Recently, Phil and I were sitting cross-legged in Science Link's meditation room, located in the east wing of Science Link HQ when Phil, who was levitating 3 inches above his own monographed mediation mat, burst out of his Nirvana, slamming down to the floor with a thud.
Phil said, rubbing his soon to be bruised bottom: "JB, I think we need an article on practicing mindfulness, on doing what we love with complete focus and attention."
"Go on ... "
"As I see it, the process is as follows. Decide to do what you love to do, pause to truly consider why you are doing it, do it with focus and attention, and upon completion pause to consider what you learned from it. In this way, anything can be a form of meditation, even weightlifting. It's so simple, and yet so few people do it on a regular basis. Wait, didn't you write an article about a similar concept a while back?"
"You're probably thinking of 'The Education of A Passionate Weightlifter'."
"Yep, that's it. Why don't we run it?"
Like every other weightlifter in my peer group, I am particularly fond of Arnold Schwarzenegger. After all, he was part of my motivation for joining the legions of weak high school teenagers pounding the weights at 2:30 p.m. in the grungy school weight rooms across the country.
Both the movie Pumping Iron and the book The Education of a Bodybuilder have influenced me more that I can express. The training philosophies may be a bit dated, but the mental ones are sound and, at the risk of sounding cliche, timeless.
In pouring over the pages of this classic treatise, I am always stricken with the absolute passion with which Arnold lived. It was not limited to training and bodybuilding, but rather was employed in every aspect of his life. It is in no way a surprise then that he has achieved the transcendental success that he now enjoys.
I'm certain that one huge factor in Arnold's success is his skill of mentally preparing for upcoming tasks and reflecting on why he does them.
In one particularly striking passage in the book, Arnold talks about how to prepare for training. He states:
"Before you begin your workouts sit down for a few minutes and think about your body. Let your mind get in touch with your muscles. During the day you probably think about everything but training your body. You shouldn't just hurry from a business deal and start doing a bench press ... You should allow it (your mind) a few minutes to adjust to the idea of training; feel the control you have, get in touch mentally with all those body parts."
"There is more to training than merely allocating two hours a day to be spent at it. The whole life revolves around it (those two hours). The conscious athlete has to moderate his approach to everything (else)."
There is an important lesson to be taken from these ideas. By placing our goals, whatever they may be, first and foremost in our minds, we are able to focus our unlimited energy and excel beyond the average. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Peter Snell weren't born elite champions. Like you and I, they began with passion. From there, they focused all of their energy on their goal and achieved lasting success even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
These athletes were more than physical machines, so utterly devoted to human performance that they had no choice but to excel. They were also mentally strong, capable of paying complete and passionate attention to their chosen pursuits. Their preparatory rituals allowed them to with such laser-like precision that both their "pre-game" thoughts as well as the "game" itself became a type of mediation for them.
Your Inner Light ...
Well you need not call it meditation. In fact, you can call it whatever you want. However, I believe that we all possess an inner light that can shine outwardly. The light of some individuals shines like a standard incandescent light bulb, casting a dim glow on many objects but illuminating none in particular. I can't imagine that this type of existence is fulfilling.
But the light of other individuals shines like a focused laser beam, targeting one thing at a time and penetrating it to its core. Learning how to focus your own light, your own energy, is an important exercise in personal growth. In those who succeed, the laser-like focus that they devote to their chosen pursuit is easily transferable to other pursuits.
That's because they spent the appropriate time to develop it. They "meditated" on it. This type of meditation is synonymous with growth. When bodybuilding ended, was Arnold finished? No way. He simply re-focused the laser on other passions. He used his own unique form of "meditation" to cultivate that growth.
Make doing what you love to do an exercise in personal growth. On your next training day, before you just plod off to the gym as if it's just another obligation that you have to meet, stop for a few minutes and prepare. Do it in your office, at home at your desk, in your car, or even on a quiet park bench.
Close your eyes and think about how you are going to make this next workout the best one you have ever had. Think about the unlimited control you have over your muscles. Think about why you're doing this in the first place. Then get to the gym and attack the weights with a newfound power and focus. Attack the weights with passion.
About The Author
John M Berardi is one of the world's foremost experts in the field of human performance and nutrition. His company, Science Link, provides unique and highly effective training, nutrition, and supplementation programs for high level athletes as well as recreational exercisers. John is a prolific author and a sought after speaker and consultant. Visit www.johnberardi.com for more information about John and his team. Also, check out his new DVD entitled No Nonsense Nutrition.
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Pumping Irony: Why Everyone Wants To Be Like Dave.