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.

Our Focus: Our Attraction: Our Destiny

Training our mental focus is just like training our physical body. To gain strength and stamina within our muscles, daily exercise must be engaged. Similarly, to achieve a personal goal, our thinking must be focused, purposeful and regular about that thing  which we desire to achieve.

What if all we need to be successful goal achievers is to understand this one thing? That we fail to achieve because we fail to focus on the right thing. If we are constantly thinking about not doing what we don’t want to accomplish, how much mental energy, stamina or will power will we have in reserve to make the positive change for ourself? Can you see the paradox here? We are always thinking thoughts…but the focus or centrality of our thoughts will determine our achievements and outcomes.

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Or another way of looking at this paradox is by using the principles of nutrition for our physical  body. We know how to nourish our body with food, even though all food is not equally beneficial for the body.

Likewise, our thoughts are the food by which our minds are energized. Not all thoughts are equally beneficial for mindful action (change). When we need to make a change in our life, we have to nourish our mind for action by thinking about the new habit frequently. We practice this change by replacing the old habit thoughts with thoughts about the new habit whenever we find ourselves thinking about the old habit.

We feed a negative habit by giving it our attention. The best way to change an old habit is to starve it! How do we starve an old habit? We starve an old habit by diverting its food source (our thoughts and attention) with thoughts and imagination about the new habit. This is how we nourish new thoughts…we think about them…alot!

You have to learn that everything you do every day has a deep-seated reason. It gratifies a need and offers psychological support. Therefore, begin where the rewards of the new activity can clearly outweigh what is being sacrificed.
Dr. George Sheehan

Bear with me as I reach this last crucial point. In order to propel us to action, our thoughts require our mindful attention. This is how they influence our behavior. We must recognize  our attraction for old thinking, and as soon as we find ourselves thinking about the old haibt, detour our thinking onto the new habit. This practice requires diligence. But there is no shortcut. We have to be willing to cut ourselves off from our love affair, if you will,  before we can attach our full attention and imagination into new thoughts about our new habit. In other words, we have to fall out of love with the old, before we can take pleasure in the new!

It seems so simple, but I know it’s not so easy to do. But hopefully what you have just read will help you remember…when you need it most. And this is what I hope you will be able to take away from this post: What you focus your attention on…or perhaps, what captures your attention and affection most often, will ultimately propel you towards your destiny.

When we train our focus to embrace a new thought (love) interest, then we invoke the law of attraction upon our goal and our life. This law never fails to succeed for us because, that which we attend to will increase!

Dancing, Blessing, & Moving For Joy

I was over 50 years old before I personally connected  with the happy benefits of moving my body to music…in public…in front of other people…with other people. I know that sounds odd in today’s modern, immodest age, but that is just the kind of person I grew into.

Yet as a personal trainer and recreational sportsperson, I am well versed in the feel-good endorphins illicted in the body when it is engaged in moderate physical activities. I just  never considered or experienced the value of participating in a group fitness class  based in music or dance. I assumed such benefits were reserved for those who had a background in dance, and I had no such experience with dance in a social or fitness setting. Thankfully, in the early days of my fitness education training, my mentor (who was also my employer) strongly encouraged me to consider providing a group music-based fitness class to his facility’s program offerings.

The soul is seen when it reaches out in love. Blessing is done by the soul.
Blessing is the projection of good into the life of another.
We must think it, and feel it, and will it.
We communicate it with our bodies.
Blessing is kind of like an ancient dance of the Hokey-Pokey;
Before you finish you have to ‘put your whole self in.’
Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You ~ John Ortberg

Now fast forward 8 years and I have had the privilege of leading as many as 7 group movement classes per week in addition to a roster full of personal training clients. Half of those group classes involve moving to music; and I like to think of these music-based classes as synchronized movement therapy. I still don’t think of myself as a dancer, but in the six years of leading these group music-based movement classes I have witnessed over and over again, the transformative and healthful benefits produced upon the lives of those who regularly attend these physical activity classes.

Changing your personal meaning of exercise and physical activity from a chore into a gift will transform your relationship with movement.
No Sweat ~ Michelle Segar

And be assured, the only requirement necessary to receive a health benefit from moving is to simply choose a mindset of being a blessing…to yourself. When you attend to your body’s need for movement with the intentional purpose of having fun (read: joy), you practically guarantee a blessing upon yourself, your soul. Additionally, such a mindset (job one = fun) quickly displaces feelings of competition or uncomfortable self-awareness you might otherwise experience in a group setting.

