Are you in perfect health and at the greatest level of fitness? Why does it really matter? Why is good not good enough? Why work so hard to create the highest levels of fitness? One is sauntering along Life, why give up the easy life to take on the additional pressure of one more burdensome responsibility - to create perfect health?
Valid questions. Let's journey together for the next few minutes to together inquire into all of these questions and many more that pop up as we move forward. Questions are like that, they have a tendency to simply pop up like jack-in-the-box. The power of questions is that they make us stop and step out of the speeding train of Life to reflect on what is our own truth. There's another word for that, it's called smelling the roses. Growth happens in those moments; such growth that we may change the direction of the train, even change the train itself. That change is deeply joyous and fulfilling because there's a visceral experience of coming closer to home.
The first thing to understand is that we have not one but four bodies that we are born with - physical body, emotional body, mental / intellectual body and spiritual body. Our physical body is the only house that we truly have this lifetime which is home for our other 3 bodies.
The 4 bodies together form the Being of the Human Being. The Being is the vehicle for the fulfilment of our highest purpose of being born on this planet. We absolutely have the choice to live a zombie-like existence and unconsciously spend all our breaths lost in the melodrama of life before the physical body disintegrates and a fresh new adventure starts.
Yet, we can make another choice - to live consciously, with full awareness moment by moment, living purposefully, walking definitely with joyous certainty that this is the path, this is the journey. To have the ability to make this choice, we need all our 4 bodies to be in perfect health and well-being and at the highest levels of refreshing, rejuvenating, energising, exhilarating fitness.
Let's look at how we can assess the health of each of these 4 bodies. Answer the questions below by rating yourself from 0 to 10 on a scale of 10, where 0 means totally unhealthy and 10 means perfect health, well-being and the highest level of fitness.
1. Physical Body: How healthy am I? How much joyous energy I have, to do all that I want to do?
2. Mental Body: How well can I focus? How well can I learn across a spectrum of subjects to integrate that understanding to what I already know to create a bigger impact through the work I do? How much clarity I have to know what my 20% is which will give me 80% of the outcomes I am committed to create so that I have an abundance of time to do all that I want to do? How centred am I? To what degree can I feel the soothing Stillness within me? How well can I hear my authentic inner voice in the tranquil Silence inside me? How well do I respond to everyone and everything with equanimity?
3. Emotional Body: How happy am I? How connected am I in vulnerable authenticity to my own self and to all beings around me? How much courage I have to acknowledge, to myself and to others, each emotion that arises within me? How much wisdom I have to know that the source of each emotion that arises within me is me; that the others and the circumstances are merely triggers to open up the box inside me which hold all these emotions? How much understanding I have to know that the only way to let the emotions leave me is by allowing their full expression by giving myself the permission to fully feel them instead of pushing them under the carpet and putting up a show of bravado for the world?
4. Spiritual Body: Why am I doing all that I am doing? What is my purpose? Are my actions and responses sourced in fear; or are they sourced in compassionate love for myself and for others? Am I compassionate love, kindness and reverence; moment by moment? Do all beings experience my compassionate love, kindness and reverence for them? How well can I see, that what all is happening in the world is only a reflection of who I am being inside of me?
If you are less than 10 on any of the above questions, you have your task laid out for you. You would be less than 10 in any body because you are being held hostage to limiting habits in that body. You will be 10 in each body if you have with commitment, dedication, discipline, passion, will-power and with a powerful structure of success dropped your Limiting Habits and replaced them with Growth Habits.
Lets dive deeper. We, as humans, are nothing but a sum total of our habits. They are our automatic ways of responding to what's happening in the environment.
From The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg,
"Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often."
So, over a period of time, all we become is a mass of habits which create similar outcomes. If we are looking at creating different outcomes in our life, professionally and personally; like higher productivity, efficiency and performance and greater innovation and creativity; we have to step back to become aware of our default habits and work towards replacing them with new habits that support us to fulfil our highest intentions and realise our greatest dreams.
