Strength To Awaken - by Rob McNamara

Excellence: The Purpose of Life

The demand of Excellence is simple: Sacrifice yourself fully into this moment.

Strength training is fundamentally invested not in you getting somewhere, but in you growing in your capacity to be here right now.

Excellence is the one overarching aim, the singular guiding principle, that calls you forth, draws you out of what you are into what you can become. Life challenges you, with each step of the way, to be more. Life never asks you to be less. Life never says: "You've shared too much"; "No thanks, your contributions aren't needed anymore"; "That's okay, you've given more than we need." Life is simply too open, incomplete and vulnerable to turn your Excellence away. I must warn you, if you settle for less than you are fully capable of, if you settle for the comfort of your habituations, you will be disappointed in yourself.

When you stop being present emotionally and/or mentally, you lose part of your strength.

Death offers an appreciation, grace and confidence that simply cannot be matched by anything else. There is no substitute or shortcut. Without a connection to the urgent necessity that death creates, you will often find yourself with only half of the equation necessary to cut through the habituation and step into your Excellence. Without awakening to your deeper calling, you will have choice without grace, intention without inspiration, ability without necessity. One without the other is not going to birth the Excellence your heart yearns for and that holds the capacity to transform your training, catalyze higher performance capacities and/or create a new level of happiness, authenticity and realization. So, ask yourself: What is my call to awaken more fully to life?

Moment to moment the ego creates an imagined future or an imagined past that is fundamentally different from the situation you are actually in right now. As such your ego is a repository for the habituated ways of functioning that often cut the live connection to your Excellence. The truth is authentic happiness and your larger purpose as a human being are rarely in alignment with what is most comfortable for your ego. And comfort, not happiness, is what your habituation actually seeks. As a result, the Excellence you and your life need and desire will not stem from egoic activity.

The conventional self has a particularly strong habituated tendency to project happiness into just about anything that does not exist in this moment, even in the most beautiful of settings. Sadly, amidst this sea of struggles, your life passes by. As each moment passes, a beautifully rich and unique opportunity for true happiness slips by unrecognized. The ego lies to you about where happiness presumably resides as your conditioning wrestles with acquiring this and eliminating that.

True happiness is the complete acceptance of, and engagement with, the present moment. As such the ego's habituated struggle is fundamentally at odds with your true happiness. To realize this is to dramatically clarify your life.

When the ego is "triggered" some event has accentuated the ego's conflicted and defensive stance toward the present moment. Typically the ego focuses exclusively on this charged stimulus and abandons any other possible perspectives. The orientation your ego will tend to adopt toward this person, system or event is as a personal attack, triggering a felt need to protect and defend itself. Instead of being attuned to the full field of what is arising, you only consciously relate to a small portion of what is happening and unconsciously allow your habituation to govern your life.

The Necessity of Practice

Practice is, at its center, engagement.

When you acquire a certain level of competence that is presumed to be satisfactory, practice typically stops. As soon as "good enough" is achieved something subtle yet extremely powerful happens: Habituation steps in. One of your habituation's central attachments is comfort. Wherever you are comfortable, wherever "good enough" is subjectively perceived, your habituation will invest vast amounts of resources to maintain this comfortable status quo. One way your ego achieves this is to stop practicing.

You refine only the dimensions of yourself that you are engaging in practice. So while you may be incredibly focused on one area of your life, another equally important dimension may be stuck in habituation. While this may result in a high degree of competence in one area, if central dimensions of you are not refined through practice, inevitably you will find yourself lacking essential competencies for addressing the true demands of the full scope of your life. Integral Practice is a technology that addresses these inherent limitations of practice by engaging all of the major dimensions of yourself. The essential aliveness of Integral Practice resides in the engagement of all of your major faculties in the immediacy of the moment and your present activity. Regardless of what you are doing, you have the capacity to practice with the full territory of your Being. Integral Practice from this perspective has no end, only a beginning ... followed by another beginning. This path requires a constant unwavering commitment to engage.

Transforming Your Training

Mental struggle = muscular tension. Tension in the body creates struggle in the mind; struggle in the mind creates tension in the body. At no time will you ever be struggling with something mentally and at the same time be completely relaxed, open and at peace in your body. The two are intimately linked.

Your ego's lower boundary is where your ego habitually introduces struggle and tension. Similarly, too much tension starts to rub up against the ego's attachment to being comfortable. At a certain level of intensity your body-mind must become incredibly centered and focused in the present moment. As a result your conventional construction of past and future start to break down into an immediacy of the present moment in which your ego's grip on control dissolves. The ego's upper boundary is found where ego habitually disengages from high levels of tension. It is in the space between your lifts where the growth and expansion of your lower ego boundary occurs.

Engaging wholeheartedly involves three elements: intention, attunement and engagement.

Your ego, when compared to your integrated body-mind that originates beyond the ego, is less structured, less pragmatic, less effective and less efficient in the gym and in the world. This moment is the entirety of your life. Your life depends on a commitment to enact a path that leads you beyond your ego.

Two common misunderstandings of the intention to engage wholeheartedly are as follows:

  1. Destination: Engaging wholeheartedly is not a destination that you will arrive at in the future and it is certainly not a destination where you will experience only the positive attributes your ego appears to habitually search for. It is most simply a starting point and orientation. Engaging wholeheartedly has one location: the present moment.

