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Muay Thai @ Sunrise

March 29, 2012

With the weather warming up, looking forward to outdoor sessions. Planning to set something up on Mt-Royal (this spring/summer). Here’s a small taste of what you can look forward to. Big thanks to Sandra and Erin. Contact us for more details.

 

Here’s a video from last summer:

This summer, we’re ripping the roof off the gym!

Live Peacewolf

Turning Lead to Energy (the Primal Kind)

March 27, 2012

Standing at the bottom of what seems an insurmountable task, literally. My body feels like I have lead coursing through my veins. My lower back is sore from yesterday’s trip to the osteopath. My knee is still acting up from pulling my T-Band last week. I can see my destination, way up at the top of the Mt-Royal. I usually spot it, visualize myself there, say go, and don’t stop until I get there. But today, the word “go” is hard to pronounce. But the sun is shining and I strongly believe that something more powerful than myself will be waiting for me when I get there.

And so I “go”, at a nice steady pace. That’s the beauty of a Primal Run, there are no rules, no time limits, you follow the flow of your body and the world around you. If you’ve read my post on Primal Energy, you know that the first step to tapping into it is endorphin production, and so I cut through the woods and head straight for the massive staircase which is guaranteed to kick things into gear. And it does! I’ve been hitting the stairs twice a week and so I push myself hard to fly up to the top. Bounding them 2 by 2, my legs give out with 6 steps left, 6! I crawl up the final steps and take a minute or two to get over the bit of nausea creeping in. And then I begin the Endorphin Maximization process.

This process was developed to try and improve my recovery time in between  rounds of Muay Thai training. I quickly realized that not only was I recovering physically, but I was able to use it for mental recovery as well. The secret is to fight whatever your body wants to do instinctively. When physical exhaustion sets in our tendencies are often to:

  • Breath heavily – so you’ll want to slow down your breathing as quickly as possible. Rather than short shallow breaths through the mouth, you’ll want  to take long deep breaths through the nose. Focus especially on slowing down when you exhale, it will help to activate the “feel good” system in the brain.
  • Bend forward – as soon as you stop an intense physical outburst, you often find yourself bent over, with your hands on your knees, or desperate to sit down in the same bent over position. Fight this urge. Throw your shoulders back, and look up to the sky. This will not only help you expand your rib cage and improve your breathing, but this strong confident position will do wonders for mental recovery.
  • Feel progressively more fatigued – This is by far my favorite part. If you let the feeling of exhaustion settle in, it will often increase as time goes by. But if you take control of it right away, you can transform it into very powerful energy. Feel your heart beating out of your chest. Pump yourself up. Growl if you need to (works for me). This is where I “awaken the wolf”, and it’s what makes the next part of the run so much better.

After going through this recovery and energy building process, I am ready for the next challenge – to head back into the woods and continue to the apex of my journey. The path I take is an awesome blend of slight ups and downs, allowing for short sprints and recoveries, to continue the endorphin production process. By the time I get to “my spot”, my heart is pumping and I can already feel the energy building up inside me. After a short recovery period, I find a soft and secluded spot to sit down and meditate. It’s important here to not wait too long before beginning the meditation process. You really want to feel that intensity coursing through you when you close your eyes and slow down your breathing.

In order to connect with the Primal Energy, I tend to follow the same basic steps each time:

  • Sit down, back straight, shoulders back, legs slightly crossed.
  • Start by taking a few extra deep breaths with eyes open. This allows me to take in my surroundings and really connect with it. Connecting with the planet is an important step.
  • When I close my eyes, I slow down my breathing and try to focus on the sounds around me. The birds, the wind, running water near by, the distant sounds of the city. Slowly, I feel the transformation happening. I know when this begins to happen when a tingling sensation spreads throughout my body, a sense of weightlessness. As soon as this happens, I open my eyes.
  • When I open my eyes, it’s as if I am looking upon the world with different eyes. The colours seem brighter, everything seems sharper. I slowly get up and start to walk. Then jog. Then run.

This is the true nature of the Wolf Run, or the Primal Run. My legs feel so strong. I feel as though something is pushing me forward, driving me to challenge myself. I’ll seek out hills to climb, rocks to scale, trees to zig zag through. I look for trees to climb, logs to lift or balance on. IT IS SUCH AN AWESOME FEELING!!!! Especially today. When I think back on how sluggish and unmotivated I felt at the start of this run, and how incredibly strong and energized I feel at the end of it, it makes it even more amazing.

