thing, is that there is still much further to go on the journey; in the green meme you are actually one step short of a major fulcrum of spiritual development I call the sacred sorrow.

Many people are stuck green for decades, often for the rest of their lives.  There’s a tonne of dialogue on how we’re stuck green as a culture.  Green meme prevents cultural development by desperately trying to make all non-conformers fit into the model to which we so eagerly subscribe.  In this manic desperation we create a culture wide friction that disables cultural growth, for the simple reason, people don’t like to be told what to do so they push back.  So here we sit, stagnate in the green meme.  What to do?

Example.  You’re walking down the street one day and find an old school chum sitting on the street, forlorn, destitute.  She smiles holding a sigh “will dance for pot” and meagrely asks for some change.  She recognizes you and perks up, “hi”, she asks how you’ve been and you begin a cordial exchange.  You decide to take her for lunch, she accepts.  After the formal niceties you, in your green meme mind, begin to press her about her street lifestyle.  You insist that she change her ways, you go on about how you found spirituality and it’s so great…  She becomes uncomfortable and tries to change the subject.  You know however that once she understands your point she will want to better herself, she will suddenly break down in tears throw her arms around you and thank you deeply for this timely salvation.  Only she grimaces at you, thanks you for the meal and leaves.  What happened?

Your street friend is in the level of development she is in.  It is different than yours.  Her level of development has value unto itself, she does not need to be saved.  She needs to be heard, understood, valued for who she is.  She needs to know that if anything ever chances and she would like a hand then it’s there.  This moment is not it.  You have to let go and let her be who she is, because that’s where she is.  Accept her as she is and engage with her there.

Green meme consciousness needs to let go trying to change everything, and accept what is as the value of being.  We can help where we are needed and validly accept what is different from ourselves.  There is a hierarchy of growth.   We are not all the same, we are at different levels of psychological, moral and spiritual development.  Yet we are unified in our sacred human being.  We need to focus on our own development while we serve the needs of others as they come up.  You put your own oxygen mask on first, before the child’s.

5) Simplicity.

For centuries the desert fathers turned their back on society and escaped to the desert to live by gods word alone, in silence and simplicity…

The universe was born of chaos: merely unseated particles and gasses swirling about the heavens until order and pattern set in.  Chaos is total complexity.  Complexity is life without the order of consciousness.  Life is noisy, bright, loud, offensive, boring, dark, over bearing, you name it.  So many of us yearn for the simple.  I feel that.

Jeff DeGraff, Ph.D, explains that simplicity is the result of chaos, not an antidote; he explains that we cannot arrive in simplicity without first negotiating the complex.  Very much like how the orange meme set up the material foundation that green will simplify and perfect.  Leading to a foundation that blue will simplify and perfect and so on.  Complexity, simplification, complexity, simplification.  This is how the world goes.  Simplicity is the ongoing refinement of complexity, the natural evolution of the universe beyond human intervention.

Leonardo Da Vinci said that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.  Evolution spits out thousands of creatures that will never have a chance to survive before one or two come around that will.  Every inventor knows that to create a new invention many overly complex and clunky prototypes were made and discarded.  In the beginning, the planets in our very solar used to bang into each other and bounce around the sun until, eventually, the celestial bodies became organized into a rhythmic orbit.  Complexity always precedes simplicity.  Every process is refined to manifest streamlined efficiency.

Simplicity is the end point in the natural process                                             of the evolution of anything.    

By simplifying our lives, we recognize our role in the evolution of life and culture.  We have gone thru the complexity of achieving identity and place, we have used the technology, partied our brains out, over indulged, had way to much ‘stuff’.  The orange material culture has provided for all our material needs, and we realize that with ever more stuff and with every so-called step up the rungs of high society comes more stress & less time.  Simplification is an active decision to choose freedom and lightness over material culture.  We who choose simplicity become ambassadors of this evolving species that need to reduce our material consumption.

We are driven from within to release ravenous material attachment and open into the simple presence of being, which is our very meaning on this earth.  Our manifest destiny.

