I have always been fascinated with the intrinsic link between our inner state of being and our outer experience/performance. During my time as coach of the Australian Olympic Ski Team, this fascination reached a peak because I discovered that at the elite level, where 90 percent of the athletes are within a few degrees of each other physically and technically, the different levels of performance on a given day come down almost exclusively to mental and emotional state of being.
As a coach, I found that I could often pick the podium winners for the day at breakfast while they were still in their pajamas, simply by the energy they exuded. Those who were “in the flow” permeated a sense of ease and inner alignment – as though all of the creative forces within them were working in harmony toward the same end.
During this time, I realized that while my own athletes were exceptionally well physically prepared, they seemed to be fighting an internal battle on a subconscious level that was preventing them from reaching their goals.
So for a time, I took almost all of my focus away from the technical work and physical results and focused instead on helping my athletes grow as people and expand their sense of Self. We started exploring the mental and emotional undercurrents of their outward aspirations and unraveling some of their limiting beliefs and behavior patterns. On top of this, we began having more fun. Rather than simply stop-watching every run, measuring every meal and marching from event to event like machines, we started playing more snow soccer, listening to more music and enjoying our time together.
Rather than waiting for the results to give them permission to feel good about themselves, I began pushing them to experience their “post victory” feelings now and to literally become the energy of their aspired results. And the not-so-craziest thing happened.
As the athletes began to make shifts and come alive on the inside, they quite effortlessly began getting results on the outside. And as they built rhythms of mental and emotional alignment with their goals, beyond the need for external validation, they suddenly found themselves arriving on the podium, Australia’s first at a World Cup level.
What I realized from this experience was something that ancient cultures have long known and quantum physics, neuroscience and modern research into the power of the subconscious mind have made great leaps toward rediscovering: the consistent energy of our thoughts, feelings and beliefs are the predecessors and catalysts (not the end result) of our experience.
The Boundless Capacity of our Subconscious Mind
In the fitness industry, there is a tremendous wealth of insight and wisdom focused around the physical body, but even the most refined trainers reach points of frustration with clients where, no matter how well structured our 3D physical progressions are, something still keeps clients from making certain long term shifts and changes. What has emerged is what I call the 4th dimension of fitness, a structured approach to harnessing the functional training paradigm (stability, balance, strength, power, etc.) in the realms of the mind and emotions, so that the changes we seek in the physical body are in full partnership with our mental and emotional undercurrents and therefore fully reflective of our highest visions.
The subconscious mind has powers and capacities that are far beyond our current science to understand, powers to spontaneously heal “incurable” conditions, powers of great strength and endurance in times of need, powers of extraordinary intuitive perception that transcend the trappings of the rational mind. In the words of Dr. Deepak Chopra, “We are the only creatures on earth who can change our biology by what we think and feel.”
So why do some people heal while others do not? Why do some people lose weight while others do not? For a long time, we based our answers to these questions on seemingly uncontrollable variables such as genetics. And while our genes may certainly play a role in our internal patterning, current research by scientists like Bruce Lipton show us that even our DNA can change when we shift the energetic messages coming from our thoughts and beliefs into our cells.
It is a well accepted fact that we each only use a small fraction of the true capacity of the mind, but the real question is, WHY do we accept this as fact when the greater capacities of the mind (and therefore the body) are waiting right here within us? Every once in a while, someone breaks through in an isolated arena (sport, art, science, etc.) to show us a glimpse of the higher possibilities, but what we need to realize is that this same genius capacity sits within each of us, ready to be tapped into and expressed. It may look different coming through you or your clients than it did through Einstein, Mozart or Michael Jordan, but the energy is there, and it is all accessed (or denied) through the power of our subconscious mind.
Entering the Garden
In a very basic sense, we can imagine our subconscious mind as a rich and fertile garden bed, abundant and capable of growing anything. The subconscious is our intuitive center, and it is in charge of all of the vital functions of our body (breathing, blood flow, metabolism, digestions, etc…) and has access to every element, hormone combination and healing response imaginable. It takes directions from our conscious mind, which is made up of the thoughts, feelings and images we hold throughout each day. These are like the active seeds we plant in this garden.