As the instructor of these music-movement classes, I have discovered I am not immune to this soul blessing phenomenon which takes place during and after the classes I lead.  It is a mystical effect, of which I cannot easily explain. But many times during a class period this blessing energy is not only visible on the radiant, gleaming faces of group participants, but I also sense the invisible yet nearly tangible presence of joy (love?) mixing and moving in our midst…the likes of which make me feel like a silly, awestruck five year old child.

Always remember this: Most of our aging is just decay, and decay is optional; it’s  under your control. Some of life’s changes are not under your control, but this one
is. Taking charge of your life, physically and emotionally, is the best possible antidote to standard aging.  And it all starts with exercise.
Younger Next Year ~ Chris Crowley & Henry S Lodge, M.D.

Wherever I go and with whomever I talk, I preach the blessing-benefits available for the taking when we discover a physical activity which brings playful joyfulness into our lives. There is not a one-size-fits-all list of sanctioned activities which constitutes ‘real exercise’. No, the most vital part of soul/body blessing is in bringing and moving one’s self purposefully to each and every activity which brings joyful feelings to one’s heart and puts beaming smiles on one’s face.

When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.
Jean Shinoda Bolen

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.

 

 

Change…You Gotta Love It

Nothing ever stays the same, ever. In nature, in life, in our bodies. Change is one of those immutable laws of the universe. It informs us with great constancy that all things are simply on a continuum: of birth and death; of growth and decay; of youth and age; of static and dynamic; of forward and backward. There is no place to shelter ourselves from change; it is the essence and life force of every atom and molecule found in the created world. To not love change, is to not love reality.

Change (v): to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be, if left alone. Dictionary.com

The problem with change for people though, is that we often do not perceive its arrival until its presence is most obvious and unwelcome. Like the proverbial elephant in the room, we often resist change wherever and whenever we encounter it. Like sleep walkers who are suddenly awakened from our slumber, change interjects clarity and reality into our once fantastical thinking. This may explain why weight gain of 5, 10, or more pounds on our bodies is so imperceptible to us at first, until it is not.  

Is it not also interesting how we try to manage and comprehend change by employing superlatives to describe its effects upon us (gain or loss, most or least, best or worst). But what if we were to consider change not in terms of either/or, but rather in terms of ONE. What if we were to relate to change in simplicity, realizing that its power transforms all things in the singularity of its ONE-ness, ad infinitum: one moment, one day, one inch, one pound after the other.  

Perhaps then we would become lovers of change. Perhaps then we would live our lives  with ONE purposeful step after another and another and another. And then perhaps we would love change, because we would know and believe and witness that each ONE step, each ONE action, each ONE belief accumulates; and this accumulation, whether we perceive it moving us along or not, soon works a change through us.

This is the law and nature and beauty of change. With our each and every thought or movement, change works on our behalf to move us along infinity’s continuum: closer to strength or weakness, closer to health or illness, closer to happiness or sadness, closer to failure or success.

Change…you gotta love it. The power of ONE. Embrace it, or not…  

 

Collective Fitness

There is a well-known African proverb which states, “It takes a village to raise a child”, but I believe this proverb can be extended to a community’s health and fitness too. The longer I lead exercise classes with the people in my community, the more I have come to  believe in village dynamics; because it truly takes a village to raise a community’s collective health and well-being.

I’ve thought much about the ‘active community’ within the small, rural town in which I work and live; of those whom I instruct in Zumba and personal training and balance and strength groups, they have become my family. They are indiviually and collectively my  tribe. They are my happy place; my cherished people. When our regular times to move together are disrupted, my happiness quotient is diminished until we re-engage. And it seems this sentiment is felt by most all those who identify themselves with any given  active tribe.

It occurs to me, that being a part of an active tribe is an especially essential component to the well-being of the ‘over the hill’ gang. Mature bodies require a great deal of extrinsic motivation to stay physically active and engaged. But the truth of the matter is people of every age and stage need, depend, and crave an active ‘village’ to stay on track with health and fitness goals. And when one participates within their active village, the collective energy and enthusiasm provides a collective power to keep its members happily moving together, physically and socially.

As a fitness instructor, I benefit from these group dynamics just as much as those who attend my exercise classes. I notice that we all depend on and look forward to our group movement with great expectations; our times together revitalize and energize all who participate…in body, mind, and spirit.

Ailing bodies don’t keep us sick. Our attitudes and perspectives do.  Karen Casey

I should not be surprised by this phenomenon, but I am, and I want to write about this so as to encourage my readers to never neglect the importance and value of their ‘village’ people. It makes no matter, the size of your tribe, when two or more gather for purposeful movement, lives are impacted and well-being is extended into the community. We all need an active tribe of which we may call our own. Happy, healthy lives are not created in solitary, isolated pursuit, but rather in ‘tribal’ collectives of like minded individuals.

