If you claim to be a real friend then be real in your soul. If you claim to be fake then be an enemy instead-
I was in my early 30’s when we first met. This particular marathon was in a beautiful and exotic part of war-torn Baghdad, Iraq. I did not like it from the start and it only got worse from there …
I nuzzled my way onto the starting line cocky, arrogant, and self-centered. I couldn’t stand the thought of having to run through the pack, outlasting the early sprinters and generally weaving through the pedestrians. Much to my dismay, I faded back 10 miles into this scorching hot race. This was just another marathon, but I was the same person.
And there I was at the next big race in Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The same person I was a year earlier followed me to this race as well …
It finally dawned on me, blonde hair and all, that it was I, who needed to change or else I would be my own worst enemy for the rest of my life. As I began to walk the path of meaningful change in my life, I came to realize my poor marathon performances were a metaphor for the way my life works. I can cast blame and run away from poor performances, although they will keep returning until I finally face them, and owe up to them.
Over the past three years of blogging. I tried at times, and failed more often than I like, to share with you, thinking out-loud, why these particular traits of me bother me so much.
Once I set out to change myself all those years ago, I started to notice that the “old” me doesn’t come around as much anymore. When these feelings do arise out of nowhere? I tap deeper into my inner compassion and gratitude … Noticing that in some ways, I have been trying to help myself all along, I was just to cocky, arrogant, and self-centered to notice.
Morning without you is a dwindled dawn-
*Written this past Wednesday at 0500*
I’m more than a little bit pissed off this morning. Primarily with myself (for ignoring my tight hamstrings and back for nearly two weeks), at our local utility company (for raising our rates again), at the lousy Nebraska weather forecasting people (for raising my hopes for nice biking weather), at some close friends I help train for not taking my advice about ultra marathon prep, and at my body once again (because it’s been barely three weeks and I’m lying on the floor covered with ice).
*Written five minutes ago*
Looking back at what I wrote last week, it just occurred to me that maybe my extreme frustration with “life” and the people around me, has at least as much to do with my own irritation(s) at the way I take care of, and treat myself. Interesting to think that if one is as gentle, kind and compassionate as one would like to be, one wouldn’t get quite so pissed off at the necessary trials of dealing with this thing called “life” …
I leave you with this – In one sentence – Who are you?
My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus-
This past Thursday I walked into a local novelty store in the Omaha Old Market. “Good afternoon – How are you?” A kind worker asked me, a little too enthusiastic for the morning I was having. Life has been dreadful so far this Summer, and facing some stressful moments at the time … I did not shy away pretending all was fine.
I muttered, “I’m OK.” She replied back while stocking gift cards in a display, “Just OK? Not awesome? It’s a beautiful day outside! Cheer up dude, you should be thankful for what you have?”
There was no smile on my face this particular day. Although I still had gratitude and joy in my heart. Sometimes, expressing kindness and giving thanks does not require a peppy cheerleading routine.
The message I am sharing today is a touch different from the norm around these parts. Simply put – There are times when we are experiencing difficult moments in our lives, and its hard to be – Awesome. Sometimes, openly telling others to “cheer up” and “be thankful for what you have” is a strategy for avoiding what they may be going through in the moment, the pain, the hurting and struggle.
It’s really easy to tell someone to cheer up. Rather than taking a moment to listen to what is going on in their lives…
All of us will face difficult moments in our lives, piss poor marathon this past weekend, stress at work and whatever else. Grief is a part of life and no matter how hard we try – we will never outrun it. We don’t have to have everything going right in order to be thankful, to express ever lasting kindness, in any situation.
There are no facts, only interpretations-
When I began walking my current path, my motivation was existential …
I struggled each painful morning to answer burning questions such as Who am I? What is my true nature? What is the nature of the world around me? These questions still linger to this day, although meditation practice and mindfulness practice in particular, have helped to define the path unfolding in front of me.
During a painful period recently, with profound feelings of sadness. In one sense, I tried to be gentle with myself, allowing my body ample time before engaging it fully. As time went on, motivated by the desire to be fully alive and fully functioning, I began to observe closely just how my pain constituted and unfolded, how I participated in it, and how my attentiveness and lack of it affected “things.”
When I was aware and mindful, I would be feeling fine and then – within a moments notice … I would find myself back at the start. When I was able to both engage and observe, I could begin to see that my experience began as a kind of spasm, a contraction, a rushed breathe. I could notice (however arduous as it was to stay present) how my manner of paying attention, what I attended to and how, could either accelerate or decelerate the rhythm of the process.
Attention to the process is what meditation brings to my life, especially when the dynamic themes play, like a broken record.
We may not be able to control what arises each and every day. However we do have a say in how we respond, moment to moment … These fruits of daily life, can be liberating.
It’s not time to worry yet-
Dear Readers, since Summer has surrendered to the beauty of the Fall, I have been obsessing over my left knee as the days grow shorter and the nights increasingly grow colder. I feel nothing different in it. It doesn’t hurt as much as before, just some clicking and popping – the occasional swelling reminding me to slow down and rest. And yet, in the past, I have had severe, tear inducing pain underneath where my left index finger rests this morning. A few months ago (July maybe …) after doing too much physically during class, cycling with no intention or purpose: In essence ignoring my body, I had the same feelings, in the same spot of my surgery. I obsessively spent countless hours rubbing and massaging around the medial side of my left patella, the femoral notch, the spot on your lovers knee that you place your hand while driving one Fall morning to pick apples … I did this to the point of bruising the still tender soft tissue where my surgeon ripped my knee apart.
