Caution: Don't Train This Way!
Mon, Jan 7 2013 05:57 | Adult Development, Development, Discipline, Habituation, Motivation, Strength, Strength To Awaken, Strength Training
Last week at the Integral Center I was fortunate enough to sit down with my Strength To Awaken small group plus a handful of people from around the world visiting Boulder for the Whats Next Conference. Again, motivation was a big topic. I think it is the major challenge for most people when it comes to training.
I'm going to share with you part of what we explored together because it is essential. If you don't get this there's a very good chance you are digging yourself into a ditch that quite honestly you probably don't want to dive into.
Whenever I speak about motivation I end up talking about discipline. They are interwoven in complex and important ways. For those of you who are already receiving my free 12 Training Tips, you'll hear more about this topic there and for those of you with my book Strength to Awaken in your hands already please see Chapter Nine for a deeper dive. Right now though, we are going to cut right to the heart of the problem.
Conventional discipline divides your mind.
Conventional approaches to training divide your mind.
The common element I'd like you to que into is the divided mind.
Is your mind divided now?
Chances are it is. This is a problem. It is actually a very big one although it's probably familiar so you likely aren't that concerned. Having a mind that is divided is kind of like having your kitchen roaring in flames. Go on, picture that. You're in the living room going on as usual simply because you're used to that fire.
A divided mind is in many ways similar to your kitchen engulfed in flames because:
- both block you from nourishment you need.
- both keep you out of places in your life you need to go.
The divided mind can be defined as two or more oppositional drives inside of you with divergent agendas. Part of you is going this way and part is headed that way. Most of the time these discordant drives are in a struggle with precisely what is happening in the present moment.
Strength training, or any kind of training, from this divided mind is a tremendous waste of energy. It is inefficient. It wastes time. It steals your enjoyment and pleasure.
The divided mind is what most adults live in. They haven't grown their mind to become strong enough to unify and cohere a drive that brings the mind into a synergy. Don't get all hard on yourself here, research suggests that less than 1% of adults do… this is our potential not where you "should be already."
So, training with divisions in your mind is the common climate of most people in the gym. And it also shows up in bed, in the office and in cars on the drive home. The problem is that training is supposed to be an activity that you do for a short period of time that carries you forward. Do this and it will take you FORWARD. Training a divided mind may give you some relative physical benefit when compared to a sedentary lifestyle; however, it often fails to draw you forward in any legitimate fashion. Instead, conventional training results in more division within yourself. Mentally you are not training, you're simply rehearsing or repeating. You're getting better at something that you already know how to do.
If you're like most adults you are not in any need on developing the ability to waste time and energy, be inefficient and erode your own joy and pleasure in or out of the gym. I think these come built in, they are not our future but our current predicament.
Stop repeating the habit of dividing your mind when you train. See what happens when you draw your mind into a greater coherence. Divide your mind and will likely find yourself saying that you are "struggling with not having enough motivation" as I hear often. Bring your mind into its larger resonance and direct it completely into the activity of your training and you will discover the heart of discipline. Become your mind's larger coherence and you will save time and energy, you will become more efficient and proficient. You will discover more joy and pleasure. And if you do this in your training you'll be shocked at how simply a unified and coherent mind shows up in other facets of your life.
Habituation, the enemy that is closer than we like to admit
Thu, Nov 15 2012 10:50 | Aliveness, Change, Comfort, Discomfort, Fitness, Freedom, Habituation, Pleasure, Strength To Awaken, Strength Training
A few weeks ago I was visiting my parents discussing how my book is landing with their congregation and friends. My mom said to me, "one question I've gotten a few times is, What is habituation?" Considering I mention "habituation" or "habituated" over 160 times throughout a 263 page book, this question is a big deal.
Here's how I define it: "habituation is at its essence an automatic response."
I continue on to say, "It's opposite is the conscious presence and agency for intentional action. Habituation has two sides. On the one hand some of your automatic conditioned responsiveness is absolutely necessary for your fluid functioning in life. On the other hand some of the automated responses deteriorate your conscious presence and erode your capacity to intentionally direct your life."
I spend so much time exploring habituation for a few reasons.
1) Habits stand squarely in between you and the change your heart genuinely desires.
2) Some of the most entrenched habits you possess are organized around how you move & don't move.
Interestingly, I have not seen books on fitness or strength training that adequately address how to work with the immensity of habituation (yet another reason why I wrote Strength To Awaken).
3) As those of you who have read part one of Strength To Awaken know, some of the root habits your conventional self uses to define itself are organized and structured to keep you from the happiness you simultaneously desire. That's right, these habituated attempts at happiness actually wall you off from true happiness.
