Walking The Razor’s Edge

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The balance between where we want to be and where we are can be a tenuous one. On the path of self-discovery and personal evolution it seems the one constant that always comes up again and again is to be present, to be in the moment, to just ‘be’. But what about the future?… What about our expectations?… Do not expecations just lead to disappointments when not fulfilled? Should we even have them?

At least I know now for sure not to dwell in the past, but only to look back to learn and grow from it. As for going forward, the balancing act seems to be more complex. The human mind will naturally dwell, ponder and eventually over-analyze if left unchecked it seems.. a bumper to bumper traffic of thoughts. But is this really our natural state? Why do we have to train or ‘re-train’ our minds to get back to our natural state?

Many questions come to mind, when it comes to the mind. But these examinations are crucial if we are to evolve as quickly as possible. The human mind is a large piece of the puzzle. Many traditional and esoteric schools of wisdom start and end here… but the end is really nothing tangible that can be explained in words really. Hence we need to trust ourselves and our intuition, and not necessarily what is the popularly held consensus or belief or what someone else has told us. tree-sun-reflection-2

So one thing we can keep doing is always question, question our place in the world, question our belief system, question so called ‘authority’… questions are healthy. We may not always get an answer, or the answer(s) we think we seek, but questioning reality can lead us to new perspectives and places we might have not otherwise reached. The more open minded you can be, the more open you can be to new ideas, thoughts and perspectives, the more you can empower yourself and free yourself to be more fluid.

A good way to look at things as well, is like being a ship at sea, of course you should know where you are going but at the same time be fluid enough to change course on a moments notice if need be; Back to the Mind. New perspectives or flashes of insight and wisdom rarely come when actively seeking them or when the mind is ‘full’, especially with pre-existing notions and endless thoughts.

Meditation of course naturally slows down the mind and thought, thus opening up space to allow new insight and perspective in. It is a tool most seekers of knowledge engage in, in one way or another. Looking for the space in between your thoughts, is a process you can engage in almost anywhere, whether you are sitting alone in quietude or in the midst of your day as you go about doing your business. This is one of the best ways to gradually become more mindful and control your thoughts.

This ‘space’ gradually opens up, and becomes wider and wider, seperating the traffic of thoughts. This leads to pure objective observation, or being the ‘watcher’ as it is sometimes called. In this state, we can much more easily be un-attached… unattached to people and things around us and of course unattached to ourselves, which can lead to a different quality of consciousness.

Freedom at the end of the day is state of mind (or no-mind : ).  So as we constantly probe and elevate our consciousness, the gap between where we are and where we would like to be can very quickly become as thin as a razor’s edge.

Spring Training for Life

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“April prepares her green traffic light and the world thinks Go.”

~Christopher Morley


For many of us the Spring season is arriving. We are starting to see some warmer days, grass turning green and trees budding. There is an emergence of a sense of renewal and hope, and some moments of calm and peace as we breath in the fresh Spring air. There are a few times during the year where we have a desire or intent to make some changes, to hit the re-set button, take stock and do some things differently.

Typically, we experience this on New Year’s. For some it may be when there is a change of seasons, with Spring being very symbolic of a renewal and growth. This is the time to ride the collective energy that is being generated as a large portion of the population is not only in this mindset or thought of positive intent for change, but more so, putting these thoughts into action.

On a Universal level, the change of seasons inspires us to think or contemplate and take action relevant to the season. During the Spring in particular we often see more people getting outside—bringing their exercise program to the outdoors, cleaning yards, planting, dining outside, walking about and even simply taking in the sunshine on a park bench. We also see Spring training move into high-gear, as teams get ready for their respective seasons. They are staring a new season with physical conditioning, practice or scrimmage games, fine-tuning skills and preparing themselves mentally and emotionally for the season ahead. There is a sense optimism. There is motivation. There is strong intent. And there is belief.

This is an interesting and enlightening phenomena that we can use in our daily lives, which prompted me to think about how to apply Spring training to our lives. Spring-Mountains

Indeed, there is a very physical part of Spring training, where we pick up again, change or intensify our workouts. If we run on the treadmill in the gym in the Winter, we take to running outside. In the warmer weather we can do alternative outdoor workouts and activities like bike riding, boating and team sports like baseball, track and field, etc. We get the opportunity to mix it up a bit.

