Take Flight — a Memorial Day Reflection

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Dedicated to those who are here who can hear for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their fellows, their country, and principles for which this nation must still stand.

In the darkest nights of the soul the fuel for your Phoenix bubbles and boils around your spirit. From the ashes of some future ignition, burn, and flight, win or lose, you will rise again and be better than ever before; more capable in some way, known or unknown, to break through and see done what must be done as the reason for your being here. The darkest nights are never so dark as the dawn is light.

As the Marines say “pain is weakness leaving the body,” so the dark nights of the soul are selfishness of the past leaving the spirit, to be ignited in future service to those in need. These flammable drops may provide fires with which to liberate captives, empathize with and put sinners back on their feet, melt barbed wire, and elevate our human race just a little more before you die. No earthly reward could be better than simply completing our purposes for being. Each of us is given such a purpose, known or unknown, yet accessible more purely through standing again and believing.

The big picture is in our hearts, the sky within, from a vista point that can consider all people, all events, and all that must come with the indomitable commitment of a dedicated, singular spirit behind humble eyes, trafficking in the divine energy of love for all.

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To My CrossFit Friends: Try Adaptive Training for the Long Haul

Adaptive training is sustainable, body-wise, and freer compared to many manifestations of CrossFit. CrossFit has gems to offer, but I believe they were borrowed gems. Those gems were adopted from elsewhere and combined in a “Box,” or a “crucible.” The toughest gems came from elite forces training, that is, combat training. Do or die training. Still, part of military training, even elite military training, is readiness. And readiness involves recovery, and non-injury. If you’re injured, you’re not ready. If you don’t recover properly, injury risk spikes.

For some that may have temporary appeal, especially to younger people. Yet younger people lack experience, and seldom see conflicts of interest in business models that target them. Young people often appear non-conformist…all at the same time in the same way. It is a vulnerable time. And some people are lonely. Lonely as hell. The comradeship they lack they may seek in an intense, physical, shared experience. For that reason, they are less likely to see those conflicts of interest lurking.

Let’s think outside the Box a bit. What is a healthy versus unhealthy gift of individual power to a culture or authority for mind-body training? Some CrossFit groups may dial-in a healthy balance in their approach, especially after recent controversy. On the other hand, there are the other reports:

Getting Fit Even If It Kills You

CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret

Idea Fit Discussion

Navy Times

How CrossFit Forges Elite Failure

And you can Google the rest of the negatives, of which there are many.

On the other hand, you will also find the positives and Google them too. Any CrossFit member or gym owner will be more than happy to tell you the positives. Yet others will say if you aren’t committed, they don’t want you. And I’d say you should be ready to respond with a laugh at that manipulation game. Just remember, not every useful wonder of chemistry is good to mix at the same time. You can get hurt or die from the ensuing explosion or gaseous poisoning. True it is also of training. Excesses are not consistent with durable endurance or sustainable fitness, and therefore excesses in training are not always consistent with readiness.

Military, sport, art, and work readiness is about fitness and conditioning, but training isn’t about getting injured, it is about proofing against it when the real thing trained for is going on. Studies in stress inoculation make it just as much about mindset, adaptive sleeping, recovery, and rewiring after traumatic experiences. The stresses are measured and periodized¬†by time of exposure and response during training. Check out this summary of researched-supported points in the work of Lt. Col. David Grossman, specifically:

Section three describes the mental attitude necessary to be a warrior. The book goes into greater detail about stress inoculation and its importance to effective, realistic training. There are also some important training principles outlined.

Principle 1: Never “Kill” a Warrior in Training. Learners are expected to complete a scenario even if hit, stabbed or shot. As a trainer, tell them, “You’re not dead until I tell you you’re dead!” Don’t give up, always win.

Principle 2: Try to Never Send a Loser off Your Training Site. Have your participants go through a scenario as many times as necessary in order to have them succeed. Scenarios designed to make the trainee look foolish or fail just prove that the training designers are jerks.

