I have a friend who is a wonderful photographer. He enjoys taking photos of birds, of the feathered variety. He takes pains to get just the right angle, the right time of day etc. Over many years I’ve seen hundreds of wonderful photos he’s taken, but the other day he said something that struck me. He said, “I took some photos of lorikeets the other day and I’m really disappointed. These birds are so quick in flight.” He sounded extremely disappointed since he’d tried so hard and travelled so far to take the photos. He went on, “I was trying to get a shot of under their wings but I just couldn’t do it. They move so fast.” I said “I’d like to see the photos anyway. So he emailed them to me and I found two of them to be nothing short of magical. Because my friend was so focused on the shot he wanted to take but, he failed to see the beauty of what he’d taken. He simply could not see the unique beauty he had captured. It then occurred to me that so many of us are like my friend. We are so set on what we want to achieve, we fail to see and appreciate what we do achieve. The message here is don’t miss out on appreciating the uniqueness and beauty of you and what you achieve simply because you are stuck focussing on something you wanted to achieve. In fact what you do achieve could be far more beautiful and unique, than what you set out to achieve in the first place. In other words, the dream might not be as beautiful as who you are or what you have created.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychological therapy tool that I employed regularly when practising psychology. While some clients found EMDR confronting, I found it to be highly successful in desensitising painful memories. During EMDR it is common for clients to see pictures of past events. Usually, amongst all the pictures that flick through the mind, one or more stands out and stays in focus. It is then kept in focus and processed. As it continues to be focussed on, the presenting stressful picture or emotion begins to fade until it is entirely gone, leaving the client free of that emotional pain. Sometimes we are completely unaware of why we are feeling uncomfortable. If this is the case if we focus on the emotion and keep focussing on it and allow it to do its worst, after a relatively small amount of time it will fade away to insignificance. When emotional pain is felt, many of us take to drinking alcohol or eating excessively to comfort ourselves. These are only band aid solutions. They are destructive and don’t solve anything and most of all they allow the destructive emotional pain to continue to exist.
My advice to those wanting to keep their weight the way they want it to be, is to start with your normal diet and gradually modify it by trading bits and pieces of it for substitutes that are lower in calories; lower in salt, sugar and saturated fat. This approach is far more likely to turn into a permanent way of eating than this or that diet. Doing it this way you’ll never be over weight again because you’re eating similar to your usual diet. Simply following this or that diet will have a beginning and an end. You want something that is never ending, a diet that you can stay with and enjoy forever. I started eating differently in 1999 and I enjoy what I eat and never put weight on. Sometimes I’ll have a small portion of so called treats and I enjoy that as a little change, but often when I do this my system doesn’t feel good afterwards. Once you’ve modified your diet the way you want it to be for your weight control you’ll be able to enjoy it and stick to forever. You’ll never have to worry about losing weight again. Always remember that you can acquire a taste after about six weeks. So persevere with each of your substitutions to your diet for at least six weeks. You might at the end of that time prefer your substitute item to your usual food.
After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to compete again this year at age 72 in the INBA Pro-Am World Championships in Dubai on June 13! I wasn’t sure I’d compete again. However I’ve decided to continue to do my part in defying the age and gender stereotypes and continue show what is possible.
Unfortunately there are great many among us, often much younger than 70, who feel they are passed the age of being fit, healthy and proud of their bodies. For those who are physically able, nothing could be further from the truth. For the great many of us, it can be onwards and forwards in life.
You don’t know what you can do until you try. I’ve found that working on fitness and health can change your life, not just physically but also mentally. I’ve seen the glow, irrespective of age, that radiates from those who’ve worked on their health and fitness. They look confident and strong and happy with themselves. They give the message that life is worth living.
By competing this year, I’m hoping to push the pathway a little further forward for those who wish to explore the bounds of the possible. I believe that if we don’t know something is possible we are hardly likely to try and achieve it.
This morning at the gym I saw a male friend of mine in his mid-sixties, lying on a gym mat exercising with a Swiss Ball. He looked depressed. In fact he’s been looking this way for a while. ‘I can’t do what I used to do,’ he lamented.
This friend of mine used to be incredibly physically strong, but in recent times he’s had to tone down his physical activities due to his age and his past injuries. He’s still able to exercise and keep himself healthy but he’s sad that he’s had to tone down his heavy lifting. Like many or perhaps most men, my friend’s self-esteem was linked to his degree of physical strength. But this man still has so to be proud of, and much going for him. He’s in good shape, he has a gentle and caring nature and he can turn his hand to making things like cupboards, cubby houses, tables etc. He’s also a wonderful gardener and has an extensive garden with fruit trees and vegetables galore. He also preserves and makes wine with the fruit from his fruit trees. He is a person who, if you were shipwrecked on an Island you would do well to have around. You’d be looked after and you certainly wouldn’t starve. You would also have a comfortable safe shelter. Unfortunately these days he drags himself around. He simply can’t see all his valuable qualities. He feels washed up and life for him now seems to be a chore. I feel like shaking him and saying, “You’ve still got so much going for you. You’re still able and you look good. By continually focusing on losing a degree of physical strength, you’re magnifying its loss. Why not start thinking about what you can do; something you’d like to do, something that’ll ‘light your fire? Think of something to get excited about! Don’t you know that when one door shuts another door opens and that when one phase of our lives comes to an end, another is waiting in the wings? So look with joy and anticipation to the adventure of the next phase of your life. There is always an adventure waiting to be discovered and great experiences waiting to be had.”
