Do Less, Gain More

It sounds counterproductive, right: Do less, gain more? I’m not suggesting it’s always true – just sometimes.

Imagine human beings were offered a certain amount of energy to expend at birth. During life, we use this energy while, at the same time, generating and exhausting energy from life forces outside of ourselves: the Sun, other people, wind, stress, etc. And somehow, we balance the intake and output of energy as we live, grow and die. How do we manage this exchange?

The yogis suggest that we slow our breath. The Taoists offer a variety of breathing, movement and even sexual practices to generate and store energy. Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to life force as chi and offers a variety of different ways of management and manipulation.

But how should modern Westerners manage their energy? Based on our current living conditions and what we observe of our bodies and effects of stress (good and bad), how do we do it? Is it correct to adopt practices developed decades or even centuries ago?

A new way comes with new perspectives and a new world. As the world changes, our bodies and minds change. Our energies are generated and exhausted in new ways, at different rhythms and at different paces. Food, soil, water and even our atmosphere continues to change. While studying about energy management methods from the past may be beneficial, I think it is important for us to keep in mind that training practices need to be applicable to modern times in a modern body.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in regard to energy management. The following are some insights I’ve gathered thus far to aid in ensuring I have enough energy for work, family and reservation:

1)   Don’t exhaust all the energy you have each day. Reserve energy for those moments when you’ll need more than usual. 

2)   Thinking exhausts energy – all types. Make time for quieting the mind.

3)   Energy is meant to flow in and out of the body, like a river into the ocean. Move your body each day in order to generate the flow so that, during periods of rest, the flow is maintained.

4)   Be flexible within a workout routine. If you feel tired or are preparing for a stressful situation, change your routine. It may mean lifting less weight or taking an extra day off from training.

5)   When there is a lot of movement around you, do less or be still altogether. There are times to move and times to be still and pay attention more closely.

We experience energy on all levels, from our cells within to the wind above. Energy is meant to be attended to and respected- sometimes, that means doing less.

Train Love

There are many obvious reasons to train: alleviate pain, loose weight, strengthen muscles and bones, circulate blood, prevent disease, and sculpt the body along with many others. But let’s pause here and take a look at what is not reflected in the mirror; what may not be focused on as a reason to train: love.

By “love,” I don’t mean the ability to attract someone or to maintain a blissful state throughout the day. Instead, I suggest that a most valid reason to train is to develop a love for life. What does this mean? In one respect, consider that a loving nature involves gratitude, confidence, and contentment. These attributes allow for inspiration. Once inspired, the will to move forward in life strengthens. This force, I suggest, is love.

Walking is highly recommended in all systems of health and wellness. As a parallel, one may consider walks as analogous to moving forward in life. As one walks on, gratitude, confidence and contentment may develop if attention is placed on the one’s surroundings and not, instead, on worries, fantasies or regrets. 

When one is in love, one is grateful. Walking outdoors allows one to be active within a variety of natural forces, including light reflected from the stars and the moon. Where there is light, I propose, there’s love. Take a walk and bask in it.

When one is in love, a person accepts oneself for who they are. Examine the following universal rule: Love offered in sincerity is reflected back. The notion of giving and receiving may seem polar on the surface but, with a most genuine intention, they act in a concerted fashion. The breath illustrates this. The inhale takes in oxygen offered by nature while the exhale awards carbon dioxide back. The act of giving and receiving is constantly enacted throughout life. Walks allow for this process to be acknowledged, granting one to move confidently, with the knowledge that, by merely breathing, one is a contributing factor within the whole order of life.

When one is in love, desire lessens; one is content with the body and life one has. Is a walker moving toward or away from something? What if neither?

Although training has been scientifically proven to maintain and heal bodies, there are no assurances. Everyone agrees that exercise may help prevent disease but there are no guarantees that if you exercise you won’t get sick. So why bother training?