With fewer attachments comes greater freedom, with freedom comes the lightness we all seek.  When we choose this, we are strong.  We have become the face of the evolution of humanity.

6) Truth/Transparency

We all lie.  Why?  According to Alex Lickerman M.D. we lie to avoid embarrassment or conflict.  We lie to get things we want.  We lie to appear courageous and virtuous to others, and hide our moralistic reprehensions.  We lie to get out of doing things we don’t want to do, yet are embarrassed to admit.  At last we lie to spare people feelings, and prevent loved ones from feeling we have failed to live up to expectations.

Lying is easy, effective and I suspect there is a massive evolutionary selection for lyres because lying is very strategic in the survival game: lyres will survive better, because of lying.  Lying however, causes all sorts of stress and anguish for most of us.  Unless we are psyho-pathological or even possess a nip of socio-pathology, lying will place us into a state of anxiety and initiate the process of lying to cover up lying.  Inevitably we will be caught in the lie, people will know the truth about us and we shall lose respect.

Truthfulness as a step towards enlightenment is becoming a literal pillar of society.  For as we must remember, enlightenment is just as much about all of us, as it is about the me.   Becoming enlightened is about becoming someone completely dependable, who will live up to their word, who will be there when the chips are down, no matter what.  A solid individual capable of holding it all together.  Lickerman explains that “A dedication to honesty motivates us to strive to become all the good things lying helps us pretend we already are…Imagine developing a reputation for tactful but complete honesty upon which others know they can always rely. What an invaluable resource you’d become!”

An enlightened person is clear, they are honest even tho you may not like what they have to tell you.  Enlightened people facilitate the flow of humanity; they help to create something better than humanity in our basic animal state.  You can trust them till the end.  They will never betray you.  They will be level and strong under intense and desperate pressure.  Wouldn’t you like to be a person, such as this?  Honesty is a habit we must practice.  It may not be easy, but it’s important for all of us.  Especially when you’re on the road…

7) Unified mind-body.  United self with whole.

We live in a culture of division.  Ever since Descartes (at least) we have split, divided and pigeonholed everything.  Our minds are separate from our bodies, our bodies from the environment.  When in fact there is no separation of mind and body, or body and earth.  In this article we will deal with Mind Body separation and leave body earth separation for another writing.

If there is an illusion, this is it.  The illusion is not that we live in a spiritual world thinly veiled by a meat veneer, and we just have to think positive to become free from the bonds of material oppression.  The illusion is that we are beings of intrinsic separation.  The moment hammer meets finger we clearly understand just how material we are.  Yet what isn’t clear, is how we are singular beings equal mind & body as one whole self.

Our language and culture create this separation from the ground up.  The term “mind body unity” reinforces the separation as it comes out of your mind.  Mind and body intrinsically define two separate things.  The word unity means two things coming together to find some kind of cohesive relationship.  Think about the brain for a moment.  The brain is two hemispheres, many lobes and billions of cells.  Yet, we think about the brain as primarily one fat chunk.  The bones and muscles are one system that developed together, that do not grow or exist in separation.

Culture and language are powerful as they are dangerous because they can hold us back as we try to move forward.  Mind body unity is a big problem.  So long as we use labels such as mind body unity, we will never find the felt singularity as our mind is already divided by language from the beginning of the search–without ever knowing it.  The way forward as I see it, is thru an embodied movement practice that takes us directly to the heights of exulted ecstatic ecstasy where we can feel the singular state; live there for a moment and then come back to articulate this singular state into a new symbolic language around which a culture of meaning can be applied.  The more we experience this state, that we arrive in thru movement practice, the more we condition the rest of our lifestyle to simply reflect the wholeness we have become.  Terms like mind body unity become irrelevant, dangerous even, for they can prevent the evolution of human kind.  To describe mind body singularity we need a single word; for lack of a more profound offering I will interject the word BIND.  An obvious hatchet job of body & mind that may lack the sophistication of a more erudite moniker, but it will work as a launch point.

