The book “Think Like a Monk” written by former monk Jay Shetty was recently gifted to me by an Empower member. It was an enjoyable read and, because I believe that mindset forms the foundation of our theoretical pyramid of athletic development, I wanted to share with you some of the powerful lessons that resonated with me. Please don’t imagine that the excerpts below capture every key concept in the book, they are simply the lessons that I was ready to receive at the time of my first reading. I recommend reading the book for yourself and promise that you will find so many more insights and revelations than I was able to capture here.
The only thing that stays with you from the moment you’re born until the moment you die is your breath.
When you get stressed, angry, sad, happy, what changes? Your breath! We experience every emotion with the change of breath. Learn to manage your breath and you can manage every life situation.
In our resets we have dabbled lightly in breathing to activate our parasympathetic (rest and recovery) nervous system. In one blog post I also shared with you the application of Navy SEAL box breathing to counteract and overcome paralyzing anxiety. The power of breath is underrated. Attention to your breathing in every moment – yes, including during the WOD – allows you to control how you respond to every moment.
The more we define ourselves in relation to others, the more lost we are.
Mudita: sympathetic or unselfish joy in the good fortune of others
Our emotions are not us, they are just something we are experiencing: “I am experiencing sadness”
Athletes often are led astray by trying to compete or compare with others. We are each on our own fitness journey. We are not diminished by the accomplishments of others. In CrossFit we are building a community that celebrates each other’s wins whether they are your first push up or someone else’s world record snatch. CrossFit, in other words, is about Mudita.
Sometimes as athletes we get too attached to goals and outcomes and let our emotions get the better of us. It is okay to feel these emotions. But these feelings are not us, they are simply an experience we are having. You are not afraid, you are simply experiencing fear. You are not your emotion. You are an athlete experiencing an emotion. Fear, frustration, excitement, anxiety. The fun of living is experiencing these emotions.
Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life. – Buddha
Useful fear alerts us to a situation we can change. Transform hurtful fear to useful fear by focussing on what you can control.
Where are you letting fear stop you from living your best life? Focusing on things beyond your control is disempowering, instead focus on what you can control. This is the key to every successful athlete. You do not control whether or not you will get your first muscle up today, you do however control the time and effort you will dedicate today in working toward developing that skill.
Every mundane task you perform is your spiritual life, it is a matter of how consciously you do them.
“I wish” is code for “I don’t want to do anything differently.”
Every rep matters! There are no throw away movements. Too often I see athletes so focussed on the finish line that they discard form. This leads to no reps and injuries and poor movement habits. The score is intended as a tool to encourage intensity, it is not the goal in itself. Fitness is the goal, don’t let the score distract you from what matters!
“I wish I had a pull up,” is a commitment not to work toward one. “I wish I was in better shape,” is an admission that you plan to do nothing about your diet or fitness routine. As Yoda wisely said “There is no try just do or do not.”
“Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” – St Francis of Assisi
Passion + Expertise + Usefulness = Dharma
Actions matter more than words. Who you are is revealed in how you are, not in what you say. Be the example you want to set for the people you love. For our coaches we always say “Be the product”.
Dharma is when your passion and your expertise find a need in the world. I am blessed daily to be living in my Dharma.
For he who has conquered the mind, it is his greatest friend; for one who failed to do so, his mind will be his greatest enemy. – Bhagavad Gita
Our minds sometimes work against us convincing us to do something we then feel bad about because it conflicts with our values.
Our lives are governed by what we see, hear, smell, touch and taste. Our child-mind is attracted to people or things that aren’t good for us but make us feel better in the moment.
Our thoughts are clouds passing. The self, like the sun, is always there. We are not our minds.
