Monday, April 23, 2012

Power Mindfulness - Ken O'Neill

The Way of Bodhibuilding
by Ken O'Neill

Certain societies have for long made knowing yourself the greatest of all heresies. Religious and political dictatorships don't really want you to know who you are. Instead, they mandate the nature of reality, the nature of yourself: you are who and what you are told you are. In Western culture, that taboo was so great that psychology, the study of mind and emotion, was taken seriously. And when psychology first started only slightly more than a century ago, its chief interest was in mental illness, sexual perversion, and how rats and worms learned to run mazes. Until very recently psychology ignored dormant potentialities and powers within us all. Even now, the psychologies interested in our hidden nature are not in the mainstream: your health insurance will not support such a program.

Bhodibuilding takes off where psychology currently ends. It is a new science and art of educating you about all the dimensions and skills needed for success in lifelong fitness and health. Bodhibuilding means literally to build the wisdom body along with the physical body.

Mindfulness is the high art of balancing being fully present in the moment together with working within a training program. It charges your workouts with power, intensity, and effectiveness. Power mindfulness has another benefit: it can make your workouts briefer because of their effectiveness.

Bodybuilding publications are filled with training routines but none of them take up training a championship mind. Mindfulness reshapes your workouts from a routine into some dynamic that keeps on bringing results.

You won't find books on Power Mindfulness. It's a key to bodhibuilding. You will find it in the traditional martial arts as well as the fine and performing arts throughout Asia and parts of the Middle East. But when martial arts are imported to the West, power mindfulness is often discarded. Our culture's dogged insistence on separating mind from matter results in a "mind over matter" orientation. The 'mind' of mind over matter isn't mindfulness -- it's ruthless brute force, like a wild horse in need of taming . . . brute force content to break its way through any obstacle, so drunk on its own power that profound injuries are a sure bet.

I'm using the term mindfulness instead of meditation. Meditation means so many different things that that there is not a clear, single meaning for the word. And it brings to mind religious associations of monks and nuns cloistered away from the world, eschewing power in favor of submission. Mindfulness has clear and unwavering meaning. Mindfulness is a natural skill just like muscle or strength building, and is something anyone can master through regular, disciplined training. Those of us who do weight work can easily pick out others who do the same. And those of us who do mindfulness training can see it in others.

Mindfulness training starts with taking responsibility for your states of mind and emotions. The average person has little self-control, their states of mind being like unconscious knee-jerk reactions to their environment. Instead of self-control, the average person reacts to life. In recent decades the debilitating role of stress in the lives of average people has gained wide acceptance, resulting in all kinds of "stress reduction" and "stress management" programs. Power Mindfulness recognizes the role of stress in life, but instead of "reducing" or "managing" stress, it focuses on outgrowing any influence by stressors.

Most of us are creatures of habit. We like stability. Change requires a lot of energy -- energy invested in adapting, energy invested in creating new stability. Change breaks down our habits, discomforting us with adaptation. We don't even like to think of change -- in fact, most of us find difficulty in imagining big differences or changes in our way of life. That same habit of mind applies to how we train and what we get out of training. Oh, we may change the order in which we train, the number of sets, the number of reps, but the very idea of making radical changes in training demands thinking outside of the box. Just look at training routines: most are variations on a theme. Gyms are pretty much organized around that theme. Supersets are a case in point: the layout of the average gym makes doing supersets, say of back and chest, pretty difficult. Instead gyms are organized as neat little compartments or categories: chest equipment here, back equipment there, leg equipment somewhere else. And that makes doing anything differently rather difficult.

Power Mindfulness aims at creating the very stress needed to make gains. Not the stress that disrupts making gains. Power Mindfulness takes the power away from the world outside of your mind and emotions, bringing that power home where it belongs. Bring back the power.

Bodhibuilding development consists of three major steps in training:

(1) Developing skills in breaking out of the normal waking trance, or disengaging yourself from what's going on outside of you. In meditation and stress management training, you learn techniques of sitting quietly. They depend on learning to turn off the incessant inner mental chatter and removing yourself from the distractions outside of you. That brings about some independence and freedom from stress. As you get good at this, your experience shifts to quiet and peace. As you get real good, that peace and quiet follows you around.

(2) Insight or understanding is the second stage. Learning to turn off inner and outer unsettling distractions will, in time, reveal a big difference. That difference between peace and stress gives you a choice to make: which matter most. As you vote for peace and quiet, stress drops including overproduction of catabolic (tissue destroying) hormones, better sleep and overall relaxation follow. You note that your training progresses more easily you grow bigger and stronger. Insight deepens understanding of how destructive noisy, stressful living can be. Insight votes for deepening peace, quiet, and gaining wisdom about what's best and healthiest in living.

(3) Power Mindfulness. As you get better and better with peace, quiet and insight, you reach a point where you don't have to sit somewhere to get that state of mind. Instead, you increasingly cultivate that state of mind: it becomes dominant. You change. You don't get pulled into things unhealthy for you, you don't get suckered into destructive behaviors.

Power Mindfulness is a step well beyond ordinary consciousness. Because of that, it's difficult to write about. We can talk about it as autonomy, independence, in a "flow" state and other terms. But if you haven't experienced those things, they mean nothing.

Everybody's had workouts that stand out in memory. Workouts in which the weights you used suddenly went up, the pump flowed, where everything fell together and went right. Those workouts are like magic. And everybody's had workouts from hell -- ones where nothing went right, you just couldn't get close to normal poundages and reps, and had no pump. What makes on different from the other?

The first thing to keep in mind is that if both kinds of workouts "just seemed to happen," you better tell yourself your mindfulness fitness is real low. Maybe lower than real low. The point of Power Mindfulness in particular, and bodhibuilding, in general, is to make every workout a memorable best one.

I recommend an experiment. Add a section to your training journal. Along with sets and reps, keep track of all the distractions -- inner and outer -- that fill a workout. Do you go to the gym full of energy and enthusiasm, or are you thrown off by the events of the day? Track what's going on with every set. Do you approach the set with notions of how many reps you'll do -- or how few you'll likely get? Is your mind off in fantasies about what you're going to do or have to do after you train? Or is it back at work, at home, or someplace else? You write it all down for now -- be honest with yourself about what your mind is really doing. That way you'll find out that weight, sets and reps aren't all you're doing in the gym -- you'll find out where there are disconnects and distractions between training and your mind. That's food for step one training: quieting the mind, entering peace.

Power Mindfulness is like one of those best ever workouts only better. Best ever workouts seemed to happen that day; Power Mindfulness sessions are created by you, and you have the power to create more and more of them as you progress.

What happens in a Power Mindfulness based session? Weight and reps increase. Sticking points aren't as hard. Workouts become filled with personal records. If the weight is feeling heavy for a given workout, you're not stuck with having to repeat the last workout: you can adapt by using less poundage, sets, or reps. But you won't want to curse that "off" workout.

A vital key for bodybuilders is that of asking, "What don't I know?" Not that you'll know what you don't know, but that question will focus your mind. Your mind will be focused on being a walking question mark in search of hidden truths . . .

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