There are not only default limiting individual habits but also organisational habits (of a particular organization) and social habits (of a particular society). These need to be studied deliberately, consciously to bring them and their impact in full awareness. Only then, can we take action to re-create and assimilate growth habits to lead ourselves, our business and our society / country from good to great.
What does all this mean in context to the 4 bodies? How do we turn up the health and fitness knob to 10 for each body?
1. Physical Body - If tiredness, exhaustion, loss of energy, discomfort, physical pain or dis-ease shows up (it usually does in that order); it is time to thank the Universe for the wake-up call. There are 2 ways of growth - through pain and loss, or through insights. Pain and loss is always a signal for personal growth that we have been turning a blind eye to. At this point, we can push the pain and loss under the carpet and bring out our swords to fight the world. Not a great idea though.
There's another way - that of the Peaceful Warrior - who looks for the gift in the loss and pain. Note that the physical body is only a house for the other 3 bodies and if anything shows up on the physical body, it is because one of the three bodies it is housing is bleeding. So, to be in perfect health, well-being and at the highest level of fitness in the physical body, we need our other 3 bodies to be in perfect health, well-being and at the highest level of fitness.
Here's how to bring the physical body to a 10 on 10:
a. Learn the science of how food impacts your body through the ancient Indian science of Ayurved. I am struck by this question raised by a westerner - Why is the impact on our health of what we eat is not studied by modern medical science?
As per Ayurveda, humans have 3 body types and the food that is best suited for you is determined by the type of body you have. Use the food you eat and how you eat it support you towards health and well-being. Is it at all exciting to be making the rounds of the inhospitable hospitals, smelling of despair and death? How about creating such fitness levels that going there is not a part of our schedule? Art of Living offers a 3-day Health through Ayurveda program. It just turns one's understanding of food and eating on its head. I loved the program.
It would also be effective to study Naturopathy as well to bring in the learnings into our daily life.
Infact, massive research has been done in the West as well to understand the relationship between food and health. Unfortunately, all the research outcomes have been shoved under the carpet because of the staggering economic impact on the food, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries if we start understanding and eating food that naturally maintains our health and well-being till our very last breath.
Here are two books which make these research outcomes available to all of us. Click the links to read the summary and if that inspires you, read the books and implement the learnings in your life to elevate your health and vitality:
i. The China Study by T. Colin Campbell
ii. How Not to Die (prematurely) by Dr Michael Greger
b. Yoga - This is an ancient science of asana (specific postures) and pranayam (breathing exercises). This is the only exercise regimen that I know that integrates work at all the 4 bodies - mind, body, emotions, spirit. We will discuss Martial Arts in a little while too.
I have been practising Yoga for nearly 20 years though consistency of practise has only come about now. All that I can tell you is that it is such a beautiful experience to feel the stiffness of the body melt away as you move from asan to asan.
The secret of the consistency in my practise is my Yoga Coach, who comes like a clockwork and leads me forward from easier to tougher asanas to support flexibility and agility of the physical body. As the physical body becomes more flexible and agile, the mental and emotional body becomes more flexible and agile. I have become wiser to no longer offer excuses of having slept late, sickness, tiredness as reasons for not doing my practise because I have come to realise that Yoga actually supports to ease away tiredness, sickness and lack of sleep.
I do Yoga 6 times a week for an hour. Without it, it feels like I haven't brushed my teeth. I am contemplating yanking it up to daily which means for that one day (when my coach takes his weekly off), I would need raised energy levels and commitment to do it on my own. That's the next level of growth though I recognise my asanas wouldn't have progressed towards perfection (and the work continues) if it wasn't for my teacher showing me how I needed to improve. On my own, I wouldn't have figured.
c. Martial Arts - While Yoga grows you through the slowness of the practise, martial arts grow you through speed. And, you need both kinds of growth. I recently started Karate along with my kids. We love jumping around, kicking and punching together. Thanks to Yoga, I have more flexibility than my kids at 44 which is supporting me in Karate. Where I lack is the enormous stamina that Karate needs and builds you up for. My Karate coach's super coach is a 73 years old Black Belt Dan 10 (the highest level). That gives me hope and inspiration :-)
The increase in my strength and stamina that I experienced as an outcome of learning Karate is helping me enormously on the golf course.
d. Sports - There are two ways of playing sports. The first is for fun and the second is playing for excellence. When you make the latter your intention, the first also gets covered.
