Monday, February 27, 2006

Integrating Thought and Action

One of the great problems caused by professionalization, specialization, fragmentation, compartmentalization, is the often noted remark that “one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing” -- so disconnected have each facet of our existence become from every other. So one is often not aware that while he may say/think one thing, they do something else entirely -- and that is particularly true of intellectuals and those one would think would have a higher understanding of themselves, since they claim to understand people as a generalized abstract so much better than the rest of us presumably do. However, often knowing much about the generalized average, is only possible by dismissing the range and deviation of the particulars -- and it is these individual aberrations that are the realities, and not the generalized, abstract, theoretical ideas of what is real, and happening.

Thus many people who say they may be do something, may not actually be doing it, living it, but only intended to do it, wished they did it, imagined they did it, or know better to do it -- which is not the same as actually doing it. A few have a greater sensitivity to this (body) awareness and feedback, but for many others, and obviously those who view their mind and body as separate entities, universes, and realities, it can be very problematical. That is particularly so when the development of the mind or the body is greatly out of proportion with the other -- and often, to the denial and destruction of the other -- because it has been recognized since the earliest awareness of human consciousness, that the greatest actualization of any life is balance, and not one or the other, at the expense of every other.

History is replete -- if not ignored and dismissed by today’s incompletely developed authorities -- with individuals who were notably great in their time because they were the “total package” of the highest actualization and expression of humanity. That was true of Leonardo da Vinci, Socrates, Jesus, Edison, Lincoln, Michelangelo, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Buddha, Mohammed, etc. They were not frail, intellectual wimps of people, but had to be extremely robust and vigorous to withstand tremendous odds and conditions against them.

There’re not too many people who survive 40 days fasting in the wilderness, survive repeated attempts on their lives, relentless persecution, without having extraordinary capacities that enable them to stand above and alone in this way. Running with the crowd is a whole lot easier than running against the crowd. In time, the historians may revise the picture to make it seem that such individuals were actually the paragons of the established status quo -- rather than the revolutionaries and iconoclasts they actually were. Instead, they become icons of the present status quo -- as the products of the status quo -- rather than as the great challenges to the status quo of their times that defined and distinguished their lives.

So it is very important to modern conditioning strategies that the functioning of the mind and body is integrated in this way -- that the mental exercise is also the physical movement -- and the results are “embodied” in the human form, and not be something other then the apparent -- that requires technological gadgets and calculations to detect. That is the integration of thought and action.

In the teaching of such movements, what the teacher merely notes, is the difference between what is and what should be -- which the student may not realize, is not what he merely thinks it is, hopes it is, wants it to be. And that difference between merely wishful-thinking and the actuality of the execution, entirely explains the deficiency and disappointment of satisfactory “results.”

Monday, February 20, 2006

“Some Animals are More Equal Than Others”

While it is the height of civilization to believe that all should have equal rights -- the thinking that all then have equal abilities, is a denial of realities, and one of the great disservices to the cause of justice and fairness, because then it can be argued that if everyone is born with equal talent and ability, the only reason one performs/achieves better than another, must be due solely to a personal success/failing -- rather than that talent and ability was not equal to begin with. People with exceptional talent are much more likely to be humbled by it and restrained in their own proclamation of greatness -- and recognize how they were gifted and fortunate more than those with mediocre abilities who are overly proud of their much more modest attainments due to their hard work, persistence and other virtues too numerous to mention in such a limited time and space.

But the Mozart’s of the world don’t see it as hard work; that was what they were born to do -- and have to do regardless of whether they are rewarded and recognized for those abilities or not; that is simply the expression, fulfillment and being of who they are. Unlike most people, extreme talent is not motivated in the traditional ways -- as much as it is triggered by the proper stimuli and circumstances.