So then, how to achieve BIND?  This kind of goes against scientific reason, doesn’t it?  I mean on one hand we have the brain and body, the meat machine, on the other we have the elusive mind and the spirit.  One is physical, the other isn’t, yes.  Truth is, we don’t know.

First off, I feel our brains are most likely a million years too early on the evolutionary scale to fully know the whole richness of scientific truth.  We’re evolutionary infants.  We’re smart monkeys that have, a) yet to genetically engineer our brains to work at 100% of our potential intulactual ability, or, b) synthesize our brain with artificial intelligence.  Like it or not, the next evolution of this species will happen thru a bio-microchip-brain interface.  When this happens we will look back at ourselves as children to that which we have become.  Personally I think we will lose more than we will gain, but someone has to become gods of the multiverse.  I digress.

Like it or not, we just don’t know how the mind and body represent one single BIND, and that’s ok.  Y’ain’t kook an egg on a cold stove.  Yet we can see the final result playing out before us in the drama of life that already is.  What we see when we look at our human experience are traces of one self: the body-the exterior world, and the mind-the inner world, yet we fail as a culture, as a species perhaps, to grasp the lived embodiment of BIND.

We cannot know everything intellectually, yet we can infer the hidden mechanics from the display of natures perfect function.   Our option for full wisdom in the infinite universe, can come thru the simple act of observing what’s in front of us.  So then, without the ability to ontologically comprehend the scientific mechanics behind the singularity of BIND, we must look at the signs: the technicolor image flashing against the screen of our lives, projected from a secret film buried deep in the heart of an invisible projector.  We must observe the results, or the ways in which the mind and body are clearly operating under a single agency, and work back to our lived experience, to know the origin of BIND.

I have collected at least 33 bodies of work that prove a singular genesis of body mind.  I am presently working on my magnum opus that will illustrate the essential nature of BIND.  For now, I would like to simply introduce you to the single most fascinating of these.  If, what these researchers are proposing is true, then we have a genuine working model of the nature of BIND.  A model so profound, it will change the entire course of psychotherapy, fitness and enlightenment.  So here it is.

“Every muscle in the human body has a psychological and emotional function.”  Marcher & Fitch, Bodynamics system.  This means that weak muscles represent weak personality characteristics, and tense muscle represent tense personalty characteristics.

This concept is woven throughout much of modern western psychology, spirituality, self development, medical science etc.

Ken Wilber, often cited as the quintessential western philosopher of our time has noted that, “for every mental ‘problem’ or ‘knot’, there is a corresponding bodily ‘knot’, and vice versa since, in fact, the body and the mind are not two.”  –The Spectrum of Consciousness.

I think the most lucid mechanical description of how this works as a daily physical practice is from Achim Eckert, his book is called Tao Training, it unfortunately is only published in German: “Each muscle has, besides its physiological function, an emotional and psychological function. 
If you train the body selectively, you influence the development of the whole personality in one direction or the other.  That means that fitness training can be individually designed to an extent that it not only trains underdeveloped parts of the body, but also underdeveloped personality traits and lacking or weakened  psychological and mental abilities. To give an example: A person with lack of self-confidence could change this fundamental feeling by specific training of the pectoralis major and deltoid muscles – with a strong chest and wide shoulders it is very unlikely that you feel pessimistic, depressive, down-hearted, hesitant and timid for more than a short while.” –Achim Eckert, M.D. (taotraining.at).

My bible to this theory and practice is Body Encyclopedia: A Guide to the Psychological Functions of the Muscular System by Lisbeth Marcher & Sonja Fich.  The crazy thing is, that all my psychological and emotional weaknesses are related to weak muscles that also happen to make me injury prone!  The more I train my weak muscles, the stronger I become emotionally and psychologically.

