One of the key ‘life lessons’ I understood, and continue to practice and learn, from my millennia-old Greek, Stoic and Buddhist influencers is simply this: How well we live, will determine how well we die

Now, having said that, no matter how intrigued I am, I’m not sold (yet) on the Buddhist concept of reincarnation, nor am I (yet) ‘mortally-devoted’ to my virtues and values, like our Greek & Stoic bro’s (namely Socrates, Nero, Seneca, Cleanthes et al) who, upon being instructed by the current Emperor, or Government at the time that they could no longer ‘practice’ their philosophies, and thus unable to live by their virtues, would, quite happily, and upon their own volition, commit suicide by knocking back a hemlock margarita’s or two.
Admirable yes…but not my gig.

However…
More and more, each and everyday, I have to admit to moments where I do say to myself something along the lines of…“what a perfect time to drop dead”or “I’d be totally OK dying right now”.

Now, before you send the men in white coats to my place, I am not by any means thinking anything sinister or morbid, in fact, it’s the complete opposite. It’s because I’m feeling calm and content, or I’ve witnessed something so delicious that if I did pop my clogs in that very instance, then it would be a pretty good time to ‘go’.
To me, these ever-increasing reflections of death are in fact a positive sign – it motivates & encourages me to keep doing what I’m doing, because I’m noticing so much more...even the annoying shit tends to ‘intrigue me’, rather than trigger me now…not all the time though, I can still lose my shit. 

As the Stoics say…No one knows when our time is up. But precisely because we don’t know when life is going to end, that we should live every moment to the fullest, engaging our life in the here and now. If we do things that we don’t enjoy, or are not important, we are wasting the only resource for which people cannot possibly pay us back: time.

As Seneca puts it: “Hold every hour in your grasp. Lay hold of today’s task, and you will not need to depend so much upon tomorrow’s. While we are postponing, life speeds by.
[Ref: Skye C Cleary. Professor at Columbia University, City College of New York]

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

About 2 months ago I decided to amp-up my Sunday morning routine a tad and include an early morning run. I leave home, once my other routines have been completed, on or around 6am, and begin my 6-7km run to, and along, this beautiful West Australian coastline.

My motivations for doing this are:
– I neither drive or own a car, cycling is my primary source of transport.
Monday to Saturday I train clients between the hours 5am to 9am, this sees me cycling anywhere between 300-400kms a week…which I love.
Sunday is a client-free day – so this frees me up to not only challenge myself and pursue other disciplines (running in this case), but to also give my bike a day off. See, by Sunday “Golden Boi”…yes, my bike has a name, is two-tyred and in need of a wheelie-good rest…I won’t back-peddle, just so that sinks in…

– As I said above, I like to introduce new challenges into my day to day, and though I have no desire to run really long distances, I personally like the idea of running the 6-7km as quickly as I can – each week, improving my not only my speed, but also my speed of recovery.

– And lastly, though I complete a 30 minute ‘static’ meditation each and every morning, I do actually prefer, and feel, as though I get more out of, my ‘active meditations’.

‘Active Meditations’ are ‘moments of now’ that I steal during the course of my day.
So, each time that I’m out ‘n’ about, either walking, cycling, standing in queue, doing the washing the up, or now, on my early Sunday morning runs, I remind myself to do what I am doing with ‘intention’.

This is an opportune time to focus on my breath, and the sensations of the environment around me – such as the wind, the warmth of sun, the birds or the warm soapy water on my hands as I’m washing up.
I’ve even adjusted my own strength training regime to become an exercise of ‘intention’….think ‘10 second push-up reps’...more of that in future posts.

Move With Intention…Exercise Using In-Tension…a meditation for living
Now due to my active lifestyle and general health, running 6-7km’s admittedly isn’t too challenging – so to increase ‘the load’ and demand more discipline from myself, I use my Sunday morning runs to positively stress-test my physical and mental capacity. I do this by primarily by increasing speed, particularly by ‘attacking the hills’ during the course of my run.
Running (like cycling, strength training) requires both strength & cadence, and a harmonious marriage between foot strike, heart-rate and breath-rate to maintain & improve ‘form and efficiency of motion’.

I relish the uphill challenging aspects of the run, I use the change in topography to create as much disharmony between my breath, heart rate and foot strike. Meaning the increased exertion that I consciously-apply makes my breath much more laboured, my heart rate skyrocket and my footwork becomes less ‘efficient’, becoming quicker & shorter. Less efficient because it’s shorter, faster and covering less distance – that’s the consciouscompromise I make to successfully navigate going up hill, faster.
[note: I am no running coach]

Going uphill I tend lean into challenge, with my vision becoming fixated to what is right in front of me. If the hill is stupidly demanding, I’ll then rely on, and recite, a mantra to motivate and push me forward (something spiritually uplifting like “move you’re arse chunky-butt’), reminding myself that the cusp of the hill is not too far away…I tell myself to ‘endure-it, as it will soon pass’, then I will be in a position to recover.

Once I hit the apex of the hill, my stride evens out, and it’s here that I’m able to reclaim & refocus on my breath, and by doing so, re-synchronises it with my heart-rate.

