The stages of pain and pleasure

MFMOne of the many things I love about endurance challenges is how the physical body affects the brain and the mental thought processes.

I did a marathon run yesterday, a fundraiser that I used as a training run for an event coming up in the spring. Unlike most races, after 10 k I was alone for the remaining 32. Running on wooded trails is my preference because of the true peace of wilderness and being with nature, except the surface was quite icy, so after 21 k I reverted to the road. I ran to the Fire Hall turn around point (26k) , running along some beautiful shoreline of St Margarets Bay, Boutiliers Pt and Blacks Point but the wind made it cold on the face. At about 24k, the standard ” how the hell am I going to do another 18k ?”  ” why do you keep running these distances?” ” do you really think you can do an ultra”, messages popped up, creating that state of panic, dispair and discouragement . But the cool part is this time it was quickly dismissed after about 5-10 minutes by, “Suck it up, you’ve been down this road before (excuse the pun), so get rid of that tune off and put a replace it with Van Morrison’s “Bright Side of the Road” . ! I have learned that I can’t stay in these dark places or its doom!!!

I decided to replace the message in my mind with – ” Enjoy the sweet sensation that pain may deliver,,, savour the moment rather that think negatively about it, because you WILL  break through it, and when you do it will be sweet. But the breakthrough pleasure is not significant without that pain. I also reminded myself not to be so damn self centered and to remember what this event was for, the memory of someone who died of cancer , and for Feed Nova Scotia. The discomfort I was experiencing would end and would be replaced with euphoria. Unlike those suffering from illness, desolation and dispair.

I realized that part of why I do endurance is to go to those dark places by choice , and be reminded of how very lucky I am to have that very choice.

And something really spiritual  always happens . at 36 k, I just happened to look up the big hill  to my left and  I could see a bright yellow jacket. Running adjacent to me were about 200 feet above were the 2 ladies who organized the event. They run out  on the trail, (which runs adjacent to the road, but much higher up), to check for me, as I was one of only 4 who ran that distance. So they yelled down ” Are you near the end of your marathon?”, to which I hollered “6k to go!!!”. They cheered me on very loudly and said they’d be waiting for me at the end. You cant imagine what a moral boost that is to have a small cheer like that at this stage . At 38 k they were there again, hooping and hollering for me. I felt renewed and ready to fight the last 4.2 k. When I finally reached the start point at the Bike and Bean, I was only at 40, so it meant I had to keep going to 41.1 and rurn around to get the 42.2 . 5 minutes later my wife Barb passed me on the road and I gave her the 5 fingers and a wave back meaning, I have to rurn around and will finish in 5 minutes. She knows good hand signals from me running. haha. Upon my finish those 2 ladies were also just getting off the trail and we were so happy to see each other. We had a great chat and shared some good stories and I thanked them for their kindness and cheers when I really needed it. I told them that my mother was working through them, ever watching me from above and giving me the boost when I needed it most. Spirit !!  Then we went inside to the cafe for the reward—seeing my best friend and life long partner Barb, a warm surrounding with a few other runners  and the best Latte I have tasted in ages! Sitting down, reveling in the day, accomplishments and the sweet sensation of muscular soreness and the internal sensation of accomplishement. All of these things  are so priceless . its what fuels me, cures my ills, feed my soul  and keeps me alive!

 

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Perspectives

Keep-Calm-2A year is coming to an end and its my birthday today. Its inspired me to look to what transpired over this past year, to look at what has and hasn’t worked for me. Its interesting how thought patterns and beliefs change during the aging process. Time is precious so its important to spend time on what matters. True happiness is a choice and it comes from what is inside the soul. It will never come from extrinsic sources.  I’ve come up with some things that I’m going to do my best to change

  1. Action vs Reaction- In today’s age of digital news and social media filling our lives with constant activity, news ,etc. , its easy to react quickly without really thinking critically. I am going to Act on what I think is important and meaningful and not React to anything out of emotion .
  2. Present vs Presence- being totally present , available and listening  to someone as opposed to showing presence but not being totally available and engaged. Stop the multi- tasking, and listen totally to someone  in the moment.
  3. Focus focus focus- continue to work on staying focused, rather than constantly moving from one thing to another. As I age, I feel like I have developed an adult case of ADHD that constantly needs to be addressed .
  4. Screen time- were constantly talking about how much time is spent on screens. I use mine to read books , research and work. So its not always about the quantity of screen time, but more about the quality of screen time. I could use a lot less time on social media and more time on the meaningful stuff, and I will endeavour to do so by reducing social media times to twice daily.
  5. Judgment- lack of. Approach life without judgment. Period
  6. Compassion- more of it. End of
  7. Empathy- I need to think about and be more aware of it. It can make a big difference in this world.

