From Oddity To Commodity

Cleft Values…

The more available a commodity becomes, the less value it usually holds. Muscle seems to follow that axiom. At a time when lean muscle mass is more accessible and more prevalent than ever, I’ll suggest its value, in the way it is appreciated by its possessor and by those in the periphery, is on the decline.

In this era when round triceps and striated deltoids are the desired look for the 18-24 year old bro set, I liken muscles to cubic zirconia; readily available, the cheaper the better, fake is ok as long as it looks real, and at the end of the day it’s usually ill-used and underappreciated. Muscle has become a young man’s bobble.

What most attracted me to recreational bodybuilding in the 1970s was the rareness of human muscle as a commodity. The contrary nature of cleft muscle in a sea of otherwise ordinary beings was so compelling to me that I would build my entire life around attaining and preserving it. And because it has been a calling for me, I have never allowed myself to take it for granted.

It’s Time To Meat Up…

I currently split my workouts between my own studio, and a typical commercial gym in a nearby suburb. On any given week more quality physiques pass through that gym than existed in the entire city of Denver in 1977. That’s not an exaggeration. I see outstanding physiques on bros and buddies alike that would rival the competitive physiques at the highest levels in the 1970s.

Most of the physiques I see in this gym are not competitive bodybuilders. They are simply competitive followers, who wish to have what all the other young men have – even if they don’t understand what it does or why they want it.

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We first came to appreciate superhuman physiques with our superhuman heroes; Tarzan, Conan, and later on The Hulk, Superman, and GI Joe. Each new generation seems to have added a layer of muscle.

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Later on, superhero physiques with even greater proportions could be found in the ranks of the NFL, the UFC, and even the NBA became has become a domicile for action figures.

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Today ornamental muscle transcends sports. Actors, news anchors, and even comedians commonly display physiques that 30 years ago would have been considered out of the ordinary if not world class. Our social expectations have evolved that we equate muscle to male relevance. This often makes me wonder; what might we equate a lack of muscle to…? That question haunts me, ongoing…

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Earning Is Learning…

Clearly I’m not against the achievement or even the display of muscle. Cultivating functional and aesthetically pleasing muscle has been my occupation, my vocation, and the most grounding influence in my life. What it is that gives muscle a place of such esteem for me, comes down to a single word – appreciation. I appreciate the musculature of my body. Not just for how it looks, or how well it functions, but because I appreciate and enjoy the process of using and preserving it.

When I talk with young men in the gym I often hear of the pain, the suffering, and the long hours associated with making meat. Suffering…? Suffering is finding out your kids is dead. The tactile act of repeatedly extending and contracting my triceps, even to the point of a slight burning sensation is a luxury, but is nothing I grieve over. Long hours in the gym…? I’m done in 45-50 minutes. Pain…? My workouts help keep all those pains associated living everyday life at bay.

Despite my occasional suggestions otherwise, I regularly witness methods of exercise which defy science and logic, yet they have become central to the acquisition of muscle. The potential for physical and emotional injury seems to increase with every new bad idea. From excessive muscle overloading to squatting on a phisio-ball, there is much I just can’t reconcile with science, let alone common sense.

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Accidentally Jacked…

To me the biggest disconnect that I regularly see with young men and strength training is that they rely heavily, if not exclusively on blindly following others who blindly follow others, rather than exploring their own abilities as it relates to their physicality. They fail to connect their minds with their bodies.

Many of the young men I see boasting that meat-nouveau have attained it with little consideration for how they got there or what it’s really worth. In a frustrating irony, bad ideas, youth, and good genetics can still combine to create good results early on. A willingness to lean on extreme supplementation and pharmaceuticals can accelerate this process with even less thinking involved.

While youth, good genes, and drugs may combine to build a decent physique in the short term, to have intelligently pursued and acquired a lifestyle of well used muscle is a path of exploration worth knowing. For me, this quest has provided the foundation for all the subsequent intellectual journeys I have taken.

Possessing muscle in the long-term is a commitment that I’ll admit can sometimes be a burden. The dividends though, far exceed the investment for those willing to learn as they earn. I’ll also say that possessing muscle is a responsibility. It should be carried with dignity, used with respect, and displayed as art, not as something to be worn at spring break with a pooka shell necklace. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button in my head.

Oh, and there’s this: To this day, the biggest grossing private event held at the Whitney Museum Of American Art was to raise funds for the movie Pumping Iron. Today we can see comparable physiques in any gym in the country.  Sad…

Function Follows Form…

From Strength Comes Wellness…

I have dedicated much of my adult life to championing the utility of strength training. Not just as a means of making muscles bigger and prettier, but because I understand the values of wellness associated with it. Strength training provides benefits that few people recognize, though most everyone would appreciate them. In no particular order, these are among the leading values of strength training:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Improved balance
  • Enables better fat loss than cardio (please repeat that one over and over again)
  • Personal confidence
  • Enhanced strength outside of the gym
  • Slows down the inevitable loss of bone density

They key to maximizing these dividends is in being deliberate in one’s actions once inside the gym, and not just going through the motions.

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But Few People Care To Know…

A lack of optimal execution in strength training is the largest reason why people don’t obtain the benefits that come with lifting weights. Attention to proper strength training form can not only accelerate benefits, it can guarantee them. A lack of results and the related dings, pings, and injuries which can be associated with strength training done incorrectly, often lead to a state of disdain for the gym, yet people often continue to go anyway as something they feel they should be doing – because so many others are doing it.

Poor strength training form is so widespread that I often believe it will never be overcome as a cultural phenomenon. I will suggest that more than 90% of a gym population at any one time is working less than optimally toward their goals and related benefits, and in many instances they are working far below a fruitful outcome.

A generations deep copycat gym culture has assured that proper strength training form is scarcely utilized by the masses, leaving strength training’s greatest potential; to be a viable form of wellness as well as disease & injury prevention, largely unfulfilled.

A recipe for success, yes...?

A recipe for success, yes…?

What is most striking about the lack of attention people give to proper form with the weights is that it is almost exclusive to strength training as a form of exercise. In yoga and Pilates, for example, the underlying focus of any practitioner, be it in a class or done solitarily, is to master the form – regardless of how much time is involved in doing so.