This all helps the body—with the extra benefit of being outside to help with grounding ourselves and helping us feel more centered.  Take Spring training into your physical life—leave the building for lunch, incorporate an outdoor workout into your routine, practice and work to develop some new skills, even if it is running or walking an extra mile everyday.

There is also the mind part of Spring training, as we work to hone or develop skills and try new things that take concentration and focus.  It impacts senses as with the smell of fresh cut grass, hearing birds chirping, etc. It engages us socially as we join outdoor gatherings. It provides us with a new “place” of solace. It energizes us and may even give us moments of calm and peace.

Spring training helps fuel our souls and helps us move toward more of a mind, body and soul connection and balance. Take Spring training into your mind and soul. Carve out some time to go outside to meditate, contemplate or reflect. Take a moment to deeply breath in the Spring air. Work to clear your mind of clutter and reduce the volume of noise in your life so you can focus and gain clarity.

Also look at Spring training as just that—training. This is a time to practice, to try new things, find new perspective and meet new people. For a moment think about your life in terms of Spring training—but not from the perspective of training for some end or conclusion. Think about it from the perspective of a journey, as the opportunity to take a chance, try something new, open your mind, body and soul to new experiences—and keep at it as you build your skill and confidence.

Sure, along the Spring training road there will be some sore muscles, a few bruises, exhausted minds and tired bodies. These are the physical and mental side-effects of making change, moving forward and working

The Key to Staying Positive

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There is a lot of talk of ‘being positive’ and ‘thinking positive’ when it comes to self-development and taking better control of your life, and really for good reason. Ultimately, if you subscribe to the mindset that you create your reality as I do, then being a positive person and thinking positively is the way to go if you are choosing to live a more happy and evolved life. Now this does not mean that if you are always positive, negative things will not happen to you… I mean this is life! But, the key to being a truly positive person is that when negative situations do arise, it’s how you handle yourself and your reaction to the situation that matters most.

So staying positive is a choice, a decision, just like anything else in life. Your emotions are just trained responses that you have gotten used to over the course of your life. Contrary to popular belief, you do have control over your emotions and thoughts if you choose. Really though, the trickiest part to having an optimistic and positive mindset is in the beginning, when you are just starting to walk this higher level path, when you are just starting to grasp how and if this is really possible. When you find yourself mostly negative and angry more often than you would like to be and when things seem to be going wrong in your life how can you possibly be positive? Do you have to fool yourself?… fake it till you make it as they say?

Not really, it mostly comes down to your perspective… and having proper perspective is gained through awareness and detachment. Here is what I mean, look at the big picture when you find yourself in a bad situation, it’s usually not as bad as you make it out to be and not the end of the world. In most instances, we are on auto-pilot and have been taught to react negatively because really, it’s what most other people do and that is what we have mostly seen our entire lives. Our society and culture is more negative and fear-based than positive and this is reflected on tv, in the news, media, staged world events etc.  Why this is the case is another matter that I won’t get into here, but this has all influenced and programmed us over time. sun glow

But again, awareness is key. Take a step back, take a deep breath, don’t just react. Make your reaction a conscious decision, take yourself off auto-pilot. Detach yourself from what everyone else is doing and how they react. Watch your thoughts closely but don’t identify with them. Most people are controlled by their emotions and thoughts and are not in control of them. So it’s natural to see how our society thinks it is normal to react negatively to negative situations and people… garbage in and garbage out. But if you want to live a more positive existence you have to think and act differently than most people do. You have to take a different path, a higher path.

Also, if you are into doing positive affirmations, mantras, etc. or consciously taking time out throughout your day to focus on and tell yourself the positive thoughts and events you would like to see and create in your life, but you are still not seeing your mindset and life change for the positive, then it’s the time in-between that you are not being aware of.

What is the time in-between? The in-between is when you are going about your day doing tasks, chores, work etc., beyond your conscious effort to think positively and thoughts just come and go automatically which you are not really aware of. In most cases, although you think you are a positive person and are making a conscious effort to be so, you are still not aware of how unconsciously negative you really are.

It is important to know that this process is natural, so that you become even more aware of your every unconsious thought that comes in throughout the day. When you notice the thoughts that are negative, the next step is to be detached from them and don’t beat yourself up about it. Understand that this is just your mind on auto-pilot. It will take some time to retrain and reprogram your mind (I highly recommend doing some form of meditation daily to help increase your awareness and speed up this process).

