Signs of Life…Being Alive

Our community chorale has been practicing Stephen Sondheim’s music “Being Alive” and the lyrics have completely imbedded in my head over these last two months. So much so, that I find myself wondering about what it means to ‘be alive’.

In terms of my personal training business, I train my clients to be fully alert so they may focus their attention on their working muscles and breath when they engage in their strength and cardiopulmonary training. An unfocused mind during an exercise session is a lot like sleep walking: the body is moving, but the mind has no awareness of it.

“The Glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Saint Irenaeus

Life is full of intriguing, wonderful mystery, begging us to live out loud and on purpose. Yet, for all our aliveness, we often take being alive for granted. The question which plagues me and begs for an answer is this: What does a life look like…feel like…when it is lived fully alive?

If living to the full brings glory to the One who gives us life to live, then surely we must have built into us a capacity, a drive, an overwhelming need to live in abundant, over-the-top alive-ness! And as I ponder these thoughts frequently these days, the words of Sondheim’s song give me some insight into what life looks like when it is less than fully lived:

Somebody hold me too close
Somebody hurt me too deep
Somebody sit in my chair
And ruin my sleep
And make me aware
Of being alive, being alive

Perhaps we choose to live less than fully alive because being fully alive is uncomfortable! And yet I know from my physical training, that if I want to improve my stamina or strength, then I must learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable for a while. Now, that’s a funny way of thinking isn’t it? Yet, ironically this is another tool in my trainer’s tool box. The principle of learning to be comfortable with discomfort is a tool which athlete’s ply every time they train their physical body to perform, whether in practice or in competition.

Interesting how this idea of becoming accustomed to discomfort is best realized in the sphere of  relationships. As in, how we relate to others, ourselves, and the Divine directly impacts the quality of our aliveness. Relationship is the humus of a life fully lived. Because being alone is alone…not alive!

being alive

You Choose!

Most of the time, given the opportunity, I prefer not to choose. My general preference, when the time to choose arises, is to let my spouse or friend or client or employee make the choice for me: where to dine; what to work on; where/when to exercise; which movie to watch or music to listen to.

This is not a comfortable or flattering thing to admit about myself, especially since I am the type of person who likes to ‘work out’ my body. How strange then to realize that I am quite lazy when it comes to choosing in the realm of the everyday and mundane. How hard is it really, to make a choice? Why would I rather deflect an opportunity to make my own choice onto others? And yet, to not choose is making a choice too, isn’t it?

“The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.” “Life has a peculiar feel when you look back on it that it doesn’t have when your actually living it.” Donald Miller

Perhaps the problem with choosing comes from the fact that there is so much from which to choose. If choice making was always about this or that; black or white; yes or no; stay or go, perhaps choosing would be easier. On one hand I wish that making a choice was a one-and-done deal, like when I say I choose to lose weight, gain strength or improve my health status, then BAM, my choice is made and I’m done. Wouldn’t that be grand? No more decisions to make. But that system wouldn’t work too well for me if I made just ONE unwise choice. How could I undo a poor choice if I only had a one-and-done choice making system?

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Fortunately, for all of us, life is full of choice making opportunities, except when our perception tells us otherwise. If we feel stuck, plumb out of choices, then it’s time to remind ourselves this one thing: as long as we are breathing, we may choose; and we may choose as many times as is needed and we may choose differently every time.

Even though I am a lazy choice maker, I am grateful this life I live is not a one-and-done game of chance. No, this life is more like playing the slot machines with the statistical advantage stacked in my favor, because I am privileged to choose; and my choice to choose means I may choose over and over and over again…or not.

In this life, it’s a happy, powerful sentiment to know we have the authority to re-write our life’s story line if we find our story less than meaningful. If by our choices we choose to do the same things enough times, eventually the statistics play out in our favor and our choices become our habits (for better or worse); then our habits create our life (for better or worse). So here’s to the wonderful, wacky world of choice making, and here’s my note to self: You CHOOSE…like your life depends on it!

Wake Up!

