Eric Stevens

Fitness Speaker, Author & Personality

Eric Stevens is a health and fitness coach, trainer and practitioner. Eric has broadened that body focused fitness with writing, presenting and acting in order to reach people, change lives, and create dialogue.

Filtering by Tag: Self-Love

The Fear of Living

According to the Chapman University Survey on American Fears, a corrupt government is now the number one fear for people in our country. Other top worrisome concerns for Americans include pollution, those close to them dying/getting sick and not having enough money.

In our modern turbulent world, it’s curious but perhaps not surprising that these new fears have replaced the more ‘traditional’ fears of dying and public speaking. We now fear the environment around us (both literally and figuratively) more than our own internal fears. We fear the economic environment, the ecological environment the political environment. In a telling sign of the times, five of the top ten fears are also now related to ecological issues like pollution and global warming.

For many years, the most common fears were “phobias” such as: social phobias (public speaking or going to parties), arachnophobia (spiders) arcophobia (heights), pteromerhanophobia (flying), claustrophobia (small confined spaces), ophidiophobia (snakes), trypanophobia (needles) and so on. And, of course, the grand daddy of all primal fears (death, or those closest to us dying).

While we still fear dying and losing those nearest to us, what we really seem to fear more than ever is living. It seems almost counter-intuitive, but many now fear living even more than dying. Considering the nature of things these days, this actually makes some sense.

Life in the year 2018 seems vastly uncertain, utterly confusing, and most of all, completely vulnerable. Attack of every sort seems imminent - cyber attack, data breaches, terrorism, civil unrest, environmental collapse, financial meltdown, pollution, identity theft, drought, fires, mass shootings, devastating floods and storms.

One could contend that our modern existence boils down to an obsessive state of worry and constant rumination about these disheartening dilemmas: How will we make a living? How will we pay our medical bills, how will we find clean water, how will our corrupt government protect us? Is it safe to go to church or the mall?

Moreover, the nature of our habitually plugged in lives perpetuates this never-ending cycle of doom and gloom. We seem to be in a hopeless and powerless state marked by environmental collapse, the erosion of jobs to machines, futile political polarization and gridlock, the decline of civil discourse and the epidemic of loneliness – Why should we fear flying and snakes, when life is this scary!?!

It’s enough to drive one to drink or look the other direction at something bright, shiny and pleasant. So, that is exactly what many of us do – we numb. We incessantly surf, scroll, browse, and shop. We text, Snapchat, and Tweet. We dull our pain and anxiety with booze and opiates. We watch TV, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime. We travel or participate in ‘experience driven’ vacations to escape the busyness, boredom and fear of our ordinary lives. We brood over sports, scandal, and celebrity gossip. In short, we do anything to flee from reality because it’s just too damn scary and uncertain.

It’s a daunting task in this day and age to ponder the nature of the immense problems of living (let alone come up with possible solutions). It’s no wonder we’re driven to so much distraction. Regardless of whether our fear is living or dying, many react with the same mantra – “run like hell.”

Sometimes when I stop and think about the really good parts of being alive in this era, I can only come up with one thing - food. The food is really good. Craft food, farm to table restaurants, the organic movement, specialty food stores, authentic food trucks, what’s not to like? I can only imagine future conversations in Heaven or the next dimension with former relatives or those from other times:

Q: “So, what was life like back in the 2000’s?”

A: “Well, it was terrifying, but the food was excellent!”

Yeah, and at least the music was good on the Titanic, right? Indeed, it’s hard not to be a flippant skeptic in this day and age, and yet there is a way out of the despair and subsequent numbing. The recipe for curing hopelessness is love. Specifically, the love of one self.

Gandhi famously said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” 

In the book of Luke, Christ commanded: “The kingdom of God is within you.”

The Dalai Lama said that peace: “Starts within each one of us.”

The foundational element for a true peace of mind is love. Whether your peace means justice, bringing about the end of conflict, environmental harmony, freedom from worry over financial concerns, or the trials of health and happiness - Solving all these dilemmas starts within the confines of our own self-love. Whatever your belief construct is or whomever you pray to, the path to a fulfillment of peace is clear - The only way to calm the tumultuous waters that we are currently navigating collectively is for us to each seek inner peace and grace individually.

