Priorities and Sacrifices

Hello and welcome to the Living Revolution ūüôā

Happy February! We made it through the first month of 2015, and we are rolling right along! To everyone who started a new process, started chasing a new dream, or found their passion this year, I commend you, and I encourage you to keep up the good work! At the¬†end of the first month, what changes have already taken place? What data¬†do you have from the past 30 days, and how are you going to use that information to continue your process and build on your success in the coming months? Lifestyle change isn’t always simple, and sometimes change can be challenging. To be successful, we need to develop positive strategies and behaviors that contribute to, rather than detract from, our success. To that end, I want to talk today about how we make choices, how we prioritize our time and energy and the “sacrifices” we make to achieve our desired results.

As a frequent observer of human behavior, I am often struck by how people make decisions, and how people react to the choices they make. I see people in the gym all the time who show up 10 minutes late to class, socialize instead of pay attention, and then whine about how sore they are or what they see on the whiteboard. They seem generally unhappy and their presence greatly disrupts the flow and tone of my class. I am always curious about how these people function in other aspects on their lives, and I wonder if they consider the fact that while it is a positive behavior to show up to the gym, the rest of that negativity and unpleasantness greatly detracts from any forward progress that may have been achieved.

By contrast, I also see people who arrive 15 minutes early, spend 10 minutes mobilizing before class, encourage other members through their workout, and generally contribute positive energy whenever they attend my classes. These people aren’t always the fittest, they aren’t always the fastest, they aren’t always on top of their game. But they don’t let the challenges they face break their spirit. They don’t let their struggles and problems bleed in to all aspects of their lives. They recognize the beauty of the process, they recognize the value of discipline, they understand how to prioritize their time, and they show a willingness to “make sacrifices” to achieve their goals.

When we think about sacrifices, we typically think about giving up something we really want to get something we are trying to convince ourselves we want. This is a silly premise to start with, because¬†every choice is a “sacrifice”. Every time we choose something, by default we can’t choose something else. The words we use to describe this equation are what get us in some serious trouble. When we talk about living a healthy lifestyle, or changing behavior in any way, we talk about “giving up” something (sugar, caffeine, porn, etc.) because that object is preventing us from getting something we really want. It may taste good or feel good, but you¬†know you¬†can’t do what ¬†you REALLY want to do if this “something” stays in your life. Using this terminology immediately imbues this conversation with a negative connotation, and we convince ourselves that it really is a “struggle” to avoid cookies, or to drink black coffee instead of a 36oz mocha, or to read a book instead of surfing the web for porn. You tell yourself it will be “hard” to do without these things, but¬†you tell yourself you can manage because you REALLY want to lose a couple pounds, or not be such a hyper spazz, or you would like to have a relationship with a real person instead of your computer screen. People fail at this all the time, and I think it is because instead of turning their attention towards their new PRIORITIES, they refuse¬†to shift their mindset from focusing on sacrifice, and they get stuck.

When we prioritize something, we put our attention toward that thing. We focus, we concentrate, we engage, we emphasize. Take a quick minute right now and look up “sacrifice” and “prioritize”. Go ahead, I’ll wait… isn’t it interesting that these two words are basically opposites that mean the same thing? If we prioritize any behavior, by default we can’t do anything else. Instead of focusing on what we are giving up (sacrificing), we put our energy towards the choice we made and the behavior we perform.¬†¬†If we choose to make something or someone important, then we make time for them. Period. If we talk about things we want to do, then those words must be expressed in action, or the words are null and void. Placing value on priorities allows you to look forward in a process, rather than constantly looking back to remind yourself all the stuff you “sacrificed” to be where you are now. Do you understand the difference?

