(Photo Credit: Graphic by Staff Sgt. Katie Gar Ward / Photo by Airman 1st Class Victoria Taylor)

I am going to bat around a term many times in the coming articles, and that term is “spirituality.” What do I think spirituality is? Webster defines spirituality in four ways. Three are rooted in religion. The definition I am referring to is “A quality or state of being.”

There’s an adage about religion and spirituality. Religion is for people afraid of hell, spirituality is for people who have already been through hell. Addicts have been through hell. Therefore – spirituality is the key to their healing. Without a spiritual foundation, the chances of an alcoholic or addict in recovery to stay sober is less than average. The addict will not be grounded in a proper state of being to handle all the stresses and curveballs life throws at him.

So, it is vital which foot the addict sets forward from the very beginning. Does the addict choose to put his first foot forward into self-hatred or self-love?

The newcomers always arrive the first day to the gym in self-doubt. Not only is their body chemistry toxic, but they have both a false sense of ego and pride when they arrive – and as they look around at all the eye candy and perfection surrounding them they rapidly devolve into self-hate and loathing. They will not be capable of stopping this obsessive negative thinking on their own.

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Boris Schaak

So, there’s a choice at the outset of the very first training session. The goal is quieting the mind from the moment I sit them on a roll out mat to do stretching – to bring about a grounded state of being. I start every workout session with a five-minute meditation. And then we discuss what thoughts bombarded their mind. The newcomer will likely not be able to quiet much of his mind on day one, but you would be surprised at how effective this is even at the very beginning.

Usually though, right after that meditation, the addict sinks right back into self-loathing. “I can’t do this. I will never look like them. I am fat. I am skinny. What was I thinking to agree to do this?” And the longer they share their feelings the darker it gets.

I intervene to snap them back into the present. I remind them that they are here, in this present moment. On a mat. Alive. I remind them to be grateful that they indeed are still alive after poisoning their mind, body and spirit to the gates of death.

But there is a very effective way to combat this thinking, and this is the moment where I train them to start from self-love on Day One. I introduce the concept of a “mantra.” Webster defines a mantra as “a mystical formula of invocation.” My definition of a mantra is a bit simpler. A mantra is a self-affirming statement that can be repeated over and over easily from memory to block out self-loathing. It helps the addict arrest the obsessive thinking that sinks their confidence and zaps their energy for the workout.

I call this the “I Am” principle. The Hebrew origins of “I am” is “God within.” I like to think of it in terms more like “what is my truest self within?” An easy one is “I am that I am.” But the key to an effective mantra is something that references the individual’s struggle.

A universal mantra to start with is: “I trust I am enough just as I am.” It is best said over and over throughout the day. This one covers all the bases. I am skinny, I am fat, I will never look like that.” It reframes one’s thinking to be in this present moment and to trust that you are right where you need to be just in this very moment. And you will realize that your authentic body and life comes from within, and is already here.
Once one gets the hang of the importance of a mantra, then he can write his own mantra specific to his problems that will combat his particular words of self-loathing.

I share spiritual experiences with my fellows in recovery. While discussing this “I Am” principle with a fellow in recovery, he shared with me a perfect example of the principle in action where a series of mantras become a prayer. I am sharing this with you as I think this particular “I AM” mantra is effective.

God, you are my substance.
I surrender to your abundance. I open to my greatest self.
I am joyful.
I am free of the past.
I trust I am enough just as I am. I am alive.
and I am love.

I encourage you to take time on your own to break down this mantra prayer to see how the meaning can be effective for you. And then think of a mantra that fits you. I think this one speaks for itself. It covers most all the forms of self-loathing newly sober people enter recovery with. And it is indeed a universal mantra that can be effective for people with long-term recovery or even who are not in recovery seeking a spiritual experience.

What is your “I Am” mantra? What is the most authentic spiritual essence within you that you block from becoming your greatest, most authentic self?

Next week I will share a recipe that will help you start your day the right way.

Let’s read and learn together, and if you have any questions, comments or anything you want to know I will gladly work on the issue. Please share your thoughts here.

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Boris Schaak

Boris Schaak

About The Author:

Boris Schaak, a nationally certified fitness recovery coach, was ranked one of L.A.’s 50 “Best Personal Trainers” on the Los Angeles Hotlist and is a regular trainer at Golds Hollywood. “As a professional trainer and fitness coach, seeing the transformation and growth in my clients physically, emotionally and spiritually is my passion and mission in life,” says Schaak. You can reach him at boris@soberfitness.com

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