I feel so much of our mysterious limitations and challenges could be simply weakness or tension embedded in muscular dysfunction presenting as psychological & emotional dysfunction.  Now, before we go any further I understand that many people have massive trauma and acquired mental issues thru no fault of their own.  Yet, I am confident that this work would at least east suffering, and provide an emotional anchor to move forward with therapy and healing.  I have spoken with at least a dozen psychotherapists about this theory and they all agree that the muscles physically contain emotional and psychological energy–for good or bad.  This wisdom originally came down from Wilhelm Reich, a contemporary of Sigmund Freud.

I desperately seek to alleviate myself of professional bias, yet I feel the movement and therapeutic practices bound to this theory of muscle psychology is the foundation to optimal human being and fast spiritual enlightenment.  So long as all the other keys are in place in our life.  As we all know, ego can take over when we become fit and strong and this will sadly have the opposite affect.  This is why we must train, mindfully.

I hope you have enjoyed my treatise on enlightenment, please leave a comment, I am always looking for dialogue on the matter!

H

 

 

Chop Wood. Carry Water.

There’s an old zen saying: Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment chop wood, carry water.  A truer statement there never was.  I feel this is because there is nothing that could ontologically be defined as enlightenment.  Think about it.

All that happens at monasteries, temples or any house of the holy is the same as any house.  We sweep, cook, hang out, drink wine, and what ever other trouble we can muster.  At temples we focus our minds on the process of our work entirely.  At many houses sweeping the floor is a time of great anguish and cursing.

When you drill down on definitions of enlightenment they all come back to a simplicity of being we all possess, yet mostly ignore.

Any element of enlightenment can be reduced down to simply living well.  Take meditation.  Every sophisticated piece of equipment comes with instructions.  Meditation is the instruction manual to the human mind.  Observe your mind for a second and you’ll see a screen of fleeting images.  If you try to focus on one thing, other things will pop into your mind instantly.  With meditation we train the mind to hold one object of thought at a time.  Good for the improvement of any area of life.

Carrying water and chopping wood represents the simple elements of life.  Things we must do to sustain life.  If and when enlightenment happens, we still need to sustain life, we still need to carry wood and chop water.  Paying attention.  Breatharianism may or may not be possible for all of us, but we have many steps before that happens.  Steps, involving simple elements of life.

Therefore, enlightenment is nothing more than the simple elements of life.  With one key element.  We do these things simple things with total engagement.  We are are fully awake in the process of practising these simple elements.

H.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Funk-tional Training Myth. (FTM)

Functional training is huge.  It’s everywhere.  Classes, youtube videos, home study courses, little gurus suddenly emerging from the strange mists of conventional strength training: Emergent masters, of the functional art…  Deadlift and squat instruction are ubiquitous in this age of functional supremacy.  Planks and strange cable acrobatics are the order of the day.  Unstable, dynamic perturbations standing on ones hands atop a big rubber ball are the envy of gym rats far and wide.

We must consider however, an inconvenient truth about such ‘functional training’.  Let’s examine the dead lift, for example.

In terms of a functional movement, the deadlift represents the end of an entire course in body awareness, not the beginning of a burgeoning functional fitness program.

Even deadlifting with seemingly good technique can eventually cause serious issues.  Let me explain…

One thing you need to know about me is that I have a propensity towards the extreme.  In some circles I’m known as an extremophile.  It’s true.  Who knew.  To this end I held nothing back over a decade ago in my body building phase (read, slow waddler phase).  Yes, I waddled slowly.  I waddled around yelling dead pan comments across the gym to other waddlers.  Waddlers do this because they can.  But that’s about all they can do.

As a waddler the objective is to get as big as humanly possible.  You’re basically becoming a troll.  The mutant troll man method: heavy weights.  Enter the dead lift.  The dead lift will pack on serious mass because it is a metabolic movement.  Traditionally called a compound movement, this exercise recruits muscles all over the body and puts them into a frightened shock.  These terrorized muscles then have to recover; so the whole body is now in recovery.  This whole body recovery places massive demands on the body; the whole body requires nutrients, vitamins, water etc.  This raises the metabolism and burns a tremendous amount of calories.  Unlike a bicep curl.  This total body metabolic effect leads directly to gains in overall body mass and strength.  Like a dream right.  If everything goes according to plan.