We have so many¬†opportunities to pay attention to how we live and what we do. We have limitless opportunities to choose something to improve. How does each decision¬†build on the previous? How do patterns present themselves and repeat themselves? How do those little parts of the process add up to something larger or more profound? The idea I’m talking about here is complex and it requires effort and it forces us to choose what our priorities are, and it forces us to live what we believe. Here’s an idea: let’s make choices in life based off what we want and what will bring us the most happiness. Try it. Pursue activities that make you¬†feel alive. ¬†Do stuff that makes you¬†use your body and mind in all the myriad ways Nature intended. Choose to interact, choose to reach out, choose to connect.¬†¬†When we focus on the joy in the decisions we make, rather than decrying all the stuff we are missing out on, we are able to find happiness easier. Yes, it is true there will be stuff you miss out on, we can’t do everything, all the time. However,¬†we can PRIORITIZE what will bring us happiness. We can choose to be happy with our struggle, let go of our “sacrifices”, and relish the small accomplishments that add up to large success.

Here is a cool article that ties in well with what I’m talking about here, check it out: The Brutally Honest 6 Reasons You Are Still Overfat

I’d love to hear how you are progressing in the New Year so drop me a few lines and let’s start a conversation! What are you prioritizing this year? Let me know! As always, thank you for reading my words, and for participating in the Living Revolution!! Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

 

Book Review: “The Sex Diaries Project” by Arianne Cohen

Hello and welcome to the Living Revolution!

Today’s post will be short and sweet because it is only an introduction. If you haven’t yet heard of Arianne Cohen, I suggest you check out her website www.ariannecohen.com. She writes on a wide array of topics, from being the tallest girl in the room to how to create a more organized cubicle. She brings a catchy sense of humor to her journalistic endeavors, and her perspective is both interesting and entertaining. I’m telling you all to check her out because I just finished reading her excellent book, “The Sex Diaries Project”.

That’s it, right there ^^^. Essentially, the book is a peek inside the collected (private) sex lives of modern Americans. A plethora of different relationship types are represented, and Cohen adeptly uses this large sample group to elucidate a few important common themes and practices that can be found in almost every relationship. Throughout the book, Cohen shows how people’s sex lives are driven by the shared needs, wants, and desires of individuals in a relationship and how dysfunction in a relationship (sexual or otherwise) is usually a result of unfulfilled needs and miscommunication. She also shows how sex can be used for a variety of different purposes, depending ¬†on the context of a given relationship. The personal, private nature of the diaries add a sense of share-humanity to this collection, and I found myself relating to more than a few of these candid stories.

Okay, I’m going to stop there. This book as a great read, and I am sure you will find something valuable in this book that you can apply to your own life. If this topic sounds a bit too risque for you, then I encourage you to check out some other works by Arianne Cohen, including “Help, It’s Broken: ¬†A Fix-It Bible for the Repair-Impaired”¬†and ¬†“The Tall Book: A Celebration of Life on High”. If you do check out this book, drop a comment here or send me an email and tell me what you think about Sex Diaries. ¬†As always, thank you for reading my words and participating in the Living Revolution :).

Until next time…Peace.Tobias.

Book Review: “Your Body has a Mind of it’s Own” by Sandra Blakeslee

Hello Friends, welcome to the Living Revolution ūüôā

I finished reading a very interesting book, and I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts about what I read. The premise of the book is an exploration of the interaction between the stimuli we receive from our environment and the system by which our physical bodies process those stimuli. The authors suggest there is a very real connection between your “mind” and your “body”, so much so they make the suggestion that we only exist in the sense that we can detect and process stimuli from the environment around us.

Isn’t that an interesting concept? That our consciousness is grounded in our ability (or inability) to process direct physical experience? Every moment you exist subconsciously filtered through the complex mechanisms of touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste? The authors call these multiple layers of perception and reception “body maps“, and they believe these maps provide a network for understanding ourselves in a more complex and insightful way.

Hold on. I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. I need to tell you why I was reading this book in the first place.

To be better at what I do, understanding¬†how to help people tune in to their body is a great tool. Of course, there is no “right” way to teach or learn, so possessing a eclectic skill set will help me work effectively with people who fall anywhere on the continuum of health/fitness/wellness. Understanding the complex interplay between the psychological and physiological aspects of training puts me in a position to create effective and efficient training programs that are safe and sustainable. This makes me a better coach/trainer, which makes my clients better, which eventually makes the world a better place, and that is my ultimate goal!

