Feel

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“There is in all things visible … a hidden wholeness.” ~ Thomas Merton

You don’t swing a golf club or cast a fly rod with your arms. You don’t kick a soccer ball with your feet or run with your legs. Your whole body moves and the way your body moves is the way the club or rod moves. It determines the path of the ball when you strike it, and the accuracy of your shot or cast. When we try to work with just the pieces and parts the movement becomes fragmented and so do we. We lose our feel for the thing.

Ben Hogan’s advice for golfers who wanted to improve their game was simple, “You can learn good golf if you use the sense of feel,” Hogan said. “The chances are that you now don’t recognize the sensation of a swing.”

Learning to recognize the sensation and develop that sense of feel connects us with an embodied knowledge and learning that we rarely access. Practice your skills for sure. But skills without feel can only take you so far. Develop your feel and you may surprise yourself with what you can create and accomplish.

Approach

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“At the heart of things is a secret law of balance and when our approach is respectful, sensitive and worthy, gifts of healing, challenge and creativity open to us. A gracious approach is the key that unlocks the treasure of the encounter … When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us.” ~ John O’ Donoghue

How are you approaching your workout or hike or bike ride? It is with curiosity or gratitude or playfulness? Is it a time to explore and enjoy the satisfaction of rising to a challenge and continuing to develop yourself and your potential? Maybe it’s the opportunity to connect with yourself, to bring body, mind and spirit together?

Or is it an obligation? Is it a form of penance for the extra glass of wine, the beer, the pizza and the ice cream? Are you there to “whip yourself into shape”?

The check in and warm up that starts a coaching or training session is a ritual that allows us to transition both physically and mentally from whatever we have been focused on to this moment, to prepare our body and get our approach right so that the gifts of this effort and time can flow more readily toward us.

Sometimes its a challenge session and the intention is to explore the edge, to push ourselves. Sometimes its a technical session to develop a skill or explore a new movement. Sometimes its about recovery, listening to our body, staying within certain limits and noticing how it’s feeling. Whatever it is we want to focus and refine our approach.

How are you approaching your encounter, whether it’s a yoga class or bike ride? When was the last time it felt amazing? How were you approaching it? Experiment with your approach. The potential of what we’re after is already there, embodied within us. “A gracious approach unlocks the treasure of the encounter.”

Move

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“Nothing happens until something moves. When something vibrates, the electrons of the entire universe resonate with it. Everything is connected.” ~ Albert Einstein

— Albert Einstein

Before every training session I would ask my athletes to make an entry in their training journal. One of the questions was about mental energy. On a scale of 1 – 10 where’s your mental energy level today? Then we would come back to the same questions after the workout was over. At the end of the session where was their mental energy on a scale of 1 – 10?

One day, at the end of a workout, a player came up and told me she noticed that her mental energy was almost always higher at the end of a workout than it was at the before she started. “Am I crazy,” she asked, ” Is that normal, shouldn’t I be more tired”

When we move things change both inside us and around us. Movement engages, energizes, activates and connects. So, no she wasn’t crazy. What she was feeling was real.

Things change when we move. Want something to change? Well …

Improvise

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“Improvisation is the courage to move from one note to the next.” ~ Bobby McFerrin

I’ve had to improvise a lot lately. Moving stretch classes from the rec center to online. Going from seeing clients in the gym to coaching them in their basement on FaceTime. Some of it has worked. Some of it, not so much. But things keep moving and we all keep learning.

The first rule of improvisation is say ” Yes and”. Take what’s being offered and add to it. Saying yes keeps the energy flowing and moves things forward, allows us to explore and create. Refusing the offer just stops things cold.

What’s being offered isn’t always what we expect or want. If we’re going to be creative though, if we are going to move FORWARD, the first rule still applies, “yes and.”

One of the other rules of improvisation is don’t look for perfection. The musician is just trying to find the next note, the actor the next line, the dancer the next step. Sometimes it works, other times … well…?

So, we move our classes from one platform to another and learn. A client doesn’t have weights but they have a backpack and a gallon jug. We can’t do a therapeutic stretch on the table so we try a guided session over the internet. It works … a little … we learn and look for something a little better.

Insisting that things be different than they are or that we go back to what was just shuts it all down. Find the next note, summon up a little courage and give it a try. It’s time to improvise!

Glad I Did It

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“Be deliberate, act with intention.” ~ Twyla Tharp

I learned, the other day, that “glad I did it”, and “glad it’s done” aren’t the same thing.

I began a session with a client like always, checking in. Part way through he said that some days it’s harder than others to get started, his mind starts to pick away at his resolve.

A little voice says, ” Why are you going to do that? You should be sitting in the recliner with a book and a bag of cookies.”

” That’s just noise though,” he said, “you learn to let it go and get started.”

“And, then pretty soon you’re glad it’s done,” I said.

“No”, he replied, ” It’s not that , it’s really more that I’m glad I did it.”

There’s a difference between those two: glad it’s done and glad I did it. One focuses on the event . The other focuses on my choice and my action. One conveys a sense of relief, the other a sense of empowerment.

It isn’t either / or. I can be glad the workout is done or the race is over AND glad I did it. What struck me was how important the second part of that is and how often we stop at the first, just being glad something is done when the reward is as much in the action as it is in the completion. Maybe more.