So imagine me back in the day, in total troll mode.  Waddling.  I gotta say I never had a great dead lift to begin with, but I attacked it like a wolverine-troll for sure.  The problem with being an extremophile is that we do things way above our pay grade~just because.  I was use to about 350 pounds on the dead lift but I had it in my head to pick up 400 pounds.  Hell bent.  Like a shinny red troll with black horns.  Grimacing.  I racked it up, got on top and…POP!  Crap.  My first injury.  CRAP!   This was painful for years.  Waddling trolls don’t usually get things checked out, so I never had it looked at.  I think it was a rib.

Now, you may instinctually think that this injury was due to the radical and unusual increase in weight.  In part I’m sure it was, but there was more to it that I would not find out about until years later.  The injury in my back eventually got better, it would flare up on occasion but I slowly moved on.

The greatest clarity to my deeper body issues came during my kayak racing days.  As usual my first paddle was a race.  In December.  Snow falling and everything.  I was in a cheap rental ocean kayak with no rudder.  I was going in wide circles the whole time.  I eventually came in about half hour after everyone else.  I went hard at kayaking after that and built some real performance.

I noticed tho, that my side to side movements (the tippyness of the kayak) were very jerky and slow.  Once I got into a K1 (racing Kayak) my left lower back went into a total spasm.  It turned out that my whole right back was not working!  The left was doing all the work (in the kayak the left side locked up to stabilize with no reciprocation from the right).  At one point one of my vertebra was popping out because of the uneven muscular force.  Got painful.

This means that:

The injury I sustained in that dead lift long ago, was because my left back was doing all the work while the right side did nothing!  Not just because of the weight.  The weight just the radical circumstance that brought out the imbalance.  Had I not had the injury, over time it would have hardened into a long term issue anyway, that would have plagued me throughout middle and old age.  

My form was always fairly good, but nothing I did could help this imbalance because I had no idea it was there!  I felt nothing, only the odd tension or back crack.  Until the overload.

In my experience as a mindful fitness trainer over the last 12 years, this type of muscular imbalance is the rule not the exception.  Most of us have them because of congenital patterns, traumas, vocational patterns, developmental issues etc.  It took me many years to habituate the right side of my back into action, and relax the over-strong left side.  It was thru intension and deep body awareness that I was able to do this.  I found imbalances everywhere in my body, back, legs, torso, shoulder and arms, each one related to pain I had.  Once I identified the imbalance and activated the weak muscles involved, the pain began to resolve.

Functional training then, begins with deep awareness and a thorough assessment of the body.  We need to understand the weaknesses and strengths present in our body, before trying to learn complicated compound movement techniques.  All we accomplish with functional training before identifying underlying imbalances is an exacerbation of any issue, and no real development of functional fitness.  

For decades I have watched people with the best intensions try to do the functional moves only to end up injured and bothered; and totally reluctant to try any form of resistance training ever again.  I have also seen people spend the time to learn the ins and outs of the body, and then effortlessly move on to high levels of strength and performance, with out an issue.

H

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Grow Young. Seriously.

Before I reveal to you the only true fountain of youth, (before the eventual cyborgization, i.e. nano-technologiclal immortality, of the well-to-do) we need clarity of our lives in the present; to do this we must consider deeply the conditions under which we evolved from the beginning of evolutionary history.  A little overlap from the last post but these things are vital, so please bear with me.  Life began on this planet over three billion years ago.  Almost from the beginning of the history of this planet, 4.5 billions years ago.

We split from bonobo’s (hippie chimpanzees) four and a half million years ago, but our lineage goes back much further.  I see humanity as the current end point of a very long continuous chain of evolution beginning with simple nucleotide chains.  We are one with all life, all life is a united family of individuals bonded to one living tree.

There are two common features of all non-plant living things on this earth.

These are:

1) The need to move around; exercise is a fact of life; and,

2) The reality of hunger.