I am fond of saying ‘We become what we think, that our lives and our bodies resemble our belief system.’ In the realm of my personal training business, I use this principle with every training client I engage. I sometimes feel like an empassioned evangelist because I so strongly advocate and admonish my clients to grasp the importance and power of  their own thinking and believing.

“It’s perfectly normal, perfectly natural to live in sleep. But to wake up is a revolution in consciousness. To wake up is to break free of nature. To wake up is to rise and unite with the spirit, and nature doesn’t do that for us.”   Mark Pritchard

In my opinion, the foundation for success in one’s life begins and ends with training and disciplining our thinking mind. The muscles of thought and belief must be employed  and activated constantly, consistently and consciously in coordination with a physical training program for the body.

Consider that your learning goal is the ongoing pursuit of a lifetime of consistent physical movement and self-care. Michelle Segal, PhD

The first part of achieving a fitness goal requires making a decision. A decision is simple.  What do you want? First you decide, then you intend. Then you plot a course of action in written format to make it visible; then you inform another human being of your  decision.

This final action (telling) breathes life (reality, urgency, ownership) into your original reasons for deciding and intending. Telling someone else about your decsion and intention creates a monument upon which you may build your new waking thoughts.

Whether your goal is to be measured in pounds or inches lost; miles walked or run per hour; percent of muscle gained or fat lost, never underestimate the power or your  intention to work on your behalf for your success.

In the beginning it may seem like you are acting altogether out of character for yourself. But do not fret over this idea or this feeling; let it go and just believe. Be your own very best heroine and advocate. You can do this thing you have intended to do, you have already decided! You have made your intention! bad attitude

Now that you have set your intention, be prepared to choose, many times, over and again. You will choose whether to get up early or stay up late to fit in your exercise sessions. You will choose whether to nourish your body for the better or whether you will continue to eat as though you are an unconscious auto-pilot. You will choose whether to believe your  frequent thoughts of failure over fleeting thoughts of succeeding and achieving.

Learning to ‘wake ourselves up’ from the white noise of our own thinking will require practice and dedication. The same practice and dedication we use to train the body’s muscles for strength and stamina may be employed to tame and tend the monkey mind of our own thinking and believing.

Sometimes we may need to still our bodies so as to sequester space for mindful contemplation. Other times, we may find it more helpful to move our bodies in rhythm to walking legs and feet or plowing hands and arms.

Either way, waking up requires a willingness to put  self-defeating thoughts on trial so they may be ultimatly laid to rest.

Riddle Me This

Who are you?

Who you think you are is everything! Have you ever stopped to listen to what you are telling yourself about yourself? You should try it some time. Listening…to the dialog. You may have to sneak up on yourself, and pretend like you’re eves dropping on someone else’s conversation, but take some minutes in any given day to be quiet and alert to your inner dialog. Then notice how you feel about yourself after listening to your self-talk.

Do you have warm, accepting feelings about the YOU of your thinking? Or do you disdain and belittle the person, the YOU of your thinking? Do you realize YOU are the author of your life’s story? Can you wrap your mind around this truth: WHAT you think about yourself is WHO you become? Is it time for you to re-write your script?

English heart surgeon Martyn Lloyd-Jones is noted for saying that, “Most unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself rather than talking to yourself.”

In my profession as a personal trainer, people pay me to help them reconfigure their bodies. But what my clients may not be aware of, is that I am also training them to pay attention to their mind via what they are thinking…especially, what they are thinking about before and after they exercise.

If a client thinks she can or cannot achieve the fitness goal she has set for herself, then I guarantee that she most certainly will achieve what she is thinking and believing.

What you think means more than anything else in your life. More than what you earn, more than where you live, more than your social position, and more than what anyone else may think about you. Every problem introduces you to yourself. It shows you how you think and what you’re made of.” George Matthew Adams

A very important part of my training program is to teach my clients how to be their very own best cheerleader.  When I am with them, I encourage them, with positive words, stories and suggestions to help them understand that they have the power to change a negative health behavior into a positive healthful habit.

