Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Power of Thought: Lessons from the Observation of a Logo

Since I started spreading the message of my business and vision, I have also been getting a fair share of inquisitive remarks at first glance of my logo.  So far I have been hearing 3 main questions:

1. "Why is he lifting a big box over his head?"
2. "Oh wow, you’re all about lifting heavy stuff huh?"
3. "Shouldn't the guy be standing straighter and more even?"

The first question is a direct and unassuming one.  I don't mind getting asked in a way that might sound dumb to some.  It's actually like saying "Tell me about this thing here, I am interested in hearing your perspective."

That’s a beautiful way of communicating in my opinion.  It demonstrates that they have an open mind and are willing to learn.

The second question is one that assumes that I am all about one thing only; getting as strong as possible or doing what many adolescent males speak of: getting huge.

That type of question hits me almost as annoyingly as a low blow during a sparring session. To hear someone mention that you and your business are one-dimensional sometimes makes you want to toss the gloves and bring out the fisticuffs!

Then you realize that perhaps the person is still young and is only speaking according to how they tend to think about things in general, their inherited thought pattern.

That notion then scares me.  I feel I have to educate that person on the many aspects of personal training and all that trainers are actually capable of helping others achieve for themselves.  Then I pray they can let go of their close-mindedness and seek higher levels of understanding of the things around them.

The third question is one that shows me how some people keep an ideal or “perfection” in their head that usually involves symmetry.  From what I have observed, they are the same people who are very hard on themselves for not being the way they desire and carry a negative vibe from none other than negative thoughts.

Those are the people I would love to get free of that thought pattern.  I was once there and I know how awful it is.

The message hammered home from observing people’s responses to my company logo is that you can't please them all, and you can't get your intentions through to everyone from a mere image.  Sounds cliché, I know, but the truth behind it is that people are in different thought patterns, preoccupations, solidified beliefs, mental states, and realities everywhere you go and at any given time... it's like a world of mental chaos out there.

And it’s probably worse than it has ever been.

Why bother with any of this psychoanalysis?

 Well first I will mention that it has helped me understand how to approach others as a coach for the sake of their benefit.

For example, the people who asked question number one are more open minded and will likely be easy to coach with less obstacles to overcome and good self learning.

The people who asked question number two will likely require more explanation, from different perspectives, and expected to have less retention.

The people behind question number three probably require being shown the bright side of things in life and given gentle motivation in order to open up.  These are just three classical examples but there can be many others and variations or blends.

Making observation of people’s reaction was also to point out something crucial about the reality of life.  One of my present beliefs since I have shaken free from a past of fear, guilt, and depression is that we are all in total control of our own reality through the way we think.

In other words, there is no such thing as an objective or universal reality, but rather an unlimited number of realities.  That means that our own observation of reality, changes reality.  Thought is just that powerful.

The reality of life for in each of our minds is believed to be a certain way based on all of the experiences we each have had and memory we have created.  It is easy then to believe that life is that certain way and can only be that certain way.  But we shouldn’t, because it isn’t.

Even the relationship between energy, time, and space is not truly understood... for all we know, a change in thought here could displace particles over there to a new position.

Life is what we make it... with our thoughts.  Thought is a good thing in terms of interacting, learning and adapting, but thought can equally be a bad thing in all the same avenues if it traps us.

Thought is what creates associations of ideas which may possibly block understanding.  How?
The block arises from getting confused and not understanding something.  The mind then gets a negative emotion and creates a negative thought towards that thing and it is then avoided.

This brings me back to my logo...

Do you see how the man is holding up a black box over his head?  Well the intention was not to have a flashy logo that makes people say “Cool! He’s so buff.”, but rather a symbol that means something of value to anyone out there.  Let’s observe this thing together...

The Black Box of Mystery

In science and engineering, the black box is the mysterious device that is viewed in terms of its inputs and output results but not understood in terms of its inner workings.  It is a thing of confusion that is there and serves important functions in certain processes.