Often chronic, persistent hunger.  In short, we all starved for the entire history of life up until the last hundred years or so.  All animal life faced ongoing hunger and starvation as a constant reality to this ‘nasty, brutish and [often] short‘ life.  We still starve in various places, in fact more of us starve than are well fed. The other evening I was watching a documentary in which African people living in a dump, eagerly awaited the next load of garbage to feed their two children.  We starved for millions of years, and all the people that couldn’t handle it died off generations ago.  Hunger is stamped into our DNA, woven into our genetics since before we were apes.

Our DNA expects hunger.  Our biology, as it turns out, only works correctly when we feel hunger from time to time.  We are a race of survivors because we can endure long periods of hunger.  It’s that simple.  But wait, there’s more.  Not only are we conditioned to starve, we are also conditioned to eat at every opportunity.  Eat to gut busting, pant splitting, a-look-of-shock-and-horror-across-my-face-I’m-in-so-much-pain, full.  We are condioned to always be on the lookout for food, and eat as much as we can, when we can because we never know when the next meal will come.  It gets better, because we are also conditioned to wallow if there is no need to move, to preserve those valuable, hard to find calories.

This is great, so what I’m saying is we are made to starve, yet driven to eat and be lazy–Jackpot!  Sounds like a recipe for success in this wonderful modern world of ours. Because of this genetic propensity to starve, exes food is dangerous.  Too much food and not enough exercise is the singe cause of every degenerative condition of our times.  Every single one.  The sad fact of the matter is that we all eat too much.  We all do.  We all eat way too much every day.  Did you know that Americans through away 40% of the food they buy?  Crazy shit.  Did you also know that human beings are only about 40% efficient in terms of how we process food to create energy to live?  This means that only 40% of the food we eat needs to be turned into energy to live.  If you factor in both of those things, the west, in particular the USA, wastes 80% of the food they buy!  That is radical.  RADICAL!

We could go on like this for books and books, so I will rein in the focus here and suggest that the best way to manage food is to mimic our natural world and build a food cycle into our lives.  Sometimes eat more, sometimes less.  No living thing in the hisoty of the planet had a constant supply of food, no plant, ameoba, or animal.  Nothing.  Some tribes such as the !kung bush people of Southern Africa are called the original affluent society, based on ethnographic research by Marshal Sahlins.  This means that for the !Kung, in recent memory at least food was never in short supply.  We need to keep in mind however, that the !Kung’s material needs are very small, because of our conditioning towards hunger over time.  The !Kung need to eat very little to live well, and their wants are minimal.  The !kung are what I would call a human living in near perfect balance with nature.  We may now have the ability to relieve parasitic infestation and the like, and create an even greater harmony between us and the hard floor of nature, we could create the perfect synergy between technology and nature but profit and greed colour the day green.  So our material needs only grow.  Don’t they.  Satisfied in this system I’m afraid we will never be.  We are, consumers.  And you know what consumers do….

Enter modern humanity.  We got lot’s of food, we got fat, we got sick.  

Fear not however, there is path…

Science has been studying the effects of calorie restriction on living things for 70 years, and as we still need more on-going data, the consensus is, that the majority of living things that eat the least amount of high quality food will be the healthiest, live the longest, enter old age much later, and maintain regular activity level until the end of life.

All from eating minimal amounts of healthy food.

“Do you love to eat? So do I. Want to learn to eat a lot? Here it is: eat a little. That way, you’ll be around to eat a lot”. — Anthony Robbins, Unlimited Power.  In his book Anthony describes a study by Dr. Clive McCay in which the food of rats was cut in half, which doubled their life span.  In another study, Dr. Edward J. Masaro studied three groups of rats.  Group one ate as much as they liked, group two had their food cut in half, and group three could eat as much as they liked but had their protein cut in half.  810 days later 13% of the first group remained alive, 50% of the third group, and 97% of the second group remained alive.  WOW.  “Undernutrition is thus far the only method we know of that consistently retards the aging process and extends maximum lifespan of warm-blooded animals. These studies are undoubtedly applicable to humans because it works in every species studied thus far.”  Dr. Ray Walford UCLA researcher, Informational news, Awake, (December 22, 1982), p3.

