Earth Changes and Athletic Life

These are challenging and exciting times.  We are experiencing many changes – economically and ecologically:  Domestically in the US: Mortgage meltdowns, government bail-outs, rising unemployment, and a gargantuan oil spill.   Internationally:  The long overdue Mid-East “emancipation”, with the absolute certainty of higher oil prices.  Perhaps our days of ridiculously cheap oil here in the US are coming to an end… for good.  Almost every other country pays well over twice as much for fuel.  This will result in higher prices for all consumer goods, including food.

The recent quakes in New Zealand and Japan, not to mention the tsunami, are also sobering.  The quake in Japan moved the main island 2.4 meters and shifted Earth’s axis by 10 centimeters.  Nuclear plant repercussions add to the bitterness, hardships and suffering.  In the March 21st edition of Newsweek, Simon Winchester’s feature on the Japan quake is titled “The Scariest Quake Is Yet to Come.”  He claims, “The tsunami that struck Japan was the third in a series of events that now put California at risk.”

Change is inevitable.  Since I was a little boy, I have known with certainty that I will witness a great Earth transformation.  Many ancient calendars, including the Mayan, indicate that the “apex” of this transformation will occur 21 December 2012.  That’s just around the corner.  For a brief current assessment from Mayan Elders, please follow this link and consider the wisdom and vision of these Elders:

Can we refute what Carlos Barrios says in this summary? “…there is a colossal, global convergence of environmental destruction, social chaos, war, and ongoing Earth Changes."   Some of us choose to ignore the profound changes we are experiencing, so long as our daily lives are relatively undisturbed.  However, for those of us who feel in our hearts and in our guts that we do live in a time of profound transformation, what are we to do? 

How can we respond as athletes?  Most of us rely on our daily training regimen as a foundation of strength – not just physical, but emotional, mental and spiritual strength.  Through this daily commitment, we maintain a sense of balance, perseverance, and inner peace.  We train not just our bodies, but also our minds and our hearts to be strong and functional in the presence of stress.  After all, endurance training is a balance of stress, recovery and adaptation.

Each time we lace up our shoes for a run, each time we slip into the cold water for that early-morning swim, we deliberately choose, orchestrate and embrace the stress we experience during our practice.  We do so with the certainty that stress – when balanced with recovery and adaptation – leads to greater fitness and well-being.  Perhaps the most vital and relevant part of this daily practice is the clarity of our choice in this process of stress-recovery-adaptation.  We don’t blame anyone else for our discomfort or fatigue.  (OK, I’m known to belly-ache about cycling in the cold rain!)

The true test comes outside of our athletic training, when we experience stress in our daily activities and relationships.  Beyond the sanctity of our lives as athletes, it’s so easy to slip into a victim perspective – to place blame on others – or simply on circumstances – for our “misfortune”.  I know I slip into this disillusionment!  When we make ourselves the victim and no longer accept our responsibility (that is, our ability to respond), we are unable to move past stress into recovery and adaptation.  We short-circuit ourselves!

If the Mayan Elders are accurate – and I for one feel they are – all of us are being put to the test; all of us are starting the greatest, most epic race of our lives.  Let’s pace ourselves and progress patiently.  After all, the first priority is to make it to the finish line gracefully.  Let’s help each other out, just as we do in the transition area of a triathlon.

In your 2011 races, keep in mind – now more than ever – that competition is a petition for companionship.  Remember that swimming, biking and running are basic activities from our childhood.  They offer us tremendous opportunities for pursuing excellence, yes; however, let’s not lose sight of the BIG PICTURE.  Our lives as ordinary human beings offer rich, challenging and diverse opportunities for our pursuit of excellence.  Athletic training and racing is a privilege that enables us to strengthen our capacity to embrace the opportunities that arise in our everyday lives.  Let’s all strive a bit more this year to retain an element of joy and discovery in our athletic activities, and not take them too seriously.  (That’s a tall order, for me too.)  Laughter, joy, discovery and service – these are vital medicines for our times!!

The quality of our racing experiences does not require brand recognition, exotic locations, high tech gear or thousands of other athletes at the start line.  It does require health – both personal and ecological.  Eat healthy and support local organic food producers in your area.  Race and train locally, and “green”.  Check out Athletes For A Fit Planet for guidance in this endeavor.  Be aware of the impact your lifestyle and level of consumption have on the environment and other people on our planet. 

Live simply so that others can simply live.

When we experience difficulty and despair in our lives, or witness it in those around us, many of us turn to prayer.  We give voice to our heartfelt wishes for alleviation from suffering, for peace and for harmony.  Our vocal cords are equally centered between the mind and the heart.  As we pray, we “center” the voice, and engage the mind and heart in a cooperative partnership to express our sincerest desires.  Give voice to this cooperative partnership.  Refrain from speaking solely from the mind (cold logic) or solely from the heart (fiery passion).  Prayer is a beneficial practice that we can engage in every time we speak. 

Movement too can be a powerful form of prayer.  Prayerful movement requires grace and pure intent.  Grace comes from balance (alliance with gravity) and mindfulness.  Pure intent comes from a heartfelt clarity of purpose.  Again, we engage the intelligence of the heart, this time with the kinetic intelligence of the body.  Races that benefit noble and charitable causes offer a clear context and opportunity for movement as prayer.  We are able to choose and joyfully experience our suffering for the benefit of others who are suffering, as well as for our personal pursuit of excellence.

The Mayan Elders emphasize that in our global transformation, material possession and power will significantly diminish as a means for circulating and accounting for wealth.  Far more relevant and “tangible” will be something modern science refers to as “ether”.  The dictionary defines ether as a "hypothetical substance supposed to occupy all space, postulated to account for the propagation of electromagnetic radiation through space."  It is regarded as “hypothetical” because it exists outside of the measurable electromagnetic spectrum and therefore evades detection. In spiritually-oriented cultures, it is recognized as life energy – referred to as mana, prana, chi, ki, kundalini, and host of other names, including, simply, “the force”.

Mindful kinetic activity is a highly effective way to cultivate and articulate your life energy.  As a form of prayer, your endurance training will serve as a daily practice in developing, articulating and circulating life energy.  If you want to focus more intensely on this development, in my personal experience, T’ai Chi is the most effective practice for creating an alliance with life energy.  T’ai Chi, as well as yoga and meditation, are mindful practices for developing life energy without the distracting projection of a future goal, like an upcoming race.

In previous articles, “Training by Feel, Part 1, and Part 2”, I discussed my fascination with the cellular dialogue that transpires between body and brain.  I respond to this concise cellular dialogue each day in choosing and designing my training practice – my mindful workouts.  The Mayan elders state that each of us is endowed with wise guidance in these times of change and upheaval.  They claim that the guidance is encoded in our DNA.  Engaging in the cellular dialogue that effectively guides athletic training connects us to this DNA encoding.

I offer two more previous articles for those who are compelled to embrace this issue of how to respond as an athlete to our times of Earth transformation:  Tao of Triathlon” and “Can Racing Save the World?”.

Please, let’s be patient and gentle with our selves and with one another.  We are all o’hana.  Namaste!

Shane Eversfield is a Total Immersion Master Coach, author of “Zendurance, A Spiritual Fitness Guide for Endurance Athletes”,  and producer of the DVD “T’ai Chi for Athletes” .  Contact him here or on Facebook.