"Enjoy the Silence" - not just a bad Depeche Mode song.
Spending time in silence is one of the first steps in cultivating true mental/spiritual strength, focus, calmness, and balance. As mentioned in the previous post, we are not talking about the ability to suffer through a hard workout or experience. Rather, we are talking about the ability to remain strong when necessary, yet surrender when appropriate; the mental/spiritual maturity of knowing when to push and knowing when to yield. Or, in the immortal words of Kenny Rogers, "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em; know when to walk away, know when to run". All kidding aside, if you are willing to give it an honest shot, you will be amazed at how this simple practice can improve your training, performance, and your life.
Without devoting time to silence and training the mind, our thoughts control our reality; a reality that may or may not be accurate. Without proper training and awareness, our reality is shaped by our reactions and responses to the world around us, we are influenced by our experiences, biases, conditioning, genetics and our filters. While our perception may occasionally be accurate, there is a good chance it isn't the case. In each moment, each instance, we get to chose how we perceive and how we react, yet without first observing our thoughts we have no awareness. Furthermore, if you never spend time shutting the heck up, turning off the external noise and work on quieting the internal noise, you will have no insight let alone true mental/spiritual growth.
Let me give you an example, if something takes place during your day and you react by becoming angry, upset, or stressed and you arrive for your workout feeling angry, upset or stressed, I can almost guarantee that your perception of the workout will be off as will be your performance. You will most likely feel frustrated, have loads of negative self-talk in your head, too much tension in your body, and much of the session will feel like a struggle. Sure you will leave feeling like a million bucks, but the hour you spent training was more of a suck-fest than necessary.
On the other hand, if you were to have the same experience prior to class, but you respond with equanimity, clarity and calmness, you will arrive at PR Fitness with an entirely different attitude. As a result, you will have a more positive experience in your training. When the workout becomes difficult your body will be less tense, your movement patterns will improve, and you will utilize oxygen more efficiently, thus improving performance. When you are in a positive frame of mind, your inner dialogue will be words of encouragement, patience, and empowerment which further shapes your workout experience and performance. You still go home feeling like a million bucks, but your experience of getting there was entirely different.
Another thing to consider is that while completing your workout temporarily take some of the pressure (stress) off the pressure cooker of life, in short order the pressure inevitable returns. Devoting time to silence ultimately helps to turn down the heat of life which lowers the pressure long term.
"So what?", you may ask. Hey, if the first example sounds like you and you are perfectly happy with that, then I say continue on your not-so-merry way. Who am I to throw a monkey wrench in your misery? Yet, if the first experience sounds like you and you are ready for a change, then today is your day.
Personally, my goal in my training encompasses far more than physical performance, PR's, and fitness; it's also about (more importantly) becoming a better, balanced human being. I train to learn more about myself and the world around me. I train to cultivate insight into my own ego, hang ups and short-comings and then to work towards improving in these areas. I train not just for physical capacity, but also for mental and spiritual fitness.
At the end of the day, any A-hole can pick up heavy weights, run far, run fast, do a sub-4:00 "Fran", but who cares? Isn't it more impressive to have a decent physical capacity, yet also posses a spirit of humility? Isn't it more admirable to have a 6:00 "Fran", yet posses strength of character? And, isn't it more impressive to run slower, yet exude peacefulness?
If you are still reading and on board to "Enjoy the Silence", here is your homework:
How: Just sit in a comfortable, upright position with good posture. Focus your attention on your breathing. Focus on the sensation of the breath coming in and out of your nose. Once you are focused on the sensation, just keep your mind steady on the sensation and count your breaths to 10, then start over again. Each time you get distracted, just go back to counting. It's that simple, it's that difficult...
How Long: First timers will do well to set aside 10 minutes per session. Once you are consistently sitting for 10 minutes per session, begin to add a couple minutes to each session until you work up to 15-20 minutes per session. Don't stress or be in a rush to get to the 15-20 minute mark, that approach pretty much destroys the point of the practice. In this practice there is no "goal" or measure of "success".
How Often: For beginners, I suggest 3 times per week. Once you are consistently spending time in silence 3 times per week, bump it up to 4 times per week. Eventually, you should devote time to silence 5-7 times per week. Again, be patient and don't rush in to sitting more often. Make this a sustainable practice, not a burden on your already busy day.
When: Pick a time of day that works in your schedule. Initially, there isn't any one time of day that is better than another - the key is to just sit! I prefer right before bed, when everyone else is in bed and the house is quiet, or first thing in the morning, while everyone else is still sleeping. If you are like me, these are the only quiet times of day in our house!
Where: In a location you are not likely to get interrupted. For some, you may have to resort to a closet, the bathroom, basement, hide in the garage, etc. I'm only half joking on this one. You gotta do what you gotta do to make it work. No Excuses!
What not to do during this time:
- No music - it's a crutch and a distraction. If you need some noise to drown out the background noise, turn on a fan.
- No iPhones, Crackberry's, laptops or other electronic gadgets - leave the phone off and in the other room.
- No prayer or sorting out "problems" during this time. If you want to pray or "think", do it after the session - this is quiet time and time to train your mind. If a great idea or the solution to world peace comes to you during this time, forget about it until you are done - it will still be there...
- No dozing - it may become hard to stay awake during your session, just do your best.
- Oh, and no Facebooking, or Tweeting during this time!!!!
"3, 2, 1... Sit!"
Until next time...