February 20, 2024

We are often told to live our life with passion. “The only thing that matters in life is finding your passion.” “Attack everything you do with passion, and you will be fine.” These sentiments and admonitions are fine as far as they go but there is a downside to this methodology.

I ran into this the other day for myself. As you know I am quite passionate about posture, exercise, and pain relief. I was reading another person’s approach to these issues that were quite different from the way I do things. My first response was, “That won’t work. It’s the wrong way of doing things!” I turned the page and moved on. A little later I started thinking about what that person had said. I put my passion in my methods and successes to the side and considered what she had said. I decided that there was some value in what she had said. I did some movement based on her thoughts. In certain situations, with certain clients, I now have another technique to help people in pain.

All of us have things we are passionate about. We have techniques or methods that we like and find powerful and useful. With them when other methods pop up, we tend to ignore, run over, or belittle them. Passion unleashed can be dangerous and counterproductive. Passion is unruly and tends to want its on way. We like passion because there is so much energy in it. The issue is directing that energy productively. It is so strong and seductive that it can be destructive.

So how to cope with this dichotomy? On the one hand the positive energy of our desire and on the other hand its tendency to override all discretion when in action. The only way to handle this is to realize that the energy is a good, but it needs to be controlled by the will and the intellect. There are strictures that need to be adhered to such as ethics, goals that uplift, rejection of greed and avarice, and rejection of violence that only serves your goal. This means that passion must serve the intellect. There is always an overarching good that we are striving for no matter our passion for what we do. There is no either or in the intellect vs passion debate. They must work in tandem with each other. Look for your passion but remember that it is necessary to control it unless your passion destroys you.

To a balance life,

Cliff


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February 13, 2024

Do you know Stephen Covey and his work? If you don’t, you should. Stephen was a business consultant who wrote a book called Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. From this book he created a system to govern your life and your business. Each of the seven habits are very powerful and if you work with all of them (a system you see!) it is incredibly powerful.

My favorite habit is about staying in your Circle of Influence. What is he talking about? Stephen divides your interactions with the world into two Circles. They are the Circle of Influence and the Circle of Concern. The Circle of Influence is the events and activities that you can control or influence the outcome directly. The Circle of Concern is all the things that you are interested in or concerned about, but you have no influence over. Listening to the news, arguing about politics, following movie stars and being passionate about their lives and actions. What he recommends is that you spend 80 to 90% of your time in your Circle of Influence. The reason to do so is simple. When you are engaged in the Circle of Concern you are spending valuable energy and time on things that will have no effect on your life. I mean that your actions will have little effect on the events in the Circle of Influence. That same amount of effort and time on your Circle of Influence will have measurable effects on your life and its directions and results.

So, look at your actions in your life. Where do you spend your time? How much time on social media? How much time watching YouTube videos? How much time complaining to your friends about things you have no control over? Do you spend quality time deciding what you eat? How much time do you spend exercising or thinking about how you exercise and weather it is good for you? How much money do you spend on television access?

Do yourself a favor and try this simple exercise. Use a written calendar and for the next week write down what you do during the day. After the week is up put together the subtotals of how you spent the week. Categories might be sleeping, eating, exercising, watching television or videos on the computer that are non-work related, learning something new, spending quality time with your family. Add up the totals and then put them into the categories of Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern. Don’t overthink this; just record it and then analyze it at the end of the week. After you do this write down how much time you spent in each category. Is 90% of your time spent in your Circle of Influence? If it isn’t maybe it should be. For reference most people spend most of their time in the Circle of Concern. And they spend an enormous amount of time blaming everyone from their friends, families, and politicians for why they aren’t doing well in life.

Do this simple exercise and change your life.

Stephen had a big influence on how I see and work with the world. One of his other habits is Start With The End in Mind. My mentor Christie Marie Sheldon calls it focus on your Happy End Result. If you are used to my work and thought you know my first question is, what is your desired outcome? They are all the same.

Do the exercise above and then go get a copy of Stephen’s book. Study it and use it. Next year at this time you won’t recognize yourself.

To a focused life,

Cliff


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Today I am giving you one of the podcasts I was on about my book and what I do to get clients out of pain. I hope you enjoy it. Just click on the link below and download the audio.

https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fi/nlp9b5hbd89ov7g5d0064/clifford-martin-07-11-23-author-and-posture-specialist-jill-nicolini.mp3?rlkey=789klcwn026u3j09butfd7u18&dl=0

Cliff


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January 30, 2024

You get up out of a chair and start to walk and your knee twinges. What do you think? If you take a few steps and the pain stops, you forget it. If it persists for more than a few minutes you might take a pain pill. Rarely will you do anything else. We tend to think of moving, i.e. walking or running as automatic functions that take care of themselves and require no consideration. Like breathing, an automatic function that happens no matter what. As we have seen though, breathing is not always done well and there has grown up a whole industry that teaches you how to breathe better for health and performance.

