I have been teaching people medieval fencing for over 20 years. The first things I teach are the basics of how to move (footwork) and how to hold and use the sword (bladework).
Both of these concepts involve several drills, the purpose of which is to train the muscles how to move and make all actions more flowing rather than stiff. Over time, however, the longer you do these drills (particularly if you do them correctly) the more fluid you become and the more readily your muscles move as required.
This is referred to as building muscle memory. This is particularly important when you are doing something that is unique or unusual. It allows you to more easily get into position, and over time make adjustments and adaptations, as well as expansions to the basic muscle memory.
Muscle memory can be applied to many things, from proper weight-lifting techniques to how to hold a calligraphy pen. There are practices and drills and repetitive motions you do that will build up the memory of the muscles and cause each subsequent action to be easier.
This is not just applicable to your physical body. Muscle memory can also be trained in the mental and spiritual realms. How? Practice?
Like training muscle memory in the body, training the mind and spirit can also be undertaken and practiced to gain more flow and ease.
Practice improves but doesn’t make perfect
It’s vitally important to acknowledge this fact. Perfection, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. As such, achieving perfection is utterly subjective.
The important thing here is the practice itself. Practice builds up muscle memory but also helps you to gain new insights and learn new ways to do things. When you practice something you are working on exploring it, whatever that something is. There is active work on taking whatever that something is and turning it into a skill or ability.
Practice makes that thing, whatever it is, become second nature. Learning to write as a child, or ride a bike are examples of this. In time, the objective becomes second nature.
However, that doesn’t mean there is no room for improvement. I hold a pen wrong. This has been my way since I learned to write as a child. I could choose to relearn how to hold my pen. It would take a lot of practice and time.
Because I have no desire to do this I just go with my lousy penmanship and bizarre way of holding a pen.
No matter what the subject matter is — if the object is to gain an ability the key is practice. Practice, in turn, builds up muscle memory, whatever form that may take.
Practicing mental weight-lifting
To build muscle memory mentally there are a number of things you can do. The following is by no means the comprehensive all-inclusive list of all options:
· Read. Reading builds up muscle memory. This is a great way to learn new things you didn’t know before.
· Listen. When I drive places I tend to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. Some are for the humor value, but the majority are part of my ongoing journey to practice mindfulness and better manifest my reality via conscious reality creation.
· Watch. Taking the time to watch instructive videos can help build mental muscle memory. Along this line, watching people fence can help you learn what they are doing and to see tells and general stylistic aspects of their combat.
· Keep an open mind. This should go without saying, but if you intend to build-up your mental muscle memory you HAVE to be open. Closed-mindedness is the equivalent of gripping a dumbbell but doing no movement to use it for muscle-building. You will gain nothing from the practice.
Every one of these practices, and more, opens you up to expand your mind. But not just the expansion itself, but better being capable of receiving and processing information.
When you close yourself off and take no action to improve your mental state, or you go a long time just existing without doing anything to change, the mental muscles atrophy. You likely know people with atrophied mental muscles.
How can you tell? They either are incapable of discussion, real conversation, or taking in new information. They tend to be closed off, set in their ways, and any arguments they make likely turn to shouting, spouting someone else’s opinion, or ignoring the subject. Clearly, they don’t feel the need to strengthen their mental acuity.
Spiritual muscle memory building
This is trickier in several respects. It’s important that I clarify what I mean by spiritual.
This has nothing to do with religion, morality, or ethos. This is about your personal faith and belief in yourself. God, the Powers-that-Be, or what-have-you, may or may not be a part of this picture, but even if he/she/they/it is, this is an utterly personal matter.
Spiritual strength is the empowerment of your soul, of your core self. It is belief in your capabilities, who you are and who you can be. This is about seeing an abundant Universe rather than a world of lack, scarcity, and insufficiency.
The reason to build this is to improve the fundamental core of your being. When you believe in yourself, have faith in yourself, it makes the practices of building the mental and physical muscle memory purposeful. These actions now have a point and reason for being performed.
Here are a couple of ways to build spiritual muscle memory:
· Meditation. This should be no surprise. Meditation allows you to simply be. It opens you to releasing tension and stress, as well as building up a firmer connection with your deeper (or higher) self. Practicing as little as 5 minutes of meditation can have an enormous impact on you.
· Deep breathing. Intentional breathing calms you, slows your heart rate, and gives you focus. This allows you to be more present and strengthen your spiritual muscle memory.
· Mindfulness. Being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and the intent of your actions empowers you. It allows you to recognize your mindset and make alterations to shift your life as you would desire for it to be.
Any and all of these practices expand your faith and belief in yourself. That opens you up to all sorts of potential and possibility.
Why does it matter?
You are not just here in this time and place to simply exist. Human beings are capable of incredible creativity and living exceptional lives.
You are empowered to choose and decide for yourself. But the best way to make this easier to is to expand your muscle memory in all three of these realms. Physical, mental, and spiritual strength opens you up to greater creativity, finding and creating more satisfaction, and evolving into the best you that you can be.
When you get stronger you also open yourself to helping other people get stronger. It is easier to teach, instruct, or guide from a place of strength. Sharing your own trials and acts in these realms also opens others up to their own potential and possibility.
When more people have mental and spiritual muscle, the few who try to control the many start to lose their made-up, false power. That can spread from there, and open more people up to empowering themselves.
It should go without saying that you are worthy and deserving of being strong physically, mentally, and spiritually. That’s because you are the only you there is, and the only one who gets to live your life. Maybe it’s not easy, and perhaps things are not so good now…but with more mental and spiritual muscle that can be changed.
Practicing any one act to build muscle memory can cover all three bases. They are interconnected and together make up the essence of you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot be the you that you ultimately desire to be.
You are worthy and deserving of using your mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you matter, and you can build up your physical, mental and spiritual muscles.