A couple months ago I introduced you to (THE) three core problems that prevent personal (mind-body) transformation and peak performance. If you missed those, you can watch very short video synopses here:
The Rope: How stress & anxiety steal you away from the moment of change.
The Mirror: How your identity inhibits true presence.
The Strawberry: How mind-body connection & conscious choice are mutually dependent.
We might also summarize these problems as the body problem, the mind problem, and the problem of integration.
The reason for the longer post today is that I'd like to present all three solutions to you at once. I'm doing it this way because all three are necessary to take back control over your growth and performance, and to design more weightless moments in life.
The videos below are excerpts from a 30 minute webinar I did early this year, if you'd like to invest the time to thoroughly understand these problems / solutions for yourself!
It's awesome, and it's FREE!
View The Strawberry Webinar
And if you'd like to stick with me for this glorious rant, then buckle up.
This short, 1 minute parable will help fill in references in the conversation to follow:
Now, walk with me a bit...
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a day without these three problems:
-Without the rope - unconscious triggers that steal you from the moment before you’re even able to process them...
-Without the mirror - egoistic judgments and desires that may feel comforting, but which prevent clear insight, connection, and presence...
-And WITH the strawberry - moments of pure, unadulterated life. Moments of passion, power, and presence. Moments… of weightlessness!
Would you feel like there’s more space to choose? To change?
Now, let’s tackle these one by one.
Admittedly, you can find isolated solutions for each of these in the worlds of self help and personal peak performance, but rare is the approach that covers all three with efficient organization and intelligent programming.
In theory, the world of fitness addresses the rope problem, the practice of meditation the mirror problem, and the worlds of somatic coaching, flow, and inquiry meditation address the strawberry.
But, as I said at the onset, without conquering all three, we remain victims of habit and thought, doomed to repeat mindless defaults rather than grow into our strongest selves.
And so my premise here isn’t to analyze all tools relevant to this discussion, which my Weightlessness Process maps in great precision. It’s to focus on the high level principles that empower you, regardless of approach, to attack these three problems with clarity and focus. And this is where things get juicy.
Let’s get after them.
The Rope... Defanged:
Many try to overcome the symptoms of stress by avoiding the rope. Those in the ‘do what lights you up’ and ‘if it doesn’t feel right, move on’ camps get this problem completely wrong.
This is an attempt to evade the rope by reinforcing the mirror.
The effect? It makes you that much more vulnerable when confronted with dislikes and triggers you cannot avoid… which, hate to say it, is part of life. You’ve got a stronger, more fragile ego without the tools to face conflict.
The age old solution, known by fighters, athletes, and military men alike, is to embrace stress, for it is only through the adding of weight, that we truly learn to unburden.
One Must Add Weight to Unburden
Novice fighters fear getting hit. It’s the seasoned fighter who knows he’s not made of glass; who’s conditioned his body and taken his lumps, that doesn’t fear getting hit. He’s able to stay in the mix and focus on creative problem solving under pressures that would crater most minds.
In that freedom from impulsive retreat is the space to think, feel, and react, unencumbered.
Now not everyone is destined for the ring, and that’s ok. But this principle holds true for all of us - if you want a problem to feel small, take on bigger challenges. If you want a trigger to have lesser impact, condition your antifragile mind-body to handle greater stressors.
This isn’t just a philosophical aphorism. It’s a biological fact.
The same nervous system that signals dread before public speaking is the same one deadlifting (or not) in the gym.
Resilience to stress (Grit) is a global, systemic phenomenon, meaning even things like the strength of your connective tissue, the ratio of fast to slow twitch muscle, your physical structure or posture, and your breathing patterns, are not relegated to short-lived training sessions. They actually augment the machine, and increase your threshold for stress 24 hours a day, across all activities.
This could be activated, and is by some, by jumping out of airplanes, and other forms of extreme thrill seeking. But not without the ever-present risk of becoming a concrete pancake. And that outcome is binary. You live or you die, and you can’t exactly practice not dying if equipment fails.