It is the same for movement. Moving with poor posture will change how your body functions and if done poorly long enough will change how your body is aligned. A few weeks ago, I was working with someone. He was trying to do something with his body and his knee was twinging like crazy. He was wondering if something was wrong. I watched him do his movement for a short while. I then pointed out that as he stepped and then shifted his weight onto to the forward foot his knee and foot weren’t aligned. This put stress on the knee and hence the twinging. After some practice he stepped with correct alignment and there was now no pain.

You don’t have to go through your day worrying about every motion you make. But if there is pain, before you reach for the pain pill, analyze how you are moving. Are your shoulders aligned with your hips? When you stand up in a relaxed posture do all your joints align vertically and horizontally? The joints are the shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. If these don’t align vertically and horizontally you will eventually be in pain. Motion is one of the great gifts we have but motion with poor posture leads to hell.

The session with my friend above inspired me to analyze a portion of a form I’ve been working on for the last few years. On the surface the movement is easy but after a couple of years this one form just didn’t feel right. Inspired by the session I mentioned above, I looked at how my alignment was as I made the only tricky move in the form. Sure enough, my knee, hip and ankle weren’t aligned. It took several days but I finally fixed it. There was no pain in my mis stepping but the fluidity it needed wasn’t there. After working on this for several days the form is flowing well. It was time well spent.

Not only do you need to move to be healthy, but you need to move with the correct posture. Start paying attention to how you move as well as the motion itself. If you need more help take a look at my book, Joint Pain Be Gone https://amzn.to/3OpWyM9  or write to me for help in getting out of pain.

To a healthy life with good posture!

Cliff


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January 16, 2024

As many of you know I am a fanatic about standing, Zhan Zhuang. This in Chinese is Standing Like a Post. I was introduced to it long ago as a martial artist and I’ve been doing it ever since. My practice has evolved so much that I consider it as one of the basics for my students. I stand at least twice a day and sometimes for long periods.

I’m always reading about practices that involve using my body in standing or squatting and counsel my clients and students to minimize sitting. Imagine my surprise when I read an article about the evils of sitting. Supposedly there are more than 10,000 peer reviewed articles about the terrible things that sitting does to your body. One article claimed that sitting is as bad for your health as smoking! I scoffed at this but a little later I thought about it. In general, when you sit your posture isn’t good which puts pressure on your internal organs. You breathe poorly as your diaphragm can’t move easily. Your spine doesn’t expand, and your hip joints can’t open and close. Maybe that article isn’t wrong?

In my YouTube video (link) about how to sit I give instructions on how to sit to mitigate some of these issues. But I say that you should only sit for 30 minutes before you get up and move around.

The advantages of standing like a post are many. It corrects and enhances your posture, it teaches you to breathe properly, it creates balance, and it teaches you to see broadly and with a gentle wide focus. Sitting in chairs is particularly bad. Learning to sit or squat on the ground creates a lot of benefits but if you are starting this practice at a later age, it is a longer road.

I read standing up in good posture. I have a standing desk. I generally sit while meditating on a cushion on the floor or simply cross legged on a mat. I walk a lot and my martial practices are all moving.

Nian claimed that the only exercise that compared with Standing is very slow Tai Ji. Yu Yong Nian was one of the great students and innovators in the art in our lifetime. He studied and published papers on his discoveries that took the art away from the mystical into the scientific. The practice teaches integration of your mind and body without difficult physical practices. Standing for 20 minutes a day will change your life. Stop sitting so much and improve your health and life.

There will be more about standing including how to do it, soon.

Cliff

(Note: to get to the link above right click the link and then click on how you want to get to it. The sitting piece is at 15 minutes 49 seconds.)


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January 2, 2023

One of the most common things I hear when rambling around town is the phrase, “I’m bored. What’s exciting?” I used to think this was unique to ages 10 to 30 but lately I hear it from a lot of people. Have you ever watched a toddler in operation? They are never bored. They roam around their environment inspecting and trying everything. They are a hazard to themselves which is why we “baby proof a house. Actually, you toddler proof a house. Once they start talking you never hear them say, “I’m bored.” So, what is boredom? The dictionary defines it as, “the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest’. The most important piece here is ‘lack of interest’. What is lack of interest? I believe lack of interest means you have reached a point where you are stuck, i.e. it requires more effort to continue what you are doing. It might be a difficult crossword puzzle or jigsaw puzzle. It might be a point in repairing a machine or it might be a difficult piece of reasoning in a complicated argument. Or it might be an exercise you’ve worked on for two or three months and it isn’t working like you want it to. All of these have the common element that you reach a point where you must focus more and add energy to what you are doing. This often triggers an inner response that,” this is too much, I don’t have the energy to spend on this.” It isn’t lack of interest that creates this ennui but the inner resistance to adding more energy into work.