There are many exceptional abilities for which there are no established competitions or venues for display -- that go mostly undeveloped for that neglect. In another time, under different circumstances, it could be the critical survival skills required for the species to continue and thrive. Those born with exceptional skill sets, in the right time and place, are the people of destiny proclaimed in history. Often, their rise is quite unforeseen by every measure in which we have become accustomed to accepting as the proper and acceptable path to prominence/dominance in that field. Predictably, there will be great resentment, bitterness, envy from those who have followed the formula and path they have been told will guarantee their success -- if they simply persist long enough, believe in the myth strongly enough, etc.

Thus to expect everyone to do equally well in mathematics or writing, is to set up a lot of people for failure -- in the delusion that they have an equal ability and chance for success -- when it is clear to most others, the game is over before the contest has even begun. Then, awakening to that realization, and even more determined to grab victory despite overwhelming odds against that inevitable result, thinks that the only way they can win is to lie, cheat and steal -- and takes that route into a monomaniacal obsession, often in that way, destroying themselves utterly in a battle they cannot win.

One of the great talents of those proficient in an activity, is their superior assessment of their realistic chances for success as well as failure -- because they know their own abilities so intimately. Meanwhile, those less knowledgeable of themselves -- have a greater unrealistic assessment of their own abilities and chances for success. Under such conditions, superior judgment would realize that the best strategy is not challenging the superior talent in their strength, but in allowing the superior to blaze a wide swath for all the others to benefit from because those talents are not consumed with the petty struggles just to determine who is better.

That lesson should be a vital part of contemporary education -- and not exacerbating those struggles, as though that were the proper demonstration and manifestation of “intelligence.”

Monday, February 13, 2006

Creating The Flow

Once we have the proper metaphors and imagery, we can discuss a process that is working, or can be made to work very easily -- while abandoning the language of futility of those who have no idea what they are talking about. So while some are likely to say, “I am the expert: I’ve tried all the diets, I’ve tried all the exercises -- and I’m living proof that none of them work. That is what life is all about!”

That’s what passes for the popular literature these days -- this language of futility, despair, hopelessness -- that they will ever meet an honest person in their entire lives who knows what they‘re talking about -- even if they live a million years! Such reporters need to join another political party or get a new job, and get out of their toxic situation that has so warped their perspectives and attitudes.

One has to begin one’s day with the right attitude -- without the bias and preconceived notion that “life sucks and nothing can ever be right” -- which is the message largely propagated by the morning news now. Only bad news can be news -- and the good news, the 99% of what constitutes intelligent life, is ignored -- producing this great distortion of what life is and how it really works. In fact, everything that does work, is ignored, denied, suppressed, distorted into something monstrous, if it is to be discussed at all. It’s a very damaging orientation in life -- but unfortunately, one that permeates a lot of the popular (mass) consciousness and literature.

Finally, most people figure it out and wonder, “Gee, why am I subjecting myself to such negativity, prejudicing all my interactions with the world?“ Why, indeed? That was the conditioning for the last half of the last century, in which most people’s first exposure to the world each day, was what was presented, by the mass media -- as determined by a few people who filtered life through their own provincial understanding and biases.

Such biases are impossible to see as long as everybody in the pool has the exact same indoctrination (education) of what is true -- no matter what their skin color or country of origin. So to think that merely recruiting more diversity based on skin color, exacerbated the inbreeding of the inability to see things differently. It was discrimination of the wrong things -- which is prejudicial, while claiming to be “objective.”

And the prejudice in the conditioning understanding, has been that “more” makes the difference, rather than “better,” not only in exercise, but in everything else in life. That flaw in thinking, crippled beneficial and productive activity by defining that it had to be difficult, unpleasant, nonsensical. What was measured was not that which was most significant to measure -- but what was easiest to measure, and to market such measuring devices.

It is like looking at a football and a basketball, and observing that they are brown.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Awakening of Intelligence

The Buddha, is simply the Enlightened One, or the Awakened One -- with the implication that most people are asleep all their lives, while going through the motions of ritualized behaviors so that most people cannot tell the difference. The exceptions, are the Adepts -- those who are at least aware that some aren’t, and can be awakened to function at a higher level.

