TRAINING BODY, MIND AND SOUL

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I believe that any physical activity can become a spiritual experience, even a tough type of training like weight lifting. The location we train can become an auspicious terrain where spiritual awareness and physical practices can be integrated. I feel this is important. In most commercial gyms there is nothing there that reminds the mind to practice virtues like trust, respect, patience, kindness among others.

Weight lifting in commercial gyms at best can give us a feeling of being present in the moment, which is induced mostly by safety considerations. Not only that, but the owners and staff of such places are not intentionally aligned with the idea of offering both a physical and spiritual space to us. Most gyms managers are more preoccupied with signing up new members than with their well-being and happiness. 

** Passage from the Fit for Joy Book 

LIFE CAN BECOME A LUCID DREAM

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The moment we choose to recognize our experiences in the world as lessons of love, life turns into a lucid dream. This recognition can come from the depths of our hearts. The spiritual awareness through the senseless suffering caused by our minds. Either way, the main difference between a nightmare and a lucid dream is a shift of perception grounded in love. In the dream of life, there are many mountains to climb every day, and they might crumble, the dust might blur our vision, the fear might replace our hope, but if we have faith and recognize our own essence, we will never fall.

 

** Passage from the Fit for Joy Book 

WE ARE JOY!

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Writing these life events taught me that everything is connected, and that ignoring what causes us to suffer is the same as losing an incredible chance to free ourselves from pain, thus abandoning the path of happiness. This might sound contradictory. However, I assure you from my own experience that there is nothing like examining the causes of pain and fear to free ourselves from them.

We are not our past, our thoughts, our feelings, our genes, or our futures. So who are we underneath it all? Well, I highly suspect that we are joy—a mix of peace and happiness! It’s my conviction is that only the heart can empower us with true forgiveness, joy, and love; with an undeniable healing force that can turn our stories into “songs of freedom.

** Passage from the Fit for Joy Book

PAST AND FUTURE TRAPS

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Happiness and serenity are linked to the present moment, which requires fully appreciating what is happening now, within and in our environment.  Nevertheless, many of us do not achieve this state because we dwell in the past or become preoccupied with living for a “better” future. When we project or stake our happiness on the hypothetical achievement of a future circumstance, we sabotage our ability to be happy in the present, and reinforce a self-destructive mindset that will likely persist into the magical “future” we are hoping for. To release ourselves from this trap, we must shift our perspective toward a spiritual reality that resides in the now with the power to transform pain into joy.

** Passage from the Fit for Joy Book

IF NOT WITHIN, IT CAN'T BE FOUND

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It’s with profound delight that I can say the main message in this book came out of my conviction that we are in physical bodies to realize the joy that already exists in our spiritual hearts.

Fit for Joy connects physical activities with spirituality and enjoyment, and psychological processes with our inner nature, which are our unique ways of seeing the world based on our past experiences. I believe that the heart is the master of our lives, the mind our powerful servant, and the body the bridge between them.

 

** Passage from the Fit for Joy Book

ON HOPES AND DREAMS

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Deluded dreams and unrealistic hopes for the future can have the same effect as real drugs. We all know something is terribly wrong with this frantic search, but because everyone else around us is living in this kind of reality, we get pulled into it, too. We start to believe that this is how things should be; that this is what is real and normal. In truth, what is real and normal is to fully live in the present moment.

Consider this: if we can’t find happiness and peace in our own hearts in this very moment, doing whatever we are doing, we won’t find it anywhere else or at any time in the future. Our hearts know and have known the truth forever.

To strive, achieve, and grow without joy is to live in mediocrity, much like the unfulfilling pleasure of having a beer or soda while playing the lotto. Where is the joyful you in this moment? 

 

** Passage from the Fit for Joy Book 

A PATH TO HAPPINESS

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A few months later, still at the peak of my “new life”, the feeling that I couldn’t help my clients intensified as my façade of success crumbled. The fitness competition I had won had been an awful experience of self-abuse that made me obsessed with keeping my weight as low as possible. The new guy I’d fallen in love with was my ex-husband in a different body. My emotional life was falling apart.

On a calm day while walking home from the gym, I started having frightening thoughts. I didn’t think about ending my life; rather, something deep inside me suggested it was already over. Despite my fit and healthy body, years engaged in the fitness community, and my organic diet, I was severely depressed.