Primal Energy is all around us. We have all felt it at some point, but to consciously seek it out is to take control of it, to harness it and use it. It clears the mind, energizes the body and lifts our spirit to a whole other level.

*** To anyone from Montreal, I’ll be setting up some Peacewolf Primal Runs this spring. Send me your contact information if you want more information. ***

Live Peacewolf

Fight for Happiness

March 22, 2012

I think we are all searching for one thing in life, happiness. When you’re happy, nothing else matters. The problem is, for most people, they need something to make then happy, and when they’re not happy, they seek out that something to make them feel better.

If you’re overweight, you look in the mirror and make yourself unhappy. So in order to make yourself happy again, you seek out your source of pleasure, the foods you shouldn’t be eating, the foods that made you overweight in the first place, and for those few moments, you are happy again. But for how long? How long will it take before you’re back in front of that mirror and the cycle starts all over again. In the long run, I guarantee that you will spend more and more time being unhappy than happy. No matter how many times you seek out those foods, they will never solve the source of your unhappiness. And, you are never truly happy. You have moments of temporary happiness, but that is not true happiness.

True happiness is when you spend most of your life feeling grateful for everything you have. It’s when you look at yourself in the mirror and smile, laugh even, because you can’t believe that life can be so amazing. This post is inspired by a student of mine, someone I am helping with training as well as nutrition. In the few months we’ve been together, she has made amazing progress. She is physically fitter than she has ever been in her entire life. She has cut out so many bad things from her diet and replaced them with healthy new recipes, things that are not only good for her, but that she also really enjoys eating. On paper, she should be ecstatic with all the progress she has made. But guess what, she’s not. Why? Because all she can think about are the few things that she has left to conquer. She has a sugar addiction, and so long as she keeps giving in to her temptations, no matter how well she may be doing with everything else, it is all she focuses on.

And so I told her that she has a choice to make. She can either accept that this last piece of the puzzle will take longer to overcome, and simply focus on all the good she has accomplished, or, she can strengthen her resolve, get really fed up with herself, and tackle this final hurdle with everything she has. The question is, which one is harder to do? Many people would probably say the second one, since it’s what’s been the hardest for her to deal with so far. But I think the first one will be much harder to accomplish, because no matter how she hard she works on trying to focus on all the good she has done, she will constantly have to fight the urge to get down on herself for that one thing she can’t do. She basically has to work on two things simultaneously. But if she focuses primarily on overcoming that final hurdle, on making those final sacrifices and taking it head on, she can put everything she has into it. She can see the finish line and head straight for it. This will require a greater effort, but over a much shorter amount of time. One hard sprint rather than an extensive marathon of up and down battles.

Finding true happiness is not supposed to be easy. But for many people, it’s much closer than they think, they just need to believe it strongly enough and push hard enough to get there.

Live Peacewolf

Tools to create your own path in life

March 21, 2012

Had an amazing experience today: I was given the opportunity to meet with some high school kids and talk about my journey through school, training and how I put it all together. The kids I was speaking with were having a hard time staying motivated in school, didn’t see the point, and the reason I was invited was because a few of them practiced boxing and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to say, or where to start, but a few minutes later we got things rolling and I was amazed at some of their questions, and also really happy that I had some good insight to share with them.

The two main points that I was able to make were: what you learn in school can help you in the gym, and what you do in the gym can help you in school.

The first point came up when one of the students mentioned that he didn’t see the point of school, when he could spend his days doing something he loved, which was boxing. Having been around professional fighters and coaches for many years, and trying to build a career for myself as well, I made him realize just how difficult it is, with or without an education. The difference is that with an education, you can make yourself standout from the rest, as a trainer or even as a fighter. In school, you can learn about the sciences behind your sport. You can study nutrition, physiology, anatomy, neurology, psychology, anyone of these will give you an edge. Also, should you come to realize that you’re not made out for this sport, or decide that you want to move on to try something else, having the education will give you more choices to do so. And most sports have a window of opportunity, once you reach a certain age you better have a plan B or you might end up stuck somewhere you don’t want to be.

Then this question came up: how do you balance between school and training? Some of them complained that they were too tired after training to study. I explained that you have to find a way to balance the two, create a formula, and once you have it down, your training will actually help you study. For one, training, especially something as physical as hitting the bag or a wrestling class, is an awesome way of relieving stress and pressure, especially right before an exam. Also, by stimulating endorphin production and oxygen flow to the brain, you can increase your mental productivity and actually improve your ability to retain information and problem solve.