Martial arts works much the same way. A good sensei will only advance a student who demonstrates exceptional form in a kata. If that form is not met, the student must return to practice and test again later.

In strength training though, the next step to advancement is usually nothing more than the ego based decisions  to add weight or increase repetitions regardless of form, because it is assumed that in strength training progress comes exclusively from more, not from improved.

A recipe for success, yes!

A recipe for success, yes!

There’s More Than One Way To Be Poor…

I see examples of poor strength training form daily, often to the point where I feel the blended emotions of sympathy, disgust, and frustration – simultaneously as I walk about my local gym. By far, the two most common violations I see are fast repetitions, and partial repetitions.

Fast repetitions: There is a widespread misconception that speed in strength training translates to explosiveness. On one level this is true, notwithstanding that of the many values of strength training, explosiveness should not be high on the list for the middle aged businessman or the new mother wishing to lose her baby weight.

When athletes train for explosiveness, momentum is an underlying element to their training. As momentum and force increase, the opportunity to become injured increases proportionately. Most athletic injuries are caused by forces upon musculoskeletal structures that exceed the structure’s tensile limits.  This means injury is caused by excessive force or excessive motion. What could be more excessive than repping out in the loose form that most people use when lifting weights…?

Partial repetitions: Though less dangerous than fast repetitions, partial repetitions offer little benefit with regard to strength and functionality. An unrecognized value in strength training is tendon strength. Tendons are where muscles taper, increase in density, and fuse muscle to bone. Having strong tendons offers joints better support. For balance, day-to-day agility, and functionality, having strong tendons is as important as having strong muscles.

Tendon strength can best be increased in the gym when exercises are taken through a complete range of motion. Partial repetitions keep load on the muscle bellies with minimum engagement of the tendons. However, when muscular extensions (negative reps) are complete, it is the tendon that bears much of the load prior to a subsequent contraction. These full extensions help strengthen tendons, offering joints more support outside of the gym.

Function Follows Form…

Despite the popular engineering edict to the contrary, in strength training function follows form. That is, the better form a group of muscles exhibits during strength training, the better they are likely to perform outside the gym where they are needed most. Ask me what I do for a living and my answer is simple; I teach proper form in strength training. Anything beyond that is secondary. A few basic concepts worth noting:

  • Range of motion = flexibility.
  • Eliminate momentum in a strength movement = reduce the chance of injury.
  • Concentrate on the primary muscles involved with a lift = create a greater awareness (intimacy) with one’s muscular skeleton.
  • Improve control of a weight in motion = improve the body’s command of itself.

Still, it’s simply enough for most to walk into a gym, do some pushing, some pulling, perhaps some bending and squatting, and do so in a haphazard fashion with the exclusive goal being to increase capacity or quantity.  To me this is similar to sitting down to a pricey meal and eating it quickly while washing down every bite with a swallow of a soft drink. What’s the point…?

Which makes more sense, this…?

Or this…?

To this day, before I add weight to any movement or attempt more repetitions, I always ask myself, “Could I have done that last set any better…?” Only if the answer is no will I attempt to increase my load or capacity.

The execution of proper form, in my opinion, should be the highest priority in determining improvement with strength training.

With Benefits Comes Enjoyment…

I hear regularly from people that they strength train because they feel they should or because their doctor suggested it, often followed by, “but I don’t really enjoy it”. If you fall into that category, please consider this: I take pride in teaching people to actually connect with strength training – often to a point where it becomes transformative and meditative – a necessary part of their weekly routine.

The perfect repetition, and all the benefits that go with it is anyone’s for the taking. It’s not always easy. Moving weights properly can burn at times, and there can be mild discomfort in the moment. I will suggest though, that on completion of a set – of a workout in this fashion, there can be an exhilaration and sense of cleansing that is just as powerful as yoga, Pilates, or going to church.

The singular repetition of a strength exercise executed in proper form, through a complete range of motion, and dialed into with absolute concentration, is as cleansing to me as a breath of fresh air. For that one moment, I am alone in a perfect state that transcends time. I am not even aware that there is a world beyond my repetition, let alone beyond my workout. That I get to repeat this state over again daily, weekly, and yearly, and to know that it comes with the benefits of improved wellness, is among the greatest gifts I have known as a physical person. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from the genius of Corey McAbee. Enjoy!

 

Intentional Trainer…

Critical Mass…

It has been pointed out to me that I can be excessively critical of fitness trainers not named Roy Cohen. Maybe. I am confident though, that even the greenest trainer in the average gym knows more about the basics of strength training than a majority of the members in that gym at any given time. My criticisms more often relate to the intentions of the trainer, and his methods.

Above all things, what matters most to me when teaching strength training, are safety and efficiency. If a trainer ensures the safety of the student, and plans an efficient workout, then a positive outcome is more likely. I see this combination, of safety and efficiency, rarely when I visit box gyms.

More often what I see in other trainers are people standing over their clients, scarcely engaged, hypnotically counting, and largely forgetting the task at hand; helping establish an improved physicality for the student.

Intentions…

As a trainer who always invests in the best possible outcome to a given workout with my students, the hardest thing for me to witness in other trainers is a lack of intention. Yet this is the most obvious flaw I see in other trainers – that they would rather be anywhere else.

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There is a good foundation for the cliché that trainers become trainers because they don’t want to get a real job. I can even say that of myself to a degree. I often tell people I get to do recess for a living, but I take my recess seriously. The trainers who don’t take it seriously, make that cliché shine.

Last week I was training in a local box gym. Since I know an executive with that chain, I spoke to her in advance of my workout. She suggested I keep my eye out for a trainer I’ll refer to as Agent RubberMade. She explained that Agent RubberMade was the busiest trainer at that club, that he made good money, was highly regarded, and even trained the president of the company.

Why do I call him Agent RubberMade…? On identifying him at the gym, and watching him for several days, I had regularly seen him eating out of  little RubberMade containers which were ever-present in his hands – while with clients.

