Insights gathered at the 2012 World Domination Summit in Portland, OR.
Tight muscles are a curious thing. You would think, because they hold onto so much tension, that they would be infinitely stronger than a relaxed muscle. You would suspect that tight muscles had that contraction thing down, that they could do anything.
In fact, our whole culture buys into this theory. Just look at the bodies that we praise and idolize – hard bodies, tight bodies, bodies with “ripped” muscles and bulging pecs. In short, we value tight muscles.
But despite our cultural bias, the whole concept is largely untrue. Tight muscles are, in fact, extremely weak little suckers.
Let’s inspect strength a bit more to figure out what it is, exactly. I define strength as the ability to generate force. This makes sense, right? To move an object, you have to generate velocity that is greater than its mass in order to remove it from the gravitational field. I’ll let all you engineers come up with the exact equations for this concept ‘cuz that’s not really my thing, but it’s pretty easy to see that without enough force to overcome gravity, an object will just stay stuck glued to the floor.
A tight muscle is not able to generate force because it has no range of motion. It cannot relax and therefore it also cannot contract. If a muscle cannot stretch to its fullest length, it’s losing its power to spring back. I learned this most fully in the midst of my kettlebell competition phase when I was training incessantly. I’d watch stiff, tight bodied people show up at meets with their bulky muscles and struggle because all that tension was detrimental to endurance – they were pushing, using too much strength to get the job done, and they got tired far too quickly.
Over months and years, these people would persevere and their tight, stiff muscles would melt away, becoming long, lean, functionally strong ones. They learned to relax and because of it, they could generate infinitely more power.
Another great example of this is my cat, Ellie (that’s her, above). She is boneless. Okay, she’s not really boneless, but she can easily melt into a puddle of fur basking in a sunbeam. But, introduce a buzzing fly into the room, and she’s leaping and bounding across the floor. I have seen Ellie jump as far as five feet straight up in the air. I have never seen her go to the gym and lift weights. She’s leveraging the power of relaxation – her muscles can launch her further simply because she has their full length available to her.
But I think this concept translates into more areas of life than just sports and strength training. I spent this past weekend at the World Domination Summit, a creative conference in Portland, OR. I went, ostensibly, to gather practical, tactical tools to use in building my business. What I came home with was something else entirely.
The conference kicked off with a powerful talk from Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability (if you haven’t seen her Ted Talk, go watch it here). Brene’s talk was quickly followed by inspiring stories of people changing the world by finding new ways to provide water to people in Africa and the power of introversion. That afternoon I found myself immersed in a Q&A/spiritual sermon with Danielle LaPorte.
Even the most practical, analytical, stripped down to basic how-to with no fluff and no mess speaker that I saw, Maneesh Sethi, mentioned that the blog posts that get the most response are those that he writes about his own internal emotions and feelings.
The take away? There is power in relaxing into who we are. If you are tense, if you try to push too hard, to muscle through life, if you force your way, you will struggle and you will not get nearly as far as you can if you simply relax into being.
As Danielle LaPorte put it, start from a place of center. Find your core message, what matters most to you and go from there. Don’t worry about what’s been said before, what’s been done before. Just speak your truth. Tell your story. Create your art.
Too many of us are chopping off parts of our soul so that we can fit into the box we think has been created for us. We’ve amputated aspects of ourselves, hiding this one and dropping that one altogether. We’re afraid to show our true faces because we are not sure that we are enough. We worry that we are not thin enough, pretty enough, rich enough, smart enough. Whatever we think we need, we don’t have enough of it.
The problem is that if you try to fit in in such a way that you are not being yourself and it doesn’t work out – the group/company/boyfriend or girlfriend/school/club rejects you – shame is inevitable, and when you feel ashamed, you are drowning in depression, grief and rage.
Ancient medicine people call this soul loss. It’s when you lose the dreams and the expressions of who you are along the path of life. You are walking around with gaping wounds inside your body, except that no traditional doctor will see them, no surgeon can fix them. They can only be healed by you calling back those dreams, those pieces of your soul.
There is a very simple way to do this, and you don’t need any special skills or tools for it at all – just sing. Singing brings you into the moment, floods your body with joy and calls back lost aspects of your soul.
In fact, in the spirit of vulnerability, Brene Brown asked everyone at the conference, all 1,000 of us, to stand up and sing “Don’t Stop Believing” together. I’ll be a little vulnerable here and post a clip that I took with my iPhone below…
If this post resonated with you, if you feel like you’ve been amputating your true essence to “fit in,” leave me a comment below and what song you’re going to sing to call back those lost pieces of yourself!