  2. No Struggle: Engaging wholeheartedly is not a state (or destination) in which you have released all struggle. The belief that when you are strength training you should not struggle with what is happening is a misperception and misunderstanding of this guiding intention.

While discipline is a necessity, it also carries great risk. First, anything that you do repeatedly has a tendency to become automatic and unconscious. When any activity becomes entirely automatic you fall asleep. When you stop consciously choosing, your conditioned history takes over and you cease to practice. Excellence in any real living sense is dead. Secondly, discipline is actually something the ego loves and thrives on, and thus it introduces another serious risk. Just as your ego loves to hijack intention, so does your ego love to co-opt and manipulate discipline through the ego's struggle. Keep an eye on any sense of struggle that arrises in conjunction with your discipline. Watch for the following tell-tale signs that your ego is in command.

  • Watch for your mind rehearsing: "I should strength train..."

  • Watch for your mind rehearsing: "I have to strength train if ... ."

  • Watch for your mind's tendency to "want to" do something.

A Stage Model Path to Mastery

With each stage an emergent novelty expands your faculties, thus liberating you from previous limitations. The practice of your strength training as well as your self system becomes more integrative, thereby enabling you to manage and negotiate greater complexity and more territory of yourself, your training and ultimately your life.

  1. The Building stage is where you learn the basic dos and don'ts regarding proper breathing techniques and form within any given training modality used to elicit specific physiological responses.

  2. The Achieving stage is where you have gained an adequate level of competence over the basic forms of a particular approach (or perhaps several approaches) to strength training.

  3. The Growing stage. The defining feature of this stage is an integrated body-mind. Intention is no longer largely confined to future-oriented goals. Intention now is able to turn to the present moment in which the sole aim is to become unified or integrated into the precise movements of strength training. The experience is first one of growing into the present moment, thus the title of this stage. As this body-mind integration refines, this "flow" state, which is an enjoyable and, at times, ecstatic experience, commands intention, attention and engagement in training.

  4. The Thriving stage. The activity of strength training becomes a passionately driven and inspired activity. The price of admission to this stage of training is the complete sacrifice of oneself into the present moment. The identification with the egoic controlling center must come to an end. You have to develop the confidence to "die" into the moment, and as a result, you will gain greater vitality within each moment. Passion and inspiration will burn your habituated ego as this aligned force disassembles much of the ego's conditioned patterns.

  5. Mastery. The master's liberation reaches beyond the split between habituation and liberation and experiences these as no longer two separate dimensions of experience. As such, Mastery is characterized by a progressive and rigorous reconstruction of habituation that aligns with and serves not unconscious struggle but a radical embodiment of love in training (and life). No longer is training an attempt to disidentify from habituated activity into purer and purer passion and inspiration. Rather this stage of training actively participates in the construction of Excellence's greatest integrity in the moment. Liberated habituation in service of Excellence is the essence of this stage.

The Six Stages of Engagement

  1. Breath--Conducting Energy

  2. Form--Animating the Posture

  3. Sensation--Riding Immediacy

  4. Being--Spaciousness meets Stillness

  5. Mystery--Awakening to The Condition

  6. Suchness--Non-duality

Resistance: Your Fuel Forward

Resistance is both an obstacle and an indispensable resource to fuel your practice. Whatever resistance makes itself known in the moment is that which is most alive. This is your place to begin working on engagement; this obstacle happening right now is your next step.

Mental distraction is one of the largest forms of resistance. Your conditioned mind will resist the "inner posture and alignment" of focusing your attention upon your body-mind. Your habituation will actively resist being engaged with the present movements of the body once the neurological and muscular integration occurs. In other words, once you have adequately learned something, there is a tendency to no longer focus, and thus you have the opportunity to mentally "check out." This is "learned disengagement." When your attention divorces itself from the immediacy of your training, no further refining of engagement can occur. Your body-mind has been split. When this separation occurs the practice that is most useful is to notice what pulled your attention away from the immediacy of the movement's posture, alignment and technique. Once you have labeled this you start over. Connect with the core intentions of Body-Mind-Moment Training and then establish a conscious relationship with your breath. Then return to working with your form.

Practice Beyond Your Training

  • Meditation

  • Journaling

  • Shadow Work

  • Goal Setting

  • Relaxation Training

  • Perspectival Flexibility. Have a regular practice of intentionally challenging yourself to inhabit and understand more diversity within your conceptual life. This can be done through reading, research and observation as well as through dialogue and taking up new practices, trying new injunctions in your life and immersing yourself in new places with novel stimuli.

  • Yoga

  • Binaural Brain State Entrainment. Perhaps one of the most important dimensions of binaural beats is how your brain can immediately be brought into a specific range of brain-wave frequency. If you wanted to enter into a meditative state of mind, access greater energy levels, induce sleep or improve your focus you can use binaural technology to do so. It is meditation on demand, relaxation on demand, heightened focus on demand.

  • Support

  • Challenge. Establish relationships that are explicitly focused upon challenging you in various dimensions of your life.

The Purpose of Injury

  1. To Cultivate your Freedom or Awareness: To Wake Up

  2. To Cultivate your Fullness or Inhabitation: To Enact More Of Your Life