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That this trainer is highly popular does not surprise me. He is a competitive bodybuilder, is good looking, and seems to know his stuff. Sometimes I guess that’s all you need. That fact that he knows his stuff is a bonus to his clients. Even if he didn’t, he’d probably still make a good living, and be highly regarded because, good looking bodybuilder…

It’s been 5 weeks now since I’ve been keeping my eye on Agent RubberMade, and he is an adequate trainer though I don’t believe his reputation is deserved. People are certainly getting something in exchange for the time and money they are giving him, but I don’t doubt they are getting full value.

Eating during training sessions notwithstanding, I have seen Agent RubberMade display most of the common stereotypes while training his clients. Texting. Stepping away or turning his back on his client in mid-set to talk with other gym members. Being excessively enthusiastic and back-slappy to the point of annoyance. Allowing his clients to talk during an exercise. And of course the big one for me, not paying enough attention to exercise form.

All that said, his clients are still better off with Agent RubberMade than without him. Without some amount of leadership and instruction, a new gym member has few choices but to mimic the actions of others – who have mimicked others through the generations of fitness enthusiasts, and so-on.

Cash Cow…

Something you may be surprised to learn is that with most of the big chain gyms, the trainers have one job above all others – to generate revenue for the facility. This is done in two ways. One, by selling more training sessions to existing clients. The other is where the real money is made, in getting their clients to bring in new members in the form of friends, family, and coworkers.

That’s right, the criteria for a trainer keeping his job is not in being a good trainer. It’s in being a good salesman. In the corporate structure of most chain gyms, the dedicated salesperson is a job in decline. In the current era, it is the trainer who is depended on to increase revenue for the club. And that business model works.

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Two days ago I ran into an old friend who now trains for this chain of gyms which I am now a member of. He is an excellent trainer, and has been at it for much of his life. After my workout, he and I sat at his desk and caught up a bit. He discussed the sales revenue he generates for his club. In his best month working there he generated $9,000 of new business, though he averages $6,000. That’s pretty good for the club since they keep 60% of that. The trainer gets the rest, but then has to pay taxes and liability insurance out of that.

If the club employs 4-5 trainers bringing in that much new revenue, then that’s $18,000 per month in sales from the floor after the trainers are paid, walk-ins and counter sales notwithstanding. The good news for me as a member of this chain is the 75/25 rule of corporate gyms. That is, 75% of the members which pay monthly dues never uses the club, thus supporting the 25% who pay and do use the facility.

Dedicated Space…

A great irony for the consumer of paid training sessions in big box gyms, is that they are often relegated to small areas in the gym known as the trainer area. These areas often have limited strength and functional fitness equipment. They are in place to keep trainer and client free of the primary workout areas, especially during peak hours when multiple trainers and clients in the open workout area can create traffic jams.

For the cost of a years membership, you can have a "trainer area" in your own basement..

For the cost of a years membership, you can have a “trainer area” in your own basement..

Of course the irony is that the client is not only paying for his gym membership as well as expensive training sessions, but that for all of that money he is corralled into a smaller section of the gym which has less equipment to work with. Many exercises done in the trainer area are body weight exercises which could be done on a person’s living room floor.

Options Away From The Box…

With that in mind, I’ll suggest a better option for many would be to train in a private fitness studio. I don’t say that because I own one. I say it because I have a good understating of the fitness industry at both the micro and the macro level.

Most private fitness studios are not in business to increase profits each month. They are in business because they are run by, and employ people who are more likely to care, and wish to positively impact the lives of others.

I'll suggest that a client/trainer relationship in a big box gym, rarely becomes a life long friendship...

I’ll suggest that a client/trainer relationship in a big box gym, rarely becomes a life long friendship…

Hiring a trainer who will come to your home is also an option – depending on what your goals are, as well as what equipment you may have at your home. This can be a convenient, and far less expensive option than going to a chain gym.

I’m not suggesting that working with trainers in big box gyms is a bad idea. I am though, suggesting that if when one takes crowds, cost, and the trainers intentions into consideration, I would not choose a chain gym as my first option. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks for Part III of this series; a look at the many exercises that make no sense whatsoever. Oh, and there’s this from the great J. Mascis. Enjoy!

Vacation Bits…

Fun Shows…

A new friend made a comment to me this morning – one that has been resonating for a few hours. She said I look like I’m having a lot of fun being back in Colorado. Why yes, yes I am having fun. I have always tried though, to have fun wherever I live or wherever I have found myself. I won’t say having fun is among my highest priorities, it’s not. A weekly dose of fun though, can serve to keep life’s many orbiting social cancers at bay.

For many years one of my core tenets has been that I build a little bit of vacation into every week. This hasn’t always been easy, but when I have tried it’s always been within reach. Vacation bits don’t need to last long to be transformative. They only need to be appreciated to provide some healing returns.

The Mars Corporation sells us Milky Way bits; for those times when we want to appreciate just a taste – when an entire Milky Way is too much. I like to nibble on vacation bits – to appreciate just a taste in an otherwise busy week. Let’s admit it, like a full size Milky Way, an entire vacation can be just too much.

Vacation Bits.  Now available in minis...

Vacation Bits. Now available in minis…

In Or Out…

Being active, and in good physical condition better enables vacation bits. Participating in any outdoor activity is always like bit of vacation to me; hiking, kayaking, cycling, and even slow leisurely walks with my dog. These are things I do regularly. Just walking through the woods though, with my camera and my dog touches me far more deeply than boarding a jet, taking a cab to a hotel, checking in, going to sleep on a strange bed, only to wake up the next day so I can take walk through some different woods with a camera and no dog.

Just a few minutes into the woods and I'm a different person...

Just a few minutes into the woods and I’m a different person…

Being physical is not a requirement for taking a vacation bit. Just being outside and staring at some part of nature for a few moments can often be enough. To simply observe something natural, with no agenda but to appreciate its magnitude has very often helped me better understand my lack of. Even those who live in urban areas often have magnificent parks as vacation bit outlets. If we have a tree to appreciate, a hill, or even a garden, then we have access to a part of nature which is bigger than us.

At a suburban park near Denver.  Nature is anywhere we find it...

At a suburban park near Denver. Nature is anywhere we find it…

Sometimes a vacation bit will simply involve me turning off all my electronics for a few hours, and clean something in the house. The sound of nothing at all in the background, as I experience the tactile therapy of folding laundry, scrubbing a toilet, or organizing a closet is often a welcome break from the constant static I hear in my mind as those around me attempt to change my channel.