This is a critical insight. We must apply stress in order to grow. But clearly, not all stressors are created equal. Our biology is adaptable, up to a point, beyond which, we risk injury, trauma, or loss of confidence. So we need enough stress to ensure growth, but not so much that it weakens us.
Stress that leads to growth, can be prioritized along a few key filters:
-And Scalable, in fashion
If it isn’t clear, Strength Training and Conditioning - the right variety and of an appropriate degree - fits that bill better than any other practice or craft.
The gym is the laboratory where we study our resilience to stress in safe and measurable ways. And clearly, some forms of training approximate those filters better than others. That is the science of strength, and a central pillar of Weightlessness Training.
Without going into great depth on each filter, which would require a book, I’ll leave you with this heuristic that covers them:
-High Tension over Low Tension (Powerlifting over Endurance Training (or cardio))
-High Intensity over Low Intensity (Sprinting over Jogging or Walking)
-Impact over No Impact (Boxing over using an Elliptical)
Does this mean that the latter in each category is of no value? Not at all.
It just means that in the game of resilience, the former cannot be neglected without consequence.
The rope doesn’t care how long you can jog, but it does respect how much you can lift.
The Mirror... Shattered:
The mirror problem, like the rope problem, can also be reduced to capacity development. That’s important because perspective alone cannot bypass the pitfalls of egocentric experience. You can’t simply cognize the problem and arrive at the present.
You must actually feel it.
Mindfulness practices can be an excellent way through this problem. For example, as you’re reading this, are you aware of your breath?
Do you sense the pressure of the seat beneath you?
Is your physical posture consciously set, or absent mindedly arrived at?
Are there simultaneously sounds in your environment, temperatures hot or cold, internal sensations of hunger, fullness, fatigue, inflammation?
These sensations are your present reality, at least parts of it. But you can see how easy it is to feed one part of you - the curious mind - while missing so much information.
Now, Weightlessness is one of the few mind-body crafts that I’m aware of that doesn’t vilify the ego. It has its place, and must in fact be enhanced in key ways to cultivate things like grit, fortitude, motivation, and even passion.
But you won’t transcend the symptoms of ego by comprehending the ego. You transcend them by destroying the mirror, at least temporarily, and activating environmental and visceral sensation, known in the world of somatic experience as exteroception (the five senses), interception, and proprioception.
Essentially, becoming increasingly aware of your body in space, and paying deep, undivided attention to changes therein.
Becoming more SENSITIVE.
I’m not speaking about the common colloquial application of being emotionally fragile.
I’m speaking about the skill of awareness - not conceptual self-awareness, but embodied self-awareness.
Rather than your mind moving from each of the cues I gave you before - from breath, to seat, to temperature, to sound, etc, can you expand your awareness to encompass all those sensations simultaneously.
THAT is sensitivity. At least with training wheels.
Sensitivity is what allows the fighter to react at lightning speed, the entrepreneur to intuit the need for a critical pivot, the husband to sense discord with this wife, and our man on the vine, to see the strawberry with tigers lurking and mice conspiring.
It’s a fucking superpower.
Practicing sensing, a la mindfulness, is a classical and effective approach. But as anyone who’s tried to teach any form of meditation can attest - it has a low retention rate, and it rarely works under pressure without other forms of conditioning or a high level of skill.
Weightlessness Training is unique in that it doesn’t leave this all important capacity to chance, but incorporates practices and meditative metrics that, just like strength training, are measurable, scalable, and progressive.
But regardless of personal approach, enlivening the senses opens the door to clear perception of the present, and therefore the ability to adapt and change quickly.
Here We’ve Arrived at a Critical Juncture.
We’ve passed two of the three gates. And before I tackle number three, I’ve got to clear an all too common misconception about the first two - namely, that they are preferential and can be taken piecemeal. They cannot.
Each, while offering profound benefits in the process of becoming, also generates risks that only the other can alleviate. I bring this up because I want not only to hit home how important they are, but how important they ALL are - together.