I felt I could not share my condition with anyone. After all, I was a fitness model and a “health” enthusiast. Being perceived as a strong and inspirational person was crucial to helping the people around me become “healthy.” Thus, my depression had to remain hidden.

Although I knew my clients were making positive changes in their lives because of me, I intuitively acknowledged that these were not the kinds of changes that pleased the “soul”. Pained and lonely, I trusted I would overcome depression and feel “normal” again by spending more time at the gym, coming up with new exercise routines, new healthy and delicious recipes, or buying new gym clothes. But my depression got worse, until on a sunny, beautiful day, I felt that I was dead. I couldn’t think of anything that made me feel I deserved to be alive. My past was filled with painful experiences and torturous memories, from childhood abuse, to two divorces, to unreliable friends, to dissatisfying careers. In the darkness of my own mental prison, I asked myself: “What would you do if you were still alive?” 

This was the question that changed everything. Before I even thought of an answer, joy washed over me, and immediately I knew that my understanding of life had shifted. It felt like I was free from all the pain. This feeling also announced that happiness and peace had been there in my heart all along. I promised that I would listen to my heart from that day on, starting with forgiving my mother. There would also be no more preoccupation to be fit as a way to be happy. I was, and always had been, fit for joy!

This feeling was so real and strong that all I wanted to do was to share it with others. I wanted to tell everyone that no matter what happened, is happening, or will happen, that there is a path to true happiness.

*** Passage from the Fit for Joy Book

THE STORY AND THE SPIRITUAL PATH

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I believe our story is part of our spiritual path, and that our spiritual path is inseparable from our story.

During my inner conflict as a fitness trainer, I did sense that something was wrong with my thoughts, behavior, and my life in general, but I had no idea that the pressure to be fit was directly linked to an unhealthy desire to please others based on past experiences and conditioning. What keeps us repeating the same mistakes and suffering unnecessarily is precisely our inability to address our negative past as stories. They can help us better our lives if give attention with courage and kindness. We can learn to perceive all past experiences, without judgment, blame, or guilt, as references for what not to reproduce in the present and future.

*** Passage from the Fit for Joy Book 

TRYING TOO HARD

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I now see that my "fit and healthy" lifestyle was made up of a series of these kinds of experiences. I was very disciplined, but it was turning me into the opposite of a loving and happy person. I came to realize that the pursuit of a fit and healthy body could only be a positive thing when we’ve already recognized our spiritual hearts as perfectly fit to provide us with a life of happiness and peace. In other words, although a fit body can improve our health, earn compliments that boost our self-esteem, and give us a temporary “high” of accomplishment, without a content mind and joyful heart, our happiness won’t last long. Our health and feel-good states depend on external conditions and constant hard work, which can propel us into an endless, destructive cycle.

*** Passage from the Fit for Joy Book

ON SELF-RESPECT

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I can confidently say from my experience with fitness that the motivation to have a healthy body should not be based on fear, but on love. One of the hardest negative mental habits to break is the constant need for the approval of others. This habit can propel us to physical and emotional abuse, as happened to me, by over training our bodies to be accepted and complimented by others. The more I abused my body at the gym, the more people praised me, and the more I was motivated to keep doing it, to the extent that I even signed up for competition shows. As you can see, this was not that different from a drug addiction. My lack of self-respect and self-love was great enough to keep me open to doing anything that gave me that “approval-acceptance” high. 

*** Passage from the Fit for Joy book

ON SELF-LOVE

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SELF-LOVE

From many insights and lessons, I’ve learned to have self-love without selfishness; to recognize which behaviors are motivated by love rather than fear; how closely connected my past was to my present; and that love, joy, and peace are at the core of our true nature in relating to others and the world. My new spiritual understanding not only gave deeper meaning to my life, but has also caused external changes I could never have imagined. 

 

** PASSAGE FROM THE FIT FOR JOY BOOK

THE SPACE TO BE YOU 

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"Bravo’s dusty roads were still paths for bull-driven carriages, which squeezed between the houses in a cloud of dust. The carriage conductor would scream loudly to give directions to the bulls. He wore leather pants and a leather jacket under the fierce sun, and whipped the bulls with two dirty ropes. From far off, I could hear the loud creaking of the carriage’s dry wooden chassis carrying large bags of beans and corn.