Sipping a coffee or a beer, and looking out a window at home sooths me a bit more than paying $200 per night to do the exact same thing on over a distant landscape in a place I don’t call home.

The Patio Law…

Within these bits though, there is one vacation bit in particular which frames my mood better than any other, and this is one I do regularly; dining outside. I actually feel there should be a law – that if a person has the opportunity to dine outside, be it at home or in a restaurant, and chooses not to, mandatory jail time!

A typical Sunday lunch in San Diego...

A typical Sunday lunch in San Diego…

I dined outside today for what may have been the last time for the next 6 or 7 months. That will take some getting used to. For nearly 15 years in San Diego I have taken lunch on my home or a restaurant patio year round, and did so almost daily. That experience has done as much to sooth my day as exercise or writing. Winter will be here soon. I suppose my replacement bit for my patio lunch will be lunch by the wood stove, watching snow fall. Indeed, just taking time to enjoy a meal is vacationesque.

See you in May.  'Sniff...

See you in May. ‘Sniff…

It’s The Moments Which Matter…

If you think about, it’s not the vacation from start to finish which transforms or recharges us. Travel can be rough; time zone changes, snippy sky waitresses, and strange accommodations can kill a vacation mood. Also the stress of prepping work ahead of time so we can get away, and the constant dreading of the catchup work when we return can spoil a good time. And then there’s the spending of all that money. I have rarely enjoyed the vacations I have taken as complete bodies of peace.

Ok. some vacations are worth the stress and money.  Mykonos, 2012...

Ok. some vacations are worth the stress and money. Mykonos, 2012…

Though I have traveled a good deal, seen some amazing people, places, and things, what has most defined my vacations through the years has not been their entirety or magnitude. It has been those few brief moments – those little bits of enjoying the calm between the vacation storms which have transformed me most. Those moments are within reach for all of us – weekly. We can only experience them though, if we remember to build them into our lives and if we take time to appreciate them when they happen. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and in place of music this week, please take 2 minutes to enjoy the most formative television scene I have ever watched; the wisdom of Ted Baxter. Enjoy!

Sets-sual Healing…

Under the phrase, strength training, the opening paragraph of Wikipedia sites some of what strength training supports; bodybuilding, weightlifting, powerlifting, as well as several strength-related sports that we’re all familiar with.

What it doesn’t reference, at least until much later in the citations, is wellness. Even at that, it does so scarcely. ‘Sniff…

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A conflict in the posse…

I recently received and email from a fellow trainer. She was seeking advice on how to deal with a client whose bodywork practitioner suggested that her strength training was too hard on her body, and counterproductive to his own work. The person in question had decided to give up on strength training altogether as a result of this practitioner’s influence. The trainer in question sought my advice as to how to retain this client. I suggested only that attempting to keep her was a losing cause for all involved.

Though I have respect for most aspects of wellness and healing arts, the term bodywork practitioner reeks of guruism. This term is most associated with therapeutic massage, but no massage therapist I know, from any genre, refers to his or herself as a bodywork practitioner. I could similarly pass myself of as a practitioner of skeletal-muscular engineering. Or not. Regarding this trainer’s concern, I’ve seen and dealt with this first hand on multiple occasions.

The issue here is layers deep, but at its core this is an issue of perception. To deal with and overcome this issue would require changing a person’s total belief system when it comes to wellness and physicality. No easy task. Though I will never quit trying, my success rate in changing a person’s entire belief system is quite low.

Peeling back the layer…

The first layer that needs to be peeled back is so thick that it obscures all others, and in fact may be the only layer which needs to be removed at all; that strength training is the red headed stepchild of the healing arts. In fact most people don’t associate strength training with the healing arts, or even as a form wellness. Too often, the wellness community views strength training as an endeavor for knuckle draggers, mirror gazers, and views it as mindless, harsh on the body, extreme or, all of the above. That reputation though, is well deserved. And guess what…? Overcoming that reputation lays solely the leaders of today’s strength training community.

Sometimes you can peel back the layers, other times they need to be whacked...

Sometimes you can peel back the layers.  Other times they need to be whacked…

In the 40 years since a strength training renaissance was inspired by the movie, Pumping Iron, weight rooms across the county have been used and seen largely as places where meatheads go to throw weights around, grunt, scream, buy steroids, and otherwise avoid meaningful employment. Again, that’s on us. Clichés become so and are perpetuated because too often they are true.

Science and common sense…

While gym rats from the 1970s through the current era have been doing their best to paint a curious, if not bizarre image of the weight room and all that goes with it, scientists at the university level have been working hard for decades to breakdown, examine, and demonstrate the value of strength when practiced correctly by the general population.

Gym Rats:  Spreading bad ideas like diseases since the early 70s...

Gym Rats: Spreading bad ideas like diseases since the early 70s…

The list of benefits associated with proper strength training is extensive, and real. I’m not going to site them here, but there is no shortage of data available to the curious. Physiologists by the thousands have demonstrated time and again that there is much utility associated with strength training as a form of wellness, and that it is beneficial to all age groups. Science notwithstanding, common sense shouldn’t be ignored either. There is no scenario I can envision, when strength training is practiced properly and under intelligent instruction, that it can have a negative impact on the human body. Who reading this would like to be a little less strong, or less capable of anything physical…? Suggesting strength training as a negative can be analogous to suggesting one not take care of their car’s engine.

The Pantheon Of Wellness…

For people who have the means to hire me, it’s not uncommon to have more than one me in their life. This can be part of the problem. I have had clients contract my services who have also had on their payroll, Rolfers, yoga masters, Tai Chi Sifus, Pilates instructors, pain management specialists, bio-cranial therapists, reflexologists, and more.

Not a guru.  Just trying to help people find, if not reach, they're goals...

Not a guru. Just trying to help people find, if not reach, they’re goals…

Though I have never had an issue being just one aspect of someone’s pantheon of wellness, the very idea of an expanded support system comes with inherent conflicts. I can say honestly that for my part, I have always been respectful and supportive of other wellness practitioners who also consult with my clients. I can also say though, that the same mutual respect is rare. The respect I have seen in the pantheon of wellness through the years seems to fall something like this:

  1. Yoga
  2. Pilates
  3. Massage Therapy
  4. Chiropractic
  5. Acupuncture
  6. Rolfing
  7. Reflexology
  8. Everything Else
  9. Strength Training
Ah, the true pantheon of wellness...