As a coach, one of my highest priorities is to teach people how to move safely and efficiently. This job requires me to verbally explain a movement , physically demonstrate how a movement is performed, and then provide constructive feedback to my clients, ensuring they perform the movement correctly. Understanding how body maps are developed, and how each individual develops their personal¬†conglomerate of body maps will help me develop my coaching skills so I will be able to effectively work with ANYONE. I picked up this book because I need to “buff up” my coaching skill set, and the concepts in this book have some interesting applications in the personal training/group class environment. I work with clients all over the spectrum of “body awareness”, so let’s look at¬†a couple examples of clients with whom I work, and how their “body maps” effect training.

Occasionally,¬†I’ll come across someone who has¬†horrible problems learning new movements, someone who simply cannot figure out what I am trying to explain. Their body schema is negatively compromised in some way, and there is a significant disconnect between what want their body do, and what actually manifest in physical movement. Perhaps an old injury still bothers them. Perhaps they are morbidly obese. Perhaps they have never used their bodies for more than the most mundane tasks. These people need to be walked through new movements step by step. They require the most attention and the most work, but typically they end up being the most rewarding people to work with because they put so much effort in to doing good work. The skill set they develop is that much more valuable because of the focus and effort they put toward progressing. Their accomplishments are worth much more in contrast to their previous inactivity. These people help support the notion that body maps are fluid and can be reprogrammed, even if it does require lots of patience and hard work.

Most everyone else can¬†learn the basic mechanics of a movement by watching someone else perform that movement. In “Your Body…”, the authors discuss how mirror neurons fire when people watch an action and then imagine themselves performing the same action. This simple idea drastically improves a persons ability to learn new ways to use their body, but it requires a higher degree of body awareness and a more intact collection of body maps. I learned about how mirror neurons in the brain work efficiently to convert what a person¬†see to action in their own bodies. They will watch a coach demonstrate the movement a few times, and then immediately grasp the basic concept. These are people who typically have an athletic background or participate in some kind of active lifestyle outside the gym. They played sports as children, or maybe even in college, but then “real life” happened, and it has been 10 years since their last visit to the gym. I love working with these people because their basic understanding of physical movements allows us to spend more training time on refining technique, mastery and virtuosity. Years of physical activity have laid down body map patterns that provide more effective proprioception or “body awareness”. These people are your Master’s athletes. These are the retirees who refuse to retire. These are the “aging fit” who are working hard to figure out safe and effective ways to keep the fire inside them burning as long as possible. These athlete reinforce the concept that body maps are consistent and resilient, as long as they continue to be used. While conscious effort does play a role, the subconscious body maps¬†developed by lifelong athletes help them retain a higher level of brain plasticity and allow them to continue to learn and improve in to the later years of their lives.

These are only two examples of how the concepts of body maps and proprioception manifest in the “real world”. ¬†In “Your Body…”, the authors delve much deeper in to other examples including ¬†how body maps are effected by stroke, how dysfunctional body maps contribute to anorexia and bulimia, and the interesting problem of “phantom limbs” experienced by amputees. After reading “Your Body has a Mind of it’s Own”, it isn’t difficult to understand how the interaction between our psychological selves and our physical selves is much more complex than previously thought. Whether you are a coach like me trying to improve your skill set, or someone who just wants to gain a bit more understanding of the complexities of being human, I encourage you to check out “Your Body has a Mind of it’s Own”. Thank you all for reading my words, and for participating in the Living Revolution! Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

 

 

On Trying Too Hard

Welcome to the Living Revolution ūüôā

Many of you know I spent the last two weeks in the depths of a¬†personal hell I’ve never experienced before. There was a darkness inside me that I couldn’t explain, and it broke me down in a powerful way.¬† In an effort to determine the cause of this madness, and to find a way to heal myself, I reached out to family and friends, in hopes of finding a sustainable solution.

My mom said it was probably a lack of healthy bacteria in my gut.

My dad said I play on the internet too much and I need to spend more time with Nature.

My coach said I should have my hormone levels checked, and immediately start supplement use.