Finally, turn the thought(s) around and re-frame it into its positive opposite that you would like to see and repeat it in that way at least three times. Eventually over time, this process will become a habit and you will find yourself in a more positive state of mind reaping more positive results. So in a nutshell, the key to staying positive is a simple three step process: awareness—>detachment—>reframe thoughts to positive.

When negative thoughts and situations come into your life, it’s the perfect opportunity for you to take the high road and evolve even faster as a better more positive person. Again, it’s how you perceive things that makes all the difference and what you make of it. Keep in mind also that this is a journey so again, don’t be too hard on yourself, enjoy the ride and the progress you make.



Pushing Through

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Life comes with it’s ups and downs, pleasure and pain… and from an athlete’s point of view training hard and relaxing and recovering. They are not mutually exclusive. Knowing your body and knowing when to allow it to rest and heal is key to pushing yourrself to higher levels of performance. This always seems to come to mind when I am sore from over-training or taking on a new exercise regimen.

What’s funny to me is that no matter how good of a level of physical shape I think I am in, if I engange in some new exercise regimen or physical activity that I have never done or haven’t done in a while, boy do I feel it the next day… and especially a day later! I had this happen to me this past weekend from doing some new types of pull up exercises (including one-armed) as well as with some other activities I haven’t done in a long time, like chopping wood… a lot of wood!

It also reminded me of how impressed I am with some of my friends and family members that do a lot of manual labor in their jobs, namely in the construction business. You gain a natural, gradual all around body strength that is different from going to the gym for example or doing calisthenics for that matter.  It’s something that you don’t seem to lose either, because your job conditions you over time. I am not saying it is necessarily better, but different. I will still put my uncle (who is a mason) up against almost anyone in an arm wrestling contest though!

Change It Up

So where am I going with this?  Simply that you need to push through your training but be smart about it. Change things up! In this case changing things up in the exercises you engage in or doing new ones altogether. Expect to be sore or more sore than usual. But this diversity in your training is a good thing. It is the antidote to one of my personal (and many other athletes and martial artists) greatest nemesis — hitting plateaus.

Monument Valley, Utah, USA

I remember in the past when I have hit plateaus in my martial arts training, I got so discouraged that I almost did not want to do anything and even wanted to miss my classes which I went to religiously. I almost get lazy about my training. I must say this is natural though and will happen to almost everyone sooner or later. It will probably even happen several times in your life.

Why does this happen? It comes from doing the same training regimen over and over, which for some people who have never done it would be quite difficult. But for you it’s relatively easy because your body is used to doing it and has adapted. Also understand, that your mind also can get run down from doing the same thing over and over and that it’s all connected (The Mind-Body Connection). By changing things up so you can push through plateaus in your training, you will re-ignite and add excitement back in to it.

Take a Break & Disconnect

The other key in this equation to pushing through is taking a break and allowing your body and mind to recover and disconnect for a few days or more if need be.  I did this the first time it happened to me in the martial arts, I felt compelled to take some time off and my teacher at the time said it was a good idea for me to do so as well. It worked wonders for me when I came back almost a week later excited to train hard again. But be careful though, this can be a slippery slope and can be used as an excuse to get lazy.

After taking a break you will be refreshed both physically and mentally.  Changing things up applies to all areas of your life really, not just your physical fitness level. It is natural to hit plateaus in your relationships, work and even in your spiritual practice as well. Most likely you will. Find new ways to push through. If you’re a martial artist for example, take on a new art that you have always been interested in but for whatever reason have not.

Another thing that can help a lot is taking a trip somewhere new or somewhere you haven’t been to in long time to disconnect from the norm and gain some new perspective in any area of your life.




Bring to Life Your Warrior Self

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For the vast majority, we go about our days going through the motions–mindlessly following routines, falling into uninspiring patterns and using the “if only” mantra–if only I had a different job, if only I had more money, if only I had someone who loves me—if only FILL IN THE BLANK. Unknowingly, we over time harbor and act out negative thoughts, complain and conform, and these actions and thoughts fill our days.

Life can be difficult and demanding, and there will always be challenges, twist and turns in our journeys. But if we really choose to advance or change our lives–to get out of patterns of worry, fear and frustration–we need to stop the “if only” mantra and need to bring to life the warrior inside ourselves.

