Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Beyond the Competition

Many people still persist in believing that the competitive (comparative) model is helpful in providing the motivation to remain involved in one's own betterment throughout life -- as though that was the essential point, and that other people should care more than one does themselves -- which is doing things for the approval of others. While that may work at first in young people eager to gain the approval of others and find their way in the world, eventually each has to go their own way in life, not always having another's approbation to guide them, and even when they think they do, it no longer has as much power as it once may have.

At that point, one has to look towards one's own inner guidance -- as the source of strength that must be one's unshakable guide in all things. And so one must care more than anybody else that they are at their best, achieve their best, as a lifestyle, and a way of doing everything and anything in their lives -- even when there is no other to reward them for that; it is the reward they give themselves, and nobody else is going to do it for them.

But that is the importance of obtaining that development -- which is to discover and know who they really are, and not simply, what somebody and even everybody else tells them what they should be. That is the essential difference in highly self-actualizing lives -- and those who never come close to thinking that such things are possible, or even matter. One has to individually make it matter -- and that is the quality of one's life, that makes any quantity matter.

That is the only approach that will work, especially in later life -- when one is "retired" or grown-up, and no longer has the external props to keep one going and motivated -- to be at one's best. Many at that point, begin a lifetime process of disintegration and deterioration, until finally they no longer care about anything, and their life force diminishes until it is gone. So the question is, how do we continue to cultivate this essential and powerful drive for (self-)discovery by which we do not mean just petty and shoddy self-absorption (-promotion), which is merely the continuation of the need for approval that becomes so unseemly and unbecoming in fully mature people, who then become merely shells of themselves -- a person who used to be vital, and matter.

Such an outlook is not so difficult to achieve or even be aware of -- but it is not as tirelessly promoted in the media as the only way, or the way that must be for everyone. And that is where fitness activities went off on the wrong path -- to measure everyone and compare them to a singular ideal of a optimally functioning heart -- and nothing much, much greater! What they overlooked and lost was the meaning and purpose of it all -- the organizing principle and drive of individual lives, because surely, nothing is more preposterous as reducing all human activity to simply calories expended and heart beats registered as an end in itself -- and not the greater purpose and meaning.

I guarantee you no athlete (participant) in any activity, ever thinks that if they simply get their heart to beat as rapidly and vigorously as possible, that they will accomplish what they hope to achieve. In fact, there would be no greater guarantee of failure -- as such persons would become lost in the minutia of micromanaging every single function until the comprehension and mastery of the greater purpose is entirely lost -- just as many "educators" think that a person should just learn anything for its own sake, instead of only when required and absolutely necessary -- and to know the difference!

Otherwise, one quickly becomes lost in all that can be known, rather than what is essential to know -- which is the organizing principle of life that works extraordinarily well as the art and beauty of each individual. That is what one must become the best at -- which is not to become confused with simply what other people think, no matter how much they try to convince us it matters.

That is the art to life in the age of intrusive media and unrelenting promotions and propaganda.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Most Important Lesson I Learned From My Father

My father devoted his whole life to the study and teaching of exercise (tai-chi, chi-gung, yoga), and so when I returned home to see him in his last years, I was very much shaken that despite his dedication to exercise and health practices (Chinese folk medicine), that he was not immune from the contemporary ravage of our times -- which are the dementias (Alzheimer's, etc.), characterized by decreasing brain function in otherwise healthy individuals.

And in fact, therapists sent over would remark and marvel at the fact that my father seemed remarkably vital and youthful -- even that his skin seemed as "soft as a baby's." So it was very disturbing that despite the years of attention to maintaining his health in his personal quest for immortality (the objective of Taoists), he had failed in this peculiar way by which the body remained quite functional -- but seemed to be disconnected entirely from the mind (brain), and so there was no recognizable sense of responsiveness any more, with no hope for improvement and recovery.

That is a very profound realization to come to -- that all one's efforts are futile, and all the therapists and experts, merely concur that there is no possibility for change in any positive fashion anymore.

And so I thought about it -- that maybe even exercise didn't work -- or at least exercise as it was practiced for even thousands of years, didn't address the one thing it had to do -- and that was retain, maintain and strengthen the connection of the mind (brain) with the body, in making head movement integral to all movement. That had never been done -- because the peculiarly of thinking of exercise for the mind/brain, was that it was not subject to the rules that governed all other parts of the body -- and that is, in order to improve the health and functioning of a particular region, one has to actually move that pat of the body -- and that it wouldn't just happen by wishing/thinking it so.

And then when focusing on the movement of the head as paramount, I then realized that the movement of the head, was critical to the muscular state of every other muscle in the body -- because that was the essential function of the human body -- head movement and facial expression above all else. And really, nothing is more meaningful and sensible.