Ah, the true pantheon of wellness…

I’m sincere when I say this; I don’t expect this to change in my lifetime. I can only hope that the practitioners and leaders of the strength training community of today will try hard to present themselves with increasing intelligence, and carry themselves with an improved decorum into the future so that, at the very least, my grandchildren can see strength training take its place above, “everything else”.  Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Morphine.   Enjoy!

Gratatouille Part II…

Facebook Games…

Social media can be a fickle bitch. One week it’ll slap me on the back of the head and make me wish I didn’t own a computer at all, while simultaneously wondering why I remain friends with that asshole or moron who writes, believes, or propagates so much of the hatred, nonsense, or ideas unwanted.

Other weeks, social media can bring me nearly to tears, overjoyed with the human connections, ideas, and experiences that reach me through my 17” window to the world and touch me so deeply.

Though I try hard to avoid Facebook trends and games and hope not to drag others into them, this week one caught me by surprise. My friend, Jenny Marie, tagged me to share 3 gratitudes per day for 5 straight days. I have to say this was one of the better experiences I have had on Facebook in a quite a while.

Rather than write my usual essay this week, I thought it would be fun to share my 15 gratitudes here.  This is dedicated to those readers of this blog who are not on Facebook or captives of social media.

Day 1 of my 5 days of sharing 3 gratitudes. Todays’ theme: Family

1) I am grateful for Trudy. Though we are not married any longer, she remains the most important person in my life, alongside the daughter that we share. Her friendship and kindness defy words.

2) I am grateful for my Mark. Being 4 years my senior, my brother has taught me many lessons, and provided much inspiration in my life.

3) I am grateful for my mother, the only woman on earth named Willie. She has always, and I mean (even today) always been there for me.

Mom.  Always there...

Mom. Always there…

Day 2 of 5 my days of sharing 3 gratitudes. Today’s theme: (some of) my near death experiences

1 – You learn a lot when your parachute doesn’t open correctly. Even more when you spend a year housebound recovering from the related spinal injury – oh and there’s a toddler in the house. For all the lessons I learned in that turning point in my life (1993), I am grateful, and can honestly say I haven’t taken too many days for granted since.

2 – You learn a lot when you drink beer for breakfast while camping with your buddies and decide to leave your lawn chair and jump into the top of a Class IV rapid. Of all my near death experiences that one should have killed me. Every bone in my body took an exceptional jolt except for my head. I am grateful for the humility I gained. Another turning point in my life.

Yes.  I actually jumped into this...

Yes. I actually jumped into this…

3 – You learn a lot when you realize there’s a rattlesnake in your car. I learned immediately that the entrance to the King Sooper’s grocery store could accommodate an S10 pickup. Got out, went right to the gardening tools, grabbed a shovel, and killed said snake. Not a single employee questioned me or what I was doing. I am grateful I saw him before it was too late.

 Day 3 of my 5 days of sharing 3 gratitudes. Todays’ theme: Self-deprecation:

1 – I am grateful to all of those who know me, and like me anyway.

2 – I am grateful that I can look at the disappointment of a man that I was 15 years ago, but take comfort knowing that I eventually learn from all of my mistakes.

3 – Mostly today, I am as grateful for my pain as I am for my health so that in the words of Bob Dylan, I can know that I’m really real.

 Day 4 of my 5 days of sharing 3 gratitudes. Todays’ theme: Stroodle

1- The truth is, when he was brought to me 7 years ago as an abused 1-year old, I didn’t want him. My friend and her daughter insisted I take him. I think about that almost every day now – that I didn’t even want him. I am so grateful for said friend, and Stroodle.

2- Every morning while he is still in sleepyhead position (shown), I thank him aloud for the lessons he teaches me daily in humility, unconditional love, and living in the present. I am grateful for this ritual.

3- We walk commando (off leash) 3-4 times per day. I am grateful for the purity and joy I see when he turns back at the end, and sprints to the front door.

My hero, truly...

My hero, truly…

Day 5 of my 5 days of sharing 3 gratitudes. Today’s theme: Humor And Mental Survival

In the last 3 months I have walked away from a successful business, had my bike (my only transportation) stolen, got burned by a couple of clients for some pretty big money, I have moved 3 times and lived for 2 months without a place to call home until this week. I almost got my head taken out by a falling gate arm, and I have seen several good friends going through incredibly difficult times. I have been in dark places myself, fearful and more desperate at times than I would ever let on in social media. Through it all though, I have not lost my sense of humor.

1- I am grateful for my brother who almost singlehandedly cultivated an irreverent sense of humor in me while growing up – to the point that being the class clown was the primary reason I stayed in school as long as I did, though I did eventually release myself on my own recognizance. He taught me abut Franklin Ajaye, George Carlin, and Woody Page.

2- I am grateful for my father who raised me with regular jokes in the car and at the dinner table. They were often horrible, unfunny, or too complicated for me to get, but they were a constant part of my upbringing.

3- I am grateful for all the comedians of this world. A few of them might even read this. As Lewis Black once said, “the only thing that separates us from those who wish to see us all perish, is our sense of humor”.

I could not agree more. Laughter may not always be the best medicine, but it goes down smooth and never leaves me with a hangover.

That’s it.  Fifteen 15 gratitudes in 5 days.  I may just keep this up, even if it means I lose a few social media friends.   Ok, one more: I am grateful for the awareness this has brought to me.   Be well… rc

Please take a moment to scroll up and rate this.  Thank you!

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push to STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Courtney Barnett. Enjoy…

 

An Open Letter To Leaders In The Fitness Community….

Dear Fitness Leaders,

Congratulations, you are a leader in the fitness industry – I bow down.  Whether you lead by the dozen, or lead by the millions, the eyes of your followers are on you.  Please keep in mind though, that the eyes that follow those who follow you, are also on you.