You are not your thoughts. We all have bad thoughts. Who you are is not reflected by your thoughts but by your actions. We all have a child-mind vying for our attention. The child-mind doesn’t care about consequences and has no patience for delayed gratification. The entitled child-mind wants pleasure now even if it hurts you. The child-mind insists that you deserve a cookie whether that aligns with your goals or not. The child-mind will use juvenile tactics like “I deserve” or “it’s not fair”. When you succumb to the child-mind you will have regret because your actions fail to align with your values and intentions. We all have a child-mind jumping from impulse to impulse but you are an adult and it is your choice whether or not you choose to act on those impulses.
Detachment is doing the right thing for its own sake without worrying about success or failure.
“Detachment is not that you own nothing but that nothing owns you.”
Clinging to temporary things gives them power over us and they become sources of pain and fear. When we accept the temporary nature of everything we feel grateful to borrow them for a time.
As athletes we can get very attached to outcomes. When this happens, training stops being fun. It is good to have goals that you are inspired to work towards. But if in the quest to attain these goals you let them drive you to negative behaviours and self destructive beliefs then you do not own the goal, it owns you. Learn to enjoy the process of working toward the goal. You may or may not achieve it today. Life is about the chase not about the attainment. There will always be another hill to climb. Learn to let go and enjoy the journey.
“Pride of wealth destroys wealth, pride of strength destroys strength, pride of knowledge destroys knowledge.” -Sama Veda
“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” – Helen Keller
The highest purpose is to live in service.
Selflessness heals the self.
Service connects us, amplifies gratitude, increases compassion, builds self-esteem.
Whatever you are giving was given to you. When you pass it on, you can’t take credit for it.
Service is always the answer. It fixes a bad day. It tempers the burdens we bear. Service helps others and helps us. We don’t expect anything in return, but what we get is the joy of service. It’s an exchange of love.
When you live in service you haven’t time to complain and criticize.
When you live in service, fear goes away.
When you live in service, you feel grateful. Your material attachments diminish.
Service is the direct path to a meaningful life.
The greatest disconnect I see in the world today is people struggling because they have forgotten the secret to joy which is to live in service. Forgetting this, people live to serve themselves which is ultimately an unfulfilling and empty endeavour. They may achieve fame and fortune and still struggle with depression and anxiety. Or, more often, they will not achieve fame and fortune and will feel themselves failures persecuted by “the system”.
When you let go of this self-centred worldview and instead look for ways to serve others, the fear and frustration melts away and you can connect with life’s greatest joy which is to be a meaningful contribution to the world.
How you serve is up to you. Whether you deliver babies or newspapers, it is not the action or vocation that matters but the spirit in which your service is delivered. There are no spare parts in god’s plan, you are here for a purpose. There is no right or wrong way to serve, there is just what calls to you. In small ways or in large, it doesn’t matter. At the level of soul service to one and service to one million are the same. Whether you are saving a life or putting a smile on a stranger’s face, you are making the world a better place!
“At your own pace, in your own time.”
Don’t judge your pace of progress. We all progress at our own pace. The speed doesn’t matter, the progress does.
“Brave, not perfect.”
You aren’t perfect. You don’t need to be. Don’t worry about being perfect. Focus on having the courage to live your best life free from perfection.
“This moment is yours.”
There is only the here and now. You cannot change yesterday, you cannot know tomorrow. Live your best self today. Now. At this very moment.
Monday Make Up Day
1) Empower Reset #40
1 min face down breathing
30/30 sec head nods/rotations on belly and elbows
1 min upper body roll
1 min lower body roll
20 heads-up cross touch dead bugs
10 head pressed down windshield wipers
20 Shoulder Bridges
10 Table Raises
20 cross touch plank bird dogs
10 elevated rocks
10 Medball Get Ups
20 steps Medball March
Max Hanging Hold
Max Leopard Crawl
1/1 min tree pose l/r
400m KB Suitcase carry @1/1.5 pood
7 Rounds for Time:
3 Forward rolls
5 Wall walks
7 Toes to bar
9 Box jumps, 30″ box
4) 1000m Row
3 min rest
3 minute rest