Consider switching focus from the prospective consequence of exercise to what can be a certainty: Training helps develop one’s will to continue living – to never give-up; to live in love with gratitude, confidence and contentment. The power developed through love is conquering; it’s beyond all else and would be useful to recognize.

Act, Listen, Then change.

Change is a consequence of training. Some, however, make change the focus of their exercise. But if change is inevitable, why focus on it or try to control it, even? The body responds to work in specific physiological ways that are outside of one’s command. What if, instead of focusing on change, one were to focus on the act itself? To allow for change to occur freely, without limits, consider the following in their respective order: Act, Listen, Then change.

Within the context of training, action begins as soon as one puts on their gear and walks to their training space, adhering to a specific regimen, with or without motivation. Any one who has experienced this knows that a lack of motivation usually leaves once movement begins. Action allows for trainees to get out of their heads, so to speak, and into their bodies. Training for health, as opposed to performance, involves one distinguishing element: listening.

After one has developed proficiency in movement patterns and stabilization, opportunities to listen broadens. When a trainee begins to expend less and less mental and physical effort on the mechanics of movements, attention to other things, like joints, thoughts, and the breath begin to evolve. Listening, as opposed to action, is a passive activity. It involves paying attention and not giving-in to the impulse of attempting control. As anyone who has worked with children knows, when attempting to control another, including yourself, you will inevitably loose. Training is a journey of discovery and unification, not control.

Muscles grow when they are at rest, as do the other parts of you. Rest, or non-doing, is just as important as action and listening. As mentioned before, change occurs as an effect of training. Although it cannot be controlled, it can be suppressed. There is a physical and mental component to rest, both important to train. Resting allows for space, as a context for change, to develop. Without the canvass, the painting cannot exist. For some, resting can be quite difficult. It is neither active nor passive. I suggest, rather, we consider rest as the “point” in geometry, where one may find their full potential. At the point, one has the freedom to move in any direction and make any shape, known or unknown. Change may serve both as an effect and a manner of creation. Paradoxes allow for inspiration, not answers.

Answers are overrated, anyhow. Inspiration can be a lot more fun.


Act,

Listen,

Then change. 

 

I move

From a point,

Or not.

 

Freely,

I Find myself,

A-part of

Nothing

And All.

Following the Feeling

Varying sensations may serve or deter a trainee from attaining a goal or set of goals. Consider all different kinds of bodily feelings, including: temperature, vibrations, tension, trembling, grief and nervousness, to name a few.

As a result of becoming more comfortable and relaxed during performance training, a trainee may begin to feel sensations in and on the body that hadn’t been noticed before. Sensorial development may also be due to new experiences, like: practicing a new sport, meditation, or even mourning a death or surviving an accident.

Depending on one’s personality, reactions to these new sensations may vary from fear and concern to imagining that something is happening beyond the biological occurrences that result in the feeling itself. Learning about how a human body functions may help understand what one feels. Another means of understanding is interpretation outside of science. Many interpretive systems, like numerology and cosmology were developed in response to culture/tradition and a limitation of scientific understanding. In modern times, people turn away from science to explain new sensations for a variety of reasons, including confronting what science has not yet been able to explain.

Perhaps senses serve human beings as the set of white rectangular paddles serve the small white ball in a game of pong. Senses may help us navigate our way through life, however the feeling itself is nothing to focus on. Considering the pong analogy, imagine if the ball were to stick to the paddle once they touch – the ball would then be stuck, out of play. What if senses are meant to move us? Serving as something to bounce off-of and not stick to. Allow me to offer a real-life example of a sensorial experience that could distract one from training, or “staying in play.”

At 19 years old, I was in a fatal car accident and, after being pulled out of a burning suburban and laid onto the bed of a pick up truck nearby, I had what some may refer to as a “near-death experience.” Lying with holes and tears in most of my organs, my body went into protection mode, offering a feeling of numbness. As people tried to keep me awake, I went in and out of consciousness and had a very specific sensorial experience. I remember seeing a white light, floating, being aware of what was happening and not really caring that I was apparently dead. I didn’t worry or even think about loved ones, as I thought I would. I was simply content. I was formless and light. I had a choice and decided to get back into my body.

