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 Mental/Emotional Fitness & Peak Performance: Emotional Talent 

When we were babies, motivation was natural to us, and it was constant, for everything was interesting to us. On occasion we might have tensed our little bodies and cried, but crying was a simple, natural response to physical discomfort, not complex mental concerns. Our general state was a clear mind and relaxed body. Our minds and bodies were in their natural relationship—mind free of thought, in a state of clarity, focus, and attention; body free of tension, full of feeling, sensitivity, and vitality. We experienced the state of pure energy—motivation—fuel for action, the impulse to move, to explore, to grow.

As we grew and became more aware of the rules, meanings, and demands of the world, we began to feel a separation from the protected cradle of infancy. Vulnerable to a world of emotional turbulence, social turmoil, and human frustration, we began to know guilt, fear, and anxiety. We learned to dam up our emotions so that we didn't feel bad; in fact, we didn't feel much at all. As minds become depositories of traumatic memories, bodies begin to store tension. We experience this tension as a cramp in the chest or abdominal region, but also in the lower back, neck, jaws, and some other body parts. The name of this tension, which we can observe in ourselves in times of stress, is emotion. But the feeling we call "emotional" is most often a blockage of emotional energy. Because that energy is blocked, much as water flowing through a hose might be blocked, we feel pressure at the points of tension.

The energy gathers in knots, taking shape as what we call anger or fear or sorrow, depending upon what thoughts stimulated that tension. Emotional blocks (or tension) are reactions to thoughts. If you're standing in line at the bank and someone butts in front of you, you may immediately "feel angry." Infants don't become upset by someone butting in line because they haven't yet incorporated society's responses to such an action. But you have learned that "people should wait their proper turn in line." Perhaps true enough, socially. Yet it is such meanings that stimulate emotional reactions. Only the mind free of meanings and judgments and expectations can allow the free flow of emotional energies—free of reactions of fear, sorrow, and anger.

Fear, sorrow, and anger are the three primary emotional obstructions, and like the three primary colors they combine to form a wide spectrum of such emotional hues as impatience, frustration, melancholy, and anxiety.

Fear, sorrow, and anger are normal, but they are not inevitable emotional reactions to perceived stress. Infants may cry from physical discomfort but they am naturally free the complex mental structures that often result in emotional tension.

Inner athletes do not deny or repress their feelings, but they learn to stay relaxed even under stressful conditions.

As it happens, it is very difficult to "feel" angry, fearful, and sorrowful if we breathe evenly and fully and we keep the body relaxed. Emotional upsets are inevitably associated with a tension in the chest or abdomen; by keeping relaxed and focusing on our breathing, we short-circuit the tension-producing stress. That allows us to express ourselves, or act, far more effectively.

If, for example, a growling dog jumps out at us with its teeth bared, it may be appropriate for us to freeze, run, growl back, or climb the nearest telephone pole. We can perform any of these natural reactions immediately, without the reactive tension we interpret as fear. And, in fact, such tension will only serve to delay the appropriate response.

(Excerpted from The Inner Athlete ISBN: 0913299979)
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 About The Author
Dan Millman Dan Millman is a former world champion athlete, university coach, martial arts instructor, and college professor. After an intensive, twenty-year spiritual quest, Dan's teaching found its form as the Peaceful Warrior's......more
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