Strength to Awaken ~ Robert McNamara

Practice is preparation. Without practice the human being is unprepared to meet the demands of life. While some species are born “hard-wired” to operate maturely as soon as they enter life, human beings require practice. Nature provides a crocodile with all the necessary capacities to survive as soon as they are born. For all practical purposes a newborn crocodile is an adult crocodile, just smaller. In contrast, human beings require complex exchanges between nature and nurture over decades of experience to cultivate mature capacities. Of the full territory of being human, the majority of life is intrinsically tied to skills that are learned and refined through repeated practice over a diverse range of faculties.

Practice is, at its center, engagement. When you practice you engage the various faculties that the chosen activity requires. The more you engage, the more prepared you become. When you took your first steps in life and began walking you most likely balanced tentatively, teetered and fell. Often. But with practice, as you engaged the activity of walking over and over, you became increasingly more competent, more proficient and ultimately more elegant to move about in the world and meet the demands of your life.

So what happens if you do not practice? Without practice you often find yourself lacking the competence needed to meet the multifaceted challenges of life. Fail to engage your sexuality and most likely your partner will soon ask for more than you are prepared to offer. Fail to engage in disciplining your mental focus and you are likely to find yourself putting out distracting fires at work instead of focusing on real strategic priorities. Fail to practice attuning to your child and you are likely to find yourself unprepared in being able to connect with them as they grow.

Without the repeated engagement of practice you are largely unprepared to meet the demands of your life. It is simple, practice is a necessity. But what happens when you engage life and acquire a certain level of competency that is satisfactory for you? To answer this question we must look more closely into what it means to engage.

Engagement is the conscious inhabitation of your body and mind. Practice is happening when your open awareness is moving with, in and through your embodied activity. Intrinsic to practice is your conscious participation with your life. Engagement is the conduction of your free and open awareness through your activities, whatever they may be.

When you acquire a certain level of competence that is presumed to be satisfactory, practice typically stops. As soon as ‘good enough’ is achieved something subtle yet extremely powerful happens: habituation steps in. One of your habituation’s central attachments is comfort. Wherever you are comfortable, wherever ‘good enough’ is subjectively perceived, your habituation will invest vast amounts of resources to maintain this comfortable status quo. One way your ego achieves this is to stop practicing.

Suddenly, the practice that birthed the greater competence in your life stops and your conditioning steps in. As engagement ceases the conscious participation and inhabitation of your body, mind and life is replaced by your ego’s habituation. And as soon as you cease consciously metabolizing your experience within the direct immediacy of the present moment you are no longer preparing yourself, your ego is just repeating itself.

Life’s vivid textures, the alive energy and unbounded beauty, fade. The result is that hours pass, then weeks and entire months float by, years and sometime entire decades pass, with the same patterns repeating. One song is on repeat seemingly playing without end. You are not becoming more prepared through greater refinement but rather more prepared to execute the same habituated pattern regardless of what demands are present.

So while practice is a necessity for survival, it is often only a matter of time before your ego steps in and habituation hijacks your engagement with life. Fortunately, given the trap of your ego’s investment in comfort, there is a second dimension to answering this question.

The second reason why we practice is because of a desire, a seeking to improve, a yearning to refine and develop yourself and the world we live in. Survival is not enough for human beings. There is some facet of humanity that is intrinsically invested in creativity. The human drive for progress is interested in fashioning some dimension of oneself and life anew, taking what is not here and merely a possibility and make it an actuality.

If you look closely, cutting through your ego’s habituated attempts to struggle with this dimension of yourself and that dimension of life, I think you will find a simple impulse, drive or inner imposition that lives within your heart. This force is an energy that continually draws you forward, inspires you out of the limitations and constraints present and into a greater more liberated fullness of life. This impulse is congruent with the present moment, it is not in conflict as the ego’s position maintains. Instead of struggle, this force moves through uninhibited participation with the truth of your direct experience. This inspired force moves with that which is good, true and beautiful. This dimension of you is perhaps the central reason why you practice even when you have developed adequate skills to function with grace and efficiency in society.

This inspired desire to refine yourself, the inner imposition to develop and evolve your gifts, skills and unique capacities is nothing other than your Excellence calling you forth into your greatest articulations. Your desire to go beyond habituation, to reach into novelty and to liberate the constraints of your life is the beating heart of your true strength. When you free yourself from the ego’s grip upon comfort, I think you will find yourself realizing a necessity once again. If you are to actually face and embody the purpose of your life you need your strength. Without practice strength and Excellence rarely manifest. Ultimately, practice is part necessity and part inspiration. To understand and embody practice requires both.

About Strength to Awaken: An Integral Guide to Strength Training, Performance and Spiritual Practice for Men and Women

Strength To Awaken is about the level of qualitative engagement you can bring to your strength training and ultimately the engagement you are capable of bringing to your life as a whole. Many strength training methodologies myopically focus upon the muscular system. Most fail to identify a clear methodology for managing the type and quality of attention and engagement required to optimize your greater potential. These shortcomings stunt your performance.

This book takes you into the new paradigm based upon training the integral nature of the human being. Readers gain a never before seen approach that restructures thinking, attention and identity in strength training to develop new possibilities. This one-of-a-kind manual connects your pursuit of Excellence with the timeless spiritual quest for awakening. Will you discover how to leverage this rare intersection of spiritual practice and strength training and access your highest levels of potential?

Rob McNamara is Author of Strength to Awaken, a skilled Psychotherapist, leading Performance Coach, Psychology Professor at Naropa University and an Integral Zen Practitioner. He runs his private practice in Boulder Colorado serving a broad range of executives and professionals, undergraduate and graduate students and athletes ranging from high school to Olympic and professional world champions.

Rob has been lecturing on Integral Psychology and Human Development at Naropa University for nearly a decade for both graduate and undergraduate students in a number of academic and professional programs including the MA Transpersonal and Contemplative Psychology programs and BA Contemplative Psychology program. Currently Rob co-teaches Therapeutic Applications of Human Development and teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on Transpersonal Psychology and undergraduate courses on Integral and Developmental Psychology. He also serves as the faculty advisor for Integral Naropa.

Rob has contributed to the Integral movement over the past decade as a leading integral practitioner. While working with Ken Wilber and the Integral Institute he served as one of the core faculty for the Integral Life Practice seminar series. Rob has contributed to Integral Life, taught at Boulder Integral and is currently a faculty member of the Integral Spiritual Experience. Rob’s expertise includes the intersection of integral practice, human performance and integral strength training.

Contributions in the business sector include the Stagen Leadership Institute where Rob developed and deployed integrally informed executive curriculum for senior executives and launched corporate wellness initiatives. Rob also served as the Senior Integral Consultant and Human Performance Specialist for Phillips Performance Nutrition.

Rob McNamara received his Masters in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology from Naropa University and his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Susquehanna University.

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