Principle 3: As a Trainer, Never Talk Trash about Your Students. Don’t ridicule or try to tell funny stories about the last trainee who tried to complete your scenario. Your role as a trainer/leader is not only to pass along knowledge but also to inspire. You cannot do this when you are not respected. If criticism is to be given, give it in private. If praise is warranted, do so publicly.

I’m sure this could include: don’t give Rhapdo to your trainees. Don’t injure your troops in training so they are disabled for the real fight.

But are you training for combat? It is as much about mindset, and handling what your body does. Listen:

LTC David Grossman interview.

So to some extent CrossFit, run by those who are trained coaches, can achieve some of these training goals. Yet not everyone is training to be a warrior any more than every tool in a toolbox is a hammer. However, even military training leaves boot camp behind and graduates into a more sophisticated, measured, and periodized experience over time. It mixes individual control with leadership. Most individual civilians who are training for combat don’t have the rest of the training. They are not warriors per-se, but want to be ready for what this society teaches them to fear — which is about everything. Which begs the question: should training be motivated by fear? Or should training be inspired by the commitment to master fear?

For now, let’s discuss.

M7 Missive: Envy is not a regenerative green for athleticism

Credit: Matrix Wiki website.

We all know envy, a vice, has become a lucrative marketing emotion, including within the fitness industry. Certainly this is not so in all venues, under all coaches, or with all players. Yet where it is, it corrodes.

Envy is tied to what another has, or is perceived to have, and is moved by their possession of it. Usually, the outcome of someone’s hard work is coveted, not the work itself. In this emotion the seeds of hating the actual sport, art, work, or conditioning mode are planted.

When the training life becomes a mere means to a visual end, the end of it is planted in its beginning — there is an expiration date on that inspiration.

Also, to envy someone else’s fitness is to tie ourselves to someone else’s performance, not lead ourselves by our own performance to ever excelling levels of capability and potential. Envy makes something old from the beginning, and so limits excellence.

To praise the beauty or performance of another and desire a like-experience to theirs is different. This is not tied to the person, but to the person’s example, the process, the sport, the training path, and focuses on their work ethic and character. It lauds them in a dignified way without attaching to them in a co-dependent twist. This is not envy exactly, but it is admiration of the character of another to the point of applying its principle to ourselves. It is recognition of something greater than both on which all may climb. It is participatory, and therefore, team building, community building, social, and fun.

Worse than envy is a kind of pride that begins with envy then morphs into the denigration of what another has with the implication that our experience must be better, will be better, and is already better than the other. Again, this is not about being the best we can become, but about bettering another. Here the sky is exchanged for exultation over someone else’s fall to earth. Such a morbid thought process misses the finest traditions of sports.

Where envy has infected sports, fitness, and physical arts, we can all do better if we extinguish it with grace. We must do better as a nation of competitors and lovers of sports.

Updated: Vying for the Heart of Athleticism in the Big Picture: Pride for Glory-of-Self or Service for Glory of the Team?

In succeeding, pride divides, while service, succeeding or not, unifies. Service brings glory after all seasons for one and for all. Even teams who lost fair and square to a team playing from the service ethos improve because of it.

The team that cries out of burst pride when it loses is less prepared to prevail in the greater competition against evils and injustices in the world. The team that wins in pride is even weaker, as they are deluded by self-legend.

Competition is best that tempers us toward excellence to be able to dissuade, dispel, and if necessary, defeat and heal injustices and evil processes plaguing humankind. Sports are fields of preparation for work and art, and contain them both. Play and the joy of play are part of the game of betterment.

The aim of sports was once to make community better, purer, truer, stronger, wiser, and in doing so raise every person to communal roles of glory from time to time. Instead sports in our great country have been struggling with the error of elevating pride as their driving spirit. That error has spawned a Pandora’s box of symptoms.