The inner workings of the human body and even the so called "secrets to health and fitness" today are direct examples of that black box.  People don't understand how it all works so they give up trying the processes associated with it.  A crucial thing to grasp before reading on is that fitness success does not work one way for everyone, it is very much a personal thing dependent on you and what's going on with you.

My point in including a black box and placing it in the man's hands overhead was not about lifting up a heavy box!  It wasn't even about lifting!  It was to say that you can still reach a desired condition by simply experimenting with your inputs to the body and observing the outcomes, without ever knowing what really happened inside of you.

That is, MASTERING a process with the box involved and achieving MASTERY of your being.  Do not let the black box be a block, use it in the way you must with an open mind, and in a sense remove that block out of your way.

Do you see how the man is easily holding the seemingly heavy black box and even walking with it?  He has mastered the process and himself... and it wasn't even that hard for him.  He has found the key to having Limitless Fitness and it was attained “through” the black box – hence the abbreviation, LF, is sitting inside the box.

The science doesn't really matter, but being a bit of a scientist does!  You simply have to remove the negative thoughts and understand that a part of life is keeping an opening mind to learn through experimentation.  Experimenting in a controlled manner so you can at least test and observe which change caused a result.

You don’t know how to exercise, eat well, or think right to get fit the way you want?  So what!  You don’t have to know exactly how.  Try by doing something instead of nothing and DO NOT QUIT.

Do even better by seeking the help of a qualified and successful coach in that field.  Let them help guide you through the process from their own experience to avoid injury and serious mistakes.  Then it won't be that hard.  What matters most is that you remain OPEN MINDED to try and LEARN.

Learn from what you have tried and use what you have found to work for you. APPLY your knowledge. Forget about using the exact methods you have already done that did not work – that’s serious mistake number one and leads you towards insanity.

You can actually achieve personal SUCCESS by not even understanding the internal workings of your body or the “fitness secrets”.  Remember to try out new things in a timely experimental manner and applying what you have learned to work.  Before that you need to have positive thoughts, including motivation, trust, and hope, to embark on an experiment.  Simultaneous with that is removing the negative, fearing, and doubting mind that blocks you.

LEARN. APPLY. SUCCEED.  That is the summarized process using the black box towards self mastery.  It is the slogan of my company and is associated with the Limitless Fitness symbol and logo.

The Mission Behind The Symbol

You now understand my intentions behind the symbol I use for the Limitless Fitness logo.  I hope you can now see that it has everything to do with you and all of us.  It has to do with awareness.  Here is the mission statement which says it all.

The Mission: to increase awareness of self to each client in order to remove limitations and achieve mastery of mind, emotions, and body. Total empowerment.

Observing Yourself: Finding Your Limits

You have observed others and the way they think through the questions they ask and the statement they make in interactions.  Now consider doing the following observation of yourself:

Have you ever sat quietly and observed your own thought and thought patterns?  Have you noticed how you look at objects, nature, and people around you, or how you respond to an interaction with someone?

Observe from a neutral and non-judging manner.  Sit and observe it as though you are watching a movie, your thoughts being the actors.  Do you see how your mind reacts and the activities it goes through?

If you have not done so, then I urge you to try it.  You will learn a great deal about yourself and others. You will in essence be observing the black box which is your mind and which is society.

Do you see any obstacles present in the way you think?  Obstacles that control you, stop you, or take you away from that which you truly desire to be, or to have?

You now know the black box that stands in your way.

What will you need to do now, differently than before, to get that which you truly desire?

Please leave a comment below...
Contact me to learn more.

Monday, 3 June 2013

What’s your Gut Feeling? – Ask its Brain and Pay Attention!

In my recent blog articles entitled “Nutrients for Thought – Parts 1 and 2", I discussed the importance of good nutrition for a more complete and functional physiology, a faster metabolism, and good brain function.   In the current article I will attempt to elaborate more on the connection between the brain and the gut, and the connection with emotion.  Both topics go hand in hand, and can allow one to better understand how they are functioning based on how they are feeling, and perhaps the reverse effect of improving one’s gut function, ability to think, and the awareness of self as means of improving their health and their life.