The choice to act on what is important, especially when it’s challenging , strengthens us in a different way than the physical work and gives us a different kind of stamina.

What’s out there today, challenging you, inviting you, waiting for you, that when it’s done you can say, ” I’m glad I did it?”

Showing Up

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Research shows that sustainable progress, in everything from diet to fitness to creativity, isn’t about being consistently great; it’s about being great at being consistent. ~ Brad Stulberg

Showing up can be a challenge when the places and routines we are used to are no longer available, when the world around us, even if it’s just our corner of it, shifts and wobbles and even vanishes.

It doesn’t need to be a pandemic. Any change, welcome or not, planned or unplanned changes the geography. How do we move forward when we don’t have our bearings? When you can’t developed the qualities you want to in the ways you are used to or within the context of a clear future, what do you do?

Now is an opportunity to focus on those deep qualities we often give lip service too. One of the things we can develop in this moment is consistency. We do it through the simple practice of showing up. We show up for the workout or movement session, we show up in the kitchen to make a healthy meal, we show up for the meditation time or the stretching.

We can also practice showing up for one another. We don’t have to go through this moment alone. Show up on line to share a workout or a meal. Check in on your friends or family or team mates. Believe it or not you know how to do this. We’re social creatures, it’s hard-wired in us.

Like any skill, it grows over time. The workout we can do or the space available may not be perfect. But, that’s ok. What we’re practicing here is showing up; consistency. Here’s an opportunity to grow. Let’s practice showing up, for ourselves and each other.

Good article here on consistency from Brad Stulberg.

Engage

“To engage, with honor, the full possibility of your life is to engage in a worthy way the possibility of your new day.” ~ John O’Donohue

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The future is unfolding right now. As unclear and uncertain as it may feel, it’s already being shaped by the choices I make today. I can put my fitness and health on hold and wait for sunny days or I can continue to grow through the fog.

What’s possible today? What can I do to become a little stronger, kinder, wiser? How can I grow my stamina? What have I wanted to work on or develop that I have been putting off? Is now the time to focus on that?

While the long term may be uncertain, the day ahead of us offers so much possibility. What would it look like to engage that in a worthy way, a way that honors the full possibility of our lives? That’s exciting!

Exploring Possibilities

“If I were to wish for anything I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of what can be, for the eye, which ever young and ardent, sees the possible.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

When Jack began he couldn’t do a windmill on his left side. The tissue from his hip, torso and shoulder was stuck; tight and restricted. He could reach the floor from the right side but on the left his hand went no further than his knee. So we started there.

For months we didn’t force it, we simply explored what was possible on a given day. Almost every week he discovered new territory and opened a little more space. The goal was to create the right balance of linkage and separation between his upper and lower body.

For weeks his windmill was just to touch a yoga block we stood on end. Gradually we set it on its edge and finally flat on the ground. Jack kept exploring. We kept working to open the tight, compressed spaces with FST and one day he said, ” Let’s try it without the block.” He touched the floor.

But we’re not done. The goal was never to touch the floor, it was healthy, robust movement and flexibility. So, we’re on to exploring new territory now, new possibilities. And, because his attitude is about finding out what’s possible we won’t be done for a long time. I mean he’s only 70.

Tension

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“What keeps the body upright is a dynamic network of fascia and muscles maintained in a state of tension” ~ Robert Schleip

The human body is a tensional network. That tension keeps us upright and moving. Remove the tension, like when your sleeping, and you collapse in a heap. Sometimes that tension becomes unbalanced, through injury, illness, emotional trauma or inactivity and we feel the effects in our body.

The fascia or connective tissue holds, senses, balances and transfers that tension. Because the human body is a dynamic system, a whole in which everything is connected, that unbalanced tension is transferred and experienced in different and often surprising ways. That pain in your knee could be the result of an imbalance in the opposite shoulder or something in your foot. That tight low back could be from the way you’re feeling about your job.

One of the goals of all our movement work from Fascial Stretch Therapy and LifeStretch classes to strength training is to adjust and rebalance that tension. And, because everybody ( every body) is different, that balance and work is different, even from day to day or week to week.

The fascial system is more than just a structural network. It is a sensory system, movement system and supply network. It connects body, mind and spirit. Each impacts the others. Changes in your body are often telling you something about other things in life that need adjustment.

Keeping that balance is always a dynamic process. As you listen to your body and become more and more in tune you recognize those imbalances sooner, learn how to adjust, and when to ask for help. Keeping the tension in healthy balance is what it’s all about.

Patience

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Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” ~ Ralph W. Emerson

When it comes to health, fitness and well being Emerson’s advice is well taken. There are no shortcuts to growth. Hacks and quick fixes are for machines. You and I are a part of nature, living, breathing human beings. Patience is the quiet virtue that supports our growth.

Patience is about being able to act and wait at the same time. We take the actions that move us toward our goals, exercise, rest, eat well, manage our stress and then wait patiently for the results to show themselves, in small ways, slowly over time. If we give up acting, nothing happens. If we try to force things we break down. Patience is about doing the work AND trusting the process. The end result is not change but transformation.

Patience isn’t easy but, just like strength or endurance it can be cultivated too and there is evidence that the more we have the healthier we are. Clear values, a sense of purpose and support from others make a big difference. Do the work, get some help where you need it and trust the good stuff will show itself. Oh yeah, then make sure to enjoy the process.

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