“It is the brain, not the heart or lungs that is the critical organ. It’s the brain.”
-Roger Bannister (first runner to break the four-minute mile)
I hope this post finds you all well and fully enjoying the beauty and warmth of the summer days.
I have a personal story to share with you.
Some of you may know that one of my life passions is mountain biking. I was able to fulfill one of my “bucket list” experiences earlier this month. I competed in something called the BC Bike Race. It is a 7-day stage race through the rugged and knarly landscape of Vancouver Island and Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. The race considered one of the most formidable challenges in the mountain biking world both technically and endurance wise. I knew in advance that both my mind and my body would need to be prepared for this grueling event that has left many athletes either hurt or too physically exhausted to carry on.
Here is my twist. Many athletes use “aggression” to help push them beyond their physical or perceived limitations. Pushing the boundaries is necessary to expand the range of performance and capabilities. Often this involves cranking heavy metal music or getting “mad”, “angry”, or “crazy” to transcend the “hurt zone” often visited while training or competing.
I did something different. Playing in my ipod while training was guided meditations and peaceful, soothing music. What the heck is that about?
Here was my theory. Remember how I was explaining that the human body always performs better long term when it is not stressed, angry, hurt, or threatened? This is physiological fact. Our bodies cannot sustain a stressed “fight or flight” state over time without massive damage, breakdown, and inevitable burnout. We also lose our ability to perceive our world around us in a loving, grateful, and inspiring way. I knew by mind and body would be better prepared and equipped to handle the huge challenge ahead of me if I could tap into the place where it was constantly repairing and healing, especially in an event where the cumulative damage of many days in a row is devastating for many.
Here is what happened. There was not a day (or perhaps even moments) during each race day where my body was not pushed near, into, or beyond the “hurt zone”. Guess what popped into my head when my mind and body were taxed to their limits. You guessed it….peace and tranquility. Every time I thought I needed to give up, the sense of ease and safety generated by the meditations kicked in and I was able to continue on, far past my own perceived limitations, day in and day out to completion of the race.
My point is this. Although our mind and body is designed to sustain short-term stressful situations, it will break down and fail in the longer term. Pure physiology. Maintaining a peaceful mindset while through even the most challenging situations will not only get us through, but allows us to do it with a better appreciation of the journey.
I was hurting on the inside during many moments during the race week. Do you know what was on my face? A smile….and I thoroughly enjoyed the sights, sounds, and smells that accompanied the experience. Peace of mind works.
Much Love and Respect,
Dr. Richard Yoshimura