Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lift Your Spirit, Free Your Mind & Make Savage Your Body. Article used with respect and courtesy, written by Coach Scott Sonnon.

The Trinity of Transformation: Effort, Persistence, Awareness

"In such a highly developed humanity as the present one, each man by nature has access to many talents.  Each has inborn talent, but only a few have inherited and cultivated such a degree of toughness, endurance, and energy that they really become a talent, become what they are -that is, release it in works and actions."
(Nietzsche, Human, All too Human) 

Healthy and happy people inspire me, because health and happiness require that we safely, and consistently overcome resistance to become so. Resistance lies in wait to cannibalize your energy, anchor your spirit, and decay your motivation. Health and happiness require effort, persistence and awareness to overcome this resistance which seeks to mire you in disease and misery.

We are stone age bodies living in digital age convenience. Our Paleolithic design intended to sprint across tundra tracking prey and gathering nature's abundance. Yet here we rot, bloated with fast food, blinded with infomercials and buried with gadgets to distract us from our natural health and divinely inherited happiness. We have managed to create more resistance, yet have lost the will to overcome it.

I'm not implying that suffering through uncivilized conditions holds nobility. I don't suggest that an austere life holds more righteousness. Asceticism can be used as a distraction and escapism just as easily as video games and television.

A decade plus ago, I stumbled upon a strength guru from the former Soviet Union, named Vladimir Chubinsky who crystallized my world view by pointing me to that which was too obvious to notice:  The barbell does not create resistance. Gravity creates resistance. The attraction of iron to Earth creates resistance when one attempts to move them. Energy is the “relationship between.”

The plates and bars are attached to the Earth. The physical expression of my desire to move them creates resistance. If I muster the effort, persistence and awareness to overcome that resistance and I break gravity as Vladimir called his Gravitational Gymnastics, then I transcend myself. When he told me he would teach me to harness squat well over 1,000 pounds in two hours, I knew he held special qualities to his character. He did help me accomplish this, but I took something much more valuable than breaking the gravity of that lift.  I took the final element to my philosophy of strength: that being the notion of overcoming resistance.

It is not what you fight with but what you fight for - that means something worthwhile. You find your strongest source of motivation at your moral and ethical foundation. People need motivation to overcome the resistance of conveniences, habits and fear. However, for me, helping people find their unique trigger of motivation remains an ever-elusive mystery. “Each person has within his own control an enormous power of the internal strength. It is a sleeping giant within you waiting to be triggered through an emotional force. You alone can learn to release this power through your own unique key." ( Mike Dayton, Mr. America and Kung-fu Master)

People spend exorbitant amounts of money, travel to remote and exotic corners of the planet, and blindly devote themselves to charismatic figures all in the name of health and happiness. Why? You can easily answer, “health and happiness are good and disease and misery are bad.” However, if that were true, WHY then do people remain unhealthy and unhappy?

We often remain unhealthy and unhappy because we have yet to identify our unique motivational trigger(s) which empower us to overcome resistance. 

In working with people over the years in different countries with different goals and different circumstances, I can tell you that no two people share the same motivation to overcome resistance. What empowers one person to push away from her desk to go for a walk does not empower another to get off the couch and go play with his children. What empowers one person to face an abusive spouse does not empower another to confront an inappropriate co-worker. Each of you possesses a totally unique source of motivation. 

Overcoming resistance manifests in three different challenges: those requiring effort, those requiring persistence, and those requiring awareness. We cannot passively overcome these challenges. We need ACTION (including “recovery” for those of us who have the compulsion to over-train)

Throughout life, we face all three of these challenges, at any one time one challenge dominates.

The Trinity

Throughout my travels and research I discovered that these three challenges corresponded intimately with three archetypal personalities. I write my philosophy of strength as a Trinity to represent the meeting of three.

Studying with Russian Olympic Coaches to former KGB intelligence officers to Siberian shaman, I uncovered an insight into the psychological research into the notion of “co-personalities” (Red Gold: Peak Performance Techniques of the Russian and East German Olympic Victors by Dr. Grigori Raiport.) I consider it "hard wiring" – archetypal imprinting of character. In these patterns, we trace traits, social structures, mythology, folklore and art. I also think of this in terms of the Christian Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and what I was taught of Ayurvedic medicine: the tri-dosha body types of pitta, kapha and vata. I was taught it as a martial artists understanding: kata (practice), kumite (competition) and kihon (training). I state nothing new. 

Lift Your Spirit, Free Your Mind & Make Savage Your Body

I present the following from the perspective of the masculine gender, because I am a man. I cannot, nor do I claim to, understand the feminine. Femininity holds its own unique mystery historically described as the Trinity of Maiden, Mother, Crone (or Siren, Queen, Wise-woman). Whichever feminine Trinity you wish to express you may choose. I have little knowledge of it, and as I age femininity grows even more enigmatic to me.

