Often when someone returns from a trip abroad or somewhere significant we want to know things like, “What was your most memorable moment?” or “What was the coolest thing you saw?”
I think a better question is, “How have you changed?” or “What’s different now that you’re back?”
It’s cool to go away and see stuff we’ve never seen before, go places we’ve never been but the experience itself is fleeting. Once it’s gone it’s gone, no matter how many pictures you take. So the real take away from travel or any other similar experience is how that experience has affected you.
So now that I’m back from St. Petersburg, what is different?
Not much and volumes.
I know that’s a weird answer but it’s the most accurate I can offer. As far as my business and training are concerned not very much has changed. I was already on board with Elliott’s approach to training. The assessments we learned are protocols I had already learned from him and apply with great success in my business. So in this sense not much has changed.
Personally, I feel I have changed volumes.
I returned with a confidence that wasn’t as solid before I left. I did things I’ve never done before. I shot a tutorial with Elliott, successfully lifted a 225 pound atlas stone, flipped an 800 pound tire. I was instantly recognized by my peers as a resource of value and knowledge.
Those of you who know me well, and know my story, know I’ve struggled with feelings of worth my whole life. Strength and fitness have given me a huge boost in this area and helped me face some age old demons.
Strengthology is the next phase in that journey for me.
In the last post I mentioned the four layers of strength. The third layer, psychosomatic, is the one that interests me most right now.
I have a decent handle on the physical and the physiological. I continue to train and as I do I refine my techniques and sharpen my skills. Nothing is ever perfect, but perfection is always my goal. I plan, I strive, and I achieve.
In my quest to correct my own imbalances I learned to abandon some exercises in favor of other more productive ones.
As a result of the Strengthology weekend I said a sad goodbye to the bench press. My chest is too tight which encourages an anterior pull to my shoulders and a kyphotic curve to my upper back. Eventually, if not corrected, this will lead to shoulder injuries. Who wants that?
I’ve replaced my bench press with a military press and added even more work to my back and shoulders. My current goal is to be able to press my body weight (245 lbs.) overhead.
The second layer is physiological strength. I’m curious what 201 will bring with this. For now I feel good about the strides I’ve taken. I’ve eliminated all gluten containing grains and starchy carbs from my diet to great effect. With the Emerson’s Acre project I’ll be able to supply my own organic produce and improve my family’s diet even more. I’m looking forward to learning more about parasites and other aspects of gut health that affect strength and vitality.
201 promises to offer a host of tools to help help my clients realize just how important diet is. Modern society has become so preoccupied with convenience and ease that we don’t even realize what we’ve given up in exchange.
Remember, everything has it’s cost. Be aware of what you’re paying.
But what’s got me totally jazzed is psychosomatic strength, which I imagine will be covered in 301. Psychosomatic comes from two words psycho and soma. Psycho, we all know, refers to the mental, thinking, part of ourselves. Soma is the body. Psychosomatic then refers how our minds and bodies are connected.
That then leads to an obvious question. How is this related to strength?
I’m glad you asked.
Our bodies reflect our thoughts. This is most clearly seen in the slump shouldered posture of people with poor self esteem. Emotion is also registered in the body. Emotional trauma is frequently locked in the body and creates permanent postural distortions.
Elliott has been delving into a school of psychiatry referred to as Bio-Energetic Analysis. This school seeks to eliminate emotions trapped in the body through a process of charging and discharging. When you get down into it this is some scary stuff. The whole reason these emotions are trapped in the body in the first place is that they’re things you’ve been avoiding or didn’t feel safe to express.
There was a quote on the wall in Elliott’s old gym that read, “If you can’t, you must.”
It’s in this spirit I approach Bio-Energetic Analysis. If the thought of bawling out trapped emotion on some shrink’s couch scares the piss out of me, then maybe it’s something I need to be doing. If it’s not, I’ll know fairly soon, but I’m frustrated with all the other efforts I’ve made to alleviate my issues. Granted, I’ve made some progress, but there’s more to be done. My desire to improve exceeds my fear.
The fourth layer of strength is presentable strength. This is the ability to take all that you’ve learned from the first three layers and share them with others.
Starting in college I became interested in Chinese philosophy. Part of what I found so enjoyable about it was the way in which it’s often presented, as stories. A common theme is that of the sage or wise man who retreats to the mountaintop to meditate or perfect his art or kung fu. Essentially he removes himself from the world so that he can work on himself. Once he’s perfected himself, or attained enlightenment, he returns to the village. He comes back into the world so that he can share what he has learned.
The message is that perfecting yourself is not enough. You have to share it with others. In the Eastern tradition once you attain enlightenment you transcend this plane. You basically meld with the universe and cease to exist as we currently understand it.
In Buddhism, they have what they call bodhisattvas. The bodhisattva is like a saint. What sets him or her apart is that they sit right on the edge of enlightenment, only a hair’s breadth from slipping over, but purposefully holding back, choosing to devote the rest of their lives to helping others.
If this sounds like self sacrifice then you’ve missed the point. The bodhisattva spends the better part of his life focused inward, working on himself, removing weaknesses and becoming the absolutely strongest version of himself. Working to help others then is a balance of all the previous effort and energy, changing the direction from inward to outward, and the final step in personal perfection.
I also used to watch lots of kung fu movies. A common thread here is the opposite of what I just described. In this scenario a a student enters the temple or apprentices to a master to unlock the secrets of self perfection. Once he has attained mastery he opts to use his knowledge for personal gain. He chooses the “dark side”. Gone rogue with power he exploits others, kills people, steals and otherwise behaves badly. A hero has to come in and set things right.
Life is not a movie, nor is it a parable or story. It is complicated, rich and varied. These archetypes, the hero who uses his strength for the benefit of others, and the villain, who uses his to benefit only himself, exist but not in the clear cut comic book images we recognize so easily in the movies.
Strengthology is a temple. Elliott is a master. Your life is your hero’s journey. What are you going to do with it?