I recently had the chance to share my experience of silence with Lori Densche the creator of TinyBuddha.com. The result is the following post that talks about the lessons I learned from sitting in silence and how those lessons help me every day of my life.
(Avg. Reading time 4.5 Mins)
What the Hell is Mindful Fitness Anyway?
Recently I received this question from one of my readers:
“What activities and/or cues have you found to be most helpful in incorporating mindfulness into your clients’ activities? Walking, breathing, something more meaningful to each person? Do you have an activity that you tend to start with to introduce that concept?”
First off, I want to say this is a great question. Many people struggle with how to start practicing mindfulness and/or fitness with so many fitness options the possibilities can be a bit overwhelming.
So here is my
Minimalist Mindful Fitness Guide –
5 Key Practices to Get Your Started.
1. Intention –
The first practice I start with most of my clients is identifying their list of internal and external goals. We look at how many pounds they want to lose or how many miles the want to run, but we don’t stop there.
We also look at how they want to feel and what they think losing weight or getting in shape will do for them. By looking at their intentions first, they connect with deep motivations and a sense of purpose.
2. Journaling –
The second practice I recommend for all my clients is journaling. Many people trying to make a life change struggle with judgments, self doubt, and internal criticism. The purpose of journaling is to increase awareness without judgment.
I have my clients record a very basic journal of what they eat, what activity they do, and their state of mind. I also ask them to notice any connection between these three. Lastly, I encourage them to write down one thing everyday they are grateful for.
I do this before we start with any exercise or nutrition plan. Because I want them to just notice what’s going on.
Often without any prompting, they will identify ways they are sabotaging themselves or areas where they need to do some investigation.
Because this wisdom comes from within these revelations are much more powerful than anything, they’ve read in a book or heard from a trainer.
3. Habit Formation
Many trainers have a particular exercise regime or nutrition plan they employ with clients. But I believe the best nutrition and exercise plan is the one you will actually do.
The main problem with most diet and exercise plans is they demand too radical change too quickly. The main goal of the MindFitMove method is not to help you lose weight or gain muscle.
Let me repeat that again because I know it sounds crazy. The main goal of MindFitMove method is not to help you lose weight or gain muscle.
The main goal of this mindfulness based fitness approach is to help you create more awareness and then use that awareness to make different choices.
The first two practices help establish a baseline awareness. In habit formation we take that awareness and start making change a reality.
First, I find what that person likes to do and get them to do more of that. I believe that if it doesn’t fit smoothly in your life you won’t do it.
For example, I had one client who liked riding his bike so I got him to ride his bike up a steep hill 3 times a week. I had another client who lived next to a lovely park so I got them to walk and eventually jog in that park.
The hardest part of regular exercise is the regular part. By finding, a physical activity you enjoy or at least don’t despise. You vastly increase your chance for success.
4. Set the Stage
Once we’ve established baseline awareness and started creating new habits then we work with specific mindful fitness techniques.
The fundamental mindful fitness technique is creating an environment for mindfulness.
I encourage my clients to exercise outside, to exercise without the use of music, and to exercise with the intention to focus on their bodies.
These 3 techniques all help create an environment of mindfulness. And though they don’t require a ton of concentration. They do lay the groundwork for intense focus and spacious awareness.
5. Active Mindfulness – 4 Mindful Fitness Techniques
Once we’ve established an environment of mindfulness, then we use advanced mindfulness based fitness techniques to increase awareness and focus during exercise.
I’ve used these 4 mindful fitness techniques in my own practice as well as with my clients.
1. Noticing before and after –
At the end of your work out take a minute close your eyes and focus on how you feel now vs. how you felt before you exercised. This practice helps connect us with the ease that exercise can bring. It also tunes us in to any aches that may indicate any problem areas we need to work on.
2. Cadence –
Cadence is the rate at which your feet hit the ground when running, or the speed that your pedals turnover in cycling. When practicing with cadence we simply notice how it changes as we exercise.
Cadence helps us in two ways:
One. It helps us tune into our bodies natural rhythms
Two. Working to maintain a fast even cadence will decrease injuries and increase speed and efficiency.
3. Pay attention to sound –
The world is filled with sounds we never notice. But when we open our sense, we often find joy in the sound of chirping birds and the even pad of our feet on the trail.
In addition to enjoying our natural environment, sound can also reveal imbalances in our exercise form.