We need to have our warrior selves focus on three simple principles: having goals, thinking positively and using our imaginations. And we need to put into action, every day, these principles–so they become our new habits, our new way of thinking, our belief system–and our lives will change.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ” a man is what he thinks about all day long.” If you are thinking “what if’s” and complaining about things, people and circumstances, you become negative and draw in the things you are complaining about, and become what you are complaining about. Change the mantra to a positive belief.

To do this, you need to set a goal–a goal of what you choose to become, who you choose to be, what life you choose to have–and vision it. You need to live and act as if you have what you choose and not let in any negative thoughts. You need to not fall into the trap of commiserating with others or complaining and blaming others. Negative thoughts and energy attract more negativity and unhealthy energy to you.

With your goals in hand–actually write them down and look at them every single day–coupled with a personal mantra and positive thought, now put into play your imagination. Put into action the positive thoughts with positive actions. This can be giving of yourself, helping others, being kind, etc. This can be taking steps–and they can be baby steps for sure–toward your personal vision. Do something everyday–letting your imagination soar–that moves your forward to your vision.

The warrior self will guide your mind, it will help you walk in faith and enrich your life by enriching the lives of others. Start today–envision your worthy ideal, write down your goal, create your mantra and invoke your imagination through action.

Starting Your Fitness Program

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Most people want to be in better physical shape and have a higher level of fitness but unfortunately they let themselves go too far and don’t know where to start. So what is one to do?  I notice most people I talk to who find themselves in this position feel they need to have some grand plan or start a gym membership before they do anything else, or have an hour of time allotted or more before they start.

All you need is 15 minutes to start.

Yes I said 15 minutes… doesn’t seem like much time, but it can make a world of difference. I always say start small and gradually put more time into it as you go. Most people feel 15 minutes is not enough time to get in better shape… but when you are not working out at all it’s plenty of time!  Most of the time putting off starting on a certain date or waiting to take a certain class or waiting for the right day or moment to start a workout regiment is just an excuse (& you know it).

So what can we do in 15 minutes & where? My favorite type of exercise – body weight calisthenics. No fancy equipment needed, just your own body weight & gravity, a very effective combination. Depending on your current level of fitness, which if you are not working out at all is probably not very high, start nice and easy.  If you can’t do a push-up yet, then start with brisk walking with some wrist weights.

Take A Walk, Do Some Deep Breathing

Walking is a great form of exercise that most people over look and should be an addition to your workout regimen. I personally take a walk everyday, usually at night. A good time to take a walk is after you eat a meal, as it helps digest your food. There is an old Chinese saying, (I think it’s Chinese) that if you walk 99 steps after each meal you’ll live to be 99 years old… you get the idea.

Walking helps you clear your head & sometimes even get some answers to questions you normally can’t come up with sitting around thinking about them. Also, you get out of the house and get some fresh air.

You can combine breathing exercises as well with your daily walk. Just do some basic deep belly breathing, just focusing on your breath… in through your nose and out through your nose, tongue to the roof of your mouth. You will feel revitalized just doing this & no gym membership required!

Just Start Moving

The point is just start doing something, start moving. So you have your daily health walk or fitness walk you can call it. Walk a different path or route each day to change things up. Sometimes I walk for well over an hour, sometimes for just 10-15 minutes.

Then you can add a short 15 minute workout when you get back. Your blood is flowing already, do some light stretching for a few minutes before you start. A good combination is a few short sets of squats (maybe 10-15 reps) with light weights in hands, a few sets of push-ups (or variations of a push up if you can’t do a real one). Start today and there you go, you are active and on the path to getting in good shape.

I will talk more in future posts about different types of exercises and stretches you can do. Really, you should stretch everyday, especially after you wake up. Gets the blood flowing and helps wake you up to start your day.



The Mind – Body Connection

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So what exactly is the mind – body connection? The mind and body are really inseparable but most people I find are not as in tune with their bodies when they train or work out as they should or could be. This is a topic that I feel is very important when it comes to working out and getting optimal results from your fitness program.

Use Your Art or Hobby to Connect the Two 

As a martial artist, the mind – body connection becomes very evident during training and especially during sparring. If you are not in the moment so to speak and are not aware of your body position, your breathing, your environment, your opponent’s position and movement and are caught up in some random thought process, it’s going to cost you… in many cases with a kick or punch (or several) to your body & that is going to hurt.

That’s what I always loved about martial arts, because they almost force you to link your body and mind into one harmonious unit or otherwise your martial art will never evolve to higher levels. The human mind is super powerful, in my opinion quite frankly probably one of the most powerful forces we have at our disposal as human beings.

