Training and Racing by Intuition: The Articulate Dialogue Between Body and Brain
I just finished reading Matt Fitzgerald’s "RUN, The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel". He has travelled the world seeking and gleaning information from sports physiologists, coaches and elite runners. His conclusion, backed by science, is that the most successful runners train and race most effectively when they rely on intuition and when they pursue confidence and enjoyment in their running. The most advanced and meticulously crafted training programs cannot provide guidance as accurate and appropriate as intuition and the pursuit of enjoyment and confidence.
Wow, this validates my gut instinct approach to training and vindicates my passionate love for “winging it” day by day in my pursuit of athletic excellence.
My college degree is in Modern Dance. Beyond the joy of artistic expression, this was an educational pursuit of kinetic intelligence. Without question it advanced my capacity for problem-solving and developed my intellect far more than the math, science or other humanities courses did. (I took lots of math courses and fared pretty well... at least until calculus.)
In the ensuing three decades, most rewarding, intriguing and enduring has been the continued development of a clear, concise cellular language, indeed an articulate dialogue between body and brain.
This internal dialogue empowers me with a way to spatially model events (within my body) that I perceive in the world around me. Through the energetic matrix of my body, I can discern the universal principles and laws at play in a specific event and respond in a way that maintains balance and harmony. I have used the energetic matrix of my body-brain to generate this articulate cellular dialogue for guidance in everything from auto mechanics to efficient swim-bike-run technique to harmonious human relationships.
No Strings Attached
However, this cellular dialogue and spatial matrix modeling process are only functional when I suspend judgment and attachment to a desired outcome. Judgment and attachment are impediments to this intelligence; indeed, they are impediments to intelligent, intuitive, creative athletic training and racing.
That said, we must have specific aspirations and definable goals to measure success. We must pursue these with clarity and pure intent, but without attachment to the outcome.
How real and “tangible” is this articulate cellular intelligence and language? Consider this: Heart transplant recipients often take on characteristics of their respective donors, even though anonymity is maintained. Not convincing? I’ve been admonished by a physician for citing this. However that information comes from “The Heart’s Code” a book by Dr. Paul Pearsall, a psychoneuroimmunologist who survived stage IV lymphoma. He is highly regarded by many Fortune 500 companies as well as medical schools and societies.
In his book, Dr Pearsall recounts a powerful true-life story. While speaking to an international group of medical professionals, a psychiatrist related her experience with one of her patients during the question-and-answer session. Her patient was an 8 year-old girl who had received a heart transplant. Post-transplant, the young girl had a recurring nightmare in which she saw the man who had murdered a 10 year-old girl – the donor of her heart. The girl’s mother brought her to the psychiatrist in desperation.
With descriptions provided by this young heart recipient, the police found the murderer. To quote the book, “The time, the weapon, the place, the clothes he wore, what the little girl he killed had said to him... everything the little heart transplant recipient reported was completely accurate.” The murderer confessed. I provide this not for shock value, but to present the possibilities of cellular intelligence and language.
My experience of "mind" – of essential consciousness - arises as the union of body, heart and brain. The language that actuates and articulates this union, that gives rise to my consciousness and being, is not linear or verbal. Specifically, in athletic training, it is the dialogue between brain and body that provides wise and prudent guidance for effective training. This language is spacial and tactile, proprioceptive and kinesthetic. It is also chemical. Yet it is articulate - so articulate that many athletes (me included) get clear guidance as to what workouts are optimal each day. Specifically, we get sound guidance on how to juggle stress, recovery and adaptation.
Logically, how does one go about affecting this dialogue? It's actually a process of disengaging from the linearity of logic. For sure, logic has its place in athletic training and in living a balanced healthy life. But blind logic - strictly following a carefully crafted training plan, disregarding all else - is a recipe for disaster.
The athlete must train the brain to listen intently to the body and heart, to refrain from judgment, attachment and incessant commentary. The “active” process of disengaging from these distractions is called meditation, contemplation.
Here is a simple form of meditation. Sit quietly, with a long, straight (but not rigid) spine and breathe consciously. As your energy settles, begin to direct and focus your breath though your three energetic centers of intelligence – your brain, your heart, and your gut. Focus on one energy center for several breaths and then move to the next. Let your inhaling breath pass through the energy center from front to back, your exhaling breath from back to front. Start with the brain. As you breathe, determine the precise location and energetic quality of each center. Use your feeling awareness to locate the energetic resonance of each.
Intelligence.. Hawaiian Style
Finally, consider this: The Hawaiian word for the gut is “na’au”. The word for intelligence is “na’auao”, which translates to “daylight of the intestines”. All thirty classes of neurotransmitters found in the brain are also present in the enteric nervous system. Nine times more neural signals flow from the abdomen to the brain than brain to abdomen. (Dr. Michael Gershon, “The Second Brain”) Where is the guidance really coming from?