For example, I’ve noticed, as I get tired my footsteps get louder. Louder footsteps means higher impact and lowered efficiency. So, by working to run quietly I increase my speed and decrease the stress on my body.
Breath practice often gives us cues about how we are approaching exercise and our life in general. No matter what the activity, noticing our breath can help us perform with greater skill and confidence.
In yoga, the breath helps us move the body in an even rhythm. In endurance events like running and cycling, our breath tells us when we are pushing too hard or moving out of sync. And in weight lifting, our breath not only helps us connect to movement, but also works to stabilize and strengthen our bodies.
There are 1000’s of books on fitness and eating, but most of them overcomplicate everything with complex theories and complicated techniques. What’s so amazing about these practices is how simple they are.
Using just these 5 practices people can make amazing progress towards establishing a mindfulness based fitness practice.
Mindful fitness isn’t about taking one model and applying it to everyone. It’s about establishing principles and then investigating how those principles apply to your life.
Because of that, no two people will ever approach mindfulness based fitness the same way. But it also means that this practice can adapt and change as you change. It can become an organic part of your own growth and that’s why it’s such an amazing tool for lasting transformation.
Thanks very much to Kelsey for sending in this question. Kelsey has been one of my best and most loyal readers from the beginning of my blog. She is an awesome physical therapist and super cool lady.
If there is a question, you have please feel free to leave it below or email me and I’ll do my best to address it in one of my future posts.
Paleo diets are all the rage so lets do a Paleo thought experiment.
Imagine you were a Paleolithic man or woman. It’s been a hard winter and your food supplies have been dwindled. Your young children are hungry, but spring has come late this year. Nothing is sprouting and the game hasn’t returned as it normally does.
You have been searching for food, but other than a few meager herbs, nothing can be found. You know that if you return home with nothing it will mean another day without eating.
Your youngest has been growing weaker. She’s been coughing and unable to rise from her mat. You know that if you don’t find more food soon she won’t make it.
p style=”text-align:Left;”>Feel the fear, the frustration, and the confusion at your situation. Feel the deep hunger in your own belly, which hasn’t been properly fed in weeks. You feel an ache not only for yourself but for your family as well.
Now imagine as you return home you become lost. You have never been in this part of the valley before at first, you are scared, but then you come across a tree.
On the tree are strange objects you haven’t seen before. You take one down and it smells sweet. You are unsure what to do, but you figure you have nothing to lose. So, you take a bite. The taste of sugary sweetness fills your mouth.
The rich grainy texture is a little sour, but you can tell this is food. You rush to gather as much of this new fruit as you can, eating as you go.
With your arms full, you head back the direction you came. And with each step, you know you carry hope for your family. Your heart is filled with deep abiding gratitude.
The Salvation of Food
For centuries, food was a blessing. People sacrificed to harvest gods and performed sacred rituals, but for most of us, access to food is an afterthought. Living in a modernized western world our idea of hunger is mostly abstract.
Even hunger that occurs on a diet is very different from the hunger brought on by starvation. Because of this, we have lost our sense of the struggle to eat that our ancestors fought with.
Wars have been fought over the same salt and sugar we buy at the grocery store everyday. But it’s hard to access that reality, because of the relative bounty that we live in.
So for this post I thought I would share a Mindful Eating exercise that helps reconnect us with our gratitude
Eating With Gratitude
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Interested in the Paleo vs Veggie debate read this awesome article by Matt from No Meat Athlete – http://www.nomeatathlete.com/vegans-and-paleos/
Speaking In A Minefield
Speaking is like walking through a minefield blindfolded. We are so focused on ourselves we often fail to see that our words have blown up. Our meaning has been scattered to the winds but we are none the wiser.
Here are three communication mines we face, as teachers, students, managers, and employees.
The correct amount of confidence is tricky. Have too much confidence and you lose connection. Have too little confidence and no one listens.
You have to be honest about what you don’t know. At the same time, you have to feel ok about your limitations.
When I work with my teaching partner in Yoga school, I notice that I’m most effective when I’m calm, but not cocky. Whenever I think I know exactly what to do, I lose her.
Confidence has to do with our ability to be aware and present. When I’m attentive and focused, I give clear directions.
Life is more than just knowing it all. Experience is great but only when it gives us more space to be present.
We usually project what we want to see. We miss all the things that make others unique. Without this data, we can never connect with them.