The presumption in most societies is that we are functioning at our best -- or that there is no difference between functioning at our worst and at our best -- that there are no differences, and nothing makes a difference. We even see that there are organizations dedicated to blurring every distinction, and banning discrimination of differences, as though that were the supreme attainment, the enlightened state of being.

The problem with modern Buddhism, and particularly the study of it in academic and intellectual circles, is that it has become largely about words -- rather than practices, so that one thinks he is enlightened because he knows the words, rather than the being of them -- the practice, the actuality, and the fulfillment.

Previously on this site, I had discussed the One-Minute Workout, which importantly shifts the focus of the conditioning practice from the heart to the brain. It is pointed out that physical exercise should be of greatest benefit to the most important organ of the human body, which is the brain -- that regulates all other functioning in the body. That is the critical path of which optimal functioning is impossible if ignored.

Once the flow of circulation to the the brain is enhanced first thing upon awakening each morning, the functioning of that individual in everything one does, is greatly enhanced -- beyond mere trying without that practice -- as the single most important moment one can devote to such heightened awareness and functioning.

The usual manner of thinking is to believe that the only way to enhance mental functioning is with purely mental exercises -- as in thought, without recognizing (as is difficult for academics and intellectuals to realize), that the greatest part of the functioning of the brain is beyond thought. Thought is maybe 5% of brain function -- and that which is beyond conceptualizing as thoughts and words, we can simply call attention and awareness. With that simple state of awareness, the brain is hardwired to function -- beyond our conscious efforts, because that is what it has evolved to do -- not just in humans but in every form of life with a brain.

When there is an alternation of the full muscle contraction with the full muscle relaxation, it specifically and greatly enhances a pulse or flow of blood, oxygen, neuromuscular impulses towards the area of such focused movement -- by accelerating the flow back towards the heart, thereby clearing space for the new.

The paradox for this necessary process, is that one cannot fill a cup that is already filled -- but it must first be emptied. Such an empty mind is therefore fresh to learn everything new -- and see things it never saw before even though they were there all along.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Prejudice vs. Discrimination

That’s the major paradigm shift of the 21st century -- that every discussion that was dominated by the need for “more,” evolves to the discussion of “better.” “More” was the driver of life in the 20th century. However, once there is sufficient, simply more is usually not better -- as in the phrase, “More is better.” The transformation in understanding is that “Better is something else entirely”

Because of the effectiveness of mass media and propaganda techniques, what was famously done was to substitute one attribute for another, such as in equating “more” to “better,” when on careful reflection -- more and better, are totally different qualities.

In that same way, “discrimination” was equated to “prejudice,” when they are actually the opposites. The master observer of these propaganda and mass media techniques was the journalist, George Orwell, who gave the alarm on such practices in his two famous works, Animal Farm and 1984. He illustrated how two mutually contradictory and exclusive thoughts could be manipulated to be the same.

To “discriminate” is simply to be able to tell the difference -- between one thing and another. It does NOT necessarily imply a lesser regard and treatment; it could mean an even higher regard and valuing of what one has been able to discriminate as superior attributes. Therefore, to ban all discriminations, does not allow one to distinguish good from bad, good from evil, right from wrong, better from worse.

“Prejudice” on the other hand, is actually this prohibition on making the proper discriminations as to what is good and bad, right and just. Most of life is good with a rare bad -- so the advice not to be allowed to make that distinction, determine the exception, sets one up for deception and manipulation -- which is what the mass media is perfecty suited for. It is one-way transmission of values imposed by one group of self-selected people on every other. Freedom of expression for everyone is not their objective; freedom only to impose "their" opinions is what that mass media is all about -- their control.