The sound grew louder and louder as it approached our street. It was a bit scary at first, but it always became the attraction of the week. I would rush to the window, covering my eyes with my fingers so as not to be blinded by the dust. I couldn’t open my mouth to laugh or scream either, unless I wanted to have dust for lunch.

I still enjoyed the passing of the giant, creaking carriage dragged by bulls and whipped by a wild man. Bravo seemed not to care about its bull-driven carriages making loud noises and clouds of dust. It was simply the space that allowed a bull to be a bull and a man to be a wild conductor."

 

*** Passage from the Fit for Joy book

Warm wishes, 

Valeria

LISTENING TO THE HEART WAS MY ONLY CHOICE

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"After days dwelling on my detached feelings and memories of the past charged with discontent, there was a moment of silent melancholy and then a question. This question would change everything: “What would you do if you were still alive? 

I knew the answer well.

I’d listen to my heart..."

 

*** From the Fit for Joy book.

Much Love,

Valeria

SIMPLE PRACTICE FOR A PEACEFUL DAY

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A simple practice we can engage in to cultivate peace and harmony is to give up hope and replace it with aspiration or motivation from the heart—that is, to stop waiting to be happy when something happens, but instead rejoice in this very moment for doing what you do, because what you are doing now should already be the realization of what you want to happen in the future. 

 

*** From the Fit for Joy book.

 

Warm wishes,

Valeria  

CHOOSE TO BE THRILLED!

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We have the choice to change our minds when we can't change the situation we find ourselves in. Instead of perceiving a commitment to finish the work as dreadful anxiety, we could live in these moments with a sense of thrill.

Embrace the challenge of being creative, thus tapping into the unborn parts of the mind that are not conditioned to perceive external events habitually. 

The main difference between anxiety and excitement is the energy behind these feelings; one is driven by negative thoughts (anxiety), and the other by positive ones. All of the unnecessary suffering in our lives is self-created, and so our happiness. 

When we are able to perceive reality with an inner “eye” that can’t see itself, our hearts will have become the source of unconditioned joy. 

 

*** Passage from the Fit for Joy book.

With warmth,

Valeria

LOSE WEIGHT - FIND JOY

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Below you will find a sample of the diet I used to be on for about two years before I competed with WBFF – World Beauty Fitness and Fashion. This dietary system combined with weight lifting can be of great help for losing weight, staying in shape, building muscle and strength, but as I have mentioned throughout my Fit for Joy book, this type of regiment mainly focuses on the physical body, which is only one aspect of our being. We are so much more than just our bodies! The approach to fitness that works the body in isolation from the mind and our spiritual hearts is not what I do today, professionally or personally. My work at the moment is about integrating conventional physical fitness with spirituality.

These meal suggestions are only to illustrate what my personal journey was like. They are not approved meal-plan recommendations.

- BREAKFAST Option One

8 oz cold water with a probiotic supplement

1 tablespoon matcha green tea + ½ lemon

7 walnuts

1-2 whole eggs

-BREAKFASTOption Two

1 salmon filet oven roasted with coconut oil

5-10 walnuts

Steamed Kale

- BREAKFAST Option Three

Steel-cut oats – almond milk – berries

Green tea

 

LUNCH

Any lean meat of your choice: white fish (sole, cod, flounder, or halibut), grass-fed red meat, tuna fish, wild salmon, chicken breast, turkey breast, sardines in water.

Eat with steamed veggies or a green salad from the list.

Avoid sauces; instead use olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and avocado oil for salad dressing.

Snack - Best Options

1 tablespoon spirulina shake with ½ oz. frozen organic berries and a teaspoon of coconut oil

Green juice – no fruit added

Protein shake – whey protein

Nuts (walnuts, macadamias, pecans, Brazil nuts)

Raw coconut flakes

Celery, cucumber, or carrots with almond butter

Kale chips or dried seaweed

Raw cheese (unpasteurized)

Sweet potato chips (homemade)

 

 

DINNER

The same options as lunch

*Important – Avoid:

Alcohol

All sugar and sweets

Regular fruit except for berries and green apples

Starchy carbs such as pasta, bread, rice, wheat wraps, white potatoes, etc.