The team service ethos in sports unifies us, and makes us a team whose glory feeds those who witness and participate with it. Unfortunately we see this zone of service ethos in sports, art, and work waning, as the burgeoning prideful self, by self-glorification or self-esteem, sucks away rather than multiplies the spirit of personal excellence.

By character, determination, and service, success and failure are cumulative toward ultimate successes. Service success doesn’t admit the virus of tomorrow’s division. Today’s victory does not contain the DNA of tomorrow’s defeat with the ethos of service to the team. Failing to heed the law of the cosmos that pride comes before a fall is itself a delusion of pride in practice.

You may have noticed the shift in American sports as the word pride has replaced the word teamwork, love of team, and team spirit. Pride is the driving passion of despotism and fascism. Even the term “school pride” is a sad misnomer where well-intended, and a sickness where it dominates.

School is an institution part of a government that is supposed to be “by and for the people.” Such institutions, bureaucratized, may or may not run on people-oriented values. When there is a tradition of people-oriented leaders in that school or its system, they tend to feed students’ overall development, working as a team seeking excellence in doing so.

With such leadership, the bureaucratic addiction dissolves and the person-building institution arises. Perhaps we’ve forgotten that institutions and industries were at some point meant to help us develop ourselves as persons whose innate virtues obviate the need for heavy-institutionalism and industrialization in the first place. Freedom with behavioral trust was the objective. Remember “for the people, by the people?”

Yet where do we see many MVP’s go today? The pride-principle has morphed sports into a self-glorification machine, a scandal machine, a materialism machine, and a discipline in service to vice. See how ethics and character have fared in university and professional sports? Workplace and industry ethics seem to have followed suit. Drug and performance enhancement testing is required because lack of trust has taken hold. Thorough background checks exist because the we don’t trust each other anymore. This is a deep pathology unlikely to bring a unified republic and it is largely pride’s cancer, for which the opportunity cost is love of one’s fellows.

Protestations that “everybody’s cheating,” or “everybody’s doping” does not fix the problem any more than such an explanation justifies the erosion of character leading to the 2007 mortgage crisis and 2008 financial crisis. Attacking messengers of this truth is like a drowning person attacking a lifeguard or coastguard swimmer trying to help them.

It makes little sense to have a social net if every individual is so narcissistic that he or she thinks teamwork is for their own ascendancy or self-esteem, but not for each and every one else. Selfishness is fueled by fear of loss. Yet the major wisdom traditions of most religions, corrected for political and racial incursions on same, teach that fear of loss is a wasteful, useless state of mind.

Fear will dissolve in each of us as we willingly give up our passionate attachments to seeking blessings, and dedicate our lives to the love of our brothers and sisters no matter their appearance. How many times have I forgotten this through many, many falls to repeated delusions? For those who purpose good can also twist that motive with the lie that they must first be rich, ascendant, or powerful to do significant good. They forget that good done can have cascading, unintended effects far into the future.

Out of fear of lost face keep we must not let our errors keep us from witnessing what we can see by having fallen down enough ourselves. For when I fall, when I open my eyes, I can see under the fog to identify what made me slip. And by writing this, I am merely getting up using words as handholds, having not mastered fear, or loved as I should, but merely having become a practitioner at getting up to train at those high goals yet again. Truth: if each one of us cannot confess truth and get up again, then we cannot help message others about pile-ups around the corner. However, if we get up and do good anyway, and speak the truth, we can help the greater team live well.

Our first three obstacles to master for the good include our responses to error, entropy, and change. The answer to our own error and weaknesses is not that we must become masters of what we fear as some morph themselves to try; or that we despond in resignation; or that we get lost in an extreme ideology not fit for all that our hearts know is too rigid. Instead, we must learn to love others and master ourselves for that goal despite fear, and perhaps, extinguish fear with love’s inherent, creative grace.