We then went on to discuss various topics such as nutrition and performance, and I really think I found a way to reach some of these kids, to show them that school can be an amazing thing if you find a way to use it to create an awesome life for yourself. Knowledge is power.

Live Peacewolf.

Get Addicted to Doing Good

March 20, 2012

Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.” – Voltaire

I read this quote the other day and found it to be incredibly inspiring. What it suggests is that it isn’t enough to mind your own business. It isn’t enough to walk through life without doing anything bad, you must actually make an effort to do good.

When you keep this concept in mind, you suddenly find yourself seeking out opportunities to be of service, to make others happy. Doing good doesn’t have to be about making massive sacrifices. Sometimes an accumulation of small deeds can be just as good as one big deed. In fact, by spreading it out, you may end up making a difference to more people, influencing more lives. And the amazing thing about doing good is that it’s addictive. It feels good and so you find yourself craving it more and more. The more good you do, the more good you want to do. Not a bad addiction to have.

Challenge yourself to open your eyes and your hearts. Set out every day with the intention of finding a way to do good. Inspire others to do the same.

Live Peacewolf

Primal Energy for Urbanites

March 19, 2012

When I introduced the concept of Primal Energy, one of the first questions I received was how could someone gain access to this energy while in an urban setting.  My belief is that to connect with it you have to connect with the Planet, and of course this can best be done in a natural setting, in an environment unmodified by modern society. But is that to say that you can’t get in touch with it in the city, among the brick and the concrete? Well, yes, I believe you can. Here are some suggestions on how to do that:

1- Find yourself a natural sanctuary – Every major city offers natural sanctuaries. In Montreal, we have the amazing Mount Royal. But we also have many parks and tons of areas by the water. Most cities will have some kind of space for you to use, no matter how small.

2- Create your own inspiration – The purpose of a natural setting is partly to remind you that this energy has been around since way before we ever showed up. That said, if you are able to open your mind to that idea, then you can create your own sanctuary, by using plants, trees, water. Create something that will help you calm your spirit and put you in the right frame of mind.

3- Develop a formula (and stick to it) – When I first sensed that I was connected with this Energy, it was due to a set of circumstances: a high intensity run, a beautiful spot, a certain time of day and meditation. Following that moment, I focused on recreating those circumstances as often as possible. At first, it’s the easiest way to do it. Eventually, knowing what your endgame is, you can experiment with various triggers, but in the beginning, create a formula and stick to it.

Remember that this is not an easy thing to do. First, you really need to be able to open and especially empty your mind, and that takes practice. Second, I can’t tell you what to expect or any specific cues to look for. All I can say is that if you do manage to connect the same way I do, you will feel as though your are one with the world around you, your sense of self will be replaced by an amazing feeling of lightness and every stress or concern that you may be carrying will suddenly disappear. So open your mind, awaken your spirit and remember to breathe.

Live Peacewolf

The Primal Energy Theory

March 16, 2012

To anyone who may I have read the previous posts with this same title, please note that I decided to rewrite it, to simplify it, and here it is in its entirety. 

I figured out a while back that the harder I push myself physically, the greater the reward a few minutes later. Of course, this is mostly due to the body’s endorphin release mechanism. This is no big secret to anyone who trains regularly, in fact, it is the main reason why most of us seek out that high intensity workout. Sure, we sometimes enjoy the actual activity we’re doing, but let’s admit it, we are after the rush. But lately, I’ve been realizing something. As I’ve started to take my training sessions to the forest and open sky, I seem to be getting an even greater rush. Greater than I ever get in the gym. Which led me to start reworking on a theory  I started to develop a few years back: The Primal Energy Theory.

Now this theory is based on much more than the results of high intensity exercise. It is based on several factors, which I will attempt to explain as I lay out the path that led me to my conclusion.

The Study of Science

I did well in high school. Got good grades, especially in science classes. But though I was able to memorize and regurgitate what I was being taught, I never took the time to actually contemplate and understand what I was being taught (a failure in our education system in my opinion). When I made the decision to go back to school in my thirties, I was immediately drawn back to the sciences, but this time, it was out of a want to know more about the world around me.

The Sciences are neatly divided into specific disciplines: Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Biology studies what you see. Chemistry studies what you don’t see. And Physics studies how it all works together. (This is a very basic generalization). Of course, where it becomes really interesting, is when you start crossing over from one to the other, which is truly the only way any of it can actually make sense. In this case, as it relates to this theory, it was a matter of understanding the principles of energy (Physics) and relating them to what I could see around me (Biology), and what I couldn’t see (Chemistry).

