I studied Capoeira for some time and before and after every class we would repeat in unison, this phrase in Portuguese:
"Cada dia que pasa, estou melhor em tudo que faso."
It translates to: "Each day that passes, I am improving everything that I do."
So simply put that it leaves no more to be said. In every facet of your life, if you live by this mantra, you have no option but to succeed. It doesn't matter who you are, what your goals are or where you are in life. If you are alive, you have daily actions that you do to survive, and if you strive to do them better, you will be improving who you are in increments that are perfectly suitable and attainable by you. Whether you are a gymnast, a pirate, a bingo caller, a business owner or a rockstar, this phrase is relevant to you and you can immediately apply it to improve your life and improve your health.
How are you sitting right now? Is your posture correct?
How much time have you spent in front of the computer today? Too much?
What is your typing speed? Think you can make it faster?
Who was the last person you hurt? What it necessary or could you have used a better tactic?
What did you do for your health yesterday? Have you done it better today?
These are just a few of the questions you can apply to your actions to push you toward becoming the best human being you can be. I've mentioned "being all you can be" several times in this blog, and I've never served in the Army, but I believe that the fact that we're here on Earth is an amazing gift and we should all be making the best of it. Fundamentally speaking, if we want to make the best of our lives, we should first be the best person we can be.
Another interesting benefit of applying this mantra to your daily life is the fact that in order to successfully apply it, we first have to be AWARE. We need an awareness of our personal limits and we need to fundamentally understand what it will take to improve those limits.
Everyday, I try to workout a little bit harder than I did the day before, give more of myself, learn something new that I can apply to my life goals, or understand a new concept or strategy relevent to my current project.
What will be the next step to improving your daily life?
Have you ever noticed that people who have active or adventurous hobbies that require a high level of physical awareness are generally more pleasant or have a good outlook on life?
Namely things like rock climbing, dancing, martial arts, yoga, skateboarding, etc? Activities that require you to pay attention to your body parts and learn how to move them in certain and precise ways.
The huge amount of coordination and physical awareness necessary for these sports is so healthy for the mind and and contributes largely to the broad picture of awareness such that these types of people are more closely in tune with the world around them and the people around them. This allows them to interact with others in the most optimal way, having established a better understanding of the present moment and situation at hand.
What is the broad picture of awareness?
Conventional wisdom, the natural human life cycle, and common logic all agree that there is an optimal progression to developing conscious awareness as follows.
Increasing your physical awareness will very much help you to become better in tune with your life both mentally and spiritually.
The moral of the story is, go find a new cragg to climb, learn a new dance step, or check out a class at your local martial arts school; it could be the beginning of something good.
In ancient China, Shaolin monks developed a fighting style based on the physical characteristics and iconic elements of the personality of the Tiger. They called this Tiger style Kung-Fu. Since a Tiger has very keen eyesight, the monks developed methods of exercising their eyes to improve thier eyesight. These would have been exercises that they trained and developed from a very young age. They would have been performed by eveyone training in the Tiger style regardless of whether they had so-called "20/20 vision". No matter how good you are at something, you can aways become better with more training.
I have been recently practicing the following exercises and have noticed an improvement in my eyesight over just the past couple months.
One exercise was to count the leaves on a far away tree. With meditative patience they would focus in and count hundreds of leaves at a time. (This is a good one to practice in the fall since the leaves are changing colors and you may be staring at leaves quite a bit anyway.) Start up close with some leaves that are easy to make out and count 50 of them. With patience, slowly pick trees that are farther away from you and then slowly increase the number of leaves you count. Work your way up to 200 which will give you a good amount of time with your eyes focused at a distance. Do this once daily.
Another exercise is to focus on an object very close to your face. I usually choose my hand. Get it as close to your eyes as you can while retaining a good focus on it. Look at it for about 2-3 seconds after you've fully adjusted your focus on it, and then pick another object that is more than 20 feet away. I generally pick a leaf on a tree or something else that has some fine detail that will allow me to really focus on finer and finer detail. If you pick a flatt wall or something that doesn't have much texture or detail it will be hard to focus on. Again, look at the object for 2-3 seconds after you have achieved a good focus. Go back and forth between these two objects about 20 times and do this exercise daily.