So, if you want heartfelt change that matters to you, if you are interested in embodying these changes in a full way throughout the movements of your life, and if you're interested in happiness then habituation is something to investigate with rigor, right now.
Some habits support. Notice that the fluidity you may feel as you walk has a lot to do with habituation. There's a plethora of neurophysiological processes that make you proficient in walking. It took you years to master this. This is just one example of how habits can support higher level functioning. To a certain extent, we need habits.
Yet, some habits inhibit, close down, and collapse your conscious presence, ability for autonomous functioning and capacity for adaptation. For example, you may waste energy as you hold unnecessary tension in your shoulders, hips, back and legs. This chronic tension rigidifies your body and mind in both subtle and not so subtle ways. This habituation may stem from a neuro-psychological defense pattern established early on in life.
One massive habituation, one of the most pervasive enemies that you, me and most of our friends, family and colleagues keep too close, is the habituated preference for comfort. Sometimes your habituated strategies to be comfortable are completely harmless and should be celebrated. Other times, though, these unconscious strategies steal your larger capacities as a human being.
When you withdraw from life - whether that be in your training, relationships, and/or professionally, because of some uncomfortable experience - you may be stepping back from the life you are more deeply called to be living. This is where comfort stands in distinct opposition to one of your life's greatest pleasures: living your purpose.
Next time you see your habituated preference moving you toward the most comfortable route, evaluate it. Do not blindly follow and trust your automatic responses to be comfortable. Pause, feel into the discomfort, and assess whether going through the discomfort may be of service to your larger purpose in life.
Regardless of what you discover, freeing yourself up from habituation strengthens you psychologically. Every time you see your habits (and thus are not identified as them) your self gets bigger (more inclusive), more flexible, and more capable. Liberating yourself from the comfort habit enables you to trade in for greater aliveness. Does this greater aliveness have more pain? Often times it does, and it also comes with greater multifaceted pleasure as well.
Why You Can't Learn Your Way Out of Limiting Habits
Mon, Nov 12 2012 03:23 | Development, Habituation, Intimacy, Leadership, Learning, Muscle Gain, Weight Loss, Well-Being
Habits are a challenging obstacle for everyone. Whether you are trying to get to the gym more consistently, attempting to change how you show up in an intimate relationship, growing out of some old patterns that are holding you back at work or simply trying to attune to your child that's challenging your preferences, habits hold you back.
My book Strength To Awaken is an in depth exploration of how to work with habituation for precisely this reason. If you want to change in any area of life, you must confront the habits that hold you. In many challenges learning new strategies, applying new techniques to some area of your life or training yourself to behave differently largely fail. To put this into the words of Robert Kegan, Harvard's professor of Adult Learning and Professional Development, you don't need "technical change" but instead you require "adaptive change." Strength To Awaken is an adaptive approach to working with limiting habits.
If you needed technical change you wouldn't still be struggling with trying to change. Learning a new technique or appling a different strategy would have already worked. The persistent challenges, the type of change that bumps up against your more entrenched habits, requires adaptive changes. This means you must qualitatively grow the complexity and size of your psyche. If you don't grow, that is undergo adaptive change, the habits of your life have you, possess you and thereby govern you. Instead of being captured by your habits you need to possess your habits.
This all important shift is the process of growth and development. One psyche is smaller than the habituations thereby allowing limiting habits to have, hold and govern you. The psyche that has undergone adaptive change is larger, more complex and thus capable of holding, governing and mediating habits. Instead of struggling with limiting habits adaptive change allows you to set limits on your habits which is a remarkable transformation.
When ever you are working toward changes that require adaptive growth, consider a these points:
1. What would you have to experience if you actually did change?
Typically your habits are organized around you NOT experiencing facets of yourself and your history. Deep change work (whether that's losing 20 pounds of fat and gaining 10 lbs of muscle, taking responsibility for creating intimacy in your relationship and self-regulating yourself in the face of contact that creates anxiety or establishing new leadership capacities in your organization that require you to hand off greater responsibility and freedom to your team) almost always places you face to face with facets of experience that you are equally if not even more so committed to not experiencing.
Identify what you are likely to experience, physically, emotionally and mentally as well as socially and perhaps economically. Moving this commitment into your awareness shifts essential dimensions of your limiting habits from subject (that which holds you) to object (that which you hold).
2. Make an explicit commitment to yourself to metabolize these unseen and guarded facets of your experience.
If you don't feel through and welcome these facets of your experience you will likely not change. Move neglected, guarded and strategically avoided facets of experience into awareness. Clarify these objects and make commitments to experience these parts of your life without manipulation.