In Physics, we learn that energy is all around us. It’s produced by movement, by electric current, by heat. It is coursing through our bodies and especially our brains. It acts and reacts in many different ways and more importantly, it is constantly acting on us and all around us. It keeps things together and pushes things apart. But the most important fact for the purposes of this theory, is that it is Universal, it is everywhere, from a single atom to the planets flying through space.

In Chemistry, we are taught that matter is actually composed of tiny little particles called molecules, and that each of these molecules is composed of atoms, and that each of these atoms are held together by electric bonds which are in fact, you guessed it, energy. This part blows my mind actually. At the microscopic level, we are being held together by tiny electrical bonds. Not flesh, not bone, but energy. We are held together by energy people! But what powers those electrical bonds? It’s not our own system. A dead creature doesn’t suddenly fall apart into millions of tiny atoms, something keeps working to keep it all together.

In Biology, we learn, well, many things that contributed to this theory. One of the first contributors was the study of genetics and cell biology. There is such an amazing amount of complex stuff happening at the cellular level, layers upon layers of constant activity, and all within a single cell. And when you consider that a single human body has an estimated 100 trillion cells, and then you consider the billions of humans, and billions upon billions of other organisms that we share this planet with, it’s a pretty mind blowing number of cells to wrap your brain around. But what’s most amazing, is that at the genetic level, almost all the matter in the universe is virtually the same, made up of the same basic components, and yet, we have this incredible amount of diversity from humans to insects to plants to snowflakes. A big massive pool of genetic material being conducted by, well, something. And based on what Physics teaches us, we can assume that something is, you guessed it, energy.

Another contributor from the world of biology came from studying animal behavior. So many aspects of animal behavior are difficult to explain. How birds and butterflies can migrate over thousands of miles, to the same destination, along the same path, without ever have being there. How dogs can sense our emotions or predict when a storm is coming, as if they’re tuned in to a frequency that we just aren’t hearing. Animals are tuned in to something, something we may have lost contact with long ago.

This theory is based in science. Today, modern science tries to go beyond simply understanding the natural world, it wants to master it, to control it and in many ways transform it. But in order to truly understand nature, we must consider a world untouched by modern development, a world where energy can run freely, without being dampened by steel, concrete and any other of man’s unnatural creations. We must consider the natural world, the primal world.

The Primal World  

When I use the word ‘Primal’, I don’t mean a time of cavemen and dinosaurs. What I am referring to is land in its original state, untouched by the modernization of the human species. This can be a forest, a desert, a mountain or an ocean. I feel as though modern man has lost touch with the natural world, the primal world. We covered it up, placed barriers between us and it. The effect that this has had is to cut off our line of communication with the planet, with the energy that all other creatures living in the natural world are tapped into.

I have been fascinated by animals and nature for as long as I can breath. I make no secret of my love and respect for dogs and wolves, but am equally fascinated by the entire animal kingdom. What draws me into their world is the purity of their existence. They live in a world of instincts, and more importantly, they live in harmony with the planet. They are part of something greater than themselves, a system which runs like a well balanced machine of which they are but one of many parts, all tied together in unison*. And though we have to come to understand how much of this system works, the one question we rarely ask is: why does it work? What keeps it running so smoothly?If one of our modern machines breaks down, we fix it. What fixes this machine, what re-calibrates it? Some will argue it’s based on random adaptations, that nature adapts to nature. This is partially true, but I believe there is more to it than that. I also believe it goes beyond this planet, which is but a single component of an even greater system, the Universe. And when you consider the incredible immensity of the Universe, and that somehow it all holds together in a form of chaotic balance, it is very difficult to fathom that there isn’t something else at play.
*James Lovelock has suggested a very complex theory known as the Gaia Hopthesis, which offers some astounding studies that only make sense if this idea of a single complex system is true.

But how can we, as modern humans, reestablish communication with the planet, with the Universe? How can we tap into that energy. For one, we can spend more time in the natural world. But in order to truly establish a direct line of contact, we must adjust our frequency, we must tune our dials to be able to receive the transmissions that the planet and Universe are sending. And that can be done through high intensity physical activity and meditation, which as you’ll see, are all part of the same system.