The first person to promote calorie restriction as a means of prolonging life was Luigi Cornaro, a 15th-century Venetian nobleman who adopted a calorie restricted diet at age 35 to address his failing health.  His restricted diet cured of all of his ailments in less than a year, and he went on to live to be 102 years old. [80] His book Discorsi della vita sobria (Discourses On the Temperate Life) described his regimen, which centered on the “quantifying principle” of restricting himself to only 350 grams of food daily (including bread, egg yolk, meat, and soup) and 414 millilitres of wine. The book was extremely successful, and “was a true reconceptualization of old age. As late as the Renaissance it was largely the negative aspects of this phase of life which were emphasized … Cornaro’s method offered the possibility for the first time not only of a long but also a worthwhile life.”[81]wikipedia.

“In 1934, Mary Crowell and Clive McCay of Cornell University observed that laboratory rats fed a severely reduced calorie diet while maintaining micronutrient levels resulted in life spans of up to twice as long as otherwise expected.  These findings were explored in detail by a series of experiments with mice conducted by Roy Walford and his student Richard Weindruch.  In 1986, Weindruch reported that restricting the calorie intake of laboratory mice proportionally increased their life span compared to a group of mice with a normal diet.  The calorie-restricted mice also maintained youthful appearances and activity levels longer and showed delays in age-related diseases.  The results of the many experiments by Walford and Weindruch were summarized in their book The Retardation of Aging and Disease by Dietary Restriction (1988)” Calorie Restriction – Wikipedia.

The Japanese island of Okinawa has proportionally more people that live to be over 100 than any other place in the world.  This is in part due to a reduced calorie diet compared to mainland Japan, a diet with a healthier profile of nutrients generally including less sugar, refined starch, etc.  The research continues into calorie restriction.  Remember, this is not fully understood, and not every study is perfect, but it is overwhelmingly clear that, in line with our evolutionary history, reduced calorie intake is how to stay healthy, young and live a long time.  They are even trying to create drugs that will mimic calorie restriction!  Nice.  Now that’s a way to keep it simple.

The question remains then, how to do it safely, and enjoy life at the same time?  There is a wild subset of people that live a full-on CRON (calorie reduced optimal nutrition) lifestyle, and to be honest I’m not sure they are having as much fun as they could be.  There are the raw food people, but lately I have been hearing allot about serious deficiencies coming out of this trend.  You have to really embrace raw veganism as a hobby me-thinks, or you may miss something and get really sick.  I think raw living can be great, but you have to seriously know what you are doing.  Robert Cassar is great example of someone who does it right.  He has the intelligence and knowledge to eat the micronutrients needed to sustain optimal health on the raw lifestyle.  Most of us however, ultimately end up eating the same foods all the time due to convenience.  I know I tend to fall into this trap.  Many years ago tho, I first heard of the hundred mile diet, which means only eat foods grown within 100miles of where you live.  Love it.  Eating local is great, in this way you eat with the seasons, and you don’t end up eating the same things over and over.  This also means we are getting the correct micro-flora when we need it (good bacteria).  Over time I have synthesized all of these pratices into what I call the transitional lifestyle, but that my friends, is another story…

H

To Detox is to Connect with the Infinite.

It turns out that the concept of cleansing, or detoxing is a loaded topic.  Who knew.  In a recent CBC interview Dr. George Dresser claimed there is no scientific evidence to back up the notion of detoxing.  Dresser insists the body has all it needs to detox.  I could not agree more with this.  The body is a miraculous self healing creature capable of anything the mind can imagine.  Detoxing however, predates science by three and a half billion years, so there might be a slight chance the need to detox is present in our very DNA.

