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“Fitness” needs a makeover. It’s not about the size of your muscles, how fast you can run, or how much you weigh. There are plenty of physically fit people who are unhappy, eternally pessimistic, and drained of spirit. True fitness starts with emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Developing the 4 Powers

Aspects each one of us has and should work to emPOWER

by Brant Secunda
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Each and every person is inherently powerful.  We each have the ability to do good or bad, construct or destroy.   It is what we do with this power that defines our character.  In the modern world we often gauge one another by the type of car we drive or by the house we live in.  These plainly physical appendages of life can blind us from comprehending not only the true character of someone else, but indeed our own identity.  It is not our house or the price of our shoes that define us.  Rather  the essence of a human being is determined by how we use our innate capacities.
The Huichol Indian people of Mexico, with whom I lived for many years, refer to the human capacities as the 4 Powers.  The first power is Love.  Love is the foundation of all power, with which the universe was created.  Love is not just something found in movies or novels.  Nor is it solely a feeling shared between humans. It is a natural energy rooted in all of life.  
My teacher, the renowned Huichol shaman Don José Matsuwa, would always tell me, “Love your Earth mother; she provides for you everything you need.  Love the plants and animals.  Love nature.”  
By simply acknowledging a tree, a flower or a person, we cultivate the power of love.  Recognize those who love you and in turn you will simultaneously feel and give love.  Be passionate about the Earth, devote yourself to your work and adore the world around you.  By doing so, you can live a life of love.
The second power is physical power.  We all have different bodies.  Some tall, some short; some thin, some fat.  Yet, we all have a body.  It has been said since time immemorial that the body is the house of the soul.  For this reason we should strive to make ourselves as physically powerful as possible.  Of course, not all of us will become professional athletes, but still it is important to cultivate a strong and healthy body.  
For the Huichols, another aspect of physical power is the realization of our connection to Mother Earth.  Through gaining an understanding of the body of the Earth, we build our own physical power.  In truth, we are simply physical extensions of the Earth.  Once we realize this simple truth, our bodies can no longer be separated from the energy of the entire planet and so any weaknesses or vulnerabilities are overpowered.
Intuitive power is the third facet of our character.  In the modern world, many people do not give much weight to the intuition or psychic ability someone may have.  In the Huichol culture on the other hand, the visions and dreams a person has, garners them as much respect as how much firewood or water they can carry.  For a person to be truly powerful, they must continually develop their spiritual awareness.  It can seem difficult to find the time to focus on the power of intuition; however, simple games can help us refine our intuitive abilities.  When your phone rings, try to guess who is calling before you pick up (or look at the Caller ID).  While driving, envision the color of the next car you will see in the oncoming lane.  Simple amusements such as these can enrich your spiritual intuition.
The last power is the power of intelligence.  What does this mean?  Is our intelligence determined by how well we did on a math test in high school or by our problem solving skills at work?  Though this may be a part of the answer, the Huichols view intelligence as the way we live our life.
Do we live our life in the right way.  This is the ultimate test of intelligence.  If you are a doctor, don’t abuse your power over a patient.  If you are a teacher, don’t take advantage of your students.  If you are a parent, don’t abuse the power you hold over your children.  Right action, that is the sign of a truly powerful person.  When someone does not act humanly, they are not being human.  Foster the power you have and apply it to good deeds.  Use your gifts not only for your own personal empowerment, but also to strengthen those around you.      
Someone can be physically fit; nevertheless, if they are not loving to their friends or to the Earth, that person is not fully powerful.  We must cultivate all four of the powers, love, physical power, intuitive power and the power of intelligence.  By doing our best to empower ourselves and the world around us, we can become truly powerful people.

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Brant Secunda left his hometown of New Jersey the day after his eighteenth birthday to journey to the remote Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico.  There he found the Huichol Indians, considered to be one of the last tribes to have maintained their pre-Columbian traditions. Brant was put though a twelve-year apprenticeship with Don José Matsuwa, in which he learned the ancient teachings of the Huichol people.  In 1979 Brant founded the Dance of the Deer Foundation to help carry on the cultural heritage of the Huichol Indians.
To learn more about Brant and the Huichols, visit www.Shamanism.com

Take Advantage of the Ups and Downs in Life

Take your workouts off the beaten path
by Mark Allen

Life in the modern world can be overflowing with complexity to the point of overload.  Even our goals for health can sound overwhelming.  What if you had the tools to lose weight, improve your blood sugar balance, de-stress and soothe your soul, charge up with energy and keep your brain functioning properly?  Sounds like a lot of activities would be necessary to gain all of those benefits.  Surprisingly, one simple tool can help you achieve these goals!  You ready?  All of these incredible benefits to your body and soul can be had by simply walking or jogging on uneven terrain that has a few hills along the way.  Read on to hear why…

As we all know, moving our bodies is what gives us fitness.  A sedentary individual is more likely to die at an early age than an active one who smokes cigarettes!  So going for a walk or a jog on a daily basis will cover the first item on our health list.  If you incorporate some uphill and downhill sections in that outdoor adventure, you will start to engage the use of the largest muscle in the body, which is appropriately named the gluteus maximus.  Using these large muscles stimulates the body to metabolize stored fat.  The second task is now taken care of.

If your favorite trail winds through any kind of natural setting, which most trails or unpaved roads do, there will likely be a bit of nature going on around you.  Right now we are in springtime, which is the perfect season for absorbing the wonder of life renewing itself and bursting forth with energy and color.  Take a look around and soak in that life force.  This simple act takes our minds off of what might be otherwise weighing us down and gives us a break from the normal obligations in a way that feeds both our body and our soul, and charges us up with positive energy.  Another task covered!

So what about the blood sugar and brain benefits?  Some interesting research has shown that walking or jogging on uneven ground actually stimulates the brain to improve its circuitry.  In short, when the ground we move over is unpredictable, meaning there are little rocks, twigs, maybe some bumps, divots and other non-smooth features, the brain gets used in a way that stimulates its growth and health.  Want to get smarter?  Walk through the woods!

With regard to blood sugar, a number of studies in Europe have shown that while uphill walking is good for burning calories and losing body fat, it is the downhill that gives a huge boost to the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.  Downhill walking uses our eccentric muscles, the ones that accept a load rather than generate it.  Using these muscles when we walk downhill helps bring blood sugar levels down and actually increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin.

This second benefit enables a person to efficiently handle dietary carbohydrates (sugars) without having to release large amounts of insulin. For those of you who have read our book, you may remember that a big release of insulin shuts off fat burning, which is not something many people want to have happen.  Just make sure that you go easy on your knees if you do decide to make downhill part of your exercise program. And if you can’t find a hill, there are always stairs. It’s just hard to find ones that are lined with blooming trees and flowers!
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