I wanted to write a bit about the mind/body relationship. But what can I add to a millennium’s worth of human inquiry. What can I add to the combined teachings of the greatest scientific and philosophical minds in recorded history?
Well I’d change the description for a start. I think it’s missing a word. I think it would help people get their heads around the concept if we called it the mind/body/mind relationship.
It might sound a bit clunkier, but it’s a lot more informative, for a couple of reasons:
- Firstly, having two ‘minds’ to one ‘body’ is a better reflection of the relative importance of the two elements. The body will always be at the mercy of what goes on between the ears.
- Secondly, by starting and ending with ‘mind’, it reinforces that it’s more than a straight connection. It’s a loop. An ‘always-on’ cycle that feeds back on itself. Mind, body, mind, and around it goes. It can spin both ways though, either vicious (poor state of mind leading to poor physical and nutritional choices, leading to lower energy and a poorer mental state etc etc) or virtuous. This is where training comes in. It helps get things turning in the right direction.
The fact you are reading this shows you’re either wanting to start the cycle spinning in the right direction, or it’s started to turn already, and you want to up the revs.
I know I didn’t go chakra-level deep, but that’s all the philosophy I’ve got to give so I’ll just finish with a story. Come to think of it, didn’t a lot of those great philosophical teachers like to tell stories. Parables they called them. Here’s my modern-day version. Behold, “The parable of Keith”:
I’ve got a friend, Keith, who was your classic late-comer to the concept of fitness. In his early 40’s fatherhood and middle-age-metabolism expanded his mind and waist-line respectively. About the same time, he started a new job in a building with an in-house gym, so he signed up straight away and for a full fortnight of lunch-hours he was a towel-toting regular. But as most newcomers to exertion discover, the novelty disappears faster than the muscle soreness (which does reduce in time, trust me). He started carrying his gym gear to and from work untouched, and as lunch-times approached, he subconsciously flinched at the prospect of that initial unpleasantness at the start of any work-out, forgetting the after-glow that he had told me lead to a more alert and productive afternoon (funny how selective memory can be when it pursuit of an easy option).
I caught up with him when he was in this period of ‘good intention/lack of action’ gridlock, having not been to the gym for about as long as he’d attended and I fully expected him to still be stuck there when I saw him again a few weeks later. I was wrong. Not only was he back into it, he was past the soreness that’s unique (and unfortunately inevitable) to people who’ve been a long-time dormant. He was enjoying it. Setting little goals, beating personal bests and appreciating the boost he felt, especially in the second half of his day in the office post exercise, but also in his life in general.
So how did he extract himself from the all-too common motivational lull that follows the ‘I’ve finally done something positive’ feel-good rush? This is where I bring home my point about the mind. Remember the wording of ‘mind/body/mind’ and how it starts with ‘mind’. Well here’s a perfect, albeit slightly odd example. This is what he told me:
One day at 11.50am, just prior to his lunch-break gym-window, when the doubts and unpleasant recollections starting seeping in – the ones that had him looking from his computer, to his gym-bag under the desk and back again. Looking for potential lunch-time meetings. Looking for errands to run in the city. Basically, looking for excuses.
He decided to tell himself that come 12 o’clock, he wasn’t going to do a gym session at all. He was simply going to get changed. Swap button-up shirt and trousers for t-shirt, shorts and sneakers. He’d take the elevator at the end of the hall, press level 2, swipe in and get changed. That’s it. Maybe then walk across the road for sushi. Maybe. Can’t hurt, can it? Getting up from the chair and stretching the legs. Just go down to the gym, change clothes, put on some sneakers. That’s it.
Naturally, once he was there and dressed, the gap to just taking a few more steps and starting off steadily on the treadmill was greatly reduced. He was back into it.
He disarmed those persistent, persuasive little thoughts that keep a lot of good habits at bay by simply breaking up the task into smaller bits. When you’re at your desk and start getting a whiff of other people’s lunches, the gym feels a long, long way away. He closed that gap with a silly little trick of the mind. God knows our head can play tricks on us that aren’t always in our best interests. So trick the bloody thing back. It’s two-thirds of the battle after all.