Same physiology; same problems

Think back to a time when you ate something that didn’t agree with you.  It didn’t take long to get a bloated sensation, then a severe gas pressure build up, then cramping pains, and the intense feeling of misery in your head right before you found a toilet and spray painted the inner bowl with a nice shade of brown.  Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic but I’m sure you can relate to that experience at least once?  You must have wondered what the heck was going on inside of you for all that to happen!
The above situation is an example of the interconnected web-like nature of our body that I had described in the previous post.  What few people realize or remember is that we have what is considered a learning and thinking BRAIN inside of our gut, composed of more neurons that what is found in the spinal cord – that’s over 100 million!  The commonly used name for this gut brain - you might remember from your biology classes - is the ENTERIC NERVOUS SYSTEM (ENS), a division of the autonomic nervous system.   Look it up on a search engine and you will see that the ENS is found branching throughout the sheaths of tissue that line the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and colon in an amazing way.  Perhaps just as important to the gut brain as all the nerves is the trillions of bacteria that make a home in our gut lining to aid in digestion, production of neurotransmitters, and defense.  More on this later.

Why a brain in the gut?

Evolutionarily-speaking, the gut brain is the first brain that we inherited from a time when organisms were aquatic and simple, perhaps feeding on smaller organisms as they floated by and got trapped.  Later on as feeder organisms evolved into more complex creatures that had to find food and mates, the central nervous system and brain were developed.  In the study of human and mammalian development, it can be seen that the enteric nervous system (ENS) and the central nervous system (CNS) form out of separate sections of the neural crest and are later loosely connected through a cable called the vagus nerve.  Functionally, a big job is assigned to the gut brain, as it needs to coordinate digestion from breakdown to nutrient absorption, and it produces a majority of the neurotransmitters for gut function and organ development/rebuild (90% of serotonin plus a majority of over 30 others).  The neurotransmitter production is in large part under influence of the probiotics – the live bacteria – in the intestinal mucosa.

The connections between the central brain and the gut brain

Going from the brain stem down to the gut, the vagus nerve connects the CNS to command-receiving neurons in the ENS followed by interneurons that respond to them and then spread into the myenteric plexus and submucosal plexus gut layers.  The CNS sends commands by altering the rate of firing down the vagus nerve and the command-receiving neurons get a change of status and alter in the way they stimulate the interneurons.  Looking at this setup at first glance, it seems that the CNS does most of the communicating.  However, closer inspection of the vagus nerve from research finds that 90 percent of its fibers carry information in the other direction from the ENS to the CNS.  The central brains gets a lot of information from the gut but sends few commands back – as if the central brain is a lazy CEO that hates to micromanage or get too involved in the messy business of digestion.
The central brain and the gut brain systems are also connected through the circulatory system, which connects all things, and between them all are two barriers that protect and help maintain control of each system.  A blood-brain barrier (BBB) of tight-junctioned endothelial cells around blood vessels prevents harmful substances from coming in contact with the CNS, while only allowing special cells and substances that provide nutrients and important function through.  Following a very similar design, a gut-immune barrier (GIB) of tight-junctioned intestinal epithelial cells are in place to limit the entry of environmental pathogens and toxins from the digestion system into the blood, and actively transport the right nutrients in the right directions.  So each brain produces it’s own neurotransmitters and can function independently from the other, but to complicate the function and the communication between them, we can get leaky barriers both at the gut and the brain.  One of the many causes that is common?  Inflammation.