Whether you are new to fitness as a career, or you are one of the many established “experts” in the field, please allow me to share my thoughts with you, on how to better conduct yourself in an industry that isn’t just evolving, but one that is erupting vomiting its way into chaotic advancement. 

Don’t forsake the trust that got you where you are…

Understand that when people choose to follow you, right off the bat, they have given you something sacred, and something that should be most coveted by you – they have given you their trust.  Nurturing that trust may be the key to both longevity, and respect in your fitness career.  I’ll suggest that your career will be only as fulfilling as your respect for that trust goes.

You can use the trust of those who follow you to advance your career.  Or, you can use the trust of others as an opportunity to grow with them, to learn more on their behalf, and to advance the causes of fitness as a whole.  I think this is a good way to be.

People have chosen you.  Regardless of their reasons for that choice, they have placed their trust in you.  They hear the words you speak, they read the words you write, and they retain the actions they witness from you.  If you’re going to lead, lead with honest words, honest actions, and humility.

If you refer to your followers as disciples, I’m asking you right now to wear a tin foil hat so I know who you are.

Shut The Fuck Up Settle down Francis…

Making noise and rattling cages to prove yourself right is only slightly less savory than making noise and rattling cages to prove others wrong.  You may be wise.  You may be educated.  You may be experienced.  You may be all of the above, or some combination, and you may even be right.  You don’t however, always have to establish yourself as right. 

It’s actually not too hard to be right, and to be quiet – simultaneously.  This skill will serve you well in your career.

Don’t just lead, support…

Don’t lose sight that among our primary roles in this industry is the role of being a support system for those who follow us. 

To properly lead, it’s not enough to just point and say, go!  It’s of greater importance to understand the horizon from the vantage point of those furthest back.  Remember to stand beside those who follow you at the most critical times, maintaining awareness and respect of the differences between their view of what’s ahead, and your own view.

Ideally, the best support system a student or follower will have will be their friends and family.  Too often though, this proves not to be the case.  Though it’s not possible to be emotionally available to all of your students, all of the time, I’ll suggest you strive to be as available as you can be when needed – and you will be needed.  This will go a long way in helping them fulfill their goals.

Lead by example…

As a leader in my own community, I strive to ensure that I lead by example.  Some days that example is better than others, but I live with the knowledge that the eyes of my community are continually on me.  Whether I am in a grocery store, a restaurant, an athletic field, or a bar, my community is watching.

Though I often joke that at the end of the day it’s all about Roy, at the end of the day I know this is not really true.   

At the beginning of the day, fitness leadership is about sharing.  At the end of the day, it’s all about reflecting, to better share the following day what I have learned today.  In-between the beginning and the end of the day, fitness leadership is about many things, but above all else, it’s setting good examples.

You’re not that grand, and neither is your idea of fitness…

It’ pretty easy to believe, and subsequently suggest that being “fit” is the right way to be and to live.  Fit, at best, as a vague term which can mean many things. 

Too often leaders in the fitness community strive to pass off their own fitness values as an improvement to someone else’s life.  I have been guilty of this myself.  Often times what we pass off as fitness can be detrimental to longevity and physicality.  This is something I continually struggle in coming to terms with. 

Just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should do it – or that it’s going to help me live longer and better.  Notwithstanding, suggesting that others do it may be detrimental to their physicality, their longevity, and their health. 

Circles beyond our own…

There many people in the world who never formally exercise or eat “clean”.  There people who could care less about a lunge, a set of repetitions, a chicken salad, or a WOD.

Humility

There are many people who are content with who they are and have no desire to look like an action figure.  There are even people who are obese and okay with it, as there are people who are out of shape and okay with.  There are people who live to eat, and not eat to live as we always suggest.

That those people don’t play in our fitness circles makes them no less valid, no less worthy, and no less of a person.  I know of many great people doing amazing things in the world who eat Pop-Tarts, tater-tots, and other hyphenated non-foods.

I know of family leaders, business leaders, community leaders, and just plain salt of the earth folks who could give a frog’s fat ass about what we think is so important in the name of fitness.

I’ll finish by suggesting that each of you step back, take a good distant look at you consider fitness to mean.  Then, take a good distant look at the rest of the world and consider, for just a moment, what they might believe fitness to mean.

From this perspective, to truly quantify and establish how exercise may benefit someone’s life – how it may benefit society as a whole, is much harder than science has lead us to believe.  In fact, it’s not possible.  And you, you little fitness expert, are no more of a spec on the ass of humanity than I am, and please never forget that.

Go now.  Mount your high horse and charge on!

Sincerely,
Aggressively Humble Guy

PS: If you are a political, business, or spiritual leader, same shit goes for you.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what  happens when I hit the “stop” button on the blender in my head. 

Dragons and dungeons…

Slaying Dragons…

Imagine you are a dragon slayer, and you know you’re among the very best at slaying dragons.  Every day you wake up, prepare yourself for the day, sharpen your sword, and step outside to fulfill your potential on behalf of the world.  Confidence abounds.

Soon you spot the first dragon of the day, and he is headed toward you in full glide.  You’re ready.  You have lived your whole life for this, and you know you are going to win.  The dragon approaches as if it’s his responsibility to be slayed.  You raise your sword just as high as your arm will reach.  You look him in the eye as he dives, take aim, and time it just right.  You lower your arm with all your might, and… you miss.  The dragon looks back with a sardonic smile as he flies away, and you stand there in failure.

Another dragon will arrive in just few minutes to experience the exact same result.  This has been your daily life for many years.  You spend most days wondering what your purpose really is.  You know you’re good at what you do, but the dragons never fly quite close enough.  Life feels empty.  You ask yourself why you aren’t successful anymore.  It wasn’t always this way…

How things were a decade ago...

How things were a decade ago…

The reason for the lack of outcome, of course, is that dragons fly, and you don’t.  You actually can fly, you choose not to anymore.  If you choose to fly, then the battle will be real, and there will be risk in confrontation.  You dislike confrontation so instead you wake each day hoping the dragon will fly into the sword, and accept his fate, though this has never happened.

Who’s at fault, really…?  There are two responsible parties in a dragon slaying; the dragon, and the slayer.  If they both show up, and do what they are expected to do, a successful slaying should be a non-issue.  The dragons in this case actually pay to be slayed.  It appears though, that some don’t necessarily want to be slayed.