Our thoughts are received as patterns of neural firings in our cerebral cortex (the organ most focused on conscious reasoning). In a basic sense, once a thought is accepted by the conscious mind, it anchors into the subconscious like seed into soil and begins to grow into our physical experience. And while the garden of our subconscious has the capacity to grow virtually anything we could imagine, we are ultimately the ones who choose what goes into the soil. In "The Power of Your Subconscious Mind," Dr. Joseph Murphy states, “Whatever you habitually think, sinks down into your subconscious mind then creates according to the nature of your thoughts.”
As the American philospher Ralph Waldo Emerson said in slightly more direct fashion, “Man is what he thinks all day long.”
This would be great if we always chose our thoughts based on our highest desires and the higher capacities of our subconscious garden, but the truth is that we often fall short in at least one of three ways:
- We scatter our thought-seeds quite aimlessly, without taking time to consider how they are affecting our physical reality.
- We limit what thought-seeds are planted based on limiting beliefs of what is possible, true or right for us to grow.
- We plant the seeds we want to grow but then undermine what we’ve planted with consistent energy of doubt, fear, worry, self judgment and other mental/emotional “weeds” that can quite quickly overgrow the sprouting visions of our desires.
So how can we begin to consciously work with our inner landscape to grow the garden of life we truly wish to experience… and create doorways for our clients to do the same? The answer sits in a popular motto, borrowed from Ghandi a few years back: be the change.
There is a philosophy in our society that says, “Once I get X result, then I can feel Y.” Once I win that medal, climb that peak or beat that time, then I will feel satisfied, significant, good enough. Once I lose this weight, leave this job, find my mate, etc., then I will feel free, happy, peaceful.
Until we satisfy the outer conditions of our expectations, we tend to hold ourselves in a sort of mental and emotional ransom. But the problem with this approach is that the powerful creative capacities of our subconscious mind (the same power that will ultimately line up the conditions in our bodies to achieve our desired results) takes it’s direction from these mental and emotional imprints that we give it throughout the day. Whatever we focus on and feel strongest about makes the strongest impression in our subconscious mind, and once it’s there, the subconscious mind works intuitively to create conditions in our outer world to match and reflect these impressions. As the ancient Hawaiian Huna said, “Energy flows where our attention goes.”
So when we emotionally beat ourselves up and deny ourselves from feeling the positive feelings that we anticipate our goals will give us, we actually put an energetic roadblock in the path to achieving what we truly desire. Crazy, but true. The notion of “getting in our own way” is perhaps the greatest hindrance in all pursuits.
If we don’t like what we’re experiencing on the outside, it is easy to place blame and/or try to change our circumstance from a physical point of view (work out harder, change the job, leave the relationship, etc.). And while physical movement is a potent partner to the power of our mind and emotions, making changes in the physical realm alone is much like playing one song over the top of another. Unless we match our external efforts with internal shifts of thought and feeling, the ultimate long term outcome will be more discord.
In this respect, Gandhi’s notion that we must “be the change we wish to see in the world” is not an esoteric concept but a very grounded and truthful, scientifically validated reality. If we wish to alter that which we are experiencing outside (our body, relationships, income, etc.), we must look first to change the rhythms of thought, feeling and belief we hold within.
In simple truth, all that the garden of our subconscious asks of us is that we bring seeds of:
- Clear Intent – Having the courage to clarify and call for the feeling and condition we truly desire.
- Open Belief – Our beliefs are the gatekeepers at the garden that choose what and how each thought seed is planted. As we begin unravel limiting patterns of belief (many of which we do not even realize we have), we must learn to keep the gate open to the limitless possibilities that exist within and around us.
- Congruence - When our intent is clear and we have taken steps to expand our view of what is possible, the next step is to bring our thoughts, feelings and actions into alignment with this highest vision. Congruence, where our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and actions are all moving in the same direction, is a vital key to accessing the greater capacities that we all seek to experience.
- Allen, J. As a Man Thinketh. (www.classicbooks.com.au).
- Chopra, D. (1994) Ageless Body, Timeless Mind. New York, NY: Harmony Books.
- Lipton, B. (2005, March 18). The Biology of Belief. Mountain of Love.
- Murphy, J. (1963). The Power of Your Subconscious Mind. Prentice Hall.