First off, I’m no advocate of crazy fad diets or extreme quick fix’s.  No sir.  I am however a student of life and totally fascinated by human bodies.  So dig this…

We are the outward looking gaze of an evolutionary lineage going back 3.5 billion years.

That’s rights, the first nucleotide chains began to form in the earths embryonic seas three and a half billion years ago.  Followed by RNA, DNA, prokaryotes, eukaryotes, protozoa, fungi and eventually us.  You are an unending line extending back to the beginning of this life procession.  Your witness of this earth is an ancient perspective for sure.  You are the earth, you are life gazing immaculate upon creation.

To me, evolution and creation are one.  Even as a child it seemed reasonable to me that God, in what ever form it exists, would create in a way that would unfold naturally as evolution.  We have natural trouble with this.  We love dichotomy, we writhe in our need to orient our minds in a polarized space.  Neat.  Clean.  Black.  White.  But I feel that there is more to heaven (read, the 13th dimension, what ever that is…) and earth than we can currently know, neurologically.  Our brains are basic and simple, we lack the future cerebral structures necessary to logically know ontological truth.  So all we can do is guess.  With this simple brain we interpret the fullness of a creation we may not fully understand for millions of years of intellectual evolution.  One thing we do know is that life exists in the fourth dimension.  Life is a continuum of which we are apart, that extends from the beginning, unto the eventual end, with us somewhere in the middle.  This four dimensional continuum of life perpetually operates on the parameters of raw survival, established by the inputs of a life so nasty, british and short, across the entirety of evolutionary history.

We tend only to observe however in the third dimension.  We don’t consider the genetic substrate, crafted by survival, that governs our subconscious drives.  We observe the immediate world and our inner being and that’s as far as it goes.  We see a beautiful stable planet with lot’s of food, and we feel constant hunger so we act on it constantly, naturally, without any thought.  When the fact is, that for the vast majority of earth history the environment was not stable and there was not much food.  We don’t connect with the fact that we adapted from the begging to eat, starve, eat, starve.  We had to run, jump, throw and move all day for the paltry scraps that we did find.  Our bodies are adapted, hard, to have periods of little to no food.  Our genes adapted to a world of terrible circumstances, and to this day these genes blindly produce automatic behaviours.

Human beings share one massive commonality with our siblings of life.  Never in the history of life on earth, did any of us have a steady, constant access to food.  Ever.  Creatures often go days, weeks without food.  So much so that many animals have developed sophisticated hibernation mechanisms to deal with persistent caloric shortage.

We we’re designed to starve from day one.  Every living thing feels hunger most of the time.  Good or bad this is how it is.  Deal with it.  Human bodies are engineered to be hungry, challenged by the constant sting of sharpened fatigue burning at the back of our bellies.  Thru this we rose up.  From this desperate edge we clung to survival by bloody finger tips and with brows furrowed deep we leapt forward unto the dawn of modern human kind.  Then, McDonalds.  Drive-thrus.  And dimpled breasts on 11 year old boys & nine year old girls having their fist period.  Evolution never stops spitting out new creation.  Good or bad.

We need to give the body a break from time to time.  If it’s not about the toxins it’s about the reckless abundance.  If it’s not about super foods it’s about pure food, or no food.  There is a constant steam of calories coming in and your inner processes are always on.  Digestion is a hard thing, it requires tonnes of enzymes and many metabolic processes for it to happen, all things that themselves require energy and stress the organs.  Yes we are designed to digest, but not all the time.  The organs necessary to digestion need time to rest and recover too.  It’s smart to allow glycogen and glucose to burn off before re-filling it.  And as it happens, I do believe we need to allow the body to release chemicals our bodies are not familiar with, from the tissues in which they accumulate.  This can only happen thru temporary secession of consumption and digestion.

All life is one, we all abide the single law.  Control of consumption habits is massive.    Science has shown that the vast majority of living things live longer and are healthier when they eat the least amount of food!  That’s right, in my next article I will explicitly demonstrate the final end point toward which the cleansing life style leads: health, long life and wisdom.  You will literally become Yoda…

H