When comparing the current court of public opinion on the masculine archetypal trinity as compared to the feminine, we see that society ill-defines masculinity. For instance, the phrase “<span>fight-flight-or-freeze</span>” has become a household aphorism referring to the so-called “reflex” options that males experience when confronted by aggression or crises. This theory relates to the immature, untrained tendency of males to combat, retreat, or remain paralyzed when experiencing an anxiety producing event. Notice how the lesser of these three demons is fighting. Combating the foe is the best option for which the masculine can hope in contemporary society. No wonder men feel confused. Either they are uncouth barbarians or they are cowardly eunuchs. 

As my emphasis implies, masculine responses may be matured and trained beyond these raw reflexes. This maturation relates intimately to the Trinity or Warrior (exert rather than fight), King (persist rather than flight), and Monk (be aware rather than freeze). The Warrior takes action and expends the appropriate force necessary to resolve the situation in the most expedient manner possible – underdeveloped he can only fight with reckless abandon. The King endures the war, judiciously conserving scarce resources and choosing his battles – underdeveloped he can only flee. The Monk patiently concentrates and focuses his attention upon every essential detail of a situation – underdeveloped he can only freeze helplessly.

Psychology professor and researcher Shelley E. Taylor illuminates the biochemistry of the feminine archetypes. Described as “befriend-mend-or-tend” I presume relates to Maiden, Mother, and Crone.  Professor Taylor describes the disparity between male and female response to aggression and crisis.   Befriend-mend-or-tend portrays the mature, positive perspective of the feminine archetypes, compared with the immature, negative perspective of the masculine.

Because our gender has such negative stigma, men receive constant bombardment through media that we must get “in touch with our feminine side.” This results as a by-product of the feminist movement’s intention to enrich the lives of women who rightly deserve equality. The feminist movement made great strides to understanding the biochemical impact of femininity within a crisis. 

In contemporary times, however, within themselves men do not need increased femininity. Men feel remarkably overwhelmed by the feminine and actually need an increase and a strengthening of a mature masculinity. Hopefully, this will offer e a clearer, more positive, more mature version of the masculine trinity. We are capable of much grander responses than the immature reflexes of fight-flight-or-freeze.

Most traits and behaviors that exude masculinity receive social stigma in current society: such as aggression, competition, confrontation, offense. Some consider these terms politically incorrect. As a result, masculinity suffers from ambiguity, ignorance and ridicule. Men endure endless social castration and emasculation. We critically need a balance of the feminine and the masculine. We must temper the enchanting, nurturing, and organizing, with the ambitious, protective, and forceful. As a result, what I elaborate upon regards the masculine expression of the Trinity in the hopes of offering a useful, albeit time-specific contribution.

Warrior, King, Monk

These three archetypes exist throughout all cultures and history: the Warrior, the King and the Monk. There is a fourth path which is not pursued, but rather requires overcoming - the slave (or the “thrall”) . My interpretation depicts the Monk, Warrior and King. Locked in an eternal struggle: each totem crucial to the realization of the total person. Throughout life we wear the hats of each archetype to become a complete person. However, we  always find our greatest challenge with one of the three, and it is that challenge which defines our life and the archetype which holds the most influence upon us.

Symbolism helps us identify what challenges us most at any particular time in life, and how to address that challenge. In life we choose to face that challenge or to turn away from it. We often meet our destiny, while running from it. Facing challenges creates balance and turning away – imbalance. 

The Way of the Warrior

The Way of the Warrior contains the Path of Action and holds challenge of Effort

In today’s ultra-PC environment, people seldom comprehend and often vilify the Warrior. It is the most controversial of the archetypes because people fear the Warrior’s power. Society recalls the cruel acts of tyrants and villains and wrongly associates them with the Warrior. The Warrior is not synonymous with rage or violence, which are distorted expressions of congested and stunted growth. However, the drive, will and dedication to progress are innate characteristics of our species. When balanced by the King and Monk, Warriors are calm, tolerant and forgiving… though ever-vigilant and protective. 

The Warrior, properly accessed, empowers our life. Following this path we create order out of the chaos of our life by courageously confronting wrong-doing. The Warrior’s vast energy source permits us to aggressively pursue our goals and protect our right and the right of our loved ones to health and happiness. Warriors may cautiously begin an activity, but once started exert every ounce of effort. When lacking balance with the King and Monk, Warriors tend to gain weight, have slow metabolisms, over-sleep, and may become sluggish and lethargic. But as the Warrior, we get ourselves moving again after a period of stagnation.  

Though Warriors may be slow to understanding an idea or issue, once they do they remember forever (including when someone wrongs or aids them.) As a Warrior, we live an empowered life in the service of our friends, family and team; and as a result, we demonstrate devotion and loyalty like a wolf to its pack. 

Effort is the hallmark of Warriors. We aggressively destroy the enemies of transformation: drama, desires, distractions, excuses, rationalizations. We burn them away in the fires of your training sessions. The Warrior helps us clear space in our life for renewal: a new, more just order.

While capable of fighting when necessity demands, the Warrior knows that the real war is within. We honor this pledge to self-transformation with each training session: the fight between us and the exercise by living life one repetition at a time. Without consistent exertion through training, we will feel out of sorts. Hard training is the sword of the Warrior! Without steady training, we digress to greed, envy, and possessiveness. When sustaining a vigorous regimen, you become grounded and stable, productive and industrious.