But that is simply one manifestation of media and not the ultimate evolution of media, which is transpiring as we speak. It is the living, breathing dynamism of ideas being formed in the dialogue -- and not merely conclusions imposed after the truth have been predetermined by the self-selected group -- who determine that they know better than everybody else what is best for everybody else. They are commonly denoted as “liberals”-- which supposedly implies and denotes a moral and intellectual superiority (as though at sometime in a clouded past, God passed down another set of Commandments, that superseded His previous writings, and appointed this special class of priests to interpret and administer these edicts).

The major prohibition then became, that it was forbidden to distinguish this difference between “discrimination” and “prejudice,” and by that device, one had to follow the pronouncements of the self-appointed class, that such as they pronounced, was what was “politically, morally and socially correct” -- unquestionably.

Friday, February 03, 2006

It's Not a Matter of How Much -- but How Well

In conditioning, the critical concern should not be how much one does, but how well he does what he is doing -- and that elevates it to a transcendent and transformative possibility.

Practice is for the purpose of getting better -- and not worse, or just to stay the same.

Inattention to what one is doing, makes one do worse -- because one is not fully "there" with all one's faculties. So a conditioning practice that allows the mind to wander into some travel magazine or other distraction, fragments that focus -- and is obviously conditioning the body to do one thing while the mind is doing something else entirely.

The obvious result are the many people who think one thing -- but do something else entirely, and are not even aware of that. So whether they are truly getting better or worse, they do not know, because even the measurement, may not measure anything significant to measure.

All world champions do not go around obsessively checking their pulse to see how well they have done. The heart rate will adjust automatically (autonomically) to the demands of the effort. One need not command the heart to beat faster in response to the challenge; that is a given.

One has to focus all energies to that which is not automatic -- the critical factor that implies all the rest, and that makes a difference.

As the years go by, and even the staunchest proponents of the "burn more calories and use more heartbeats" age, they will increasingly discover that one of the great overriding concerns is the conservation of energy and decreasing recovery ability that is exhausted in any effort.

Any exercise and effort has that cost -- it drains recovery ability, the body's ability to recover from that effort and perhaps add capabilities for future exhaustion (failures). As much as homeostasis (maintaining the current status), another powerful imperative of the human body is to maintain a reserve for extra-ordinary efforts and challenges.

That is the directive given in exercising a muscle to momentary failure -- the present condition is not sufficient. The body has to adapt in increasing its base level capability, or fitness.

Momentary muscular failure is not to be confused with momentary cardiorespiratory failure -- as when happens when a weight is so heavy that it compresses the chest and makes even breathing difficult. Then the failure is not a muscle failure but the cardiorespiratory failure in not even being able to breathe effectively to enable the effort. Many people don't differentiate the two.

For that reason, a weight light enough to permit at least 25 repetitions is "light" enough not to produce that cardiorespiratory failure before the muscle failure. Ironically, most single or low-rep failures are NOT muscle failures but this failure to be able to breathe properly because just holding the weight compresses the chest overpoweringly. If one can breathe effectively, there is a good chance that the attempt will be successful.

Effective breathing will normally predispose and imply the overall success. Once the breathing falls out of sync and becomes difficult and labored, failure is imminent.

Thus, the effort should be timed to the breathing and not the activty forcing the breathing. Time-proven conditioning strategies place this understanding as the essential and critical focus of their activity.

As the breathing becomes deeper and more powerful (not faster and shallower), all other capabilities are enhanced to optimal functioning condition.

Meaning and Purpose

Unless there’s meaning and purpose in one’s activities, sheer and wanton waste of energy is not a positive conditioning model. One becomes what one conditions himself to be. If it is to waste as much energy as possible, that’s the kind of person one is conditioning oneself to be -- and of course, such a person will take on that form of a grossly inefficient person.

But if one desires to move with the greatest efficiency possible, the greatest grace, economy of purpose and movement, one will take on that shape and condition. That is what that body does and has to do. So the notion that any expenditure of energy is desirable is not true -- as a purposeful and healthful productive activity. If one is going to bother to do something, they can make it their mantra of perfection (art) -- their own standard of performance and achievement; it could be weightlifting, running, swimming, biking, calisthenics, or just plain breathing.