3. Live into the decisions that most serve your life (not necessarily the ones that most serve your habituated sense of comfort).
Move habits from subject to object. Learning new strategies, approaches and or techniques will not result in the change you desire if the change requires adaptive growth. Learning adds tools but often fails to bring underlying habits into the light of your attention. This movement from subject to object frees you up to live into the decisions that support your well-being, excellence and elegance as a human being.
Performance or Preference, Which Do You Serve?
Performance, genuine elegant performance, requires that you step beyond your habituated preferences.
Performing within the sphere of your conditioned preferences is never an expression of your highest levels of elegance and achievement, but instead rote repetition. While repetition is necessary for performance, it is not sufficient.
Habituation serves adequacy. Preferences are most often in slavery to comfort. Performance moves with elegance. There is a mysterious effectiveness and grace that is simple, direct, fluid and refined. Look into your peak gestures of performance, I think you know what I am talking about. Put simply performance celebrates what is beautiful - not our cultures conventions around beauty - I'm talking about the heart and essence of beauty. I'm talking about your complete rapture in and as the simple movement of joy.
When you train today, when you pick up injunctions to engage your full embodied experience, start with the intention to explore your experience outside of the boundaries and limitations of your habituated preferences. If your preference is not to train the larger sphere of the elegance that is your emergent beauty, all the better!
Cut through preferences and I think you'll find something much more precious, or rather something precious will take hold of you.
Aliveness and the Survival Habit
Ask yourself this simple question: Do you want aliveness?
Chances are you answered yes to this inquiry. There is some facet of the human being that desires, yearns and searches for the sensate quality of aliveness. While there may be times where you cannot find this part of yourself, the vast majority of us can access this desire most of the time when asked.
But, What precisely is aliveness?
This is a rich inquiry yet defining it is less rewarding than actually feeling it, which is what interests me and I hope sparks something precious in you. The facet of you that desires aliveness is less concerned with looking at aliveness objectively and more invested in subjectively inhabiting the feeling of being alive.
Aliveness, at least from my present vantage point, has at least one central obstacle: survival. I know at first that sounds absurd, but let me explain.
If you are like most adults, you have two basic ways of engaging each moment. The first constellates around engrained survival strategies and the second organizes around the quality of your life. Survival strategies are perhaps the most habituated ways of functioning available while the inquiry into what births your greatest quality of life is something that requires liberated space to even ponder.
Let's be clear out of the gate here, your survival strategies are rarely organized in such a way that they actually support the ongoing enrichment of the quality of your life. Read that again… It's important. At each moment you have a choice, do I want to "survive" (which often implies feeling less) or do I want to qualitatively improve my life (which often requires feeling more)?
Survival habituations are root organizations in your way of being that protect you from threats. This is great, except something has gone off course when you habitually stop feeling because the sensate experience feels threatening. Perhaps the most basic habituation I am aware of that does this is the shift from feeling consciousness to thinking consciousness.
To be clear here, I am not talking about the full conscious participation with dynamic thought which is inextricably woven to feeling consciousness. I am talking about the habituated movement of consciousness out of feeling and into conditioned scripts that unplug you from your larger complexity.
This larger complexity is what fascinates me because it is only here that any of us can find our emergent elegance that can co-create our greater quality of life. Birthing this is qualitatively distinct from merely surviving.
This brings us to the topic of embodiment. Dis-embodiment is most often our preferred survival strategy. This is a good thing. I can tell you first hand as I faced death face to face some facet of my being pulled the eject handle and with it I was spared the panic, open terror, anxiety and raw pain of suffocating to death from an asthma attack. Yes I mean dead, passed out, not breathing, can't find a pulse, body turned grey dead. My consciousness followed this ride only so far until I found myself "somewhere else."
But if you happen to be like me, your survival strategies also unplug you from the immediacy of your life when experience gets uncomfortable. Chances are you've got some missing discernment in your core survival strategies which do not distinguish from being in actual danger and experience being uncomfortable and no longer fitting habituated preferences.
Survival strategies working for habituated preferences, needless to say this is not a recipe for human elegance that embraces your larger complexity. Find out just what is your actual window of tolerance to experience your full unmediated embodied experience. Where is the actual limit and where is the habituated limitation? These are very different!
I think you will find that your larger complexity is freed up from many of the habituated closures from feeling. If you are like me, you are likely to find that the larger complexity that you are able to participate with is rooted in feeling through the full open immediateness that is right here regardless of preferences.
In this rich texture and tapestry of the open embrace of pain and pleasure I think you will find a wellspring of aliveness that simply does not reveal itself to human beings bound to habituated survival strategies.