From love’s grace teamwork is sustainable into infinity. This is true for every form of athleticism: work, intellect, spirit, and body. All of us seek excellence together to help us beyond the deceptive mortal futility and insanity of the mortal zoo cage. That transcendence is the truest possibility, and all innately know it. I am a believer in the authenticity of the foxhole conversion: for it is in crucibles that we cut to the chase, not in the luxurious salons of rhetorical exhaustion. In this, the edge of service-led competition in sports can be wiser than what passes for intellectual, and exponents more effectual.

Freedom from Fallen Fear Gurus

We are not free so long as we allow fallen gurus to be our masters, and you can tell a fallen guru by his or her quest to control others and everything. The controlling guru, whether by charming deceit or drill sergeant drive, is down deep afraid of losing control. For every person born on Earth, this is a false persona.

We are not free even if we are our own fallen gurus, ruling ourselves by fear of loss. Fear invites control, and control uses pride, prejudice, anger, covetousness, and hatred to sacrifice humanity to fear, as the person so addicted swells in self-importance that they believe only others should be sacrificed in life’s races, not the emperor (afraid) self. This is even done in the name of spoken ideals. The ideals, when fear is the path to them, burn-up in cruelty along the way. I have felt this inclination in myself, but it is not me. It is a temptation of passionate, over-serious attachment to temporary things instead of giving of self for the love of my fellow forever-beings, the fellow travelers well being at the center of my heart’s reason for being.

It is a true saying, “Fear is the beginning of wisdom.” But no one completes a series of races or a great race toward greater wisdom by staying on the starting line, that is, remaining in fear. One can leave an earthly starting line motivated by fear of loss, finish the race, and never have won a victory over fear. And yet, the analogy of starting that race despite the butterflies, can help bring awareness if light dawns. To let fear rule is to become an adrenaline junkie, and jettison intelligent holism in the many races in our lives. Too much adrenaline applied to too many things makes a fight or flight of everything.

Awareness of fear awakens the wisdom of facing fear to dispel it and move forward with grace born of gratitude.¬† You might even say the word grace is short for “good race.”

Another true saying, “Perfect love casts out fear.” The more we love others, giving of self, the closer to perfect love we go, and the more graceful we become. We trust in what we already have within us: love. And giving this love we already have only generates more than ever before, and is not really a loss at all. In perfect love there is no urgency to control or to be a guru of others, or even ourselves. We need a whole lot less adrenaline this way, and save it for when it really is needed. We would follow and lead in love instead, tapping into a great mystery in the Cosmos.

We seek to walk, hike, run, swim, compete, and if possible, fly, in the greatest race there is: to acquire perfect love within and be one with uncontainable perfect love spilling over by example to everyone we meet. It is a life long workshop within and without. We are spiritual and we are physical.

The example and wonderful life of perfect love is enough to inspire others to the same freedom, and so is inherently free and democratic. And it is so great a race, so boundless and wondrous, that it takes our whole lives in the running, well beyond this body’s ability to hold out with its contrary chemicals, habits, and flaws. Therefore, none of us who is putting in a worthy focus on the race of love can sit on a throne as guru over others. The worthy focus on love makes it impossible.

And this is why it is possible to advance in a greater race even if we are never noticed doing so.

In my book, I invite others to improve and customize from whatever is useful there. I am a fellow traveler, and if you walked side-by-side with me you would see my falls, my flaws, and my failures. It is from these that I compare notes with you on this blog. When I write about soaring things as above, I borrow from the wise, and write of aspirations of my own, not of my arrival.

Help me to arrive by sharing your wisdom and reminding me of the good race. Let this blog be an expression of cheer, to cheer you onto advancement in all of your great races!photo(3)

Ethics Excellence in Athleticism

What's not to love about this?

Honor system on the trail.

Some athlete out there found this key, wrote up a note, and stuck it on the fence. It’s been there a while. Which means many a mountain biker, runner, or walker has left it in peace. This gleaming key of honor shows what is possible in human relations, and when children are with us, they see these examples. If a person can be trusted to trouble themselves with a small thing like this key, perhaps the next test will be easier to pass.

What freedom there is for any one whose value is vested in what they give, give back, gratefully receive, and share.