"The way alone" av Kevin Secours
People ask me about solo training all the time. Life always seem to get in the way of our perfect training schedules and many of us are simply located in areas where the ideal school is not available. What should we do?
My first suggestion regarding solo training may sound silly but it's deeply important in my experience. In fact, I think that it actually makes all the difference. It is to simply accept that training occurs everywhere. By this I mean that most people operate with self-talk that sounds a little like this: "I don't have the time to train now because..." or "If only I had more time to train...sigh". In itself, this sounds harmless, but this poisons our foundation. Instead, realize and reinforce the idea that training occurs everywhere. Everytime you so much as think about training, you are training to some degree. Neuro-Linguistic Programming is based on a few simple beliefs, one of which is that the brain thinks in positives. You can't not think of something without thinking of it first. Example: DO NOT think of a green apple right now. What's the first thing we do? We think of a green apple and then try to negate our thought. We have a visual brain. We need to create an image of any word and then act on it--in this case, we're trying to negate a thought we just created. Think of how many problems we fuel in this manner. Don't eat junk food. First I need to think of exactly what I mean by junk food. Do I mean pizza? Do I mean chocolate? No, I was actually thinking of chips. Now I'm thinking of chips. What type of chips? Now I'm hungry. Argghhhh. Instead, it would be more effective to think only in positives: "I will eat healthy". What's healhty. Now I'm thinking of fruit. I'm already headed in a better direction.
So when I want to train but find myself otherwise obliged, I have trained myself to think in positives. How can I make this chore into training? I can monitor my breathing and play with selective contractions when I walk my dog or wash dishes or drive through traffic. I can turn any opportunity into an opportunity to learn. This is something the Shaolin monks embody beautifully. Everything they do from pouring tea to eating dinner is a chance to train. Granted, they may be a more extreme example of how far this principle can be taken, but it's definitely integral to their excellence.
Another interesting perspective on this is the existence of what researchers call "mirror neurons". Nameley, your body begins to create synaptic and neural connection the minute it sees something--whether I'm watching a dvd, or visualizing something in my head, the simple act of viewing an image in my brain begins to lay the foundation for the same pathways that I will actually need in order to perform that action physically. Just thinking of something allows me to become better at the eventual execution of that action. In my book, Path of the Ronin, I've said that only in our minds are we entitled to be perfect. This is essential. Visualization training allows us to jump kick even though in physical life I may be recovering from knee surgery or in bed with the flu. Visualization allows prisoners of war to envision a perfect golf game even though their reality is that they are stuck in a 5' cage. Visualization can keep you sane, focus you like a laser and most importantly will make your physical performance actually better. The old expression is "you are what you eat" so be mindful of your psychological diet. If you do not consciously control what you feed your brain, your environment will choose your diet for you--and our environments are filled with psychological junk food.
Tightly connected to this, accept that training and learning is a process and not an event. You don't stop training or start it. You are always training. Even when you don't realize it, your brain is constantly absorbing new information. An integral component to genius is not so much the amount of resources we have but rather the connections we make between things--the unorthodox perspective we earn through life experience. Every obligation you have in life is making you who you are and entitling you to have a completely customized training experience that is uniquely relevant to you. By accepting this, we begin to educate our eyes. We don't only look--we begin to truly see. We begin to humbly appreciate everything around us as an opportunity. There is value in everything even if we can't know what it is at this moment. Accepting this is the first step. Watch DVD's for 5 minutes a day or a you tube clip to stay inspired. Gain a new awareness of the mobility of the human body or how we learn by watching your newborn interract with the world around them or studey efficiency and ingenuity by watching an elderly parent adapt and adjust to their loss of mobility. Enlightenment is everywhere.
Then we get down to the raw mechanics. What about the actual physical work. There is an old Shinto expression that says: "For something to be religious, it must be simple enough to be done every day and it MUST be done everyday." If I have 1 hour to train a week, I would rather have 8 minutes a day than 1 hour once a week. Consistency is key to conditioning your mind and body. Take those 8 minutes wherever you can get them. Certainly breathing and body awareness are key. Take 60 seconds to simply bring awareness to your body in the morning before you begin moving. By simply doing this you are programming your perspective for the day ahead. Think of this simple comparison:
OPTION 1: I realize I am waking up. I begin breathing with awareness, deeply, feeling my breath. I add a few simple contractions to my brethwork and begin to heighten my awareness and feel my body. 1 minute later, I wake up with greater balance and calm.
OPTION 2: The alarm goes off. I jump out of bed. I tweak my neck and stumble across my bedroom, groaning at the morning. I'm already out of breath and my heart is racing.
Aristotle said that a little error in course means a huge error in destination. Think about how you are starting each day. If you could make that 1 minute every morning 3 minutes, you would likely multiple that benefit by 3 fold (if not exponentially more) in just 3 minutes. Everyone can invest 3 minutes in themselves. They just need to appreciate that 3 minute matter and to learn to see those 3 minute gaps everywhere throughout their days.
I personally like to take about 5 minutes in bed (I am so committed ;) ), just breathing and contracting. Then, I usually seep onto the hardwood floor beside my bed and just roll a little bit. Nothing dramatic. I lie on my back, fold my knees, breathe. I teeter a little and breathe. I roll (very lazily) onto my stomach and breathe. Maybe I flow around a bit, involving legs and arms, stretching, etc. I spend another 5 minutes doing that and in less than 10 minutes I have assessed where my body is at, how I feel and I've programmed my body with heightened awareness and humble appreciation. I've just changed my day.
Later in the day if I want something more vigorous, I suggest a few simple body weight exercises--pushups, situps, squats--the basics. The key is to go as slowly as possible and to breathe fully and deeply. Every exercise is an opportunity to heal not only body, but mind as well.
I also believe in shadow boxing. Karatekas use kata. Tai Chi practitioners use forms. Boxers use shadow boxing. The key for me is SLLLLLOOOOOOWWWWW solo work. Everyone rushes here. Just take a few minutes to slowly perfect 1 aspect of your movements. Slolwly punch and kick and move, no matter how silly it may look. As I've written elsewhere, gracefullness means becoming a confident pilot of our own body. It's your personal vehicle. Celebrate learning how to maximize it. This solo work pays huge dividends in the long run.
Finally, I urge you to train when you can, not when you "should". The key to making a daily routine is to listen to yourself. So many people try to train in the morning because they "like" the idea of rising with the sun but if they aren't morning people, it won't work. If I find a common lull in my day at 3:30 in the office, take a walk, a mindful walk, breathing and contracting. If I can play with my cat and roll around in the living room at 6:30, then that's my spot. If I have a quiet minute before bed, then that's my spot.
If you want to do something every day for life, it's essential to love it. Allow yourselves to love your training and make training as easy and comfortable as possible. From this simple seed, entire new motivations and capacities to train will reveal themselves. Suddenly, time will begin to stretch and you will realize that you've been training all along. We stop counting time and make time count. We accept that we don't need more resources, we just need more resourcefulness.