GOING TILL THE WHEELS FALL OFF: NOT SUSTAINABLE
Deceleration is defined as the reduced speed or rate of something, or the act of slowing down. Slowing down, aka decelerating, changed me. And I intend to tell you how.
What do I mean by ‘changed me’? Well for starters, it slowed me down. My thoughts, my movement, my overall day-to-day process. All of a sudden I could feel things I previously couldn’t feel because I was always accelerating through them. My deceleration began in 2013, when I started training a client who was 50 years my senior, and he introduced me to the concept of seated meditation. He taught me about watching and paying attention to my breath. Now- I was a competitive dude, I watched my breath all the time. When I trained, when I lifted, when I ran, my breath was something I was aware of! But I had never just watched it sitting down. And so this started my story of deceleration. For years, I used my 20 minutes every day to be the only time I decelerated. After all, I was a business owner, I had clients to train, classes to teach, a body to build, I was still only really interested in acceleration. But none the less, everyday, for 5 years, I take time to sit and watch my breath, no matter what.
Have you stopped and taken a look around now a days? It seems like the world is in such a hurry, everywhere. We have become a fast twitching society, reacting at everything that comes our way. We look down more than we look up, we walk faster as if our arrival time to our destinations matters. We drive farther to work to make more money to then buy more stuff. Marketing campaigns bombard our eyes and heads every time we pick up our phone. Food is within an arms reach everywhere we go- and the idea that is propagated? “Spend, buy, you need this.” Society, in my opinion, has sped up to an unsustainable pace.
DECELERATION = REDUCED INJURY = MAXIMUM RECOVERY
In 2014 I hurt my neck, to be precise, I was diagnosed with 2 bulging discs. My pain was severe, I couldn’t tolerate food or liquids at a certain temperature in my mouth, I had trouble sleeping, bending over, essentially doing anything that engaged my neck or face hurt. Doctors suggested I try allopathic methods first. Pain killers weren’t for me- to me they only masked the pain. So next I started some physical therapy and chiropractic work, but again, I was already familiar with these practices. They couldn’t, “fix me”. And so I sought out my bodywork practitioner and close friend. He looked at my neck, looked at my body, looked at me, and told me to, “go slow”. And thats what I did. I felt like I had been given a chance, sent a message, to slow down. After all, these could have been herniations, which would have meant a discectomy (this is when they go into your spine and shave off or remove the herniated part of the disc to alleviate the pressure on your spinal cord).
Now theres a lot of gaps in my story, but I don’t have the time to type it all out here. I want to share with you how slowing down changed me. I recently spent a week immersed in gait and joint mechanics with Gary Ward, acclaimed author and biomechanics specialist, studying joint relationships. So its almost 4 years since my neck injury, and I thought it serendipitous that his entire practice is built around this model of ‘deceleration’. Now he’s talking about deceleration in the sense of learning what muscles decelerate motion. This leads to understanding how to decelerate joint adaptations, and eventually takes you down the rabbit hole of identifying what muscles decelerate what joint actions in which dimensions. For a week we learned how to reverse a muscles shortening action to be able to lengthen it to its true potential. And this was one of his principle rules, “muscles lengthen before they shorten to create motion.”
So I’m about 4 weeks out of his course, almost 4 years out of my injury, and in some regards, 4 years out of a body I was trapped inside of. Since my bulging discs I’ve done a lot; sold my business, opened a private practice in Cambridge, completed 750 hours of Structural Integration school in Maine, not to mention gotten married to my best friend. However, none of this would have started if I hadn’t learned about deceleration, or reducing the speed at which I was doing something. It all started with watching my breath. And 5 years into daily meditation, I’ve only started to scratch the surface as to whats behind breathing patterns.
If you had to describe life, how would you? A lead medical doctor on degenerative disease writes, “the criteria of life can be summarized as organization, information processing, regeneration, and rhythm.” To me this describes breath. Every breath has organization in it, and depending on your environmental stimulus you’re processing something. Breathing has rhythm, and it assists in tissue repair because the diaphragm is the governor of how the body responds to the motion imposed on it. Breathing is life, it is the purest form of what life is. Think about it, we are born into this world by taking our first breath out of water, and we take our last breath before dying. It is with us day in and day out, for our entire lives! We take oxygen in and disperse it to cells (cellular respiration), which then turns into cellular oxidation, which assists in the metabolic response of the body (again, I’m not here to get into those details), where energy is transferred, an action is carried out, allowing waste products to be released, and then everything happens full circle again. Breathing is life!
OWNING YOUR PROCESS: BUILDING YOURSELF
Slowing down my body and my movement really helped my neck heal. It taught me more than that, it got me feeling things I could never possibly feel moving fast. It felt like starting over, and what I learned was that that was okay to do. I didn’t have to push without attention. I didn’t have to keep up with others for a purpose that wasn’t mine. It took me decelerating my life to find my own vision for myself, my own path to walk on.
The reason I share this with you is that being obsessed with fitness, yoga, CrossFit, boot camps, bodybuilding– its all bullshit. It isn’t sustainable. I don’t want to knock on sports, and if you have a sport, awesome! Play it, have fun, do what makes you happy. Though if you’re always accelerating through motion and through life, you may not have the time to see and feel something you don’t even know is there.
Deceleration has helped my body grow and mind expand in ways I never thought about, and ultimately helped make me a much more adaptable, powerful, and balanced person. I finally am at a place in my life where I feel more resilient, connected, and expressive in the way I am each day. I feel healthier, I feel limitless, I feel like I’m the painter of my picture. My muscles can lengthen and shorten, my joints can experience all of their ranges, and my mind has space in it to look at perspectives I didn’t always have. I don’t feel attached to anything except for the fact that we don’t have to run with buffalo just because the buffalo are running. First we have to walk with them, eat with them, and just be with them, otherwise we may lose our footing and get trampled.
The art of going slow will bring you big hurdles, emotional and physical barriers you don’t understand. Embrace them. Stop training to burn your body, because ultimately you only end up burning your connective tissues, and you get stiffer in your ways of thinking. Physical structure does change, I’ve seen it happen. A lot of that starts with quieting down and decelerating your life.