The downside to this is that we often quit anything that requires extra effort. We only finish easy things. This is the common element in the students I call tire kickers. Tire kickers go from activity to activity, never staying for very long. Their investment in what they are ‘learning’ is minimal. After a few weeks they are ready to move on. I used to give discounts on my teaching. I charged a certain amount per week but would discount it for by 10 to 15% for a ten-week period. I found this attracted people who wanted a deal. After ten weeks they were looking for something new. One particularly egregious case was a young woman who at week eight started asking me what I thought she should try next. I suggested sticking with the class for a little bit longer so she could start to understand the form. She blew that off and left after her discounted time was up. The danger for the teacher is wasting your time teaching people who are looking for an unknown experience. The danger for the student is never experiencing the joy of accomplishing something difficult that they didn’t believe they could do.

As I said I used to think this was an age-related thing, but I know it isn’t. When Leonardo DaVinci was on his deathbed the last thing he said was, “So much to learn and not enough time.” If it isn’t age related, what is it? It is a particular skill that many never learn. The skill is recognizing the first hints of boredom as internal resistance. Then transforming that resistance into the energy you need to blast through that resistance and focus on creatively solving the problem at hand. In an office what is the first thing that most people do when they hit resistance? Take a break, get a cup of coffee; waste half an hour bull shitting with your colleagues. You don’t go back to that task with renewed focus, you’ve just procrastinated for a while, and you have no more energy to solve the problem.

What, then, is the magic of boredom? The magic is realizing that those first hints of boredom are a signal to you that you are running into personal, internal resistance. The only way to beat this resistance is to focus so tightly on what you are doing and generate a lot of energy, focusing even more on the task. This will generate more energy and will create the magic of creating a flood of energy that blasts through your resistance. I call this practice identification. I learned this technique from Randall Bassett who talked about this 50 years ago. If you didn’t have boredom to tell you what is going on in your head, you’d never learn to focus and generate energy out of resistance.

Last night I was working on a Tai Ji form that I’ve been practicing for more than 20 years. It takes me 25 to 30 minutes to do the whole form. I know it quite well. As I worked on it last night I came to a difficult kick where after a high kick with my left foot I must pivot on my right foot 180 degrees and do heel kick with my left foot. If this was karate, no problem. I can easily spin at speed and kick. In Tai Ji though I am moving slowly. I must keep my balance while turning slowly. It is difficult. I’ve been working on perfecting this move for years. Last night I lost my balance. I first cursed, then yelled at myself, then said how boring it was that I did it wrong. That woke me up. That little bit of boredom told me I was dealing with resistance. I finished the rest of the form then went back to that difficult part. I did that piece again, even more slowly, trying to figure out what my body was doing. My energy increased and I gained a little bit of insight into what the problem was. And I felt more energized. Was it perfect? No. It was better, and I hope today that it is just a bit better. The real lesson is that the magic of boredom is that it provides the key to mastering your mind and improving your life.

Happy New Year to all of you. Look for the opportunities in your life to recognize when you are resisting yourself.

My new book is coming out in March where I discuss the techniques for developing higher levels of motivation and energy for your tasks.

To a great year.

Cliff


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56 December 19, 2023

We are always changing. Sometimes it’s because we have no choice. We got fired. Our spouse or partner left us. Our life became intolerable, and we decide to change. Sometimes, though, change becomes a deliberate choice because we want to become a different person. We might decide it is time to make real money. Or we want to live in a place where opportunity is better and there are more choices for our life.

The question is where do you start in your mind with this process? For example, many people start with their whole history. “I can’t do that for a living. I’ve never been good at that sort of thing.” “I’m not athletic enough to take that up.” When you do that it’s like having a 70 lb. rucksack on your pack. The weight of your past is so crushing that you truly feel you can’t move. How do you deal with this history?

Try to forget it. Tell yourself that you will start from today. What I want and where I want to be starts here. Not with what I did before. Not with what school I graduated from. Not with the books or papers I’ve written but now, here, today. When you are making the change mentally the only thing that matters is that you feel excited and attracted by the prospect of doing that. You take your energy up as high as you can focused on this new goal or life. See yourself living that life. You can analyze what you need to learn to become that new person but don’t let it be part of the weight on your back, keeping you from moving. Figure out what you need to do and learn it and move forward to Your desired outcome. Come at this with a belief and focus that will ensure your outcome. Last week’s post tells you the ingredients for keeping your motivation high and going for your dreams.

Remember belief, expectations and love will open the new life for you. Change can be uplifting. Reach for that new ideal.

To your new life and person and Merry Christmas!

Cliff


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