The yoga people have made their entire system of exercise focused around the breathing. Tai-chi takes that flow of energy further; the imagery is the unlimited power of the air entering one’s body and being directed by hydraulic pressure to where there is the flow of movement.

The popular notion that merely raising the heart rate and burning as many calories as possible is probably one of the most damaging perspectives ever offered about what exercise and conditioning should be about. It’s totally meaningless and encourages people to believe that there is no organizing principle in any and all activity that gives it a higher purpose. Everything is trivialized to nothing -- randomness of activity being as good as a highly skilled achievement.

Such people pride themselves that they cannot “discriminate” any differences -- as though that were the supreme attainment of their lives -- rather than the folly of fools. These people will tread endlessly through their lives -- wasting every opportunity to make a difference, to improve, to better themselves. They will demand that others must love and honor them for that reason -- that one should not discriminate between the good and the bad, fit from unfit, a beautiful and practical form from the ugly and useless. And then they think they have a superior ideology to impose upon the world!

Life is not random; life is increasing order that predisposes even greater order. That’s how knowledge and the collective experience builds upon what has been done before. It’s not that everything is totally random and arbitrary -- and so nothing makes a difference; it doesn’t matter. That is the depths of despair, hopelessness, utter futility.

That’s what many intellectuals unfortunately view the activities of the physically active to be. They try to discredit and undermine the high purpose, organization, intelligence and wisdom of such practices -- because they themselves are so out of touch with their own physical bodies. They think nothing is connected to anything else, to any other purpose and reason for being. That it is all sound and fury signifying nothing a really serious and intelligent person should take seriously. So while they’re on the treadmill, it won’t be a total waste of time and energy if they can read “People” magazine and find out what’s going on in the world.

They haven't a clue.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The “Quality” of Life

In most people’s discussion of the “quality” of life, they immediately start in on the “quantitative” aspects -- showing no understanding about what quality is really all about. It is a critical difference that makes quantity irrelevant. One sees that transcendence briefly, unexpectedly, infrequently -- but it is there, for those who know how to see it, have trained themselves to recognize it. It is not simply more of the same.

Those are the moments in life of “peak experiences,” that to some extent can be conditioned into one’s life and being. During such moments, the body and being, becomes totally alive -- which is a biochemical reality also that then becomes embedded into the very structure of cells being formed at that moment.

That is a mostly unrecognized and undiscussed aspect of conventional conditioning strategies -- for the better life one can expect to live beyond the present one. The better life is not simply the same life but only different as one imagines it to be -- but is different in the many ways one doesn’t have to imagine it to be, as a wholly different reality, with a life and wisdom of its own -- at a higher level of capability, clarity and efficiency.

The conventional boilerplate conditioning strategies don’t have those provisions for total transformation in every aspect of one’s life because they really have no expectation that they can even change one. So their discussion is of such irrelevancies as calorie consumption or expenditure -- while more importantly, how it is consumed and expended is a universe of different possibilities that shapes the human psyche and form. It is like the person who sees an amateurish cartoon, and then a masterful work at a museum and says, “They are both art.” But one has a profound effect on the human being, while the other will not amuse or delight a second time -- but will simply be discarded worthlessly as “yesterday’s news.”

Then today and tomorrow, one can expect to be bombarded by more of such “news” and “information,” that will be compacted and provide the landfills of tomorrow -- as their hope-to-be-forgotten “legacy.” A lot of “sound and fury” signifying nothing. If one is convinced as they advise, that there are no worlds and universes beyond which they are telling us about, then of course one will be consumed in the despair and hopelessness of a better life beyond.

And one sees it in the bodies and body language of those writing such pieces -- as they file out each day at quitting time like a school of penguins scurrying home to their nests, repeating to themselves, “If man were meant to fly, God would have given him jets.”