There are certain words that get used with such ubiquity that they lose all sense of meaning. When everything is either “fantastic” or “disatrous” there is no sense of proportion. Think about it. Do we have to reduce everything to “lol” or “UGTBK”?
Similarly, words get appropriated and concepts and meanings get obscured. The deluge of information we are subject to encourages a bullet point approach to comprehension. Surface knowledge rather than a deep and meaningful understanding.
When someone tells me they completed five rounds of Tabatas last night, I immediately know that they either don’t understand the concept or they are simply confused. The Tabata protocol is prescriptive and clear.
The original Tabata Protocol study conducted at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan used highly-trained endurance athletes in peak physical condition, performing 8 intervals on the bike at over 85 RPMs until they couldn’t maintain that level of intensity. Anyone who decides to perform the 8 minute protocol is not going to be doing five rounds. End of story.
The point is, we are quick to appropriate words and concepts without actually embodying them. What I refer to as “air guitar”. We are throwing shapes but there’s no sound coming out.
Mindfulness is a buzzword at the moment. And it is as if knowing the word somehow confers it’s meaning.
Jon Kabat Zinn tells us ““Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.” – Wherever You Go, There You Are
Mindfulness is not an abbreviated route to happiness. It is not zoning out, changing yourself, escaping, going to your happy place or achieving perfection. It is practice, it is training.Training the mind, like the body. One and the same.
Try as we might, if we approach training and practice with expectations we find ourselves focused on the outcome. If we strive for transformation we get lost in a world of false hope and disappointment. The purpose is to be present, to embody whatever the given activity might be. None of this reflects our sense of entitlement, that craving for the quick fix or easy answer. Everyone must work with whatever they bring, the only benefactor is you, yourself. There are no comparisons to be made, there is no summit to conquer. Practice is base camp. As George Leonard, author of the exceptional book “Mastery” tells us -
“To love the plateau is to love what is most esssential and enduring in your life.” – George Leonard
Your decision to turn up, whatever the weather, that is the key.
Again, from Jon Kabat Zinn -“Discipline provides a constancy which is independent of what kind of day you had yesterday and what kind of day you anticipate today.”
I am currently reading Oliver Burkeman’s new book “The Antidote – Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking”. Whatever my reservations about the title, the book itself is a wonderfully pragmatic look at our fixation with happiness and the stange idea that the answer is somehow “out there”. If there is a key message so far, it is to embrace uncertainty. Of course, that is an uncomfortable message to absorb when our minds, surrounded by the media of insecurity, are doing everything in their power to escape any sense of vulnerability.
In the book, Oliver Burkeman quotes the Japanese psychiatrist Shoma Morita. Whilst on the surface this might seem like a resignation to our personal inadequacies, it is in fact a celebration, a celebration of our potential, of everything that is possible, despite our most human imperfections.
“Give up on yourself. Begin taking action now, while being neurotic or imperfect, or a procrastinator or unhealthy or lazy or any other label by which you inaccurately describe yourself. Go ahead and be the best imperfect person you can be and get started on those things you want to accomplish before you die.” – Shoma Morita