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A monthly series of several articles by various members of Summa Foundation were published in Philly Health & Fitness Lifestyle Magazine. The articles present aspects of inner work which are immediately relevant to those active in health and fitness disciplines. The first article is presented below in its entireity.
Excerpts of more of the series are also available for review on this web site.
"Develop Your Body but Don't Leave Your Mind Behind"
by Joe Chielli
What would you think of an auto racing team that spent all their time and money developing a beautiful exterior design along with an extremely powerful engine, brimming with horsepower, but neglected to connect the steering wheel shaft to the front wheels?
Duh! Clearly an automobile with all that beauty and horsepower is absurd without the proper control mechanisms that allow the machine to be driven in a chosen direction.
Ok, so you yell at the mechanics and they finally connect the steering wheel shaft and even fine tune the suspension and you think everything has been taken care of, until the day of the race when you see the mechanic's 15 year old kid who doesn't even have a license, asleep in the driver's seat.
At this point you realize that your racing team has a blind spot.
They are extremely well-focused on the automobile's physical structure and the horsepower they can coax out of the engine. However, when it comes to the question of control and guidance, they are asleep and clueless.
Until recently most of the physical trainers of health and fitness in America had a similar blind spot. The emphasis was always on the strength and beauty of the body. The control and guidance factor of the mind was too often ignored in the training process.
No wonder so many people have crashed and burned in their obsession with fitness and beauty. After hours of working out, thousands of dollars spent on vitamins, health food, and perhaps some cosmetic surgery, they eventually faced the same unhappiness, the same insecurities, the same anxieties and stress.
As we approach a new millennium of health and fitness training, it is finally becoming clear that the mind is a critical variable in every training equation for the total wellness of a human being.
The important questions now are what exactly do we mean by "mind"?... is it really even possible to be in control of that incredibly complex, dynamic, bio-psychological process called "me"?... and if it is possible, then in what way does one go about learning how to control one's mind-body connection, one's life, perhaps even one's fate?
Summa Foundation, located in Philadelphia, is dedicated to a deeper understanding of these questions and to the experiential answers that come from study and effort in this area.
Following in a long tradition of self-study and experimentation, those involved in the work at Summa Foundation would probably agree that the key to unlocking these questions is something that we all have a direct experience with but really don't think much about; a very common phenomenon in everyone's daily life, though typically ignored. The profound importance of this key factor is rarely understood.
Attention! What is this stuff called "attention? Is it really a key to higher possibilities? What does it have to do with health and fitness? Why is it so important?
Consider for a moment how attention brings things into existence for you. What you have not touched with your attention does not exist for you. Reader, don't believe this. Wherever you are, pause now and listen...
Do you hear sounds that a moment before, didn't exist for you until you brought your attention to them. The same is true for all the senses. Bring your attention to your body and how you are sitting as you read this. Pause ... bring attention to your body...
Your attention may have brought your posture, or maybe some unnecessary muscular tensions into existence for you. Perhaps you discovered the sensation of hunger or thirst. Prior to focusing your attention on your body these things may not have existed for you in the present moment. Whatever you have not touched with your attention does not exist for you.
Now this does not mean that the pickpocket stealing your wallet while you watch the fireman trying to rescue a person about to jump from the 25th floor of a high-rise does not exist because your attention does not touch him. Someone else could see him and shout out. But for you, in those moments when your attention is someplace else, he virtually does not exist.
Now consider this carefully. If your attention creates your reality by bringing things into existence for you, and if what you don't touch with your attention is virtually nonexistent for you, then your attention functions like the creative force of a personal god, bringing into existence your own edited version of the universe.
Does this sound important enough to make you want to pay more attention to attention? Can you begin to see what the Zen master was talking about?
Here opens a wide realm of self-study, and you can begin to see how the question of attention leads into some of the deepest questions about life and living.
The patterns of your attention form the blueprint of your life. Don't believe it. Think about it. Think about what captures your attention. What do you give your attention to out of necessity, because of habit, due to pleasure, due to pain? Does it not begin to define who you are? Can you begin to see yourself, your sense of personal identity, emerging out of your patterns of attention?
Attention! So is it possible to control attention? It seems that if you can control your attention you may have the ability to get control of your life. You may be able to create a life that really enables you to enjoy the health and fitness that you put so much time and money into.
Summa Foundation provides an ongoing workshop series for people to learn and practice self-discovery by educating themselves on the use and control of attention. It also provides a rare opportunity to work with the unique mindful movement exercises collected by G.I. Gurdjieff to help integrate one's physical, emotional, and intellectual aspects while developing control of attention.
Developing the ability to focus attention for purposes of self-development is a lot like training the body. It requires discipline and effort. Like the muscles of the body, this ability to put your attention in service of your highest potential gets stronger with practice and exercise.
The workout regimen for the next millennium will reflect the realization that to develop the horsepower and physical beauty of the body without working on the guidance mechanisms of the mind is absurd. Training of the body needs to be connected with training of the mind. Training of the mind means training of attention.
In the East, the masters of the martial arts understood this principle deeply. To develop an outstanding warrior, training of attention along with training of the body was essential. In western sports this is slowly beginning to sink in with meditation and power yoga showing up more and more in training camps across the country.
The personal trainers of the next millennium will begin their teaching with techniques for attention control.Televisions will no longer blare in front of treadmills, and may become an anathema to workout rooms. The workout area itself will tend to become a more beautiful and sacred space rather than an extended locker room arena.
Joe Chielli is director of Summa Foundation, a nonprofit tax-exempt organization dedicated to techniques of self-transformation and personal growth. Summa collaborates in the teaching and promotion of the unique mindful movement exercises through an international network of dedicated teachers and students.