Now that my heart and breath rate are in unison, I can, on the ‘flats’ and ‘downhill’ sections of the run, relax my arms and shoulders, enjoy a long and relaxed stride; my vision and senses are wide open, alert and engaged in the periphery – eagerly scanning and absorbing the sights, smells and sounds.

As my metabolic-equilibrium returns, I then focus on aligning the cadence of my foot strike with my breath…the sound of my trainers hitting the bitumen works like a metronome…an active-mediative state returns and I’m looking ahead, ready and anticipating the next challenge ahead, aka hill.
[Did that translate as an approach to living?]

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

Why Do I Do It?
Through this very simple act of (mindful) movement, not only am I improving my physical health and strength, but I’m taking an active role in managing my psychological healtha calm & resilient mindset.
This is an incredibly powerful nowbeing tool, a tool that I not only (remind myself to) use everyday, but just as importantly, I actively protect it from being compromised everyday, via the lifestyle choices that I choose.

Compromised, how?
I read somewhere that humans use three habitual methods – or three futile strategies – when relating to obstacles, life challenges, emotions and laziness.
1. Attacking – a popular form of self-sabotage. We critisise and shame ourselves for being lazy, or over indulging in comfort, or pitying ourselves – so we wallow in the feelings of badness and guilt.
2. Indulging – we can easily justify our most self-indulgent, and often, harmful behaviours. We can even applaud how we bankrupt our wellbeing as a badge of honour. ‘I’ve been living like this decades, it’s just the way I am. I don’t deserve to experience or put myself through the discomfort or inconvenience (to change).
Our most conflicting and unhealthy habits will seem completely justified to us
3. Ignoring – another highly effective strategy where we dissociate, space out, go numb. We do anything possible to distance ourselves from the naked truth of our habits – remaining in automatic pilot mode to just ‘avoid, at all costs, looking too closely at what we’re doing.’
We can ‘lubricate ourselves’ and surround ourselves with like-minded individuals so that there’s a ‘safety in numbers’ approach to distancing ourselves and ignoring the darker sides of our behaviours.

And I think this where we can tend to fall down with our approach to our own wellbeing.
We can manifest the intention to make the right changes, we can also muster & apply the required in-tension.  However if we fail to recognise and act upon the thinking and doing habits that will diminish our efforts – then our ability to maintain a concerted intention and apply the required tension will be compromised, and our wellbeing goals will be left unfulfilled.

 “A limit of time is fixed for you, which if you do not use for clearing away the clouds from your mind, it will go and you will go, and it will never return.”
-Marcus Aurelius

 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………

A Time To ‘Rethink & Unlearn’
As we get older we can tend to get a bit stuck in our ways, and fixed in our thinking…we can become lazy.

And this is where both static and active meditations such as running, swimming, golf, tennis, yoga, pilates ………… <—insert the movement you love…can help us both become not only physically healthier, but provides us with an outstanding opportunity to spend time with ourselves in a conscious state…to actively engage and synchronise our metabolic and cognitive self. 

When you begin to practice connecting and ‘spending time’ with your breath & body, you begin to see yourself more clearly – and once this begins to happen, you’ll not only become less of a victim of your circumstances, but you’ll begin to become much more proactive, protective and engaged in the macros of life that keep you in an aware and conscious state of mind.
This will sound weird, but…
You’ll notice that distraction is really distracting
You’ll notice noise is really noisey
You notice how much time and energy is being wasted and expensed on pursuits that offer either nothing in return, or actually causes you more suffering and illness.
“Once you start making the effort to “wake yourself up” – that is, be more mindful in your activities –
you suddenly start to appreciate life a lot more.”
Robert Biswas-Diener 
‘The Indiana Jones of Positive Psychology’.

It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

One of the many, many benefits of decluttering, simplifying and ‘soberising’ is that it creates time.
Time to not only pursue and challenge yourself, but to actually be self-motivated to want to challenge yourself
The life-lessons, the discipline and self-awareness we can teach ourselves through dedicated movement and exercise segues perfectly into our day to day.
Modern living is comfort-centric-geared and hyper-distracting.It’s increasingly void of positive stress testing (actions and behaviours that actually improves our physical and cognitive resilience and fortitude)
A life in constant pursuit of escape and comfort not only ‘adds’ detrimental stress, but it also voids our capacity to acknowledge and face the more challenging, uncomfortable and unavoidable suffering that life tends to lobs at us.

I can guarantee you that if you begin to focus your intentions, and apply the right amount of in-tension to ensure optimal nutrition & sleep, engaging in activities that keeps you fit and strong, and reducing stress by pursuing moments of quietude and calm in your day. Whilst beginning the challenging and confronting exercise to identify and address how YOU ARECOMPROMISING YOURSELF – you will, over time, be (re)visited by your innate true selfand in my experience…this is the one person you can’t ignore.
It’s the one person, in fact the only person in your life, who possesses all your answers.

Luke
KINDNESS   PATIENCE.  DISCIPLINE.  EXERTION   HUMOUR