Last evening while reading Siddhartha, cuddled up with my Son lying on the floor, nothing is going on. no pain, Yet in my mind I feel like I feel something, in the sense of sensing something is wrong. I feel like I sense something there, like an old friend paying a visit after a long journey …
Which reminds me of something. It’s about “some” dude who visited a friend recently, “Right here.”
I He said, jabbing, poking at the exact spot. The doctor friend replied, looking directly in my unwavering eyes, “have you been doing this a lot?” “What do you mean by this?” I replied, jabbing and prodding at the incision points insistently.
“Yes. Said the doctor. “Yes,” she said.
My friend looked me in my eyes once again, her hand placed on my knee with care and softly spoke … “Stop doing that – Dude.”
Pain will come with time, but time will heal the pain-
Let the above quote settle in your heart for a moment …
Life can be full of emotional “roles” we take on. I am tired of trying to act out what others have created – written for me, and I want to define myself for who I really am, not what’s expected.
Of the 500+ blog posts I have written, this one has been by far the most challenging. Why? Because it is more Uncle Ben Kenobi then Luke Skywalker and while I like to think I can save the day, every day, for everyone, like an intergalactic heroine; I realize I must now save myself. I am not a fictional character but a simple dude figuring things out and sharing observations along the way. A simple dude who is learning that being healthy and pain-free is not a luxury to take lightly, it is part of my journey.
I’ve arrived to the conclusion that I need more than awareness, I need acceptance in my life. I am fully aware that I live with unwavering pain everyday, simply waking up in the morning (hell, I never fall sleep) is enough of a reminder.
I fully realize now (in this uncomfortable writing position) that awareness is the crisp sheet of Star Wars wrapping paper my lovely wife and I firmly wrap around our son’s birthday presents, with the gift(s) neatly stowed inside, and acceptance is the shredded aftermath of his fury: ribbons, bows, poorly taped boxes, and batteries I forgot to pick up the night before (because focusing on suppressing pain is all-consuming) … it is effort, function, and truth beyond projected images. They are both beautiful and play important roles in our life.
Awareness: I have always wanted to get better after each injury, heal faster, be healthier, listen to everyone’s problems, and take away everyone’s pain away without ever taking time to acknowledge my own. I’m terrified of pain … I want to be the poetic ideal that everyone believes I am. A friend, a father and husband with time and heart for all who come in need of a hug or a willing ear, to process a conversation or opinion without judgement. I want to meditate peacefully, perform yoga pain-free, be a better lover, and be honest and open to all I meet. Is that too much to be all of the time?
The answer of course is a resounding YES! Because after years of simply being aware of the pain, I am now laid barre writing to you, fully accepting where I am at in life.
Acceptance: I have always thought that simply not being in the grasp of the worst of my pain was in fact happiness. Everything these past few years has been a matter of comparison for me, I am a walking barometer of pain. I want to know what happiness truly feels like. Happiness is not skipping mega doses of pain medication(s) one morning in order to know I am alive today in comparison to yesterday when I was under the influence of too much Motrin. My days are filled sharing with others in hopes that they will come to know happiness. That they can work towards being better, that you are allowed to eat red velvet birthday cake, drink too much wine and be merry. You don’t have to suppress the joys of life to achieve some self-serving, vanity filled fitness goal! What others expect you to be …
What follows is a note to myself:
I must take care of myself, not just so I can fulfill my obligations in life but to take care of those who love me.
Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day-
What does patience mean to you personally in regards to mindfulness and living an authentic life?
Patience: the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, difficulty and annoyance without getting angry or upset.
What are we to think after reading this definition of patience I pulled from a dusty dictionary? You may be asking: “Will I encounter delay, difficulty, or annoyance in my life?” All of us share a universal answer: (we) can’t recall a single day in our lives when at least one of “three” –delay, difficulty and annoyance … Didn’t make an appearance.
Throughout the years, my reaction to the presence of any one of the three was to get “angry” a little “upset” and completely “ticked off.” Then early one winter morning I realized that my normal response served only to make an already unpleasant situation, worse, much worse. Thus began my journey to making a conscious effort to respond to “delay, difficulty and annoyance” differently than I had done before. On the worst days? The best I could do was to simply “tolerate” their presence in my life. Although with practice, just like riding a bike and doing the yoga thing, I was better able to “accept” them kindly, with a smile and as an inevitable part of daily life.
When we start to weave tolerance and acceptance into delay, difficulty and annoyance … We sit up straight and start to notice a few things. Firstly, patience is a gentle way of treating ourselves with compassion. Keep in mind Dear Reader: Compassion is the act of reaching out to those who are suffering … Including ourselves.
Secondly, I noticed that being patient gave me a feeling of calmness that makes it infinitely easier to ride life’s ups and downs without being tossed about aimlessly. Seeing the correlation between patience and enhanced self-compassion and awareness convinced me of the value of practicing patience.
I suffer deeply when I stray from the path of patience, lack of patience is a stress response to whatever is going wrong in my life. Stress firmly grips both my mind and my body … Cultivating patience is my way of taking care of myself, which is the heart of self-compassion. the calm acceptance of life as it is, right now in this precious moment
Now how does one share to the world, the hyper obsessed runners and fitness aficionados that the idea of suffering and stress from punishing our bodies is NOT taking care of ourselves?