I believe that the recipe for happiness is inside us and that we are the only ones who can know what that recipe is. I’ve seen people miserable in what would be seen as ideal scenarios and I’ve seen others beaming with happiness while struggling through situations of hardship.
Happiness doesn’t present itself to be absorbed, nor does it alight upon us from the heavens. It’s not a passive agent. On occasions, win falls and strokes of good luck can flash into our lives, but they seldom stay around. I believe that happiness is created by exploring and developing one’s own potential and becoming who we want to be. Happiness rarely, if ever, frequents the lives of those who allow themselves to be channelled and controlled by others. I believe that happiness can only accompany the developing true self and that if the developing true self is denied, happiness will suffocate and expire.
Labelling Emotional Arousal
I organised a Xmas party for my fellow gym seniors, who as regular as clockwork, attend the gym three mornings a week. I had tried to think of everything that would make this Xmas party successful. I had made name tags with Xmas stickers and bought some lucky door prises and gifts for the band and the host and hostess. In short I had been planning and working towards this day for at least two months. I was so well prepared. So why was I as nervous as Hell? I couldn’t stand still or relax in any way and I was carrying around an overwhelming sense of dread and foreboding. “Will people enjoy themselves? Have I forgotten something fear, fear, fear. Then suddenly I remembered something, something extremely important. I was doing something outside the ordinary and I felt my efforts would be evaluated in some way and it was this that was causing my state of arousal. We all feel a state of arousal when we step outside the ordinary, particularly if we think we are being judged. I’m sure my fellow Natural Bodybuilders know what I’m talking about. It’s that feeling we get just before we go on stage to compete. Having remembered this I immediately chose to relabel my state of arousal, from dread to excitement and immediately I changed the label to excitement all the positive things about my preparation, and the joy of creating what I had created surged through me I began to eagerly anticipate the party. So before you go out on stage to compete my fellow Natural Bodybuilders, when your arousal is at extreme heights, try changing the label of this arousal from fear to excitement and your feeling of pride in what you have achieved will flow, and so will your confidence. A great body doesn’t happen without a great deal of work and dedication. You have earned the right to feel excited about yourselves. So next time that surge of arousal hits you make sure you label it excitement and go forth with confidence and pride.
THE HOSPITAL VISIT
“Do what you can while you can”
He was much changed this time. His once towering strength looked, much diminished, almost lifeless. He saw me and his is eyes lit up, “The Hospice rejected me,” He said, almost joyfully. “They only take those who have less than two months to live, so at least I’ve got two months more.” Two months more, I thought, as I looked at his once strong body now emaciated and his once curly mass of grey hair, now thinned and sparse.
He reached gingerly towards a box of tissues on the tray in front of him, his fingers moving in a scissors action, fluttering like two butterflies as they tried to grip the tissue on top. I moved my arm ready to assist. “No, no,” he said “I must do this. I need to do this.” Suddenly images flashed before my eyes of him, not that long ago, racing vintage cars at over 100 mph. Such a change, I thought. He coughed a weak cough and coughed again, in an attempt to bring up whatever needed to be brought up, but it simply refused to oblige. Still he smiled. The human spirit is amazing, I thought, being able to adjust as it does.’
“You know,” he said, quite excited, almost proud, “I’ve found a way to eat my breakfast of a morning. I haven’t got the strength to open the Weet-Bix wrapper or break up the Weet-Bix or pour the milk, the nurse has to do that for me, but if I use both my hands I can manage to get hold of the bowl and gradually bring it to my mouth and lick out my breakfast.”
His demeanour then darkened, “I’m a bit worried though,” he said, “I now have a great deal of difficulty pressing the buzzer for the nurse. I can only manage to get enough pressure if I use two fingers.” He then proceeded to show me how, and eventually his wavering thumbs rested one upon the other. Then he looked up at me, “but what will I do when I can no longer press the buzzer? I can’t call out. They wouldn’t hear me. This is as loud as I can speak. He then lowered his eyes. “You know,” he said, “I can no longer control my bowels or my bladder. The nurses have to clean me up. They are lovely, they don’t seem to mind.” Even with all this, he still radiated a gentle acceptance. It was time for me to go. I kissed his hand and he smiled, but as I walked out I looked back fleetingly and saw, not a smile of acceptance, but a look of desolate despair.
I walked to the lift and pressed the elevator button, my mind still completely immersed in what I’d just witnessed. I was lucky, I was alive, I was mobile and I still had time. As I walked out of the hospital the freezing winter air hit my face and hands, ‘Don’t put things off,’ I thought as I hurried towards the car, ‘there might not be a tomorrow.’
I wonder what you think about difference. Many human beings have difficulty coping with difference. Many see difference as something to be avoided at best, and annihilated at worst.
How do you see difference? Do you see difference as some dark night invader ready to swallow you up at any second, or assault you, or wipe you off the face of the Earth? Or do you see difference as highlighting the diversity of life, like a colourful display in a country garden?
For me, difference serves to relieve us of the monotony of sameness and to escape rigidity of thought and to shake us out of complacency. I see difference as a catalyst for growth and the enhancement of the spirit and for injecting spice into life and for stimulating ideas. I see difference as fostering compassion, increasing understanding and illuminating what we have become, good or bad.
As I see it, rejecting difference ensures stagnation, the repetition of sameness and a life of continued monotony. Thank God for difference!