Backing down is easy…

Of course I’m not talking about dragons.  Ask me what I do for a living, and I will give you a simple answer; I teach proper form in strength training.  That’s it.  That tenet is primary to anything else I attempt with my clients.  I teach strength training in a way that is so specific, so unique, that the only possible outcome when it is executed correctly is improvement.

I have discovered though, that most people I work with are not as dialed into the concept or the value of perfection in strength training as I am.  When push comes to shove in teaching this unique style of exercise, I often withdraw and allow the student to participate in a lesser fashion for my fear of confrontation, and the result is not maximized.  Too long I have created a habit in myself of accepting less than the student is capable of.  At that I have become internally frustrated, but the breakdown is 100% on me.

 A new approach to teaching…

I have become a good ear for many of contemporary my clients.  Male or female, I am a friend they can confide in during a workout with no fear of judgment.  I’m the parent that many of my teenage clients wish they really had.  I’m the good son that many of my seniors never had.  These friendships run deep.  In a sense, I am an accidental life coach.

good exercise form; it really is just a choice

Conversations over crunches are mutually beneficial, and I have gained much wisdom from my clients through the years.  As a friend to my clients though, I have not wanted to put boundaries on these conversations, always rationalizing that so long as some work is getting done, the workout is fruitful.  Inside though, I have hoped for more on the exercise side of things.

The productivity of a workout is a relative thing.  Even if the exercise isn’t primary to a particular session, the student always leaves feeling they have had a great workout because they are emotionally cleansed.  If there has been a breakdown on my part it’s that my focus on exercise beyond the conversations has been on volume of movements, and not quality.

Going forward, rather than focus on how many movements are completed during the course of the workout, I will place my primary emphasis back on quality of exercise.  There is more utility, in my opinion, in doing 4 movements in absolute form in the course of an hour, than doing 8 movements with a lesser emphasis on form.  At this point I can say the conversations are mutually important.  Managing this, this is my new dragon, and it’s time for me to fly once again.

Dead weight; it’s not an exercise…

Some dragons are nothing but gas...

Some dragons are nothing but gas…

Sadly though, there are some clients who won’t adapt.  I already know who they are.  I’m not even part of their workout equation.  Often times these people don’t even know I’m in the room.  They pay a great deal of money to go through the motions, toss weights around in a private gym where they can bitch, and moan about their fucked up lives, leave me to pick up the pieces as I walk through their toxic gasses, and as they storm out on completion.  It is me who has enabled this.  It is me that must now send them packing.  Wish me luck, because that too is another dragon.  Trainers take note: Dragon selection is everything.  Be well…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from The Heartless Bastards.  Enjoy…

Near miss…

So today was the day I began to give notice to most to my clients – yet again.  More on that later…

Cyber-archeology…

I have 4 Facebook friends who are now dead, but still have active Facebook pages.  This haunts me, ongoing.  I check those pages periodically.  Not with the expectations that my friends will come back to life, but as a way of keeping their memories alive in my heart.  Maybe this is one of the more useful aspects of Facebook.

I read recently that with the increasing decline of new Facebook users, that by 2090 everyone on Facebook might actually be dead.  At that point, and when blogging has run its trendy course, all I have spat out through the years by way of social media will simply be a silicon fossil to be someday excavated by a cyber-archeologist.  This may or may not be my last essay. We’ll see.  If it is, it’s been a fun few years.

Through it all I have thought to share some ideals, and values as they relate to fitness and exercise, that they might be relevant to the lives of others.  Of course I have shared some non-fitness ideals as well. Perhaps years from now if the content I have written is excavated and studied, it may actually mean something to people who may be interested in what I have had to say.  I’m pretty sure the readers of today though, aren’t committing my shtick to memory.

 Leading, And Futility…

I’m basically I’m no longer comfortable with a leadership role in fitness and exercise.  Certainly not in the social media anyway.  This isn’t a joke.  I almost walked away from my business entirely today.  However, a friend and client convinced me to sleep on it for a year or two, and reminded me that social media is my fitness hobby, not my fitness livelihood.  We sat by my fire pit, and talked about the upsides and downsides of me walking away.  Once he got me to listen to my own words, I realized how fortunate I am to have the business, the lifestyle, and the clients I have.  The state of my industry though, has changed dramatically in the past decade, and has done very little to improve on itself.

Unrealistic expectations cultivated by social media, in my estimation, is a cancer attacking good fitness intentions everywhere.  What the general population wants from fitness leaders and resources is this; exercise that cures aging, prolongs youth, and fosters hotness.

News flash:  Youth is a synonym for history.  Aging is inevitable.  Hotness is little more than an interruption in getting more familiar with someone who we might love more deeply if we only choose to look more closely.  Clearly the majority of my social media audience and I are on different pages when it comes to these.  I’m just not willing to play the looking good game anymore.  Both in teaching and in writing, espousing exercise for the sake of hotness is something I’m no longer willing to participate in, even if I do practice it to a degree.

Almost...

Almost…

I have written and taught for years that we have a responsibility to age.  Though I believe we should attempt to do so with the best intentions, and under the best possible circumstances, we should proceed with caution, and respect the historic record of aging – for it is a requirement of living.

Gray hair. Wrinkles.  Sagging boobs.  Woodies gone south.  Skin that bruises ever easily.  Crackling bones.  Shifts in posture.  Loss of bone density.  Belly fat.  Memory lapses.  Hair loss.  Waning aesthetics.  Lethargy. Veins, and not the good ones.  All of these can be met, and addressed to a point with exercise, but none can be avoided.

Jhciacb; Part Ricky Williams, part Syd Barret…

I confided to my friend today that I have been approaching critical mass in my career path for a few years.  He, and I sat by my fire pit, and talked about whether or not I’m burned out or really willing to call it a career.  He asked me what I would do if I walked away from this.  I suggested a job at Home Depot, or an assembly line.  I have no debt so I don’t require much money.  When he was done chuckling, he just made sure I listened to my own words, and then made sure I listened to them again.  I did.  I walked away from our meeting realizing that I’m here, and in this for the long haul – but in a functional, and in person kind of way.