Like many these days, I too am worried about the future as I am worried about the now. But I have begun to see that my biggest personal task and contribution is to seek and forge my own path for peace. We must begin to see that the acute dilemmas of our time are exacerbated by the biggest trial of the day – distraction from our internal conflicts.

The real fear of living isn’t about external phobias, societal collapse or the threat of our own demise. Rather, the root of this fear is about the willingness to confront our own shadows of shame, trauma and guilt. The journey starts with the willingness to embrace both the sharpness of pain and dullness of stillness. As overwhelming as our current obstacles may seem, each one of us has a crystal clear path in solving the crisis of communal fear – facing our own.

Earth Weights

I reached out to my Mom recently seeking some advice and wisdom regarding a burden I’ve been carrying around for some time. As always, she reminded me of the benefits of gratitude, the power of prayer, and the importance of expressing my true nature.

It’s wisdom I’m fortunate enough to have heard throughout my life and applicable regardless of life’s circumstances. Hearing it again was enough to snap me out of my funk and lift my spirits a bit. But Mom also said something to me in our conversation that I hadn’t heard that stopped me cold in my tracks. “Eric, you need to drop those earth weights.”

I had to laugh, as I have been an avid weightlifter for nearly 30 years. I started lifting weights in college. Not being a super athletic kid, I had never actually even been in a weight room during my formative high school years. But once I was introduced to pumping iron, I was hooked. From that fateful day my college roommate Chris took me to my campus weight room, I’ve been a gym rat ever since. 

There was a feeling of control that I loved in fitness and the simplicity of the notion that effort + intensity = results. While I couldn’t control my God given attributes like being smart, handsome, or athletic, I could control the sets and reps in the gym. It’s a lifelong habit that I have always been proud of. While the virtues of a consistent fitness regimen are widely touted and too many to list, a passionate dedication to exercise has also led me to my professional vocation in fitness.

Indeed, weightlifting has been a big part of my life, but recently I have come to realize that my exercise wasn’t the only ‘weightlifting’ habit I picked up in college. Metaphorically speaking, the hindrance of carrying around emotionally heavy weights was also an obsession I picked up as a young man. My personal and professional aspirations also came with underlying currents of seeking validation and approval from others.

One of life’s heaviest burdens is the desire for popularity, whether it’s the approval of Mom and Dad, fitting in with peers, or climbing the corporate ladder. For me, I was the perfect storm for an approval-seeking fixation - an actor striving for applause, a writer hoping for ‘likes,’ and the common individual seeking acceptance from his friends and family. Add in the fact that I am a known pack rat (I sill have baseball cards from my childhood, countless collectibles, and even hundreds of CD’s I’ve acquired over the years) and I’ve always been a prime candidate for lugging heavy loads around. It’s no wonder I took to weightlifting with such vigor and enthusiasm!

Too much ‘weight training’ over the years has taken a toll on me both physically and emotionally. My back hurts chronically from too many squats and deadlifts and my stomach hurts frequently from too much anxiety. In confronting the false notion of physical control, I’ve also noticed the ball and chain of the emotional weight that I’ve been schlepping around from place to place. This awareness has allowed me to practice releasing the burden of resistance and instead develop flexibility, adaptability, and acceptance.

The strain of lugging around the heavy load of earth weights is something all of us deal with and with the constant bombardment of technology and social media; the desire for validation seems particularly acute these days. The constant striving for approval must be confronted or the inevitable hardships disappointments and traumas get heavier and harder to move around. If not dealt with and tossed aside along the way, at some our earth weights point become simply unbearable.

In the Bible we are instructed to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves.” While many follow the command to rightfully treat others with empathy, dignity and respect, sometimes lost in the shuffle is how we treat ourselves. As our society falls deeper into the abyss of narcissism, addiction, and distraction, one common theme emerges – a lack of self-love.

Peeling back the layers of the primal urge to feel necessary and loved brings one full-circle to the true foundation of self-love. Loving your neighbor, establishing purpose, and finding happiness doesn’t start with establishing what we like or who we love; it starts with loving ourselves. To truly love with authenticity, we need to free ourselves of excess baggage and heal our open wounds. To do so can only be achieved when we finally drop those earth weights and step into selfless love.