Coach Gavin McKay
We tend to look outside ourselves for things that will lift our spirits, entertain us, and make us feel good about ourselves and thats okay. This is not an effective long-term strategy however unless what we chose is truly uplifted and bolsters our core being. If what we chose are cheap thrills and short term comforts they will leave us feeling empty and addicted, like we have a void that needs to be filled again. With trial and error we quickly learn the difference and so it’s a daily choice.
True confidence and joy must have strong foundations deep within our minds or they continually crumble. This emotional foundation is a set of beliefs about our personal value and the inclination of the greater world. If we see ourselves as faulty, damaged, less than and the world as a battlefield bent on servings us overwhelming challenges, than our spirit is chronically depressed. If we see ourselves as capable, good, brave and the world as providing us with gifts and workable challenges than our spirit is strong and flexible. While it may seem like a simple thing to change your beliefs it is more of a process, where experiences must back up the new ideas. This is where making choices about the places and people you spend time with becomes critical.
We are all human and cannot help but be impacted (physically, mentally and emotionally) by the environment, circumstance and people that surround us in any given moment. This is a good thing because it gives us ways in which to manage our experiences and nurture a positive view of ourselves and our world. We do this by uplifting all aspects of our lives as best we know how, which is where Unite wants to help. Unite’s purpose is to create an uplifted, intimate studio and program that attracts friendly, do-gooders to train smarter together: upgrading their diets and workouts in support of greater health and happiness.
All elements are important to living an uplifted life, so consider how you can upgrade a few of them:
- Eat fresh, quality, healthy “uplifted” food
- Rehabing your injuries will “uplift” every move you make
- Spend time with people that “uplift” your spirit or you can uplift theirs
- Clean and beautify your work and home spaces so they feel “uplifted”
- “Uplift” your body by choosing safe, holistic exercise balanced with recovery
- Find ways to slow down, reflect and be grateful and your mind naturally “uplifts”
By making these simple daily choices you will not only feel uplifted, you will become an uplifted person, capable of uplifting the world around you. Unite for an uplifted world.
The science shows that the simple but disciplined act of meditating enhances mental performance, emotional stability and physical health. So how do you learn and stick to a practice?
Like anything else, the best way to create a new healthy habit is to find a class that meets regularly, connect with the coach and students, and practice several times per week. Sounds like your fitness training right? Well training your mind is just like training your muscles. Below I provide some of the introductory courses I recommend at the local Shambhala Center, which is largest free, public meditation center in Philadelphia.
Personally I have found meditating and studying Buddhist-based psychology to be profoundly transformative in my life. Meditation slows me down so I am more mindful of my behaviors and other people, allowing me to break out of conditioned responses and turn my mind towards healthier, helpful thoughts and behaviors. Meditation is the best foundation for being able to make any upgrades in your life, be they dietary changes, athletic performance or emotional/relationship work. We must have a correct and experiential understanding of how our minds work to be able to use and enhance or minds effectively.
Everyday Life Series - this is the best course series to start with as it spans 5 weeks, meeting 1 evening a week which helps to create a repetitive habit of meditation with readings and practice in between classes. This is a series of 5 courses, each with 5 week night classes. The first two courses, listed below, you can enroll in without any prerequisites.
- Meditation in Everyday Life - starts Sept 2nd, fills up fast
- Contentment in Everyday Life – starts Nov 11th , guaranteed break thru!
- Art of Being Human - starts Sept 18th
Shambhala is a secular meditation community and publisher spanning North America and Europe that is based on Tibetan Buddhism but reframed for Western life with a plethora of sequential course in meditation and related arts.
- Coach Gavin McKay
Summer is the easiest time for us to embrace relaxation in our lives. The weather improves, the light stays longer, people take vacations and the world seems to slow down a pinch. While it is more natural in summer we need relaxation all the time. Our society created 2 days each week and several special times each season when we are given permission and even the directive to relax. Why do you think that is?
Our bodies and especially our minds can only be worked so long before they drop in performance and fall into ruin. Early on through basic experience we learned that we could optimize our overall productivity and creativity by balancing the work with periods of rest. Now the science is beginning to catch up with what we already know and giving us more insight into the power of rest, sleep, meditation, etc.
Rest is generally meant as moving very little or with little effort, but we can rest without really being relaxed. When we cannot sleep because our mind is burning with thoughts, excitement, panic, etc. we are resting our body but not our mind. This mental stress agitates the mind and is even converted into chemical responses in our bodies adding a secondary physical stress. This is why all our Presidents look like they age 10 years during a 4-year term. The subtle energy of furrowing your eye brow, thinking hard or nervously moving about puts a strain on us that we are just now starting to fully respect and understand.
Relaxing is a deep state of mind and body when we let go of our fears, our plans, our anxieties and settle into the feeling of the present moment without resistance. There are great ways to get into this deep state readily available: music, massage, yoga, breathing, candlelight, walking, acupuncture and interesting new techniques like floating. Learning how to relax is as important as learning how to pay attention or take initiative, yet our society doesn’t seem to value it as such currently.
Often we need a sense of permission or justification for taking the time, even if only for 5 minutes, to truly relax. On holidays we have permission, but if we are in charge of the house or dinner it can quickly be lost in business. That is why it was so important to me to include yoga stretch and final rest in Unite’s cross-training. Unite gives you permission, the directive and techniques to relax every workout. I am continually astonished and saddened when any clients leave Unite’s group cross-training before yoga stretch or even just the final rest and massage. Relaxation is sacred personal time, embrace it and protect it.
There are a few animals on this planet that prefer to live and work on their own, but humans are not among them. While we can think, feel and function independently of each other, humans are super social creatures. Most people understand we are highly depend on each other for the basics of food, shelter, protection, goods and services.
