If you play the game of Chess, you know that the queen is the most powerful single piece on the board, but there is a pair of pieces that are, in combination, more powerful: the rooks. When acting together, the rooks can lock out two adjacent rows or columns and force a checkmate, or they can block a number of offensive advances. They have to be protected, however, because losing one rook breaks the synergistic effect of the pair. A single rook is still powerful, but the combination is where the real power lies.

There are many synergistic combinations we find in life. Long ago, plants took chlorophyll from cyanobacteria into their cells, forming chloroplasts which let them convert sunlight into food — the plant cells and the chlorophyll need each other, and the result of the combination is much greater. Huge sequoia trees interconnect their roots, making them strong enough to stay upright in storms — working together, they can withstand what they cannot survive alone. Flowers are pollinated by bees, and in return they get the pollen to turn into food, which is honey — both need each other for their very survival.

Health depends upon multiple systems all working in synergy. We are so interconnected that we need all our organs working together to stay healthy. The brain and the body are two organ systems that absolutely need each other working as one. When we combine health-promoting activities that help both, we are recognizing that the whole body has to work together: what helps the brain helps the body, and what helps the body helps the brain. So you might expect that a lifestyle practice that helps the brain, combined with one that focuses on the body, would have a synergistic effect when both are done regularly. So let’s look at the combination of exercise and mentally living in the moment. Together these form a powerful health-promoting combination.

Physical training
The body is constantly deciding how to apply its resources. Many of its decisions about how to use its resources are caused by physical stress, which is simply environmental pressure to change. An extreme example of this was the ancient Chinese practice of foot binding, where young girls had tight wrappings around their feet to force them to grow into a particular shape. The unique foot shape was considered attractive in that society, but the results were both painful and very dysfunctional — this was negative environmental stress causing a bad outcome. On a more positive note, weight-bearing exercises, while initially doing some damage to muscle tissue, cause the body to rebuild the muscle tissue, only this time stronger. If a muscle is not used much, the opposite occurs as the body doesn’t maintain that tissue, because there is no stress applied to signal that change is needed.

Exercise shows us how good stress, also called eustress (“eu” is the prefix meaning “good”), can lead us to greater health. Exercise is even eustress for bones, signaling the body to increase bone strength when just enough force (well below the breaking point) is applied to the bones as the muscles pull against them. Too much force can break bones and tear muscle fibers, so too much eustress becomes harmful stress — exercise should always be done within appropriate limits. Happily, the eustress of good exercise expands those limits.

Besides providing eustress, exercise has the immediate effect of quickening blood flow and lymphatic flow — two systems that are vital to keeping all the body’s cells supplied with nutrients and freed from toxins. When you are feeling poorly, just getting up and moving can sometimes make you feel better because your cells reap immediate benefit from the circulation. That includes your brain, which utilizes upwards of 30% of your energy intake and can immediately profit from enriched blood flow and oxygenation. Few would argue that exercise is vital to good health. But it is only one of the rooks….

The time is now
We live now. For us, everything is now. Our past doesn’t affect us now, except in our thoughts, and the future is unknown, except that we can imagine what the future will be. When we focus on either, we are wandering in our minds outside of present reality, utilizing our memory and imagination. Yet our brains will respond to thoughts in the same manner, whether they are whimsical or based on current reality.

Far too often we think of the future in dark tones, worrying about what will happen, based upon our fears that came from past experiences. We become anxious. Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” The Words of Life tells us, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Notice that this is written in the present tense. Thinking about something is akin to meditating on it, focusing our minds on it.

This is the other rook, the other powerful tool that can be used to build health. When we focus on the present, and focus on what is good, we can savor each moment as it passes. Consider a conversation with someone whose company you really enjoy — is it better to be fully engaged with what the other person is saying, enjoying their presence each moment, or would you rather be worrying about getting an important text message on your phone or what’s going to happen when you get home? Worry doesn’t change the future, but it certainly damages the present. You can only engage the present, because that’s where you are at the moment.

