Getting In Tune

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By Mark Lundegren

If you think about it, the idea of getting in tune is a familiar one.

Whether you play music or listen to others playing, you know the first step in making music is to get the instruments in tune.  If you make or hear music on instruments that are not tuned, the results are rarely melodious and often less than ideal.  Even singers must tune their voices to achieve correct pitch and their intended result.

The practice of tuning is common in other areas too.  Perhaps you own a car or ride a bus, and know that each vehicle’s engine must be tuned periodically, synchronizing and refreshing its moving parts, to operate at peak performance.  Computer systems must be tuned quite frequently, replacing outdated operating and security files with new ones, so the software is in harmony with the ever-changing electronic environment that supports modern life.  And of course our personal relationships need near constant tuning, as we all well know, if they are to remain fresh and vibrant.  There are many other examples of tuning around us, and I’ll leave you to consider and observe some of them for yourself.

With all this tuning in our world, it is surprising to hear people speak about tuning themselves.  To underscore this point, see if you can remember the last time you heard someone say, more or less, “You know, I really need a tune-up.”  It is true that, a generation ago, people affectionately spoke about “tuning in,” better connecting with themselves and the world around them.  More recently, tuning in seems to have given way to “tuning out,” as our society becomes ever more fragmented, eclectic, and even escapist.  Perhaps this, too, is only a passing generational trend, and tuning in is set for a comeback.

Many people may assume that our bodies and selves tune themselves, that we are naturally self-tuning as organisms or that we operate through homeostatic or self-correcting systems, to use the words of physicians and physiologists.  I suppose this is true to a point, but this is not to say that we cannot help ourselves in this natural process of self-tuning.  And it is certainly true that we can actively impede this tuning if we live out of harmony with nature and our natural tuning mechanisms – and this is very likely in modern civilization, away from the natural processes that gave us our important self-tuning ability.

Regardless of whether it is unusual or anachronistic to speak of tuning ourselves, self-tuning is a natural process and it should not strike us as odd that we might want to encourage or enhance this natural process, or offset the de-tuning effects of unnatural living.   In fact, we have ample reason to think that tuning oneself should be a regular and essential part of our lives, as something perfectly normal, even if it is not perfectly natural.  When I talk about tuning, let me say that I don’t mean weekends at a spa or a retreat, which are nice, but rather the simple adjustment of oneself, in a few minutes, to actively synchronize ourselves, much in the way a musician tunes an instrument before playing. 

If we define tuning as deliberately and quickly centering and harmonizing ourselves, preparing ourselves for performance, we can see its potential importance and parallels to music.  Being even moderately out of tune, compounded over our many movements and expressions each day, or the many days of our lives, can lead to discord and less than optimal living.  In nature, being out of tune would have literally meant the difference between life and death for our ancestors, and nature’s challenges worked to ensure the highest possible tuning of individuals and groups at all times.  In modern society, poor tuning is far more likely than in nature, since our life is less natural, and this can translate into vast differences in the quality of life we enjoy.

The good news is that, since getting in tune is a natural function, it is relatively easy to promote proper tuning and achieve the many benefits of a well-tuned body and self.  After a billion years or more of shaping by evolution, we and other animals possess a trove of automatic mechanisms to ensure we remain healthy and ready to perform – in body, mind, and spirit. Our bodies naturally cleanse us of metabolic waste, re-supply our cells with nutrients, fight infections, and heal wounds.  Perhaps less noticed are our natural mechanisms to cleanse and re-fresh us psychologically too, but they are equally at work and influence our behavior and decisions.  As an example, consider the last time you felt bored or restless, and decided to take a walk or meet a friend.

Since they are naturally-evolved functions, our biological mechanisms for ensuring health and self-tuning work remarkably well, whenever we let them work.  Unfortunately, we often do not.  Often, we unintentionally create obstacles to our natural tuning mechanisms and get ourselves increasingly out of tune, day by day.  Helping people understand and counter unnatural behaviors and beliefs that impede our natural health and its tuning mechanism is the overarching work of HumanaNatura, and the reason for our strong advocacy of natural eating and daily walking in particular.

Restoring our natural human diet and re-connecting to our natural activity and sensory patterns through daily walking are both important and effective methods to ensure that our daily life is more natural and that our self-tuning mechanisms operate unimpeded.  They are simple, easy, and not especially involved methods of promoting our health, and work to re-energize and open us up to new levels of personal well-being.  People who eat naturally and walk daily are normally near their ideal weight, physically fit, mentally alert, and more emotionally balanced than their more sedentary and less natural brethren.

But daily walks and natural eating alone will not get us completely in tune with our natural health.  Optimal health is just not that simple.  Nature demanded much more than this from us, and still does, if we were and are to be at our optimal health and in our natural state of tuning.  There is thus more we can and must do, on both large and small scales, to make ourselves optimally healthy and ready for peak performance. 