 

DRINKS

Water

Kombucha drinks or tea

All kinds of tea, but especially green tea, no sugar added

Coffee - no sugar added

 

OTHER DETAILS

Sleep 8 hours or more per night

Drink a gallon of water a day as well as green tea

All vegetables and fruit should be organic

Adding lemon to your meals is great – it alkalizes the body

You can have a small piece of dark chocolate 85% cacao or higher, but not every day

Use stevia powder as the only sweetener

 

*** From the Fit for Joy book.

With warmth,

Valeria

 

 

 THE SUN, THE MOON, AND THE TRUTH CAN NOT HIDE

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Karen was my last client for the day. We met at seven sharp, right after Steve.

Karen was an obese woman I trained twice a week. She was thirty years old, weighed 250 pounds, and was 5’ 2”. However, these numbers don’t say anything about her. She was a painter who owned her own gallery in Manhattan. The serenity in her eyes and the way she smiled for no reason introduced her before she even told me her name.

She had been married for more than five years to someone who was in good shape. I knew this because her husband came to pick her up after our sessions. The conversation we had the first day we met left me pondering about life for days.

I asked the same question I asked every client before we began the program: What are your three main fitness goals?

Karen said she only had one goal: to enjoy the workouts.

I recall looking into her eyes as if she had not understood my question. I rephrased it, and this time I was more specific.

“I understand, Karen, and I will ensure the exercises will be fun, but what I meant was, how many pounds do you want to lose?”

Again, she answered with a smile and said she didn’t care about the weight; that she just wanted to feel good during and after the workouts. Furthermore, she said it didn’t matter if she didn’t lose any weight at all. Her peaceful eyes and joyful smile reinforced the truth of her words.

I could not believe this woman and how out of touch with reality she was. She was obese, for God’s sake! She could actually die of a heart attack at any moment, and my mind refused to believe that anyone could be at peace with a body like hers. It couldn’t be possible.

I insisted. I tried to force her to make a deal with me, and asked her to agree on losing one to two pounds per week.

Once more with the same serene, happy look on her face, she replied that I didn’t understand her. Patiently, she repeated that she was fine with her weight and that she enjoyed her work. She was a person who loved and was loved by her family and friends. Her life was a blessing, and she was grateful for what she had. There was nothing else to be added or removed to make her happier. The workouts with me were just to get her body moving while she had some fun.

I wasn’t amazed by her attitude, because I neither understood nor believed in what she was saying at the time. Nevertheless, after our encounter that day, I went home thinking about her, and remembered a thought I’d had when I was a teenager, one that had returned many times throughout my life.

I would die young.

I believed I would not reach the age of thirty, despite being physically healthy.

Perhaps intuitively, I knew that my heart could fail at any time because of my lack of understanding of what life was really about: love and kindness.

I am convinced that Karen became my client for a reason—to teach me that to be healthy is to be loving. She trained with me for almost a year, and never lost any weight.

Karen was the healthiest client I ever had.

 

*** Passage from the Fit for Joy book.

Much Love!

Valeria Teles

CALLING FOR FITNESS AND SPIRITUALITY

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My six-o’clock client was not a regular. A fellow female trainer had had to leave due to an emergency, and asked me to take her client that day. I filled in for her as a substitute trainer.

Steve was a fifty-seven-year-old businessman who seemed to be under a great deal of stress. I could tell this just by being around him for a few seconds. He gave me a serious, almost intimidating impression, and breathed heavily. We were introduced in a hurry by the other trainer as she ran out the door.

Steve looked at me with an expression of quiet impatience. He was in good shape and looked strong. His chest area was well developed, leading me to think he must have been lifting heavy weights for years. I could tell he was very proud of his chest.

Before I could ask him about his training routine, he gave me the workout for that day. His program had only four exercises: barbell bench press (155 lbs — 12 reps), incline chest press (50-lb dumbbells — 12 reps), floor push-ups (20 reps), and incline dumbbell flies (20 lbs — 12 reps). If you understand something about muscle-group training, you will notice that Steve’s workout had only chest exercises.

I looked at his program and said enthusiastically, “Great! Let’s do it!”

I set up the barbell and began the first workout on the list. I was ready to spot him if he needed it, standing close to the bench behind his head. As he ended each rep, I cheered him on by saying things like, “Great job, Steve. You’ve got it! Nice work! Keep the energy! You can do it! Wonderful! You are doing it right! Don’t give up! One more left! Nicely done!”