Do you think you can multitask, thinking both about the present and the future? No person can, because the mind can only focus on one thing at a time. If you switch from one focus to another, what you are actually doing is parking the first one away in short-term memory, pulling the other up and focusing on it, then reversing the process to go back to your first topic. When we think we are multitasking, we are multi-switching. Switching is inefficient though, taking some effort to park one thought before pulling up another. Meditation becomes difficult as other thoughts invade our focus and crowd out the thoughts we intend to be meditating upon.

If you could hook yourself up to a bio monitor, so you could get a read-out of your pulse rate, oxygenation level, blood pressure, and such, you would see changes as you switch from calm, in the moment appreciation of the life around you to worrying about some future event or considering some past regret. Your body’s reactions would follow in sync with your thoughts. Meditation, if successful, will calm your mind and your body. Exercise calms your brain through your body, and savoring the moment calms your body through your brain.

Checkmate
What happens when you combine these two rooks — exercise and living fully in the moment? You get a more powerful combination than either provides alone. You can take a walk or lift weights, yet still worry about tomorrow, and your workout will be a disappointment and drudgery. It could also be dangerous, because when you are not paying attention to what your body is telling you when exercising, you could injure yourself with too much weight, tripping while walking or running, or pulling a muscle through overuse. Conversely, you can enjoy the scenery during a road trip, but you would enjoy it so much more fully if you could walk in the landscape and not just passively observe it. Sitting and meditating is fine, but your mind may be foggy and less able to concentrate because your blood is barely bringing your brain enough oxygen to think clearly. You may meditate and find you are just falling asleep.

Research shows that the combination is indeed more powerful than each alone. In a review study published in Mental Health and Physical Activity, researchers from the University of Bath, United Kingdom reviewed the results of 35 trials where both “rooks” were used together. In their review, they used the terms physical activity (PA) and mindfulness-based interventions (MBI’s); however, the term “mindfulness” is a non-descriptive term which tells you little about what is being practiced. Their MBI’s referred to periods of time when the study participants were focused on greater awareness of their internal thoughts and external surroundings, where they were not focused on the past or future, but living completely in the present.

The results of the studies showed a number of benefits. First, living and thinking fully in the moment included them thinking about how the exercise was helping them achieve their fitness goals, helping them to stay engaged with the exercise. Thus, even their acknowledgement of being tired from the exercise was helping them to stay with the workout by realizing that it meant they were exercising effectively. The exercise in turn lifted their mood, heightened their senses and helped them more easily take in their surroundings. They found that psychological health outcomes improved over the course of the combined intervention trials for 72% of the participants, with no cases where the control groups were better off. In cases where the participants reported depression, 86% of participants reported less depression with PA and MBI; and in the case of anxiety, the results were even better at 92% reporting a lifting of anxiety. Everyone (100%) reported lowered stress. Some of the reviewed studies considered wellbeing, quality of life measures, PTSD, and overall health — all showing at least some benefit of combining both exercise and living fully in the moment.

In another review study, this time published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers cited studies that showed the combination of PA and MBI resulted in 1) participants more likely to reach physical goals and maintain them, 2) older adults engaged more in aerobic activities when including MBI, 3) the combination significantly reduced participants’ rumination (repeated self-beating-up thoughts like “I’m such a loser” or “I just don’t feel like doing anything”) as well as lowered their stress.

The studies show that living fully in the moment, combined with good physical exercise, pushes away negative thoughts and simultaneously gives the mind and body a break from the impact of this negative “baggage” while also giving the body eustress. The better thought processes then feed back to the exercise, making people more engaged in the exercise and more happily, readily sticking with the physical training. The exercise and living presently reinforce each other, and both help the body get healthier and stronger. If you want to get the most out of your life, increase longevity, feel better, and stay healthier, consider putting both rooks on the board and watching the synergy they bring.

 

Dr. Nemec’s Review

Living fully in the moment is one of the biggest game changers there is. We will go as far as to say, in our rook analogy, living fully in the moment has the power to transform your rook into a Queen-Rook combination that can operate in both capacities. That means it’s more powerful than any other single piece, making that piece the absolute master of the chessboard.