Cross-talk between the central brain and the gut brain

Here is what we more or less know so far about the interactions between our two brains from experiments on stress and from drug-therapy.  When the central brain is under stress, it releases surges of stress hormones like noradrenaline (norephinephrine) and cortisol which cause the vagus nerve to fire hard and fast which turns up the production of serotonin in the gut’s enterochromaffin cells of the alimentary canal.  Serotonin is used to regulate digestive organ function and with too much around, the gut is overstimulated and diarrhea results or a person’s esophagus contracts such that they “choke” with emotion or have trouble swallowing.  Certain stress signals from the brain have been shown to affect the nerves firing between the stomach and the esophagus resulting in stomach heartburn.  In the case of extreme stress, the central brain sends signals to immunological mast cells in the plexus to create inflammatory chemicals (histamines, prostaglandins and the like) normally produced to protect the gut.  Unfortunately the results of these stress signals are always nasty things like cramping, and diarrhea.  Of course with the gut talking back to the brain the thoughts that enter conscious awareness are pain and bloatedness.
A growing body of research is now showing evidence of the gut affecting mood and the central brain’s thoughts.  In one study, disruptions to intestinal bacteria or the digestive organs were shown to cause depression and anxiety.  A pesky bacterium called Clostridium difficile, which not only causes gastrointestinal symptoms, has also been directly linked to the brain disorder Autism as one of the primary causes.  Other studies have shown that deficiencies in certain nutrients like folic acid and selenium cause depression and bad moods, respectively.
It seems there is always a mirrored cause-effect relationship between the CNS and the ENS.  MDs have known for many decades that small doses of the anti-depression drug Prozac can treat chronic constipation, while large doses cause nausea and constipation so severe that the colon freezes shut.  Very similar effects are experienced in people using hard drugs like morphine and heroin, and the gut brain can also get addicted to these opiates since it has the receptors.  In the same way, when someone has a central nervous system disease like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, there are nerves in the gut brain that also get sick.
It’s no wonder that we get “gut feelings” – the gut brain is also full of the same major neurotransmitters found in the brain: serotonin, dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and noradrenaline (norepinephrine).  Ok enough talk about all the scientific details and examples; now on to the cool meaningful stuff!

What implications does this dual brain relationship hold for health and happiness?

Given this dual brain design of our physical body and it’s connection with emotion (plus the susceptibility to problems) it’s important to keep a critical balance of supportive nutrients, digestive acids/enzymes, and probiotics in the GI system in order to function well and feel healthy and happy in the head.
Scientific studies on neurotransmitter function in the brain have lead to an understanding of the relationship between the relative levels of these neurotransmitters and the behaviour or mood it creates in the study subject.  Below is a chart illustrating the aforementioned relationship dependent on balance:

Given that different foods contain different nutrients and that different neurotransmitters are formed from these nutrients, it should be very well possible to control your mood from the choice of food (or supplements) you ingest.  For example, if one were aiming to increase their alertness/concentration as well as motivation/drive early in the day, they would be looking at a balance of noradrenaline and dopamine with little to no serotonin.  That person might want to start their day with meat & nuts or eggs while holding off on sources of carbs.  Meat is a great source of protein and contains a good level of tyrosine amino acid which is the source of noradrenaline and dopamine production.  Nuts and eggs contain a good level of lecithin and choline which aid in the production of acetylcholine (not in the chart above) and linked to wakefulness, attentiveness and memory.  The avoidance or minimization of carbohydrates early in the day is probably the best thing for that person too, as it leads to increased tryptophan and thus elevated serotonin production which could lead to moods such as anxiety/irritability or appetite/aggression depending on the balance.  Had that person eaten only carbohydrates for their breakfast, the risk of them feeling fatigued and relaxed with obsessive compulsive thoughts is much higher.  Try it and you will see for yourself!

What most adults and adolescents need to learn and remember is that we all have another brain in our gut, and take notes on how they react and feel after consuming different foods or a mixture of those foods.  This way they have a better understanding and ability to control their feelings, mood, energy level and possibly behaviour -while avoiding an upset gut - all from the food and nutrient choices.

Conclusion and recommendations

It should now be quite clear of the complex nature of our body, with the existence of not one but two active brains with an intimate connection to each other.  How we feel is a product of the nature of our brain functions, and what lies at the root of these functions are neurotransmitters and their balance.  Neurotransmitters are produced in response to the availability of precursor amino acids, which are directly controlled by what foods and nutrients you have eaten and digested, largely in part by bacteria in our gut.