Mind is everything; muscle–pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind.
Paavo Nurmi, Finnish Olympian who won nine gold medals

When I am with them, I am the voice in their head. If they spend enough time with me and believe the things I tell them as true, then my words, spoken into their listening ears and received by a believing heart will soon become internalized. My thoughts about them will  become their own thoughts, their own dialog, their own story about who they are and who they are becoming. Thinking becomes believing. Mind is the master, not the servant, of the body.

Living with the end in mind informs the decisions we make each day.
A Common Ground ~ Todd Outcalt

Everyone feels lost and out of sorts in life from time to time. This is a natural by-product  of the human experience. Since we will deal with difficulties as long as we inhabit our physical body, perhaps we should consider our trials as benefactors in disguise.

What if we turned our thinking around? What if we chose to think of those things we don’t like about our self or our life as gifts to help us discover who we really are at our essence?  What if our upset or short coming is our clarion call for change?

     Consider that your learning goal is the ongoing pursuit of a lifetime of consistent physical movement and self-care.
If you are going to be successful staying physically active and taking care of yourself, you need to learn Strategies that will enable you to prioritize your plans and be consistent, flexible, and creative as you learn to incorporate physical activity into the rest of your dynamic, ever-changing life.
The Strategy of beginning with the end in mind asks you to take the long view: Your goal is lifelong behavior change, and that’s what you want to keep in mind ~ always.
Michelle Segar ~ No Sweat

Now tell me again: Who are you?

Three Words

Resistance…Is…Futile…
When uttered by the fictional Borg of the famed Star Trek movie series, those three words were meant to conjure submission, hopelessness and resignation upon the unfortunate individuals to be assimilated into the collective Borg consciousness. Those three words declared power and superiority upon them who would hear and believe.

All of us skirmish against our internal Borg voices, especially when we struggle to reach new health and fitness goals. This is the voice which comes to us as reason, and it so often sounds reasonable to our tired mind. It says: Don’t be so hard on yourself. You set your sights to high. Lower your standard. Reduce your expectations. You are older now, you should slow down, sit down, recuperate. Perhaps a new hobby is in order for you, the Borg voice says: take up knitting, painting, reading, writing, there is nothing to gain by your constant striving to be fit, to be strong. You deserve to rest, relax, retire!

Don’t let your attitude toward change or your own predisposition to avoid it create detrimental hindrances to your own personal success. John C Maxwell

In rebuttal, I say this: THOSE ARE FIGHTING WORDS! Now let me be clear. I am not suggesting that resistance is always right. There is a time to resist and there is a time to rest from doing. But what I am proposing is this: Be attentive to your inner Borg voice. Consider the goal of the Borg: to conquer and assimilate!

Resistance is the first step towards change. Louise Hay

Rather than acquiesce when your journey towards wellness becomes a thing of work for you, instead do this: Remind yourself often and always of the beauty of that goal you have set before yourself. Fight for it! Rest if you must, but do not be your own worst enemy and stop trying. Never give up on yourself…ever!

You are worth the effort. Thank you, thank you for believing in yourself! We, the world, your country, your community, your family, all of us need you to become the very best you. That is what you deserve…to be the very best version of you…today and all the days which follow!

Now let me give you three words to move you onward and upward: JUST…DO…IT!

Take Time for Change

In resistance and strength training, sets of weight bearing repetitions are used to improve muscle endurance, power and size. Repetition, doing the same exercise again and again, is the foundation of every physical fitness and training philosophy. Changing an exercise or the amount of weight used in the exercise is not required, until the desired physical outcome (change) in the muscles and/or body has been achieved. 

At the beginning of every new thing we pursue: new year’s resolution, new relationship, new job, new hobby or body-improving project, we expect to exert ourselves in novel activity(s) to obtain the ‘new’ object(s) of our desire. In regards to improving our bodies, we understand change occurs only after muscles have moved against resistance by many repetitions.