My recommendation is to make the 2nd your intention and involve your family in the whole process. In fact, what would create velocity and magic in your journey towards perfect health, well-being and highest levels of fitness is if you make your family and your organization partners in your adventure.
When you make excellence the intention of the sports that you choose to take on, all the four bodies benefit and grow as an outcome. You not only then have to make physical fitness as your articulated intention but also have to bring in focus, attention, love, passion, purpose into the game. The game becomes the practise ground for leadership growth because when you learn to become a container for focus, attention, love, passion, purpose on the playground; that container stays with you and shows up in all areas of your life giving you outcomes you would have only dreamed of before.
Leadership Depth is really an outcome of all your 4 bodies being in perfect health, well-being and at the greatest level of fitness. The Universe uses loss and pain to wake us up towards greater Leadership Depth; if we don't make the choice to wake ourselves to live with moment-by-moment awareness to grow consciously across all the 4 bodies our Being.
e. Get yourself a family doctor who is preferably from AYUSH (Ayurved, Yog & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Homeopathy): A family doctor has a relationship with your family, a commitment for your family's well-being & health and time to fully hear & understand you; unlike most doctors in spanking new hospitals who come in your life for a transaction and move out again.
Don't get me wrong. I have deep respect for Modern Medical Science and its stupendous diagnostic power. Our family doctor (who is a homeopath) leverages the diagnostic reports to fine-tune his medication. A big challenge with modern medicine is that they come with huge side-effects, unlike its authentic AYUSH counter-parts. Though, have the wisdom to reach out to your allopathic doctor when the need arises. The idea is to integrate all the knowledge available for our health.
My vision is that fundamentals of AYUSH are taught in medical colleges in the MBBS undergraduate program with each of the five ayush healing methodologies available as post-graduate programs alongside surgery, radiology, pathology etc. and hospitals become integrated centres for wellness to support people to stay healthy rather than step in only to cure once sickness has already taken root. If Indian Tobacco Company can become ITC and progressively reduce its dependency on cigarettes for its growth by successfully diversifying into food, fashion, hotels etc; the day is not far off when hospitals also awaken to the need to be integrated centres for health and healing.
2. Mental / Intellectual Body - Here's how you create health and fitness in your mental body:
a. Read atleast one book a month, if not one book a week which I would recommend to anyone committed to massive growth. For maximum benefit, read books that you don't normally read, that are tough for you. Ensure you are reading across a wide cross-section of books related to personal mastery (leadership depth), business excellence, craft mastery, biographies of people who inspire you, fiction, literature.
b. Work with a coach who will send you on regular inquiries through socratic discussions and mess up with your mind by getting right inside your thinking. That would support you to become hugely aware about your own human design, your blind spots and massive insights that will accelerate you forward by simply slowing you down.
I love my conversations with my coach, Clarence Thomson. I love my Aha, Hmmm, That's funny, Gosh, OMG moments. I love that I get the space to really be authentically myself and can show up with all of me, without my armours and masks. I love that relaxing sigh of having totally emptied out.
c. Get present to your limiting thought patterns and consciously work towards letting those thoughts to drop away. Your coach will work with you on this.
My favourite books for growing the mental intellectual body are -
i. Loving What Is (Four Questions that can Change Your Life) by Byron Katie
ii. You can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay - a great book on limiting thought patterns and their impact on the physical body.
iii. The Four Agreements (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz
A great system for uncovering your blind spots and defining your growth strategy is Enneagram.
Here's an article for the details on this - Breaking Free from the Box
d. Exercising, sports, yog, martial arts are all great ways to keep the lethargy away from the mind.
e. Have your mastermind group to constantly challenge you to be bigger than who you are. Remember you are an average of 5 people you hang around the most. Judiciously decide on your mastermind group.