Here are the top 5 things I suggest for your gut brain health in order to ensure better overall health and happiness:

1. Avoid sensitive, allergenic, and inflammatory foods first, as much as possible!  More than 75% of people have some kind of food sensitivity, usually numerous, that are causing irritations internally or manifesting externally.  With the help of a naturopathic doctor, you can successfully screen for these sensitivities and allergies.  You can also utilize an elimination diet to identify these foods via mood and energy change.  Inflammatory foods include caffeine, refined sugars, trans fats, and processed foods with chemical additives.  These foods will quickly destroy good gut bacteria and damage the intestinal epithelial cells causing leaky gut, and possibly leaky brain, and causing loss of normal control of the systems.

2. Repair internal gut damage with good nutrition, and provide nutrients that promote healing.  Choose a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods and fiber, from organic sources if possible.  Take in additional nutrient supplements such as L-glutamine, the most abundant amino acid in the gut which can immediately battle inflammation and go into repair of a leaky gut.  Other healing nutrients include quercetin, gamma linoleic acid (GLA), licorice root, turmeric, aloe vera, and Omega 3 fats (fish, fish oils, avocado, walnut, pecan, hemp, flax). 

3. Improve your gut health with probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes. Healthy intestinal bacteria are crucial for proper immune system function, detoxification, neurotransmitter and hormone production, and prevention of bad bacteria and yeast.  Be sure to get a high quality beneficial probiotic blend of lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium that can survive gut digestion and reach the intestines.  Along with a probiotic you will need soluble prebiotics like plant/fruit inulins and pectins (fructooligosaccharides) and fatty acids like butyric acid (recall the benefits I mentioned previously of butter and heavy cream) that allow the probiotics to settle and flourish.  Fermented vegetable foods from various ethnic groups are excellent prebiotics that stimulate the growth of a health promoting flora.  Digestive enzymes including betaine HCl, pancreatin, protease, amylase, and lipase with meals ensure that you achieve an optimal stomach pH for proper enzymatic breakdown of solid food into absorbable nutrients as well as protect the gut against bad bacteria and other foreign invaders.

4. Work on reducing mental stress.  Mental and emotional stress is damaging to the gut and the body so the less you experience, the better.  Practicing relaxation techniques while you’re doing other everyday things can be one way to reduce stress.  A couple of examples are meditating while commuting or using deep breathing techniques while doing housework.  Guided imagery, or using soothing music or a therapeutic voice to help you imagine a scene in which you feel at peace and free, is a very useful technique for stress relief.  Learning tai chi or yoga is also a great way to relax so that they can be used in the privacy of your office or in a park at lunchtime.  The fear of what others might think when seen doing these things is another stress people have.  It's time we stop worrying about what others think and start doing what is best for our own beings first.

5. Focus on love rather than fear.  It is said that all thoughts you think, every word that you speak, and every action that you take falls under these two headings – love and fear.  Like stress (which comes out of fear), fear has very destructive effects on the body and gut, including restriction of amino acid and gene expression.  Love, on the other hand, has very healing effects, and opens more codons for amino acid expression as well as switching on more beneficial genes in our DNA.  By consciously thinking, speaking, and acting out of love for self, others, and nature instead of acting out of fear of this and that, you are acting at a higher vibrational frequency of energy which can attract what you love back to you.  By love I do not mean sex or possession or attachment, but merely helping another out of good will, sending out of care for another, or sending out of ideas/knowledge to benefit others.  Some call it the 'Law of Attraction', but I call it unconditional love and when it is practiced, one begins to understand that we are born free knowing only love and we learn fear later which restricts us in so many ways.  After some time of focusing on love, one unlearns fear and prejudice, becomes empowered, and realizes that there is nothing to fear and can achieve liberation again.

by Asim Khan