If you want to experience a year of new things, you must choose to live not in the repetition of the natural, but in the newness of the supernatural.
The Book of Mysteries ~ Jonathan Cohn

We are beings who thrive on change…even when we don’t. Change is  part and parcel to existence in the natural world. The swirling atoms of this world and of our bodies are in constant flux of change. As we live and breathe, change is our destiny. And change we will for better or worse. To change or effect change is our greatest opportunity every day and perhaps also our greatest difficulty.

Time is valuable. Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.  M. Scott Peck, Psychiatrist

Change is a dynamic force (law) of the natural world. And it works in conjunction with another dynamic force of the natural world: time. These two forces, if you will, depending on our perspective, become either an ally or an enemy. Like a runaway freight train, change and time impact our lives whether we perceive their existence or passage within or upon us.

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.  Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

In 2017, let’s take time for change…every day. Because time is the currency paid out to us in minutes. Our future self, our future world is created in the realm of how we spend those minutes. Therefore, let us take time to make time change…today…tomorrow and thereafter. 

 

Which One Am I Feeding?

Okay, I’ll admit it…I’d like to lose a lousy 5 pounds. No more, no less. Honestly, that’s it. I know better than to be fixated on the numbers on my scale. I’m a personal trainer and health coach. And I’m always telling my clients how those scale numbers are not nearly as important as their body composition (% of fat and muscle) numbers. I say these things so often they are now cliché training-speak. I am not proud to admit these things, I am no different, no better than any one else I train. I have a love/hate relationship with numbers; they attack my logical brain and leave no room for reason.

Imagine my surprise on the day I contemplated my 5-pound conundrum, when a thought  occurred to me:  How can I help my clients to eat mindfully when I don’t always manage my own mindless eating? I only want to lose 5 pounds, I don’t need to lose 5 pounds, I just want to. And I have a hunch (okay, I KNOW) these last 5 pounds are not going to budge unless I make some changes in my way of eating. Why? Because I have a cheat. I have caloric wiggle room because I exercise a lot…every day…it’s my job and I love it. But it does not exempt me from the law of calories in = calories out.

I don’t know why I had this thought the other day, but that’s the nature of thoughts after all. Thoughts are like feathers blowing in the breeze, floating here and there waiting for us to give them a place to loft so as to entertain our attention. Once we attend to a thought, it may grow upon us and in us.

Now some thoughts are more entertaining than others. And depending on our current state of mind, we may or may attend to any given thought. But one thing is true, certain thoughts are better left for dead. Unattended if you will. Intuitively we know which thoughts make us feel happy or sad or encouraged or angry or defeated or motivated or lazy. So maybe this is why I gave that thought some attention the other day; because it made me think.

What we say and do is based on what we have already built into our minds.
Dr. Caroline Leaf

Actually the thought made me question…myself. And the question it asked was this: What is your intention regarding the food in your hand or on your plate? Are you feeding  yourself in response to bodily hunger or emotional hunger? What would your diet look like if you only ate with an intention to nourish your physical body rather than your emotional body?

Okay, so that was 3 questions. But the initial thought surprised and intrigued. Have I really been so un-intentional, so question-less in my eating? Yes, more often than I would care to admit. Yet here’s the irony of my thinking and believing: I say (I believe) my goal is to train my body for health and physical performance, and yet I eat food which I know will make my body (head and/or stomach) hurt. Really? Really!

Should I expect to reach my  fitness goals when I eat without intention? If I eat because it’s a reflex and not an answer to a question, then I may not be nourishing my body after all but rather my emotions.  So tell me something I don’t know…duh! And this double mindedness intrigues me…

Now that you have more information about me than you needed, bare with me one moment longer. Because I’m just going to put one little question on the table, before you and before me. For the next few weeks (until the end of September), before I put food in my mouth, every time, I will ask myself a question: Is this food you are about to eat for your body or for your emotion? Then I’ll wait for the answer. And if the answer is the one which will help me towards my goal…I will eat…and if it is not…???

So here’s to a half month of research. I’d love to have you join my little research project…if you feel so inclined. I’ll report the results in a post around the first week of October. Here’s to our thoughtful eating…cheers.