I struggled with this experience for a long time, trying to understand it. Needless to say, I was never satisfied with rational or irrational explanations for what I felt and continued to feel as a result. It was then that I realized I was stuck. To move forward, I needed to allow for ease and contentment in real time, not focusing on the future or the past.

This particular feeling was strong and I am genuinely still curious about it but life is not just about feelings. What if we are simply meant to continue moving forward, and stay in play? If I had continued to follow that blissful feeling, I’d be dead. To live in real time is not to live in the feeling, it’s to live with feeling. This is why training can be so beneficial.

Training involves a set of exercises done repetitively in order to develop skill and attain a goal. It also involves listening, resting, discipline, and change. Common reasons for quitting a training program are exhaustion, injury, or time. Our bodies are constantly changing as we confront new life experiences and the world changes around us. It is important to move forward in training respective to these dynamic elements. Whether it means to take time to rest or recover, train less often, change intensity levels or add elements to address new skills, like coordination and flexibility.

Feelings help us discern between uncomfortable sensations and good sensations. Consider that being a little uncomfortable may serve you, just as feeling too good may not. This is where discipline and discernment come into play. Longevity training develops balance, allowing one to stay in play and avoid getting stuck.

 

 Denise Horvilleur

Train to Train Yourself

I’ve been teaching for almost 20 years; began teaching kids in public schools, then training teachers, and now training adults ranging from 18 to 86 years. As an experienced teacher, I have come to the conclusion that the most valuable result of learning is the gains in potential to teach oneself.

Today, most people living in a modern society have a great deal of access to information. Some may argue this can cloud one’s ability to discern between what is credible and what isn’t. The surge of information may be overwhelming for some, resulting in people seeking others to help orient them amongst a sea of data, opinions and promises.

The feeling of being lost is understandable. In addition to a tremendous exposure to information, many people today find themselves desperate; desperate to: look a certain way, optimize health, obtain a partner, start a family, or find work. With a simple search one may easily find a person or a system that claims to have the answers one is looking for. George Carlin once said something to the effect of: Any salesman who keeps smiling is probably selling you something you don’t need.

I’m not suggesting that one shouldn’t seek teachers, however, I am suggesting that no one has the answers that one is looking for except for oneself. Turn your bullshit detectors on, I implore. Learn, be inspired and experiment. Ultimately, no one should tell another person how to eat, act or think. Always question and seek answers for yourself through experimentation, evidence, and common sense.

I am a former school teacher and current personal trainer. I have taught people how to think, read and write in a public school setting in order to provide structure so that, when they are ready, they may find their own manner of generating ideas, testing them and articulating understandings. As a teacher, I would make this clear to my students throughout the learning process. It is important for those who put themselves in positions of authority to encourage student self-reliance.

As a personal trainer, I train clients to ultimately train themselves. I orient them within the gym, introduce them to equipment and how it is safely used, and invite them to move in a variety of ways, allowing them to develop preferences. I teach them the fundamentals of building stability, strength, flexibility and balance. Most importantly, I encourage clients to listen to their bodies, identify limits and work within them. I offer clients the opportunity to establish a foundation (both physical and mental structure) on which to build.

Once one gains proficiency and confidence, they are then challenged to create: to write, think, move… There is no way around this. I believe human beings were made to progress and change, and not to lie in stagnation. We all have a responsibility to learn to care for ourselves in order to grow. Life is dynamic. Our bodies are constantly changing. As a result, our actions should support this change. Teachers, parents and friends all provide a little help along the way – the blessing communities provide.

Amidst this process, be sure not to mistake the teacher outside of you, however, for the ultimate teacher within.

Denise Horvilleur