My circle of friends suggested I should quit smoking pot. Or smoke more pot. Or meditate. Or exercise more. Or exercise less. Or see a therapist. Or start writing again. Or eat less gluten. Or breathe more deeply. Or bang my head against a wall. Or just ignore what I was feeling and it would go away. Gaaaaaaah!! I researched depression and anxiety. I researched mid-life crisis and hormone imbalance. I researched gluten intolerance and THC overdose. None of these seemed to adequately address what I was feeling or the thoughts that were keeping me up at night. The struggle continued…

While I am grateful for all the advice, assistance and encouragement, most of this info just made me think harder about what was swirling around in my head, and my confusion increased. Most everyone told me it was time for me¬†to “CFO”(chill-the-fuck-out), and quit trying so hard. But “trying hard” is what I do. Confronting problems head-on is my MO. My first solution to most problems is more effort, more energy, more work. If this wasn’t the solution, then what was my next option?

Because I so highly value logic and reason, I began to think about what it would feel like to take everyone’s advice and not take life so seriously. Is it really a big deal if laundry doesn’t get done today? Is it really a big deal if I only train 4 days a week, instead of 6? Is it a big deal if it takes my kids 30 minutes to get ready in the morning instead of 15 minutes? Surprisingly, the answer to all these questions is a resounding “NO”.¬† It really isn’t a big deal. Huh. What a novel concept.

I started small. I made a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish in one day, then I cut that list in half. I engaged single tasks, putting energy and effort in to the enjoyment of completing that specific task, without considering the next item on my list. I began to practice mindfulness and conscious concentration. I began to prioritize what made me feel good, and I decided to avoid letting my checklist determine my happiness. I reduced my social schedule, and spent more time writing, reading, and sitting in silence. I stopped counting calories. I stopped tracking my workouts. I stopped texting while driving. I took a break from self-medicating to remind me what sobriety feels like.  And you know what? Things began to change, immediately.

The terrible ache in my stomach dissipated. The cloud over my heart and my mind began to lift. Most importantly, the world did not end. I used my words and kept checking in with the important people in my life, and they assured me it really was okay if I wasn’t Superman all the time. It was okay if little things slipped through the cracks. It was okay if I allowed them to help me. It was okay that I asked for that help. It was okay that I needed to step back and take stock, reevaluate, and take some time for myself. It was okay for me to prioritize what I really wanted, and to cut away some of the silly bullshit I was using as an excuse to stay busy ALL THE TIME. I started to feel passionate again about the parts of my¬†life I truly love: my family and my tribe, my writing, my jiu jitsu practice, my work and the people who trust me with their health and fitness. I took my “busy” energy and refocused that effort on the things that truly matter to me. At first,¬†I¬†was worried this kind of mindset would seem selfish and egocentric, but that isn’t true. By taking more time for myself, and making sure all my silly business is organized, and making sure I am on point, and making sure I have my ducks in a row, I am a more fulfilled human being, which, in turn, makes me a better PARTNER, FATHER, LOVER, BROTHER, COACH, FRIEND, SON, ATHLETE, WRITER.

I am only one week in to this new practice, but it feels right and it feels like it is working.¬† It is all about awareness of addressing little pieces at a time, and allowing the bigger picture to come in to view in small increments, rather than as a shotgun blast to the face. Clarity is easy to maintain when I don’t have a whole bunch of silly bullshit clouding my view.¬† I am sure this will be a practice I will continue to develop, and I look forward to learning more about myself and the world around me through this new adventure. I know it would be helpful if I left a detailed description of this practice here for others to follow, but I feel like this is an experience that is different for each person.¬† Have you experienced a shift like this in your own life? What brought you to a positive resolution? Are you currently dealing with the heaviness and darkness¬†I mentioned? Maybe something of what I’ve written here will be helpful to you. Won’t you please leave a comment here, or on the Facebook post and let me know that you are okay? I’d love to hear your stories and experiences and how you come out the other side. Thanks for reading this, and for participating in the Living Revolution! Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

Transforming or “Coming Out the Other Side”

See my shadow changing,
Stretching up and over me.
Soften this old armor.
Hoping I can clear the way
By stepping through my shadow,
Coming out the other side.
Step into the shadow.
Forty six and two are just ahead of me.