What research has shown is that mindfulness combined with exercise has tremendous benefits for the mind, the brain, and the body — much better than exercise alone. Much better than any mind practice alone. This is a magnified effect. We will call it the ten-fold combination.

Living in the moment is beyond mindfulness beyond meditation.
So let us define living in the moment in more detail. We will start with what it is not. It is not meditation the way meditation is standardly taught.

Meditation as defined by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: meditation has a history that goes back thousands of years, and many meditative techniques began in Eastern traditions. The term “meditation” refers to a variety of practices that focus on mind and body integration and are used to calm the mind and enhance overall well-being. Some types of meditation involve maintaining mental focus on a particular sensation, such as breathing, a sound, a visual image, or a mantra, which is a repeated word or phrase. Other forms of meditation include the practice of mindfulness, which involves maintaining attention or awareness on the present moment without making judgments.

Conventional meditation is a practice of trying to empty one’s thoughts. This is a noble task for sure, but you can never stop a conscious, thinking mind. Conventional meditation has to do with people, focusing on a saying a phrase, a sound, a tone, or thought and getting completely absorbed in that saying phrase, sound, tone, or thought. People that practice this type of meditation try to increase the amount of time they can do this: five minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, 2, 3, 4, 5 hours or more — the results, as they report them, are less stress, more calm, better well-being, and better physical health.

Living fully in the moment is not mindfulness, although mindfulness is closer to the actual concept of living in the moment. According to Mayo Clinic’s definition, mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.

The focus of mindfulness are: the five senses, the breathing, and the physical body staying very aware of the different sensations of the body. So in essence, mindfulness is focusing on the five senses as you perceive them in your physical body and your physiological functions like breathing and heart rate.

So then what’s living fully in the moment if it’s not meditation and it’s not mindfulness? The best way it can be explained is the simplest: living every moment of life fully in each moment of life, as if there are no other moments in your life.

What is the greatest enemy to your life, to your health, to your prosperity, to your joy and peace, and most importantly, to experiencing love in your life? Your mind — it’s that simple. Your mind will break you OR you will break your mind. If you don’t break free from your mind of thoughts about the past and thoughts about the future, you never touch into the life of living fully in the moment.

How powerful is living fully in the moment? More powerful than you can ever think or imagine. In the words of the Master: “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He had a little child brought to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was actually saying no one goes to heaven unless they become childlike and live fully in the moment. This is an unbelievably powerful statement.

Have you ever seen kids on the playground? They are so in the moment, living fully each moment on the playground, they have no concept of time. They have no concept of weather, of their five senses, of hunger, or of thirst. They are totally absorbed in their play, in the moment. Think about this today, think about this tomorrow, think about this every day the rest of your life, think about what it means to you. Think about the power that can be unlocked if you could only understand what Jesus is saying.

So whether you exercise this moment or you work this moment or solve a problem this moment — whatever you do this moment, you do it fully in the moment: this gives you the hundred-fold blessing of body, mind and spirit.

Here are the ways we can help you in your health journey:

  1. Outpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-has the most benefit of teaching, treatment, live classes and personalized coaching. This program has the most contact with Dr. Nemec with 3- 6 month programs that can be turned into a regular checking and support program for life. This is our core program that has helped so many restore their health and maintain that restoration for years.
  2. Inpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-is our four-week intensive inpatient program for those that are not in driving distance, usually over 4 hour drive. This is the program that is an intensive jumpstart with treatment, teaching, live classes and coaching designed for all our international patients along with those in the US that do not live in Illinois. This program is very effective especially when combined with our new membership program support.
  3. Stay at Home Program-is offered to continental US patients who cannot come to Revolution New Medicine but still want a more personal, customized plan to restore their health. This program also includes our Learn Membership Program.
  4. Membership Program is our newest program offered for those that want to work on their health at a high level and want access to the teaching at Revolution New Medicine along with the Forums: both Dr. Nemec’s posts and other members posting. And also, to have the chance to get personalized questions answered on the conference calls which are all archived in case you miss the call. The Membership Program has 3 levels to choose from: Learn, Overcome and Master. The difference is at the Overcome and Master levels you received one on one calls with Dr. Nemec personalizing your program for your areas of focus.