The Meditative Path

It took me many years to finally understand what I wanted out of meditation. What you get out of it is one of those things that you kind of have to figure out for yourself. When I discuss this with people who haven’t tried it, or did and gave up, the question is often “what is it supposed to do?”. The way I can best explain what meditation is to me, is that it allows me to set my brain to how it is supposed to be, to access my primal mind. Let me explain.

If you study the existence of a wild animal, what you see is life in its purest state. It is without contemplation, without stress. It runs, mostly, on instinct and pays little attention to the past or the future. It truly lives in the moment. This pure primal state, in my opinion, is how we, humans, once were, before we evolved language, consciousness and everything else that came along with it. We spend incredible amounts of energy, well, thinking. We are constantly thinking about yesterday and worrying about tomorrow. What this does is disrupt the natural flow of our primal mind. In Buddhism, they teach that the purpose of life is to achieve a state of pure existence, which in essence, is an existence void of thought, or differently put, of a single thought.

One of the important books in my life is “Zen and the Brain” by James Austin. In it, he discusses some neurological examinations he performed on Zen Buddhist monks. What he found when he ran an EEG test on them, was that their four primary brain waves were almost completely synchronized. You see, our four primary brainwaves – alpha, beta, theta and delta all operate at different frequencies. In the average human mind, these frequencies appear out of synch, but in the case of these monks, they aligned almost perfectly. But what does this mean? When Austin performed other tests, he discovered that these monks lived in a state of constant bliss, of happiness, of empathy for the world around them. They lived purely in the moment. Of course, these monks spent most of their waking life in meditation, so it is to be expected that there would be differences in the way their brains operate. But the question I ask myself is this: has their meditative practice allowed them to transform their brain chemistry beyond what it should be, or did it simply allow the brain to revert back to its original state?

I’ve been practicing meditation for many years, and it is by far the greatest challenge in my life, for the simple fact that I will never be able to perfect it, I will never reach a point where I can say that I am done with it and can now move on to something else. But none the less, there are levels that can be attained, and for me, one of the most important steps was understanding why, what was my reason for doing it. As I said earlier, it allows me to access my primal mind. But coming to this realization required more than my meditative practice, it required something else that is a major part of my life: high intensity physical activity.

Physical Awakening

As far as challenging ourselves, both physically and mentally, nothing does it like intense physical activity. As soon as you heart starts pumping above a certain rate, every fiber of your being is completely aware and awake. It was during one of these intense physical sessions, one of my Peacewolf Runs, that I suddenly became aware of my purpose for meditation. The reason for this lies in the nature of the Peacewolf Run. These runs are something that has evolved over time. When I run in the forest, away from the influence of man, I like to imagine myself running like the wolf. Dodging through the trees, leaping over rocks, growling my way to the top of a mountain. On one of these such runs, I reached the edge of a cliff overlooking the entire forest. With my heart racing from the steep climb, and pumping endorphins through my entire mind and body, I tried to take control of it all by meditating at that moment, to slow down my breathing and at the same time intensify that incredible rush (something I like to call Endorphin Maximization). And at the moment, looking out from my perch and living completely in that moment, my body a tingling frenzy of calm energy, it all made sense. I knew what it was all about, because at that moment I was no longer myself the person, I was part of everything around me. I was the sky above me and the forest below me. My heart beat to the rhythm of the Universe, and I understood. I was part of the Primal Energy. For others, with other beliefs, they will probably describe this moment as being in the presence of God, or a god, or gods, or whatever belief system they choose to follow. But for me, this is what all those beliefs are based on, that sense of something greater, something that we all share and are all a part of.

Making Sense of it All

SInce that time, I’ve spent many hours contemplating what I felt that day. Of course, once I came down from that cliff, the weight of the world came creeping its way back in. A life of purely meditative existence is not something that I am interested in. I enjoy being human and many of the amazing gifts that  come along with it. But now, knowing what I know, believing what I believe, I have the ability to go back to that cliff whenever I choose. I have also discovered other ways of tapping into that Energy. When I spend time with animals, not as their master but as their equal, as their brother, I am able to see through their eyes, to be part of their existence. I feel it then. When I help other to improve their lives, perform selfless acts of kindness, I find myself in that moment, sharing their joy, and feeling that Energy all around us. When I practice martial arts and truly immerse myself in the experience, I feel it then as well. And of course when I meditate, as I try to do every day, I know why I do it, it has a purpose, and having that purpose in my life is one of the greatest feelings one can ever achieve.

Live Peacewolf

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