-TOOL, “46 and 2”

Welcome to the Living Revolution ūüôā

I’m starting to remember what it feels like to have an opinion¬†about what happens¬†in the world around me. I am remembering what it feels like to have an opinion about what is going on inside my head as well. In choosing to take responsibility for the action between my ears,¬†I was recently¬†confronted with an experience I’ve never dealt with before, and I’m basically writing this post to ask for help and input from anyone who reads this and has experienced something similar.

I think I’m depressed. Or I was depressed. Or maybe I still am. Also, I’m not sure. About anything. I lost my shit last night. It was not pretty.

Writing is helping the process along, so you guys get an earful (eyeful?) from me, right here, right now.

There has been a heaviness in my chest for the last two weeks. There has been a dense black cloud hanging heavy over my head for at least as long. Please let me be clear: my life is good. My life is good in ways some people will never experience. My life is good in ways some people can’t even imagine. I have nothing to complain about. And that is the worst part. The lack of a reason. The lack of a cause. The lack of a solution. Naturally, I am not comfortable or familiar with feeling like shit for no reason at all. Naturally, research began immediately. Was it my hormone levels? Did my diet play a part? Should I add supplements? Was I training to little? Too much? Let’s just say my “leisure” reading in the last month included more¬†peer-reviewed literature than it has in a LONG¬†TIME.¬†I felt like I was holding it all together pretty well, but then it got worse. From¬†previous life experiences, I know¬†that if I breathe¬†during times of high stress, I can usually calm myself down.¬†I take a deep breath in through my nose and out through my mouth, and after a few deep breaths, I’m usually able to focus on the task at hand. In the last two weeks, this has happened in the most random situations and scenarios and I can’t even begin to describe how unsettling this is for me. In situations where I would normally feel confident, I was now feeling anxious. In times when I would normally feel in control, I was now feeling unhinged. I found myself focusing on my breathing. ALL THE TIME.

I took deep breaths when I dropped the kids off at school. I took deep breaths while I made breakfast. I took deep breaths while I answered emails. I took deep breaths when I was sitting in the car, waiting at a stop sign. I recognized a dull, tight feeling in the middle of my chest. Naturally, my first thought was to “roll it out”. Or stretch. Or pick up something heavy. Nothing helped.¬† I worked to find my center and to feel that tension release. It did not.¬† It would not. Now, this was starting to not make sense.¬†From where was this feeling coming? What¬†was happening to me?¬†Think of a anemone in a tide pool. You poke it.¬†It folds in on itself, trapping your finger. That feeling right there; in the same spot where you get the wind knocked out of you; for days.¬† Ugh.

Last night I finally lost my shit. I tried to scream it out in the car on the way home. I was alone. Why was I starting to cry? I definitely don’t cry. And I definitely don’t cry when there isn’t something to cry about. I parked the car and walked inside. She met me at the door, with a smile and open arms. I’ve never been so grateful to see anyone. I told her I was freaking out. She said that was okay. She told me to go sit on the couch. She cradled¬†my head and she held my hand. She talked me down. She put her hand over my heart and it felt like she punched me in the chest. It came in waves, and I cried.¬†Hard.

When it felt like I was finished, she told me to take a shower and wash it all away. The water scalded. Hot steam filled my lungs. More deep breaths, and trying so hard to find that release, but nothing. Then, a blast of icy cold to snap me back to reality. I laid down on the bed and played that song over and over again. Wanting so badly to feel the change consume me. Wanting so badly to be done feeling like this. Wanting so badly to come out the other side, scarred and tested, but much improved.

Three days later, I’m still not there. But I do feel like some progress is being made. My self-talk is improving, and I have the most incredible people in my life guiding me along and taking such good care of me. I’m still unsure what this is all about. I’m still unsure there is something that I can “find” through this process. I’m still unsure what is happening in my head, and why I have this dull ache in my chest. I don’t imagine that I’m the only person who has felt this way. These emotions, these feelings, probably manifest in a whole host of baffling ways, and some of you have probably felt like this too. How do you handle it? What are your thoughts on my “symptoms”? Any advice on how I should proceed, or how I might handle a situation like this if it ever happens again? I truly need help, and I’m open to receive anything you offer in generosity :). Please leave a comment here, or send me a quick note at tobias.shea.livingrevolution@gmail.com . Thank you all for participating in the Living Revolution!!

Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

Did We Forget How To Survive?

Hello Friends,

Last year, I¬†read two books by author¬†Laurence Gonzales. The first is¬†a book titled ‚ÄúDeep Survival‚ÄĚ. The basic premise of that book suggests there are innate characteristics in people that either a) predispose them to be survivors, or b) predispose them to be destroyed by their environment. The book is much more complex than those simple statements, though, and much of the research is based on extreme circumstances that often could have been avoided with proper preparation and some forethought.

The second¬†book is titled ‚ÄúEveryday Survival‚ÄĚ. The tag line for this book is ‚Äúwhy smart people do stupid things‚ÄĚ.¬† This book takes a more general view of how human beings have survived to become the most dominant species on this planet. In this book, Gonzales also questions the physical and psychological systems that have evolved to sustain life on this planet, and he investigates the role human beings play in the functioning of the universe. The main premise of this book is that human beings have evolved to believe we can control the environment around us, and that we are somehow separate from and superior to the other inhabitants and processes that make up our ‚Äúknown, physical reality‚ÄĚ.

Gonzales uses this book to caution against what he calls a ‚Äúvacation state of mind‚ÄĚ.¬† At some point in our evolution, human beings forgot how to exist symbiotically with the environment around us, and adopted the mindset that we are in control of ‚Äúour‚ÄĚ environment and can bend the forces of nature to our will whenever we desire. ‚ÄúEverday Survival‚ÄĚ explains how terribly wrong we are.

As I worked my way through this book, more and more questions came to mind, and I became more and more frustrated with the evidence Gonzales presented. As a species, are we really re-programming ourselves to on such a grand scale? Are we truly forgetting how to interact positively and effectively with the natural environment? Have we really convinced ourselves of the foolish notion that we are the literal and metaphorical center of the universe, despite all the contradictory evidence? How did we get so confused, and how did we get this far off-track?

In modern, industrial society, we have constructed a series of boxes that now exist as our ‚Äúnatural environment‚ÄĚ. You wake up in your boxy bed, in your boxy house. You find your food in an artificially cooled box, then you cook your food on another box using flame-less fire. Then you drive your boxy car to your boxy office, and spend the next eight hours staring at a your boxy computer on top of your boxy desk. Then the whole process reverses itself, and you end your day staring at another flashing box for a few hours before you fall back into your boxy bed in your boxy bedroom. Like a vast majority of modern humans,¬† you never experienced hunger or danger or pain. You are essentially numb to the world around you, because every day, life unfolds ‚Äúthe way it is supposed to‚ÄĚ, and you are never presented with the opportunity to question that fact or challenge that fact or deviate from the simple, stepwise processes we have created for ourselves. Seriously, what are we doing to ourselves?

Not only is the lifestyle causing our brains to devolve, it is slowly diminishing the value of anything that could be called our ‚Äúsoul‚ÄĚ, as well as conditioning human beings to exist without consciously and mindfully interacting with the world around them. Our bodies are wasting away from eating nutrient-deficient foods, not engaging in enough physical activity, and lack of stimulation from (and interaction with) our environment. All out little boxes keep us well-protected, and so we are never provided the opportunity to question our mortality, or test the limits of our physical bodies, or employ our mind to work our way through complex intellectual problems.

What does it mean for our species if the premise of this book is true? What will happen if we continue down the path we are currently on? The picture looks a bit dim, but we still have the opportunity to change our course.  How do you stay connected with the natural world, and what are some benefits that you derive from spending time away from the hustle and bustle of modern life? What do you do to get that jolt of epinephrine that let’s you know you are alive? How do you remind yourself of your place in the Universe? Drop a comment, and tell me how you keep your mind right in the modern world. Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.