Sometimes however we get caught up in our own egos and we don’t take advantage of the immense resources, energy and caring in our communities for the higher level educational and spiritual support needs. When we really perform at our peak, we are working together towards common goals with our diverse backgrounds. We motivate each other to take action. We teach each other things. We keep each other accountable. We give encouragement. We suggest alternatives. And sometimes just listening makes the world of difference. There is no question we are stronger and happier in a community, so drop any stupid notions of “doing it out alone” and start creating more connections and deepening the ones you got.
From birth til death and most moments in between we are surrounded by other people and those interactions are the major determining factor in our daily and long-term lives. If we are aware of this, we will take care with whom we surround ourselves. We can make greater efforts to connect with people who share our values and goals. Why ever workout alone, eat alone, advance your career alone, raise children alone, build something alone, study alone, etc. Its not only less effective, its a lot less fun. While developing a support network is immensely valuable, it shouldn’t just be for our personal gain. Thinking only of your own desires and gain isn’t the smartest approach either as it backfires.
First, you have to be a good friend to attract good friends, so make a point to learn how. Listen well. Give readily and genuinely. Ask for help without pride. Second, we must care for and maintain our relationships and communities. This means contributing to and safe guarding the communities we are in, which starts with our family and includes friends, colleagues, gym buddies, spiritual groups, political action, etc. Don’t take them for granted. If we don’t give time and money to them, they will dissolve and with it our best chance at achieving shared goals.
If we uplift our community, we will uplift our own lives. We will immediately feel we have been of service and be happy. The inverse is also true. If we work on ourselves and uplift our own energy, health, education, it will seep out and uplift the communities we work and live in. Working together with a community is the best and easiest approach for long-term success and happiness. If we inspire one another’s acts of friendship and community and keep raising the bar, we will create powerful communities capable of astonishing feats. We can change the way our food is made, how our children are educated, how people are treated, etc.
Coach Gavin McKay
For many people our first reaction to theft, pain, irritation, sickness, death, frustration, etc. is to aggressively fight back against the cause, even if that cause is ourselves. We want to punish the causer for making us suffer. We judge them/ourselves harshly. We berate them/ourselves openly. We work them/ourselves too hard. We feel there is some debt to be paid, some wrong that needs to be righted “for good” or we simply want something that badly. That feeling is natural but to follow it up with aggression and give in to the impulse to hurt back is the wrong choice. It also doesn’t work.
We can never truly correct any the situation and certainly not with aggression. Aggression just ads more suffering and negative energy to the situation, like adding fuel to the fire. This energy almost always rebounds upon itself and comes back to hurt you even more than the original suffering. Nothing is solved and the unhealthy situation continues or gets worse. So why the hell do we keep doing it?
Aggression happens on a grand scale when countries work themselves up into an all out war, which usually is based on some old vendetta and so it goes on in cycles of war. Just read your history books or turn on the news. Aggression doesn’t really get you what you want. Ghandi knew this and so he was one of the most successful and world changing people in history. These situations are no different than aggressive responses on an individual level. In a democratic society these societal issues are simply the addition of all our individual aggression, so it is up to each of us to change our view and help others see the mistake of believing in aggression.
If we don’t berate and punish, how do we act to still try and get the result we want? First don’t want to hurt others, no matter what they have done to you. The right action is the one that will diffuse, heal and progress the situation on both ends so that all parties come out happier. This right action will only come to us when we are in a gentle, peaceful state of mind and remember that all beings want to be safe and happy regardless of what they believe, how they act or express themselves. Many are confused as to how to achieve happiness, so they must be shown the way. Our gentleness will receive gentleness and teach gentleness. And we must start with being gentle and kind to ourselves.
Our senses experience the reality of each moment just as they are, but our brain can only hold so much data and ends up missing a lot of detail, especially when we don’t pay close attention. We end up with only sample data of each experience to base our opinions on. This reduces our ability to be accurate and creates a gap of “unknown”. As humans we get uncomfortable with the unknown and so our minds start spinning stories to fill in the gaps and get rid of the discomfort of not knowing.
Our brains interpret everything that our senses capture so that we can integrate them and make sense of what we are experiencing, usually comparing it to past experiences and known concepts. To help understand faster, we add labels and concepts. We need to do this to get through our day, but when this process isn’t kept in check we stray further from reality. This is the biased storytelling that comes out of our personal spin center, the ego.
Sometimes things are pretty straight forward. When we are in a calm mood we just take it in and read the situation naturally without adding a lot of extra ideas that aren’t there. For example we might see and hear an inebriated person making a scene and take some caution, maybe try to help the situation, and go on with our evening.
Alternatively, when we are in a self centered or upset state of mind, or we become so addicted to hearing our own self gratifying storytelling that we relish in our own bias. This is when we start storytelling. In our example, we might label this person as a bum, totally avoid the situation and afterwards complain about the state of the city and why don’t the police or politicians do this and that, blah blah blah.
It’s funny, we go to such extreme lengths to build a case for our stories and defend them, yet we still kinda know our stories are false, half truths, situational or complete ego bullshit. Think of a time when you interpreted incorrectly and it caused harm. Stop believing all of your stories, and start to have a healthy suspicion. Accept that we interpret all the time and remain open to various interpretations to find the one closest to reality. For example, if someone annoys us we could say that they annoyed us or we could say they are a real jerk and start building case. If we actually thought that our story was the truth, we wouldn’t feel the need to defend it so much.
The more emotional we are, the further from reality our versions of things become to the point of actually creating complete alternate realities that we start to believe. In traumatic situations we see this as denial, justification, schizophrenia, etc. but it happens in much smaller daily situations as well.
Coach Gavin McKay