I will no longer attempt to use social media to steer the good ship, Fitness.  Fitness is in rough seas, and has a minimum of lifeboats. The passengers can’t make out the horizon, and the pilots can only describe a horizon that isn’t really there, and that is a horrible combination.

Yes, I am experiencing some degree of burnout, but I still love what I do.  I am now just going to increase the focus on my analog clients, and devote less time to promoting my values by way of social media.

As one client put it today when I called to tell him I was through,

“I depend on you.  Without you, Roy, there would be no exercise in my life, and I don’t trust any other trainer.”

I’ll take 28 of those, over a million Facebook likes who aren’t listening any time.  Be well…  rc

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Please check back at some point to see what happens when I hit the stop button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from The Stone Roses. Enjoy…

The Blender In My Head, Part I…

 This is Part I of my ongoing series; The Blender In My Head.  I will continue posting these intermittently for the rest of my life, occasional intermingling fitness articles as I feel the need.  God help us…

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The Blender In My Head Part I: My Lifelong Existential Meltdown

Far From Amazing…

A friend recently described me as “amazing”.  That was a wonderful sentiment, though it was probably used to describe the shell I present to the outward world; the dating behavior of life as it were.  On the inside I’m more damaged, and confused than I let on.  Sure I’m a good guy, but pretty fractured and pretty flawed, though I strive daily to overcome, if not hide it.  Most times though, the me on the inside is much more conflicted than the good guy who I allow the outside world to know.  The inside is where my values do constant battle with the temptations perpetually attempting to invade my head.

Temptation in this case doesn’t necessarily mean a pretty girl or a drug. The temptations in my life can seem quite little when I break them down individually, but as a collective they can add up to enough that I more often consider myself a lesser person when I cater to even a minority of them.  And cater I do.

Temptations manifest in the most subtle of ways.  Things like taking shortcuts in business, in relationships, and in finances can be temptations.  Ignoring responsibilities, and sacrificing priorities for immediate gratification can also be temptations.  Amusement, entertainment, and indulgence can also be temptations.  Putting myself first though, is the temptation I pander to most often.  There are more of course, some too personal to share, but it seems I rarely go an hour without confronting, and giving in to some kind of temptation.

In the way I conduct myself many times in the course of a day, I find I’m pretty far from amazing.

Am I Really Real…

Many days I question my own reality.  Every waking moment of my life I question my own reality!  This has been my lot in life, for most of my life.  I’m unsure that anyone or anything else I interact with each day exists independently of my thoughts.  Though we all may consider this at times, it has been forward in my psyche for over a decade.  I often wonder if the reason I give in so easily to the temptations of the lesser me is simply because I often disbelieve that there’s even a me at all.  Of course philosophers far brighter than I have been grappling with this for millennia.

In these times of increasing complexity, the world and everything in it can seem unreal, or at least unlikely.  I don’t know if the helicopters I see each day flying overhead training as instruments of death are more or less real than the tufts of hair which sprout from my aging ears.  They both seem to exist with purpose, yet seem largely unnecessary.

My head.  Warning:  Those who enter may never leave...

My head. Warning: Those who enter may never leave…

I ask myself often, in a staged world, why would the candy wrapper I tossed in the morning trash have a crinkle in the corner…?  Would dust really gather so quickly on my desk…?  By answering these questions of myself, I somehow justify that the world is real.  Why on earth would there be a scrape on the frame of my bike if the world were staged…?  Imperfections, I surmise, could not be part of a staged world.

The Miracles Of And Mercilessness Of Modernity

I can now use my phone to check the time, watch a movie, or video call a friend in Ireland.  I have instant access to the most of the music I enjoy.  I’m in great physical condition, I have many friends, and I want for nothing.  I have, arguably, the best life any man has ever lived.  I know love in my life and on multiple levels.  My computer spells for me, knows me well enough to suggest music and movies for me, cars will soon be driving for me, and social media has brought many wonderful people into my life that I would not otherwise have connected with.  It all seems too good to be true – so maybe it is.

Every week a shooting takes place in a school or in a workplace that didn’t need to.  Wars continue, borders change, politics, and religion seem to isolate more than ever, and people seem to have replaced fruitful discourse with relentless arguments that they be proven right rather than improved a situation.  The world’s chaos seems advancing at a fever pitch.  I look around at everything – anything, and most days nothing really makes sense.  My computer spells for me, suggests music and movies for me, cars will soon be driving for me, and social media has brought many assholes into my life that I would not otherwise have connected with.  It all seems too detrimental to be true – so maybe it is.

There are just those days when I pine to be whipped as I work 18 hours per day building a pyramid, believing that if my existence were reduced to that, at least I would be in a simpler state.  I long to be in a simpler state.

Ground Zero In My Head…

The only vantage point I will ever have to this life is the one from inside my own head.  I see, hear, think, and feel only as I can.  Still, there are seven billion people in this world not named, Roy Cohen.  Or are there…?  Unsure of what’s real, who’s real, and if anything really matters, these are the days when my veins course with insouciance.

It gets old sometimes, looking into a person’s eyes and wondering if they are showing me genuine emotion, or just gathering data to report back to the mother ship.  Is my dog looking in wonder at the fly orbiting my forehead, or is he observing me, taking notes, and planning the next occurrence he will facilitate on my behalf…?

Particle physics tells me nothing is as it seems, and everything I know is only probable.  String theory suggests that anything that can happen will happen.  Dimensions, universes, multiverses, space, time, space time, and of course, scripture.  Thoughts of these create doubt on every possible level, and conjure thoughts I don’t even understand, yet they are my very own thoughts.

Add in entertainment, media, social media, the influence of the peripheral relationships in my life, and it can all get very confusing.  It can’t be denied that the thinking of others has influenced the way that I think.  What I struggle to reconcile is if these influences have, and continue to change and influence the way I wish to think.

In those rare moments when I feel a momentary sense of relief, and come to believe that I actually do and should exist, and I no longer question whether or not I am, I soon turn to questioning whether or not I am the me I want to be, due to all the outside influences I allow to penetrate my thoughts.  I’m sure Dr. Suess or Shel Silverstein would have an answer for that, but I can’t seem to find one.  And so it goes…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh and there is this from Bobby Weir & Company.  Enjoy…