In truth, I was talking to myself. I needed to hear my own enthusiastic words, given the day I’d had. I noticed something unusual when I took a quick glance at Steve’s face to make sure he was okay. He was looking at me and smiling as he lifted the heavy weight. He’d finished lifting without saying a word, with a smile. I didn’t exactly understand the reason for his happiness, but I was glad his serious and stress-filled expression was gone.

 

Considering he was a new client, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to begin a conversation about my early insights into fitness and kindness. Nonetheless, I asked him trivial questions, which he didn’t answer. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy interacting with others when I’m with them. I like separating things: There is a time to be fully alone, and a time to be fully with others. In a trainer/client relationship, there are moments to focus on the exercise, moving and breathing properly, and also moments when we can talk.

 

Steve’s behavior was making me feel incredibly awkward. Concerned but trying to stay cool, I followed him around with my cheerful chatter. His behavior didn’t change. The studio was quiet; there were only a few people working out with their trainers. No one seemed to notice how uncomfortable I was around Steve.

Once again in my life, I felt stuck. I didn’t want to stay there, but I couldn’t leave. I tried to stay calm and do my job well.

We went through the workouts. In the end, Steve was sweating, still with a smile on his face. Before we said goodbye, he asked my name again, then mentioned that he liked my training style. He also inquired if I could train him from that day on. I politely explained to him that my schedule couldn’t fit another client.

In truth, if my heart had not begun to guide me toward fitness and spirituality, I would have accepted his offer. 

*** Passage from the Fit for Joy book.

Much love!

Valeria Teles

 LIFE OR BODY TRANSFORMATION?

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Diana was next. We met at five in the evening.

She came in ten minutes early and hustled past me on her way to the locker room, saying, “It’s been another busy day. Give me the hardest, most beast-mode circuit you’ve got, Valeria.”

My energy was very low at this point. I really didn’t want to train another client, especially a high-energy person like Diana. She was thirty-four years old and exercised every day in the morning before she went to work. Her jogging sessions lasted an hour. She usually met me in the late afternoons for her weight training.

Today was an upper-body session. While she lay under a sixty-five-pound loaded barbell, doing twelve reps of military presses, I asked her, “What is the most important thing in life to you, Diana?”

She was so focused on her reps that I wasn’t sure she’d heard me. As usual, she was having a serious conversation with the barbell. We didn’t tend to talk much. Her workout mood had always been to get the job done as well as possible and leave the studio.

A few seconds later, she put the bar back on the rack. The next exercise was ab work, and she knew it. We had the circuits programmed in advance. She moved briskly to the yoga mat on the floor to do a set of twenty reverse crunches.

Her breathing was heavy. The circuit was intense. She was never happy with anything light or easy. I was still waiting for an answer to my question as I kept track of the number of reps, but I didn’t ask it again.

On the floor, while doing a quick stretch - bending her knees close to her chest while keeping her legs together - she said, “The most important thing to me is to keep moving forward through the days. When I wake up in the morning, I have a to-do list in my mind. I just go through it naturally. It’s a clear, focused, and precise daily plan I accomplish by the end of the day.” She finished her answer by the assisted pull-up bar, after fifteen reps.

Diana had been moving fast for the last thirty minutes. She performed all her exercises with the same focus and precision as she checked off her to-do list.

“Do you like your job?” I asked.

She was so focused on her spider plank ab work that her favorite movie star would have gone unnoticed had they walked by us. Sitting on the mat, wiping her face, she said that she got her job done, made great money, and was proud of herself. She worked out hard in one of the best fitness clubs in New York, and could afford my high personal training fees. She laughed and added that she ate out all the time, traveled, went out with friends for drinks, and that serious relationships and love were too complicated to give attention to.

You know that feeling when there’s nothing you can say to someone because they’re too busy listening to their own thoughts? That’s how I felt.

After we finished the workout, I reflected on how Diana’s life was not that different from her to-do list. It was programmed. She’d been in a cycle of living according to rehearsed habits, and her life had turned into a running race with no finish line or winners, an existence driven by nonstop actions. There was no space left to even think about love.

Diana followed the exercise program and ate clean while training with me. She achieved the fit and athletic look she wanted in three months. Her body composition transformed, but I wish her life had, too.

 

*** Passage from the Fit for Joy book.

Much Love!

Valeria Teles