On a large scale, we can actively refine the way we live and work over time to be healthier, reshaping and re-making the instruments that our lives to be less stressful, more creative, more open and open-ended, and more in harmony with nature.  This large-scale process of life refinement is beyond the scope of today’s discussion, but is what HumanaNatura calls natural living.  It is the lifelong work of each natural health practitioner, optimizing our health and elevating our lives, and consciously creating our personal environment and behavior and attitudes in it.

At the smaller, more day-to-day scale, as we work on the larger shape of our lives, tuning for health is a specific practice we use each day to ensure we are at our best.  This tuning takes the form of the specific exercises or movements we do to complement our walking and natural eating, enhancing and deepening our physical conditioning, promoting metal clarity, and reducing stress and anxiety. 

For HumanaNatura, this daily practice of tuning and fine-tuning ourselves is achieved through our calisthenics program, although other similar methods of focused physical activity can achieve the same result.  The HumanaNatura calisthenics program is demanding at first but is graduated to allow comfortable and varied daily practice at many different levels, throughout our lives.  Our calisthenics program takes just a few minutes each day and its impacts are obvious, enhancing our health and readiness to perform, adjusting and freshening body and self, and promoting our natural self-tuning

To understand our modern need for daily calisthenics, it is important to have a clear picture in mind of our long human life in nature.  That life certainly involved a specific diet and great deal of walking (and resting and playing), but it also regularly included quite strenuous physical and mental activity too.  People of 100,000 years ago hunted and gathered in and traversed through very challenging landscapes, regularly defended themselves against aggression and attack, and were generally much stronger and even larger than people of our time.  In working to optimize our health, we must remember the intense physicality that was a frequent part of our earlier life in nature.  For this reason, at least a few minutes of strenuous activity each day is necessary to ensure our natural tuning and optimal health.

If you are in good health and fitness, but do not engage in strenuous daily activity, I’d encourage you to test for yourself this idea that focused activity leads to self-tuning and improved health and readiness to perform.  If possible, spend ten minutes hiking in very hilly natural terrain, terrain that is safe but ideally steep enough where you have to use both your arms and legs to make your way.  If you are an urban dweller, an alternative is to walk stairs, two steps at a time, for this same amount of time, using the handrails to work both your arms as well.  In either case, be sure to pause every few minutes as needed to catch your breath along the way.  Alternatively, you might go to a nearby discothèque and dance for ten minutes to a high intensity rhythm, with short breaks (alcohol-free of course) as needed.  If none of these options will work, you might simply add five or ten short wind sprints to your next walk.

If you are in good shape, safely engaging in these focused, strenuous activities for short periods of time almost inevitably leaves us in a higher state of tune – in a higher state of physical and mental readiness to perform.  We feel more physically, mentally, and emotionally integrated.  We are more aware and in touch with our total selves and our environment, equally more poised and relaxed.  Physiologically and metabolically, we are in fact left in better health, with less waste and more oxygen in our blood.  Physically and cognitively, we are more prepared to perform.

Given the many demands of modern life, many of us do not have time for strenuous activity of truly natural variety each day.  It takes time to find and go to a steep hill, a long flight of stairs, or a discothèque, or to find someone or something to wrestle.  This is where HumanaNatura’s practice of daily calisthenics comes in.

If you are familiar with our calisthenics program, you know it involves ten to thirty minutes of daily isometric and dynamic exercises, designed to mimic many of our natural human movements.  The exercises can be done in a small space and no equipment is required, except a mat or carpet for the floor exercises.  You may also know that the exercises are extremely strenuous and demanding, and are much harder than they look in the photos, surprisingly so for most people at first.  The exercises do flow into one another – in a fluid series of movements that promotes strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance – that are as graceful in their practice as they are in their result, once you master them.

Calisthenics come to us through the ancient Greeks, as a practice aimed at the complementary goals “kallos” (beauty) and “thenos” (strength).  As we practice calisthenics regularly, we come to understand their unique ability to impart both beauty and strength to us, to add intense physicality to our lives, and to heighten our health and performance – through their thoughtful and unique distillation of ancient natural activity patterns.  In practice, we can observe firsthand how calisthenics tune us for living, just as musicians tune their instruments for playing.

I would encourage you to explore the practice of daily self- tuning through calisthenics, for optimal health and peak performance.  If you eat naturally and walk regularly, adding daily calisthenics is a logical next step.  This unique and ancient form of exercise is perhaps the most efficient and convenient method of bringing strenuous physical activity to your civilized life, of making your life more natural in this regards.  Calisthenics do demand a prerequisite level of health and fitness before we can begin them safely, including a discussion of our plans with our physician, but offer equally higher levels of health, tuning, and personal harmony in return.

If you will create even ten minutes a day for the sustained practice of calisthenics, at a level appropriate for your physical conditioning, you will soon find yourself at new levels of health and fitness.  You will discover yourself in greater tune, perhaps in ways that are surprising, and unexpectedly health and life promoting.

Mark Lundegren is the founder of HumanaNatura.

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