Introduction: Balancing Physical Training with Mental Training
I am a huge advocate of training both the body AND the mind. We must recognize that these two entities, though seemingly separate, are intertwined to their very core. In order to become stronger physically, we must also become stronger mentally. The inverse also applies: in order to become stronger mentally, we must push ourselves to new bounds physically.
(CT scan image of a human brain)
“Great master of swole, what do you mean ‘train the mind?'” Well, the answer cannot be encapsulated in such a short article, but I’ll introduce one of the most effective tools for mental training: meditation. Meditation can enable us to gain complete control over our thoughts and emotions. If we practice meditation daily, we will be able to suppress our fleeting whims and desires and see the world around us in its true, beautiful, unaltered nature. We will also be able to suppress the pain our mind makes us feel, completely immerse ourselves in the present moment, and push ourselves to new levels of strength and conditioning.
The Essential Mental Training Tool: Meditation
A lot of you may hear meditation and think of “crazy” or “wacky” eastern religions doing “OMMMMMs,” strange chants, and seated cross legged with their hands resting on their knees facing up and out. This is a form of meditation, but meditation does not have to revolve around any specific religious beliefs. It is simply a technique for calming, emptying, and disciplining the mind.
Basic Forms of Meditation
- Basic Breathing Meditation
- At its core, all meditation begins by focusing on the breath. Sit or lie in any comfortable position, close your eyes, and try as best as possible to remove all the thoughts floating around your head. Focus instead on your breaths. Breathing in. Breathing out. There is nothing but the breath.
- At first, this will be extremely difficult. Our minds are so used to being in a naturally chaotic state that we will think it is impossible to empty our heads. However, with dedicated daily practice (at least 20 minutes/day), you will find that you are able to develop mastery over your thoughts.
- Listening to a soothing audio track without words can be a great way to help keep yourself in ‘the zone.’ Waves crashing, ambient noises of the rainforest, and specific ‘meditation tracks’ can all be found on youtube.
- You must resist the overwhelming urge to just get up and quit if you are serious about developing your mental strength.
- Guided Meditation
- This involves listening to a guided meditation audio track, where the narrator will take you through a series of imaginary environments, all of which will be played out in the confines of your mind.
- These are generally easier to follow than other meditation forms and also provide great mental solace and catharsis.
- There are all types of guided meditation; here a couple I found on Youtube that I enjoy:
- Focused Meditation
- Focused meditation is very similar to breathing meditation, except rather than completely empty your mind, you choose one core idea and focus all your attention on that idea.
- Here’s a couple thoughts on which I ruminate during my focused meditation session:
- The impermanence of life
- The vast nature of the universe
- How compassion and love can overcome all
- The impact of these sessions is stunning, and it truly does alter your outlook on the world.
Benefits of Meditation
I practice one of these forms of meditation every morning after I work out for about 10-20 minutes. You should try to find a consistent time when you can practice daily.
Since I incorporated this daily practice into my routine, the effects have been nothing short of phenomenal. Here are the benefits I’ve experienced (not kidding at all):
- Feel more alert and focused during the day
- Elimination of stress (even during what should be a “stressful” situation)
- Higher level of confidence (you start to realize that it’s not worth creating artificially induced stress in your mind about what random strangers may think of you as long as you know that your intentions come from a good place)
- Greater success at your job/life in general
Soon enough, the mindfulness you develop during this meditation sessions extends itself into every waking hour of your every day life.
Cognizance of All Aspects of Wellness
Just because we are tough on the exterior, doesn’t mean we have to limit our internal spiritual exploration. This is how we develop true strength: body and mind working as one, sound, impermeable unit. Mind, Body, Swole. That is being truly #SwoleFIT.
As a corollary, this whole post was completely serious. Life is all about balance. In my blog, I try to balance the humorous parts with actual, practical advice. However, when I choose to write seriously about something, know that I am being 100% authentic.
All images used are taken from the Microsoft Office royalty-free online images repository.