Most of the exercises people still do, treat this is as an unnecessary attention and focus, preferring to focus on what they call the core muscles at the center of their body -- while presuming that any increase in heart rate must produce a corresponding increase in circulation to every part of the body, as though that effect was random, instead of following fixed pathways of increasing resistance to the extremities. First because it has to travel a greater distance, and through much narrower pathways, often where the resident pressure, is even higher than the propelling pressures such as the heart. The vessels closest to the heart, are larger and so any stimulus in them, will be at the expense of the smaller capillaries a greater distance away. The greatest increase, will be observed to the body's own coronary arteries -- or to the heart itself, rather than the more distance brain -- if a deliberate attempt is not made to change predisposition.

It is after all, the brain that regulates the heart, and not simply the heart that ensures optimal brain functioning -- obviously. The more I observed highly functioning individuals in every activity, the more apparent and obvious it became to me, that those who were the best in their activity, were those with the greatest retained muscular development of the neck and facial muscles -- which are basically ignored in most exercise strategies. And in fact, the usual regard, is to regard them as simply stumps, or stubs -- attached to the important core of the heart and larger muscles.

But even in performing an obvious movement for the development of the core muscles of the abdominals, one will note that head movement necessarily precedes any torso movement -- and in fact, it is the head movement alone, that can effect the fullest range of contraction and relaxation of the abdominal muscles, without any torso movement taking place at all. That is the effect the movements at the extremities have in activating the supportive (core), that is not true vice-versa, and in fact, is mostly irrelevant to accessing the fullest range of muscular states which are in fact, meaningless as well as counterproductive to ensuring the optimal circulatory effect to the extremities of the head, hands and feet -- which implies all else, but not vice-versa.

And so I learned definitively from my father, what did not work.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Exercise Anytime, Anywhere, Whatever You're Doing

The attainment and maintenance of optimal health and functioning is so obviously paramount, that it must be possible to access and perform it, anytime, anywhere, whatever else one is doing. And so while it is nice to be able to watch television while one is exercising (the popularity of the treadmills), it is even better, when one can effectively exercise, while already watching television, or lying in bed trying to get up, even eating, showering, brushing one's teeth -- as well as directly applying that attention.

In fact, enabling one to go from anything and everything else to such a focus on the primacy and effectiveness of simple and fundamental movement, is an accomplishment in itself, and invaluable at all times. That is simply -- developing focus, from the many distractions and diversions of our lives. Some people call that living in thoughtfulness, or meditation, or simply consciousness and awareness of what one is
doing, and beyond to what is.

Others refer to it as the heightened state of being "in the zone," when time and space seems to be infinite with all possibilities and unlimited energy and resources. Under such conditions, the extraordinary becomes entirely possible -- or simply, is, and that experience, is what makes life transcendent and enjoyable.

But that's not the same as simply being an adrenaline junkie -- those addicted to the thrills of unnecessary dangers, risk, and stimulation, that simply requires increasingly more to satiate, until one is exhausted of those capacities, and retires permanently from that continuance -- often into the memories of what they used to do, that now become their only reality in preference of the presence they think they can no longer fully engage.

It is because the basis of their conditioning, was the belief that their practices for the attainment of that extraordinary state, required extraordinary circumstances to even consider before attempting, or could not even be attempted otherwise. In this way, they create the barriers for their own continued success, at simply optimizing whatever they have. Athletes have to do it, but so do children and parents -- simply doing the best they can, with whatever the situation presents itself. That is an invaluable conditioning in itself, which very few are prepared to do.

So one of the great advantages to an invaluable conditioning program, is this very ability to shift into what one has to do -- momentarily, and not just a routine, a time, a schedule -- but on demand, as required. It's not unlike the greater paradigm of the times and culture we live in -- that have shifted from an unchanging world, to a constantly changing one -- which requires the necessary preparations and readiness to engage.

That's why people carry on them their cell phones, keys, glasses, wallets -- because that is their readiness to do whatever opportunities present themselves. Obviously, some people are much more prepared and conditioned to do so. Others have so conditioned themselves, that nothing but the predictable and controlled, is what they will do, each and every time. That in itself, is limiting one to the past, rather than increasing the possibilities for the future -- in the present moment. And that is how the past, present and future, comes to be compressed in each moment, as simply the whole of reality, being in the moment.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

What Are You Conditioned to Do?

In every field of education, what is it that we are being educated to do?

It is to accept the authority of another over our own senses and judgment -- while ignoring and dismissing our own. So in a sense, we have disabled all our own God-given hardware, in favor of depending on another to tell us what to do and think, above every other manner of functioning, and developing an understanding of what we are doing.

