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Category: Psyche

the brain and transformation

The Brain and Transformation – Willpower, Enthusiasm and Synergy

Scant attention is paid to the psychological aspects of the transformational process. To reconfigure the human body, we must first reconfigure the Mind. The Mind can be the transformative acolytes best friend or worst enemy. Those that have undergone their own vital transformation will attest that there are identifiable mental states associated with the physiological phases that accompany a radical physical transformation.

the brain and transformationThe overarching goal of all things diet, exercise and fitness-related is to transform the body, i.e., improve muscularity, improve leanness, improve performance. Remolding the human body requires a skillful blending of serious exercise, disciplined eating and optimal rest and recovery. The exercise plan must be sufficiently intense; the diet selected appropriate and effective, formalized rest and recovery are not optional.

The task is nothing short of herculean: revamp the body. Add muscle, burn off body fat and in doing so automatically improve athletic performance. All athletic undertakings improve if the athlete (somehow) becomes significantly leaner and/or significantly more muscular.

The Process of Transformation

the mind and transformationWhat is the core motivation behind all things diet and fitness-related? What causes us to join gyms, jog, diet, purchase supplements, hire personal trainers, purchase diet books and fitness equipment? I would suggest there is a single unifying commonality: a desire to change our body, to improve upon its current shape and degree of fitness.

The core motivation for the transformative process springs from the Mind of the individual.  A strong and reoccurring internal vision jump starts the process and sustains the process in the early stages.  We see and imagine ourselves in our idealized, reconfigured body, sleek and lean. In our mind’s eye we create mental imaginings; we see ourselves powering through life with our radically transformed body.

This strong internal vision is the key to developing the next steps of the transformative process.  See Huffington Post article – “How to Use Visualization to Achieve Your Goals.”  The interlinked disciplines of training and nutrition combine to form “the process.”  These strategies need to be set into timeframes.  Various modes and methods are combined to reconstruct the body, to alter it, from what it is into a new and improved version, a streamlined version, a more muscular version and a more capable version.

benefits of strength trainingEach week the ante is upped: the diet further tightened, the lifting made heavier, the cardio done faster and longer. Each week progress is coaxed, slight gains are registered in each of the intertwined disciplines. Creeping incrementalism occurs when the athlete sets the big macro goal into a timeframe (usually twelve weeks) and creates weekly micro-goals.  See Practical Programming in Extend Your Life Force for information on periodization or for a more detailed explanation buy my book Purposeful Primitive.

The sophisticate, moved to action, researches modes and methods and after comparing and contrasting exercise and diet templates, creates an integrated periodized game plan, A combined effort is launched in three separate areas, differing disciplines are pursued simultaneously: resistance training, cardiovascular training, nutrition. Three separate game plans are created and implemented.

The Benefits of Transformation

There is a natural and predictable shifting of psychological perspective that occurs as the transformative process unfolds. Mental recalibration accompanies and assists every phase of the successful physical transformation. The Mind is recalibrated to aid the effort.

the brain and transformationIn the beginning, willpower powers the process. Initially we do what we do on blind faith and belief. Willpower is all about having the self-control and fortitude, the grit and gumption, the diligence needed to adhere rigidly to selected guidelines and strategies. Strength of will enables us to (initially) stay on track without regard for results. But for how long?

Willpower is finite. See IDEA’s article on “The Science of Willpower.”  No matter how strong minded or determined a person is, at some point all acts of will must come to an end. Transformative Masters understand that once the process commences, the willpower spigot is turned on. Wisely selected resistance training, cardio and nutritional strategies start the process.

The transformational process is akin to fitness Ground Hog Day: the same fitness and dietary procedures are repeated, over and over, on a daily and ongoing basis. There are no breaks, no timeouts, no cheat meals or days off.  Food prep needs to be done before foods can be eaten. Cardio must be consistent and intense.  Weight training is made increasingly difficult.  Rest and sleep are legislated. All this new activity and upset need to fit into our already busy and hectic lives, no easy task.

Tangible results generate enthusiasm.  Genuine enthusiasm (born of results) is self-sustaining, like solar power or cold fusion. While willpower is finite, enthusiasm is infinite. Obtaining real results generates genuine enthusiasm. Where there is amped-up enthusiasm for the process, adherence becomes effortless. Long term adherence is the key to transformational success.

After weeks of small consistent gains, enthusiastic adherence morphs into synergy. When enveloped in synergy, the sum is greater than the individual parts. While the athlete remains in this synergistic sweet spot, muscle is built, body fat is oxidized, performance soars. When all the component parts are in place and practiced in a balanced and even-handed fashion, the trainee can ride the synergistic razor’s edge and experience the gain of a lifetime. Synergy carries us across the transformational finish line.