If you belong to an active community of exercising people whom you consider your ‘tribe’ then you no doubt have reaped the benefits of your collective. If you want to raise the well-being of your village, seek out those community members who need a ‘tribe’ to join. Pass the baton of well-being on to those within your community; it’s no harder than inviting a neighbor or friend to take a walk-about your village. Every step together builds your village strong and healthy!

Consider the Sacred

How often do I consider my life and all its proclivities in regards to the sacred? I’m not even sure why I have an attachment to write about this topic today. All I know is that I have found a strand of thought that has captured my attention for the moment, and it seems fitting to follow the strand where ever it wants to lead me for now.

It should not surprise me that one thought leads to another; whether a thought originates in my own thinking or whether it has been introduced by some one else, it does not matter. That the thought sparkled and dazzled and asked to be admired by me is reason enough to give it consideration for this moment.

Why do I bother attending to a fleeting thought? Because I trust that some thoughts are worthy of introspection. And in this space of now, I trust that this thought, with its attending question and percolating intrigue, has captured my attention because I am ready to receive a lesson. I have lived long enough to realize that a piqued interest is usually indication of openness to instruction.

So perhaps my intrigue has whet your curiosity too, and if that is the case, then I invite you to join me for awhile in this quest to apprehend reason on this little bypass, as I consider: What does it mean when we say some ‘thing’ is sacred to us?

Now remember, how I mentioned earlier how one thought often leads to another, then another. Well this thought about sacred things, I believe, was brought to my consciousness because of something I read a few days ago. (Note to self & note to reader: Be careful what you read!)

Anyway, I believe the question which took form before my mind this morning was smoldering as a result of this statement in the “Love Your Body” chapter of A Course in Weight Loss by Marianne Williamson: The purpose you ascribe to something determines its effect on your life. I am not sure why these two ideas feel connected to me, but they do. And I am not sure why I feel like these ideas are important to share within the space of a health and well-being blog, but I do. So be patient with me, as I attempt to connect some dots and unravel this ball of twine of mine.

When I think quickly about this idea of the sacred, all of a sudden the “S” word lifts ‘things’ up to a level above my eyes. It, the object, whatever is beheld as sacred, becomes instantly special, reserved, set aside, honored, revered. Do we use this word so frequently and loosely today, that its meaning and power is lost on our modern sensibilities? Perhaps. But what do I hold as sacred? What or where is the repository for the sacred in my life? What then does it mean when I attribute sacredness to something or someone?

I think the connection is this: What I believe and hold as sacred in my life, I will treat with special honor and reverence. The sacred will receive my best attention, care and protection. In other words, if I purpose some ‘thing’ as sacred, then my actions will support and be a natural outcome of my intentions and my beliefs. The purpose you ascribe to something determines its effect on your life”.

As a married person (34+ years), I consider my relationship with my spouse as sacred. I am intimately bound up in his life and he in mine; we two have become and live as one. Our relationship is set-aside and unique from all our other relationships. I honor this sacred relationship and protect it by keeping my heart’s affections solely upon and for my husband.

As a spiritual being, I consider my relationship with the Divine One as sacred. Similar to my marriage, the Holy One and I co-exist in intimate, loving relationship. There is no way to separate Spirit from spirit. I honor my Spirit-life my spending time in worship and meditation. This relationship centers me and brings light and love to every area of my life.

As one who inhabits a physical body, I consider my relationship with my body as sacred. I am profoundly thankful for everything it does for me, this container which holds my soul. I honor my physical-life by making the time and taking efforts to exercise, nourish and rest my body in accordance to its needs.

As a personality who engages others within myriad roles and relationships (daughter, mother, wife, friend, etc.), I notice that my sacred intent takes less form here. I do not hold my relationships in such sacred esteem. And yet, I can see the merit in assigning them to a higher purpose in my life.  We all have been created and set in this world to live in relationship to one another. Perhaps the disconnect I feel in many of my relationships is a result of my not assigning a higher purpose and value to them? Yes, this is surely a strand of thought which I must further consider and evaluate!

Finally, I have come to the end of the trail. I have made a connection, faint though it be, it is thus: That which I hold as sacred, I protect and honor. If I feel or experience disconnect in my body, spirit or in my relationships, then I have likely ascribed to it a lessor purpose or value in my life. The purpose you ascribe to something determines its effect on your life.”

If I regard something as sacred or worthy, then I will act in ways which demonstrate my belief. That which I believe guides my intentions. My belief becomes my action. Those things which I focus my most care-full attentions and energies upon, also sheds light upon those things which I hold as sacred. What about you? What is sacred to you?