It’s a story of the whole person.
It’s YOUR story.
Embracing stress, while essential for developing resilience, can also lead to a callous, unyielding mind, and a tight, rigid body. We’ve all know that headstrong personality that seems to have schedule, life and training on lockdown, but seems to be missing something… well, human.
And cultivating sensitivity, while essential for seeing without bias, can lead to emotional reactivity and a sense of being adrift, without a stable center. Picture the yogi, intuitive, or energy worker whose channels are clearly open, they’re high on life, but don’t seem to be grounded. Maybe they lose their shit at the first sign of resistance, and repeat the mantra ‘if it doesn’t make you happy, move on.’
The obvious challenge or inconvenient truth here is that stress doesn’t make you happy when you’re experiencing it - its uncomfortable, its confronting, and yet, its absolutely essential to stimulate the internal adaptions that lead to resilience.
And when both are present - resilience to stress and sensitivity to life - we’re ready and primed to show up fully to this moment. Neither the body nor the mind are resisting or fleeing connection with the present.
We’re now ready to CHOOSE what we want, right here, right now.
We’re ready to CHOOSE WHO WE ARE.
The Strawberry… Tasted:
Which brings me back to our man on the vine…
A person who had the resilience and sensitivity to not only flee an immediate threat, but who, while facing certain death, saw life before him...
And he CHOSE to taste it.
I told you in the beginning that this parable would tell you everything you need to know about peak performance and personal change. I hope it’s clear now that it’s also YOUR story.
Over the years, upon checking in with clients who are familiar with this parable, I’ve heard them say “I’m looking for the strawberry.”
Here’s the rub. The strawberry is always there, perched and present, waiting for you. It’s not something to be possessed, processed, or understood.
It’s something to be tasted. Sensed. Felt.
This may sound easy, but I assure you, it’s not. Our man on the vine could have been petrified to die, or regretting whatever decision lead him there. He could have been frozen, clutching at the vine.
And less obviously, but more importantly, he could have bitten the strawberry without tasting it, just one of many strawberries in his life, after all, replaying conversations from the morning spat with his wife, stressed out over his career, or simply feeling sorry for himself.
When confronted with death, our man chose life.
And that’s what I want for you.
Because this is the part in the play where you move from unconscious pawn to hero-protagonist. Where you move from being manipulated by forces outside of your control, to radical ownership with eyes wide open. You’re entering a new world of weapons and friends and causes worth fighting for.
Ok, you say, "I get the resilience. And I get the sensitivity. In defining moments, how exactly do I apply them? Isn’t this the crux of the problem?"
It is. And while it’s not easy, it is simple. To put them together and show up with full presence, full intelligence, and full commitment, you need a trigger (the good kind).
In most somatic arts, and even in Weightlessness Training, we could summarize that simple mind-body shift as center, sense, and shift (or choose).
While centering can and should have a structural component that approximates symmetry and balance in the body a la Standing Meditation, it should really be seen as reconnecting with the present.
With practice, this immediately defangs any ropes present, conscious or otherwise.
Sensing can be taken literally, and is a natural expression of the mind being present in the body. Sense your environment, your internal movements, even the origin of your thoughts.
And once you’ve arrived at momentary state of emptiness, but with your highest faculties present and unencumbered, you can move forward with power and conscious intention.
Now, there’s a lot more that could be said about how structural centering and sensing help you transcend the conditioned self, and I’d be happy to go there with you down the road, but for our purposes here, THIS is where the magic happens.
This is the space to listen to your child without the need to control them.
Where you’re immersed in a problem at work with full focus, without concern for how you’ll be perceived.
Where you’re connected and fully aware that your current situation isn’t what you want - you feel it through your whole system, but it doesn’t scare you. It’s just another piece of immediate information, like the pressure of your seat, the temperature in your room, the depth of your breath.
You’re free to CHOOSE.
Weightlessness | Mind Body Performance Coaching