Conclusion

In the end willpower is a finite mental propellant.  It is important that the investment of that willpower yields tangible results before it runs out.  These results are what fuels enthusiasm and feeds the synergy of physical transformation.

meditation tips

How to Meditate for Beginners – The Art of Breath

About 20 years ago I was introduced to meditation through the book – “Zen Mind, Beginner Mind.”  It opened me to the idea of using my breath to control my state-of-mind.  meditation tipsI spent 30-45 minutes, 6 days a week sitting on a zabuton (meditation cushion) and zafu (meditation pillow) for about 4 years.  meditation tipsThis was the beginning of the awareness that breath control was the key to relieving my mind of its perpetual overthinking state.  Check out these meditation resources using the Amazon links!

It was a tumultuous time in my life and each day of my practice took me further away from mental preoccupation and helped me to live in the present.  This awareness allowed me to combat negative patterns and move forward in an open way to the experiences of the day.

 

How Do You Get Started?

First you need to achieve a good posture so that you provide your breath an open pathway.  There are many postural positions to try depending on your flexibility.  Sitting in a chair with grounded feet and a straight spine can be just as successful a position as the more extreme lotus.  All six pictures to the right show a straight spine with relaxed shoulders.

Awareness Exercise:  Let’s take the easiest posture – sit in a chair with feet flat on the floor.  It is important to completely connect the sole of the foot to the floor feeling heel, big toe pad and pinky toe pad.  When your feet are grounded on those points you should feel your body sit more upright and be able to relax your lower back against the back of the chair. When the lower back is stabilized then the shoulders can drop down.

How Do You Find the Breath?

When discussing breath with clients I find that most of them lean towards being chest breathers and not belly breathers.

Chest breathing is when the chest expands by drawing air into the chest area using the intercostal muscles rather than throughout the lungs via the diaphragm.  This is an inefficient and detrimental breathing pattern to overall health.  It reduces blood oxygenation and causes lymphatic stagnation.  See article on chest breathing and how to change the pattern at Breathing.com .

Belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing is done by contracting the diaphragm, a muscle located horizontally between the thoracic cavity and abdominal cavity. Air enters the lungs and the chest rises and the belly expands during this type of breathing.

Awareness Exercise:  Let’s focus on belly breathing.  meditation tipsReturn to a stable, grounded chair posture.  Place your hands on top of one another right below your belly button.  This gives you a reference point of where to direct the breath.  As you take your breath in gently allow your abdomen to expand and fill up your hands.  Gently push back with the hand to have the exhale come from the lower abdomen and not the chest.  This exercise can be done anywhere you are sitting.  I use it when I need to be in the car for a long time.

How Do You Harness the Breath?

The mind cannot think about more than one thing at a time.  There are techniques you can use to keep the thinking mind occupied while gaining the great benefits of the breath.  Once you have developed breath awareness it is time to harness it in your meditation.  In my early practice I found counting to 10 in sequence with each breath or chanting through the chakras the most effective at silencing thought.

Counting technique:  In the meditation posture start your belly breathing.  Count 1 on inhale and 1 on exhale, then 2 on inhale and 2 on exhale …. to 10, then repeat the sequence.  By counting on both the inhale and exhale you combat stray thoughts from interrupting your practice.  If thought intrudes while counting stop and begin at 1.  Over time you can tame the brain from intruding by using the breath.  For an in-depth discussion on this topic see “Breath Counting Meditation: How to Build Mental Power.”

Chakra techniqueIn the meditation posture start your belly breathing.  Inhale and on the exhale you will chant the sound associated with the first chakra then the second and so on.  On the seventh chakra there is a moment of silence and then the cycle repeats.  This is an effective method if counting is difficult because the chanting of the chakras can become song like giving further distraction to the brain.

meditation tipsmeditation tips

How Can You Benefit from Meditation?

Daily practice can give you both neurological and psychological benefits.  The breath can lead  you to an oasis of sanity when faced with any stressor.

  • A study from UCLA found that long-term meditators have better preserved brains showing that meditation can be an anti-aging tool for the brain.
  • A pubmed study discusses the positive effects on psychological well-being that extends beyond the meditation session.  The research shows that meditation can be helpful in reducing symptoms of a number of disorders including:  anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders and chronic pain.
  • Since strong focus of attention (on an object, idea, or activity) is the goal of meditation practice.  The immediate benefits of meditation are increased focus and concentration for every aspect of our lives.  The breath can be used like a light switch to turn on awareness/psyche and tune out negativity.  See blog post “The Brain and Transformation – Willpower, Enthusiasm and Synergy.”

Conclusion

After years of working with meditative breath I have developed a pathway easily accessed in a 10 breath count.  My body and mind crave the peace that come from taking to time to JUST BREATHE.  I hope you find inspiration from this blog to start your brain train journey.   It can be a real life changer.