2nd February 2020
I can't exactly remember when it started, but some where in the summer of 2017 I decided to learn how to do a handstand. I was getting bored with my training routine. It left me uninspired, mentally it wasn't challenging, and I felt a little like the incredible bulk incapable of moving effectively. Also learning to invert yourself and play on your hands looks quite funky, so I watched a few videos online to learn a few basics, then I timidly dipped my toes in the hand balancing waters.
At first my progress seemed pretty consistent going through the same few exercises, then frustration kicked in! I hit a few barriers and the progress faltered, so I decided to leave it where it lay (or should that be stood inverted?) with a shaky 10 – 15 second free standing handstand on a good day.
Why did I give up with not trying to progress and iron out the kinks? I used my frustrations and pursuing other things as an excuse, but in reality the problem was I wasn’t refining the process enough to keep me moving forward and enjoying my practice.
Complex skills require many physical and mentally attributes to worked on simultaneously which means dedicating the appropriate amount of time, energy and mental acumen to the process. I felt I didn’t have enough time to invest for what at the time seemed like diminishing returns (in truth I was still clinging on to the strength and aesthetic outcomes of my training, not fully appreciating the beauty and use of acquiring skills).
I’ve since realised that the process is everything, but not in a mechanistic or automaton way. Think more like a plant emerging from the soil and flowering when it’s ready in accordance with it’s nature.
We’re organic creatures that should live with spontaneity and constant change in adapting to our environment. Being too fixed and rigid means things will break and fall apart, ultimately getting lost in the fall out. But to actualise a physical outcome you need set patterns in the way you move and behave. In other words you need good processes, by putting together the right elements in the correct fashion, and also by allowing them to fall into place without undue force.
Of course, this isn’t solely related to training. When we cook there’s a process. You need your elements in the form of ingredients, a recipe or understanding of how to blend the elements together, and the skills to slice, dice and time the cooking of the dish to perfection. The same can be said for writing and making love – there needs to be a series of actions in a particular pattern to achieve the desired outcome.
“Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless,
and add what is specifically your own”
Fast forwarding to the present day and hand balancing is a big part of my practice. Yep, there’s still frustration (they’re always will be in this game) but understanding the process is everything I’m continuously refining it. 5 months of focused and evolving practices has seen progress I could only of dreamed of a couple of years ago. What’s changed?
I’ve realised we all have an unlimited capacity to learn, and with the internet of things at our finger tips knowledge is abundant and easily accessible (although sometimes this can be a hindrance with a lot of nonsense flying around the world wide web, so you need to have your bull shit detector finely tuned).
I clearly identified my desires and started envisioning the bigger picture better. I wrote down a few things to work towards, and started thinking and acting as if i already there. The narrative you tell yourself and corresponding behaviours need to be aligned with where you’re heading, adopting a mindset of growth whilst letting go of what doesn’t serve you any more. The less baggage the better – It gives us more space to grow and receive what’s need.
When developing your processes there’s some key things you should look towards in helping you refine them to actualise your full potential.
- Find those who are at the top of their game and learn from them. Use them as a guru or sensei of sorts, and if the opportunity arise for you to work with them in person grab it with both hands. Nothing beats hands on teaching with an opportunity to ask questions and absorb information like a sponge. The processes they used can be integrated into your life in a fashion that works for you. Don’t forget that they were once at the stage you find yourself at now.
- Pursue your interests with someone else or as part of a community of like minded souls. Here the collective consciousness is a stronger force in helping solve problems in see things from a different perspective. Also the moral support of your fellow humans who are moving in the same direction can be a great aid in times of need.
- Journal your progress. This was a game changer for me last year. Track all your training, leave no details out, note how you felt about the session and any necessary adjustments needed to improve your next one. Just flipping back a few months can show you the progress you’ve made which will reinforce your appetite for it all. It also helps keep the mind clear of having to remember exactly how your session went a few weeks back.
- Use progressive overload smartly. Synonymous with resistance training, it can be used across all modalities of training by changing the modalities. For skills training you can gradually increase the complexity, the intensity of your strength training can be increased by playing around with tempo, and increased flexibility can be gained by spending more time in a said stretch. Think constant micro adjustment rather than irregular major jumps.
- Rest, relax and recover. I cannot stress this enough; prioritise your sleep, eat nutrient dense whole foods, and aid your recovery with light physical activity, preferably outdoors. A lack of down time will hinder your progress…don’t skimp on it!
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Growth only happens outside of your comfort zone, and with it mistakes inevitable happen. These are just lessons to be learnt. There is everything to gain from failing – Just try not to make the same mistakes often. If you are the progression you’re using for a given skill or exercise is to complex or the load too great. Wind the ego in – it’s okay to regress when needs be, you’ll progress quicker.
What ever your chosen path, there needs to be a method behind the madness! If you’re wanting to bask in silence then meditation is going to be your process. Once the process is establish then practice over and over again until it becomes second nature. When things feel like there stagnating a little it’s time to refine the process with a tweak here and there.
The beauty of it all is that you can do and be anything you want that’s conceivable within your imagination – there are no limits!
So let this be the take home message; open your mind and break free from the chains that are weighing you down. Learn, fail, fall. Get uncomfortable and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Keep tweaking the formula and growing towards the light…everything you’ve ever wanted is in the development of a processes that illuminates your soul!
Yours in love and health,