Nevertheless, I’ve found some projection is necessary for effective communication.
When directing someone into a Yoga pose you have to project your own understanding of the movements onto your student. At the same time, you have to hold an awareness of how your words are affecting their body.
This balancing act is present in all communication. If we notice our words losing impact it’s great to check in on how we are projecting and whether or not it’s working.
As a teacher, my students don’t owe me anything. As a friend, employee, or even manager the same is true.
Having authority can lead us to believe we are entitled to be listened to. However, this attitude is rarely helpful.
Instead, we must try to make our communication accessible.
When I was working with my Yoga partner I noticed frustration arising when I gave a direction and she didn’t do anything.
She may have been following the instruction already. She may have not understood. She may have thought my directions were wrong.
Why she didn’t move doesn’t matter. My job as her teacher is to make my directions work for her. This asks me to I invite rather than command her to act.
In every situation, we should always work towards invitation. This has more to do with the attitude we bring than the words we use.
The key is remembering that we are indebted to our listener. They have given us their attention. We must repay this gift with the calm attention and clarity.
– Think of something you’d like to communicate to someone: A partner, friend, co-worker, student, or boss.
– Take a few minutes and write out exactly what you want to say.
– Then put this aside for a couple hours or a couple of days.
– When you come back too it read it out loud to yourself.
– Try reading it with confidence and then with uncertainty.
– Try reading it imagining their face in a scowl and then in a smile.
– Try reading it as a demand and then as an invitation.
– Then reflect of these tests and rewrite the phrase.
– Finally try expressing this idea to them keeping in mind the 3 mines you learned about in this post.
5 Tips For A Mindful Birthday.
Today is my birthday. No, I didn’t see my shadow, but thanks for asking.
Birthdays are a great opportunity to reflect on a year of life.
They’re a time to celebrate your struggles, accomplishments, and dreams. They’re also a great opportunity to ease some restrictions you have in life.
In that sprit, here are my 5 steps to a Mindful, Joyful Birthday.
1. Remember It’s Not About You – When I was living at Great Vow Zen Monastery we didn’t celebrate birthdays. It’s a long-standing tradition there for good reasons. No one makes a lot of money so gifts are a bit odd, and with so many people, you’d have birthday parties all the time.
Birthdays can put a lot of pressure on us. Like any big holiday our expectations are high and thus your chance of disappointment is high.
So every birthday, I remember the best way to celebrate is to make it about the joy being alive. But I don’t need to make it all about me.
2. Reflect On a Year of Living.
Instead of focusing on regrets, take this time to just reflect on what a whole year of life has held. Think about all the unexpected things that happened. Think about all the little accomplishments, the small acts of kindness, courage, and determination.
If we look for these moments, we will find them scattered throughout our lives. This is a great time to appreciate the vast content in a year of life.
3. Set goals
After taking in the past it’s a great time to look into the future. Write a personal mission statement, make some new vows, and set some new goals.
Set a goal for the day after your birthday, for the week after you birthday, for the month after your birthday, and for the next year of your life.
Make them small, achievable goals. But put them down in writing and post them somewhere you can see them. Write them daily.
The actions we do today is a gift to our future self. So start next year’s birthday gift to yourself today.
If you need help, these posts explain some processes I’ve gone through to set goals for my life.
4. Ease up on restrictions
Don’t go crazy, but give yourself a break from some of your restrictions today. Eat some cake. Goof around. Have some fun. You can always spend a little more time next week working it off.
If we are too strict for too long it wears us out. It’s important to make easing restrictions and breaking a few small rules a healthy part of our routine.
Your birthday is a great time to do this.
5. Spend Time Alone
I’m very good about making time for other people, but not making time for myself.
This birthday I’m going to spend 30 – 60 minutes alone in silence. I’ll probably go on a run or walk.
You can spend this time doing some of these other reflections, but I would encourage you to leave some of this time open.
Birthdays are a natural touchstone of our lives. They are a chance to connect with a deeper part of ourselves. Silence and space give those parts of us a chance to arise.
Thanks for reading my blog on my birthday.
If you want to get me a birthday gift, here are 3 things you can do.
Subscribe to my mailing list: You actually get a free e-book as a birthday gift from me.
Share this blog post on your, twitter-book-press account.
Comment below and tell me: What special thing do you like to do on your birthday?