The Way of the King

The Way of the King comprises the Path of Leadership and holds the challenge of Persistence

The King guides his people to endure hardship and persist through life’s ubiquitous challenges. The King devotes himself to the worthy cause of stewarding family, friends, and country. He accepts personally responsibility for the safety and well being of his tribe. As the conduit for channeling energy, he attempts to allocate resources appropriately.

When balanced by the Warrior’s action and the Monk’s awareness, the King can endure lengthy bouts of activity and remain centered, calm and determined. When imbalanced, his attention and efforts become too wide-spread and cannot address all of his concerns. As a King, we create a balanced life so that we use energies wisely – not trying to do too much, too fast, too long, too intensely. However, as a King, we know that even moderation requires moderation; otherwise nothing gets adequate attention or sufficient effort.  As the King, we provide intuitive guidance with great discernment and accuracy. Kings lead with great planning skills, so judiciously use your resources knowing the stamina required for the situation.

The King needs to test himself. What is ambition without a purpose; drive without a worthy goal? Kings understand Competition derives from the Latin roots con and petire meaning “to seek together.” We discover that competition is not only healthy, but productive. When balanced through competitive outlets, Kings demonstrate sharp intelligence and piercing charisma leading their people and themselves to victory. When imbalanced, Kings can be short-tempered and uneconomical with energy. Without proving their worth to themselves, Kings can become resentful and jealous. 

When balanced by the Monk and Warrior, the King rules with firmness, but with magnanimity and kindness.  We gain the patience and clarity to choose our battles, the compassion to sacrifice for the whole, and the toughness to persist against overwhelming opposition when necessary. When rigorously tested in the cauldron of competition, we face life with confidence in our abilities and readily attract material prosperity due to our noble character. 

The Way of the Monk

The Way of the Monk entails the Path of Discipline and holds the challenge of Awareness

The Monk calls us into the unknown as the archetype of awareness and insight. When the following the Way of the Monk, we quest after internal wisdom, though we may be clueless as to what we seek when we begin. On this path, we explore hidden knowledge passionately. The Monk owns a creative, flexible spirit and generates ideas rapidly though forgets them just as quickly. The Monk thinks, moves, and feels with passion. On this path, we must keep our attention focused upon on the inner blueprint in order to listen intently to the compass of intuition.

The Monk guards esoteric knowledge, and as a result must be balanced with the King’s ability to patiently endure the long winter and the Warrior’s ability to engage in combat. If not balancing King and Warrior, we become out of touch with the outside world. Swimming with lofty ideals, we lack groundedness. During times of imbalance, we experience fear, nervousness and anxiety. Due to our creative ideas and enthusiasm we need to be well-grounded in the King and Warrior or face rapid fatigue. The Monk harbors low tolerance for fluctuations in routine. 

The Monk helps us transform ourselves through rigorous physical discipline and structured attention. The Monk holds sacred the body and mind as a church within which the spirit flourishes. Should we neglect consistent discipline, we lose confidence and stamina. Elevating the spirit requires a disciplined mind and body. We create sacred space and time for personal transformation through daily personal practice . Practice centers us and deepens our understanding through strict attention to breathing, structure and movement: to technique, or form.

Balancing the Trinity

Balanced integration is the key to happiness and health.

The Warrior is brash and may train solely for exertion’s sake. He'll ignore the impact of his efforts upon his recovery and his ability to sustain daily activities. He'll over-train and use improper technique, becoming fatigued, exhausted and injured. He must be balanced by the attention to detail of the Monk, and the patient, planned endurance of the King.

The King will create the program which challenges prior accomplishments, yet neglect to concentrate his efforts on any one task sufficiently. He'll focus on so much that he won't attend any goal with enough resources. He must be balanced with the singularity of the Warrior’s effort and the scrutiny of the Monk’s concentration.

The Monk will become so fixated on refining every nuance that he will never stride to make any advancement, never push the envelope with enough gusto. He relishes the peace he feels in his routine, but without the drive of the Warrior and the ambition of the King, his routine quickly becomes an enslaving habit, leading him to regress and atrophy.

One must learn all three ways by developmentally following each challenging path of Awareness, Effort and Persistence. As a man passing along the wisdom of the prior generations to the hearts of the subsequent, one must wear a different hat for different people at different times: one day a Monk, the next a Warrior, the following a King. So many times we fall into over-specialization; and don't realize that we are seeing life only through the short-sightedness of one path. Only in understand all three challenges can one truly overcome resistance, and break gravity strong enough, long enough, and perfectly enough to effect meaningful transformation upon ourselves.

Very Respectfully,

Scott Sonnon


My views: Coach Sonnon has transcended beyond the physical understanding of physical training. We all are, men especially, Warriors, Kings & Monks. Seek the Warrior within, exude the King within, aware of the stillness of the Monk within.

Thank you Coach Sonnon for writing this wonderful and enlightening article. 

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