Reference previous post: The Pain is Only What you Make It - Mind over Matter
With every impact, blood seeped out of my aching knuckles as I struck the wall-mounted training pad over …and over …and over again. Right, left, right left, right, left… My senior instructor, in his naturally menacing manner bellowed, “Punch harder!! I better feel the building shake! The pain is only what you make it.” as he walked out of the dojo and went upstairs to eat his lunch…
There were two of us testing for our black belts that day and we both took a healthy breath, focused in a little closer to our targets …and we punched harder. As our fists throbbed and knuckles stung, his words resounded in ears, and we persevered. My mind sunk into contemplation and became detached from my current situation. After many years of martial arts training, I knew the capabilities of my body, and I knew how it would react to certain types of damage. “They’re only knuckles. They’ll lose their skin and bleed. Since I’m human I know they’ll heal.”
“If the pain is only what I make it, then the fact that I’m stuck in this situation is unimportant.”
Physical pain is only a response to outside stimuli, and it tells a brain that there may be damage occurring at a certain location on the body. Essentially, it’s an electrical memo sent from your nerve endings to your brain and can be thought of as merely a form of communication. Well, if you are already aware of what is happening with your body, then you have no reason to read the memo. You have the option to disregard the memo in order to more effectively get your task done. Of course, the same philosophy can be applied to more than just the physical sort of pain or suffering.
“I know that I am in pain now, but I know that some time in the future I will no longer be in pain.”
Knowing that pain is temporary is also helpful. When you begin to realize that the climate of life is always changing, then you will always be prepared to embrace the approaching climate, be it painful or joyful. If this is the case, what difference does it make that there is pain now?
"The Pain is Only what you Make It"
I used that advice to my advantage that day and achieved a great victory that would reward me for the rest of my life.
Physical pain is an interesting phenomenon described by the International Association for the Study of Pain as:
"an unpleasant sensory and emotional association with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage"
Another widely used definition of pain from Margo McCaffery is:
"Pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he says it does"
The thing I've learned about pain and the perception of it, is that the body, nervous system and brain overcompensate quite a bit with its warnings. In the first definition I've italicized 'potential' tissue damage. Even if the body is in no immediate danger of physical harm it still gives indications of pain to the brain as a warning. It's time we stop this tyrannical behavior of our own bodies and do our due diligence to learn exactly what they can handle and what they can't. The older we grow and the more we experience, the more pain we will naturally encounter and therefore, the more familiar we become with how our body reacts to different stimuli. That is, IF we are paying attention and learning as we go.
Self-observation and getting to know your limits and what you are capable of, I am convinced is of great importance to leading a happy healthy life. (See post: "Always Challenge Yourself") If you know the exact moment when this false alarm called "pain" will turn into actual physical harm, you should convince yourself that it is okay to dance on this line. For example, often times when lifting heavy awkward objects it can be uncomfortable for many people and the object may cause pain in your hands and fingers. But if you are aware that this amount of pain is safe and will cause no physical harm you can easily endure it and rest assured that you will be able to shake your hands out when you are done this task and there will be no harm done. Do you see how this realization can increase your physical strength? You are now permitting yourself to lift 15 extra pounds than your body and pain threshold would otherwise allow.
Furthermore, if you know the extent of physical harm that will be done by any given action, it may be acceptable to endure it depending on the task at hand. For example, you can probably commit to catching or breaking the fall of a falling dish if it means you may get some abrasions on your knuckles from the counter top, or a bruise from the falling dish. But you may not commit to that if it is not your dish, or if it is unimportant to you.
The more you learn about yourself and your body the more control you will have over what you do with it, and you are able to take the control away from your tyrannical bodily instincts.