3. Emotional Body - The only work that I know of, that works exclusively for the health and well-being of the emotional body, is by Brandon Bays. She healed her basket-ball sized tumour naturally by accessing the hidden emotions at the source of it and releasing them by giving herself the permission to fully experience them instead of denying her emotions. Her guruji is from Lucknow, India from Ramana Maharishi's lineage.
I did a one-year program called the Journey Practitioner with her and her team; through which she teaches the process that supported her to heal her tumour naturally. It was only towards the end of the year that I finally accessed my emotional body pushed so deep under the carpet by years of being a Vice-President, Director etc.
It was interesting that I heard her say Namaste more times in 10 days than I had heard in the entire year before inspite of living in India. I, oftentimes, wonder at the loss that we have allowed ourselves in India to experience at not really claiming our vast, deep, rich heritage to humanity as our own and living from there.
Here's her book to guide you further on this - The Journey by Brandon Bays. She brings her work to India in partnership with Dr Rangana Rupavi Choudhuri, who herself is based out of London.
I integrate this process in my own work as a coach. It is always beautiful to see, feel, hear, experience, support people to access their pain of being a human being and letting it drop off to authentically connect with themselves.
For more scientific understanding of the relationship of emotions and thoughts to physical health, read Molecules of Emotions (The Science behind Mind-Body Medicine) by Candace B. Pert.
A book that finally pushed me to break the wall between me and myself is Real by Catherine and Duane O'Kane. Here's a quick overview of the book for you to inspire you to read the book for yourself - Real (The Power of Authentic Connection)
4. Spiritual Body - After exploring many meditation techniques, I finally came home to Vipassana. Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. It was re-discovered by Gautam Buddha more than 2500 years ago and was taught by him as a way to connect with your highest self.
Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves limiting emotions and thoughts, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.
The technique was brought back to India from Myanmar by Shri S N Goenka, a wealthy businessman of Indian origin. He learned the technique to heal himself of physical ailments that modern medical science even from the western world could not give him relief from.
It is taught in a 10-day Silence Retreat in monasteries, where you live like a monk for the duration of the program. What led me to it was zero hype about any Guru. When I landed at the rustic Rohtak monastery for my program, I was brimming over with curiosity about the Guruji who is teaching this meditation. There were no idols or pictures decorated with garland of flowers to satiate my curiosity. Only at the end of the first day, I found out about Shri Goenka though he didn't call himself a Guruji but merely a teacher of the technique. He has passed over. The program is run in numerous locations in India and around the world by assistant teachers through his video recordings. I was blown away by his simplicity, intellectual depth and deep understanding of Life; that totally connected with my own understanding so far. I love the total focus on self-transformation through self-observation without using any chant, image, mantra as a crutch.
As recommended, I meditate twice a day for an hour each and I intend going back once a year for the 10-day program for re-immersion. The practise, more consistent now than a year ago, has had amazing results for me. The chattering monkey mind has slowed down, I experience greater equanimity than before, my anger has come down dramatically, and I have had breakthrough ideas during meditation that have resulted in huge business and personal growth I could not have created without those ideas. I also experience greater focus, the clarity to choose the 20% for 80% results, and a visceral experience of love and compassion for all beings.
Though, what I have to share is that these results came in because of my work on the other 3 bodies that had me ready for Vipassana and give me the strength to plough through meditation everyday. I am certain even 2 years ago, I wasn't ready for Vipassana.
If you are not in perfect health, well-being and at the highest levels of fitness; now you know what you need to do to reach there.
I find that integrating work on all the 4 bodies as above helps me to support my clients grow professionally and personally, lead their businesses from good to great while having it all - deeply fulfilling career, loving harmonious relationships at work and at home, happy responsible kids with their genius joyfully expressed, nourishing nurturing me-time and making a difference in the world.
Inviting you to start the journey to come home to yourself to live your purpose and experience joyous, equanimous fulfilment.
With a deep Namaste (which means from the Light in me to the Light in you).
Further Recommended Reading:
1. How to Lead your Organization to Success
2. What has Spirituality got to do with Business
3. From High Performance to Super Performance
4. How to Build a Successful Business - An interview with a Gear 5 Leader
5. How to Lead your Organization from Good to Great
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