by Dr. Bohdanna “Billie” Zazulak DPT, OCS: My mother was a young child when her family fled from the encroaching Soviet Army by horse-drawn cart
over the Carpathian Mountains through Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Bavaria before emigrating to Canada. Her first memory was when they were detained at gunpoint by Germans. With a pistol to his head, my grandfather opened his coat to show his priest collar, while the family fervently recited prayers in the wagon.
Ukrainians were being rounded up to be sent back, and the officer instructed my grandfather to take the road up ahead to the left which led to the detainment camp. As they approached the fork in the road, my grandmother whispered in his ear to head right and take the road to freedom, praying they would not be shot. My grandparents’ split-second decision was guided by intuition, hoping the onlooking soldiers would take mercy on a priest with children, and thankfully they were right.
The road from there was not easy, but there was a huge sense of relief to be truly free, with every day as a new adventure. After each long bumpy day of traveling, they would set up a campfire and the children would go hunting and exploring in nature. Not allowed to hunt with her older brothers, my mother would love to climb high in the trees where she would watch for deer, wild boar, and fox.
Her most exciting spotting was a huge black wildcat one evening at dusk. She watched in awe as the muscular shadow stealthily approached, twice the size of any other cat she had ever seen. Glowing, emerald-green eyes locked with my mother’s, before the sublime beauty darted off into the forest. This wondrous animal would return in her dreams, growing bigger, stronger, and more powerful over the years. Whenever she faced adversity, my mother would summon the agility of this wondrous creature within her, to be emotionally, physically, and spiritually resilient for whatever came her way.
Agility of the Mind
Agility is the capacity to respond to unpredictable events to find the best course of action. Mental barriers, such as stress from past trauma, fear of failure, doubts, lack of trust, and over thinking limit ability to connect mind and body. Mindfulness and breath training promote equanimity, a focused, balanced state of mind, completely immersed in the here and now.
Without the burden of the past and future, mental agility is optimized to become fully alert, sharp, and perceptive of the exquisite vividness of each moment. Equanimity in the present moment is the ability to keep from being thrown off balance from external distractions. This balanced state is the key to resilience and positively viewing adversities as gifts to learn from. Mindful athletes are at an advantage because they tap into the breath and present moment more consistently for improved performance, reduced performance anxiety, and reduced risk of getting hurt. With mindfulness training, fear of failure, indecision, and other mental traps that are predictive of injury, are not allowed into the mind.
Everyone experiences adversity in these turbulent times. Even the best can lose their way and there’s no shame in taking a breath until you find your way again. Learning to grow through resilience, optimism, confidence, and positivity are mental agility skills that can be developed to improve psychological outlook, prevent injury, and promote future wellness.
Agility of the Body
Physical agility is the ability of your body to react quick enough with the right response to move the way you intend to. Your mind adjusts strength, power, speed, and timing of muscle firing for efficient, fluid, pain-free movement, meeting the variable physical demands and perturbations of life. A perturbation is any challenge to the body’s center of balance; the sudden start or stop of a bus ride, a pull from a dog’s leash, or trying to keep your balance when your dog jumps off your surfboard. Your split second, subconscious reaction may be trained by merging awareness with action, to control your body with precision and accuracy. Your muscles’ ability to switch on and function is known as muscle activation. Control of muscle activation is dependent upon a solid mind-muscle connection.
Injuries occur when our mind and body are not in tune, often in times of competition, pressure, or distraction that pull you out of the “zone”. The “zone” is a mental state of supreme awareness in which athletes of all sports perform at peak potential. This peak state is when you are fully immersed in energized focus, like when you catch a ball, catch a wave, or catch some air on a mountain bike. Your attention is absorbed into the present moment, with the brain only processing sensory information (thoughts, feelings, sounds and images) that help execute the action at hand successfully. Conversely, any sensory input that is counterproductive to the task is blocked from the mind.
In this heightened state of awareness, you have complete control of your body even when making split-second corrections to your trajectory of movement (imagine mountain biking, snowboarding, or surfing). A oneness with movement is experienced, when actions are effortless and spontaneous, with a profound sense of control. The “zone” is the runner’s high that fuels you to the finish line of the Ironman, or a natural high from surfing in the ocean. This empowered, invincible feeling is the endorphin-fueled sacred ground of awe, transcendence, and euphoria. Although this may not happen every time, it’s the reason we keep riding, meditating, and going back to Mother Nature’s playground to catch it again!
Agility of the Spirit
The universe has a beautiful way of echoing truths as gifts. Spiritual agility is the ability to receive these gifts for our mind-body-spirit evolution. It’s the ability to understand something spontaneously without conscious reasoning, drawing from deep in our memory well for guidance.
Our greatest athletes and leaders follow intuitions, with new research to support that going with your gut leads you along the road to success, and may be improved with practice. Prime your spirit with breath training, meditation, prayer and connecting with nature, to tune in to the coincidences of life as gifts to guide us.
In the current times of global health inequity and environmental crises, adversity is challenging our emotional, physical, and spiritual balance. The mind-body-spirit is interconnected, and all dimensions need to be in harmony for optimal functioning, true wellness, and fulfillment.
Like my grandparents, we are at our own fork in the road with two distinct paths we are collectively facing planet wide. We can ignore intuition by continuing the things we are doing despite how we are harming ourselves and Mother Earth, or we can honor our inner wisdom on a collective journey to wellness, fulfilling our deepest needs.
Read The MAP to Wellness Here: Awakening with Mother Earth – Dr. Bohdanna “Billie” Zazulak