And so when a new problem arises, we don't know how to go about discovering a solution for ourselves, but first rely on the authority we knows -- with no way of knowing if they truly do or not, because those who vouch for that authority, are those who maintain that hierarchy and status quo, is their own dedication.

Thus, we don't know if what we know is the truth of the matter, or just what those with a vested interest in maintaining their own authority on such matters, want us to know -- if we have no alternative manner of inquiry, but to consult these (self-)appointed authorities -- and questioning that authority, is not an option, despite the fact, that their supposed "answers" to everything, seem to make things worse, rather than eliminate the problems.

Not surprisingly then, the result of current understanding of conditioning and exercise, results in more people being out of condition, and needing more exercise. A few will do the much more, while the majority will decide that it is not worth it -- to punish oneself day after day, with only the prospect of then being able to tolerate more -- as proof that one is better conditioned. That seems to work at first, until the body and psyche simply exhausts its recovery ability, and is forced to take a long break, often through injury and often just the sheer exhaustion of maintaining oneself in a constant "fighting"-ready posture, which prolonged indefinitely, causes an irreversible deterioration of health rather than the desired readiness to meet all challenges.

Obviously, if one's conditioning exhausts one fully, there is never any reserve to actually respond to any real life urgencies -- because one is always in the recovery mode, marshaling their resources for the next workout -- as though that was all there is in life. After a while, that does become one's so preoccupation and reality.

And really, the whole purpose of proper, beneficial conditioning strategies, is to enable us to move beyond -- and not just repeat, and fall further behind, until most simply quit out of exhaustion and the realization that they are no longer better, despite how much they do. If one is still obviously responding and growing, then there is no question that one should continue whatever they are doing -- that is working. But when those benefits and results are not so apparent, then one loses that conviction that that expenditure of time and energy is "worth it."

But if one gets a tremendous return for very little time and effort, one would be a fool not to continue. It is because current popular conditioning strategies do not provide these significant and dramatic returns, that people increasingly abandon these activities and become overwhelmed by the deterioration (aging) process. The only option they are provided, is to make life a constant torment.

So one asks, is that the only way, or can one design a conditioning program without this onerous cost? We've never thought this way about conditioning before -- that rather than being hard, it is should easy, and as effortless as possible -- as the lives we hope to live, without the constant struggles no longer necessary to maintain a competitive edge. And in fact, the great survival value, is the cooperative edge, or not competing with every other thing, including and especially, oneself.

This competing, or working against every other thing in life, is obviously the harder and least productive way to go -- instead of being aware of the contribution of everything else, including millions of years of evolution, to benefit from all that intelligence. That is the implied intelligence of present reality -- or as physicist David Bohm called, the implicate order, and others, called it, the unconscious intelligence, rather than the conscious one of effort -- to struggle against everything else.

That is the meaning of the expression of "going with the flow," and realizing the much greater power, that always to be working against it -- as the currently popular thinking of conditioning, teaches one is wise. In order to maximize the benefits of life, one should avail of them, after becoming aware of them, and so, as many wise have advised, one should develop this ability to be aware and observe -- without struggling and trying to vanquish and dominate it as a knee-jerk response.

That's what we have been conditioned to do. Obviously, that is not intelligence, or the intelligent way to condition oneself.

But does that mean we become cerebral giants with atrophied bodies? That also would not be an intelligent manifestation of being -- because if nothing else, that would indicate to us that the connections and the functions of all the organs, were not supremely maintained -- and most of these sensory organs, are located most generously, in the head, hands and feet -- by intelligent design.

Yet most contemporary, as well as the venerable traditional disciplines of exercise, totally are oblivious to those extremities -- practically regarding them as immovable, rather than as the summation of good health and functioning. In fact, there is no measurement or even awareness of these possibilities, while functioning on the most remedial level, is monitored as though it were sufficient indicators of the highest.

I've often observed that in even formerly extremely vital persons, when they began rapid deterioration, it was most notable, at the cessation of responsiveness at their extremities, as well as in the atrophied development of the structures to the brain -- and have suggested that the greatest precursor I have noticed in those with dementias and other brain dysfunctions, is absence of vital movement at the head vis-a-vis the torso.

As I was observing the acceptance of Ronald Reagan in 1980 to his nomination for presidency by the Republican Party on YouTube, one already notices that there was very little movement of his head, relative to his body, and the absence of well-developed musculature, and in fact, he has a very distinctive wattle. He is simply the most well-known, of those he were diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

"Look forward, and don't turn your head." (And seeing what is going on around you).