It has allowed us as a species to attain magnificent achievements in technology, architecture, medicine etc. It also allows us to do incredible things with our bodies. If you ever heard the term mind over matter, this is only possible if you have a strong awareness of your own mind – body connection…. the body follows the mind.

But going back to the basics of how the everyday person can use their mind to not only enhance their workouts but achieve levels of fitness and attain their personal goals much quicker than most think possible. I’ll give a quick example of how one can do this right away.

Be ‘in’ Your Body

When I go to the gym, I see many people on treadmills watching TV as they run. This is not very productive because what you are essentially doing is putting your mental focus on external stimuli and your results will suffer for it. You should be focused on your body and your breathing and the signals/feeling your brain is sending to your body. Also what you can be doing is visualizing how you are improving your body’s shape and tone as opposed to being caught up in some pointless television show. Of course if you are watching an exercise video or training course that is a different story.

I’ll get into visualization more in another post, but suffice to say you should be ‘in’ your body when working out, whether it’s running, lifting, doing squats etc. Your internal focus on the type of results you are achieving while doing the actual exercise itself can speed up the actual time frame you get those results dramatically.

Be aware of your thoughts; are you thinking to yourself how difficult the exercise is or when it’s going to be finally over? Or are you thinking how much stronger or leaner your are getting, or visualizing your ideal body shape you desire?  Also if you are really pushing yourself and are in pain, focusing on your breathing is so important to not only pushing through but also calming your mind and oxygenating your muscles properly.

Staying Aware Keeps You Safer

Also if you are running outdoors in public, I always tell people to not wear headphones as this decreases your awareness of what’s around you which you really should be aware of. I am a big advocate of music and how it can enhance your workouts and practically give you energy but it should be done in the right place like the safety of your home or studio.

I will get into the mind – body connection in deeper levels in the future, for example moving energy internally and chi kung. This requires that you are intimately aware of your thoughts and breathing while training.




How to Stay Consistent With Your Fitness Program

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There are a lot of different types of work out regimens out there from your typical weight training with sets and reps on different body parts at your local gym, to calisthenics, to running, taking a pilates class or a yoga class.

So for a lot of people it’s no wonder they feel overwhelmed by all the options available & either don’t stick with anything for a long period of time or just shelf working out altogether. Especially considering the average person juggles working a full 8 hour day (at least), a social life & putting food on the table for their family.

Measure Your Results the Right Way

The way I see it, there is no one formula for everyone that will put you in great physical shape while holding your interest. Everyone is different and starts from a different fitness level and body constitution. One thing I have noticed that most people do have in common that keeps them coming back for more is when they see results! But there are many ways to measure results, unfortunately most people in my opinion measure it the wrong way and that is purely by the Scale.

What I think is a much better way to judge whether you are on the right path to getting into better shape is how you feel. Do you have more energy? Do you look forward to working out (in whatever program you are doing) or do you dread it or are indifferent towards it?

If it’s too difficult most people will just stop altogether and let’s face it most people’s motivations fade quickly once their initial foray into a new program subsides.

How to Stay Motivated

So what is one to do? We are social creatures by nature and also very competitive as well. If you are not motivated to work out alone with no one pushing you, you can do one of two things. Get a knowledgeable personal trainer at your local gym that you feel a good connection with or take some type of fitness class with a friend.

There are all kinds of fitness programs and classes available these day whether it’s at your local gym, yoga studios or martial arts studios. I now see Pilates & Zumba classes available at the local VFW & Nights of Columbus in my town. So called ‘Core Fitness’ classes such as CrossFit are becoming more and more popular.

I will talk more about these types of fitness programs (which I love by the way) because they will get you in amazing shape if you stick with it. I will warn you that you should be in some type of decent shape before taking one of these because they really push you to your physical limits.

I love circuit training especially because it forces you to move quickly and get through the exercises because others are waiting on you and you push each other. There are ‘boot-camp’ classes as they call them now at gyms and independent studios that are basically circuit training classes extended over a period of weeks.

 Enjoy the Journey

I would suggest trying some different types of workout programs to see what you like and makes you excited to go back. Don’t become too overly obsessed with reaching some particular outcome like a desired weight for example… learn to enjoy the journey.

This is the key, if it’s an effective fitness program just stick with it and the weight and physical fitness level you are looking to attain will come in time.