Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Had to call a plumber today to fix a broken pipe in the basement. $265 later he was gone and i changed clothes, shuffled my iPod to the KPops section, and headed out on my bike to forget about the money spent. I always find it amusing (and amazing) that when i'm out on the road, running or riding, i can completely turn off the world and become nothing but moving feet as soon as i turn my KPops on. Can't do that with JPops or USA Pops. Can't even do it with Classical, my standard (non-running) fare. I sometimes suspect that with enough songs and enough volume i could undergo surgery with just the music. Don't want to try to prove it, though.

Good news. I could, for the first time, actually use my right thumb to click the shifter on my bike. Until now it just wasn't possible but today there was no pain. I'd still have to say that each time i did it my thumb was "uncomfortable," but that's not pain. It seems to be on the mend.

This reminds me of when i was in the ER after the bike wreck. I don't think i've written about this, but... On numerous occasions while i was lying there a nurse would come in and ask me to rate my pain on a scale of 1 to 10 while she was updating something on a blackboard i couldn't see.

Each time we did this we went through the same routine, and i wasn't trying to be cute, brave, or anything else. I would always reply that i wasn't in any pain. I'd tell her to rate it at zero. She'd question that, and i'd say "OK, my right thumb is throbbing so you can say that's a two, but the rest of me is a zero."

I don't know if anyone can understand this unless you do any endurance sports. Over the years of training for marathons what i call pain has changed considerably. Where long ago i would have winced at the slightest pain, now i have learned, or just come to accept, that i can simply turn off those thoughts and forget about it.

As just one of countless examples, i remember running the Napa, California marathon in the pouring, almost freezing, rain years ago. I had a blister on my right foot before i had gone 5 miles, but knew there was nothing i could do about it then and there. Unlike Chicago, the Napa marathon is run out in the middle of nowhere. What to do? Tell your foot to shut up, that you don't want to hear it bitching about a little blister, then ignore it and keep running. Tune it out and turn into a pair of moving feet. Simple as that.

It wasn't until the morning after my night in ER following the bike wreck that i understood why they were asking me about pain all the time. Until that morning i had never seen my face so had no idea how much damage had been done. Since i hadn't seen anything, i did what i always do while i laid there: told my body to shut up. It's not that i felt pain and chose to ignore it, i really didn't feel any pain. In hindsight, after seeing myself in a mirror, i can see why the nurses didn't want to believe that.


Along these lines, and continuing with previous posts, while the plumber was here i downloaded a copy of the 1923 volume of Message Of The East, a monthly magazine started in the early 1900s by Swami Paramananda when he came to the US to teach Vedanta. Over the years, he included one lesson on Vedanta in each month's issue. It's good reading.

The January issue is subtitled Mastery of the Self and includes these paragraphs in his message:

Spirituality is not a question of calculation. We either have it or we do not have it. It is not a question of doctrines or words or theories. It is something we evolve within us and after we have evolved it others benefit by it. Our life becomes transformed. We are the same and yet we are not the same. We have the same hands and feet, but they are put to better use; we have the same mind and heart but they are filled with greater ideas and ideals. The only way we can rise, the only way we can lift our fellow-beings, is to find a higher level of consciousness. If we have a higher standard of life, if we possess self-control, if we are masters of ourselves, we cannot help but benefit those living around us. They may become impatient with us, intolerant that we are different from them, but if we try to walk in their ways we do not benefit them. If, however, we hold fast to our own ideals, they will turn to us in moments of distress. In time of storm, anger, impatience or great grief, one who is not molested by these things becomes like a rock, others cling to him and find their consolation.


Even from the stand-point of self-preservation or personal happiness, we should cultivate mastery of self, because therein lies the secret, the strength, the fulfillment. If we do not have all that we desire, let us make the best use of what we have. The greatest artists are those who depend less and less on outer conditions. They have creative genius within themselves and with little material produce the best. It is not the material which makes the artist, it is the artist himself who shapes the material. If we bear this in mind we shall cease to complain, to find fault either with ourselves or our outer conditions. Whatever comes our way, let us use it. The efforts we are making now will bring us the highest; all they need is direction and fortification. That is what self-mastery means. Self mastery gives us such wisdom that we may always, under all circumstances, depend upon our own inward strength.

Therein lies the secret — cultivate mastery of the self. We can, then, under all circumstances, depend on our own inner strength. Good words to think about as you're drifting off to sleep.

No comments: