I first learned about mindfulness, and my lack of this skill, when I was in West Virginia for week at a MovNat workshop many years ago. I kept falling off logs because I couldn’t or wouldn’t focus on calming my body and mind down enough to stay steady.
Also, I wasn’t truly listening to the cues from my teachers because I was in such a state of frustration. I realized I had a lot of room for growth ... and not all of it was physical!
One of those teachers was the MovNat founder Erwan LeCorre. I can still hear his voice inside my head with his French accent, “Loorrrriiii, relax and think about what I have been teaching you!”
I couldn’t balance worth a darn. I blamed it on my age. Erwan would have none of that.
Then it hit me. I discovered there was a lot of noise inside my head. I was hearing the cues -- but not actively trying to assimilate them into my body. I had a lot of negative self-talk going on, due to the stress on falling off everything, so I wasn’t really trying to let my brain and body work together -- and I couldn’t (or wouldn’t!) actually feel what my body was doing when I was moving.
I realized I couldn't focus and I had very little proprioception -- awareness of the relative position of parts of the body and strength used in movement.
I also began to see that in nearly every area of my life at that time, (this was many years ago) that I did almost everything too quickly.
As the week in West Virginia went on, I began to understand how much value there was in moving more slowly and mindfully. In many cases, people who were less fit than me, could do a lot more easily, because their mind and body were more in synch.
I also had fear -- fear of falling, fear of looking silly, a fear of getting hurt and maybe even a fear of coming to grips with fear ... because admitting that made me vulnerable.
Unfortunately, fear wipes out mindfulness.
This realization was a turning point for me.
So after falling off a big, scary log in the final MovNat challenge in front of the whole group, I stopped. I got up. Something had changed. My fear was gone. I fell far and hard, but I didn’t get hurt. My peers applauded me for trying.
The internal fight with myself was over.
As I got up out of the creek and back on the big, scary log, there was a new humility and a new confidence -- interesting how these two work together to create good.
All the sudden I knew what had to be done, but more importantly, I knew how to do it. The process became clear. I focused, I mean really focused, and crossed the log mindfully, and without falling off for the first time.
I was released from ‘just getting through it’ and I entered a new zone in which I was finally open to understanding, feeling and responding to how my body was moving and interacting more methodically with my environment.
It was liberating and exhilarating.
Mindfulness became a new skill that I worked to nurture from that point on -- incorporating it more fully into my work life (at that time it was marketing) and especially into my practice of athletics at MovNat Ohio, and now, years later, with everyone I coach at MoveStrong Kettlebells.
Fast-forward to Mindfulness with Kettlebells
Some people come to MoveStrong already equipped with the skill of mindfulness. It may be from their Pilates, Yoga or a specialized sport experience. They might have a background in dance or the martial arts where they had to learn to be very intentional in their movement. It may just be their nature to be comfortable inside their heads while their body is moving.
Other people are more like how I started. They come from a background of moving fast ... running, cycling, swimming where Mindfulness isn't as critical to safety.
There is a lot of learning and understanding what you body is doing when using kettlebells. I just had a new member tell me that she is really enjoying the process of learning about how her body is moving and what muscles are engaging at different points in the movement.
People discover their lats, glutes, hamstrings and begin understanding the meaning of rolling knee-caps into quads, rooting feet, packing shoulders, breathing diaphragmatically. It can seem like an endless sea of cues. If the student is patient with the process, they can achieve these moves, and hundreds of others, with power and precision, but mindfulness if key.
Don’t think about the bell .. think about how your body is moving. Mindfulness is key to your safety and success.
This is a skill that is refined with practice. It is vital. My RKC friend Chris refers to kettlebell training as yoga-with-weights to stress the mental calm that is required. Over time, the body begins to take over; there is still thinking, but less, and more feeling.
That is when you begin to fall in love with the how the movement feels inside your head and inside your body. It is fun to watch people get really comfortable with this process.
Very soon, you won’t have to work at mindfulness. It becomes second nature and that focused calm feels really good.