I want to continue looking inward to solve the puzzle of what makes this machine called ” me” work. Is my current lifestyle healthy in every way? What is out of balance? Spirit, body, mind?  The journey continues………

 

A Fortunate Few

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There’s a theme that’s been going through my mind all week, and its about life’s hardships.  As I sit here tonight listening to the vast emotional space of music that is Jesse Cook, my mind seems to continually think of how very fragile life is. We lost a wonderful friend this week and another is fighting for her life. A woman now goes to bed and wakes up alone without her soulmate, and I feel her pain.  I’m learning to appreciate life every single day, seeking the simplicity around me , embracing my good fortune and spreading it where I can. Yes, I”m learning these things because I have taken them for granted for many many years.  Yet when death is near, I’m still shaken and bewildered at how fragile our lives are. 

I am born imperfect and I need to work on being good. Its who I am and I accept that. Some are born with open hearts. Thank God for those people being in my life, they show me the way. I have to work at having an open heart, at being positive and healthy. I spent many years trying to numb any feelings I  had  , for fear of having to deal with pain. Let me tell you, its hard work and its a miserable existence, meaningless, empty and lonely. Today I try to embrace any pain , go through it so that I can  move forward. 

I’m acutely aware that life is very very good and that hardships are just around any corner, so for today, I’ll live it as fully as I possibly can, for I am one of the fortunate few. 

 

THATS WHY I RUN.

 

 

 

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Running gives you lots of time to think, thats just one reason why I love it so much. They’re usually, no ALWAYS  clear, cleaN positive thoughts! Yesterday I was on a long one,,, and I was thinking about Jon Rankin  and his The Run Project. http://vimeo.com/69194345. John got people to post videos about why they run. So I asked myself that question yesterday. The one word answer is INSPIRATION. I think the inspiration comes from the wonderful endorphins and the physiological responses that are created from running . My soul and spirit develop into what they were meant to be, the way our creator made me. But there are so many branches that grow out from the INSPIRATION tree. Just a few of these  branches are : inner peace, confidence, compassion, selflessness, motivation and a big one GRATITUDE.  Fitness is really an added bonus. I post and share my fitness experiences, not to brag or boast , but to INSPIRE… and I know it works. I too was inspired to take the first step on Jan. 1, 2010 because a friend blogged about their running . It took me months to do it but I did. So I have to pay it forward. 

 The message is  that if I want to keep all of the gifts that running has given me , I must give them away. Thats the reason why I decided to start doing events for charities like Tour for Kids http://www.tourforkids.com/atlantic/#.UpsxtMRDu_Q,  Team in Training for Cancer Research, http://www.teamintraining.ca/en-CA/team-in-training-exp/region/atlantic-canada. I wanted to somehow give back, because I feel so very very fortunate to be able to do something so fulfilling that paying if forward is just a natural response of gratitude . But I always receive more than I give, so how can I not keep giving? 

Then the branches start multiplying and branching out more- through fundraising, I’ve met amazing people who feel the same way I do. These people have influenced me in such positive ways and inspired me to do more goodness in small ways. So my life, since running has gradually changed from a  person who  thought only of himself and his own needs,  who “Took the edge off”, by ingesting  a substance of some type. Today I “take  the edge off ” by releasing something good back into the world. There’s always a little fear  about going back to the old me,,, and I think that fear is healthy,,, it inspires me to try to be better and better.  Those branches keep branching out,, and I haven’t even talked about 90% of those branches,,, but the branches keep growing and THATS WHY I RUN …. WHY DO YOU RUN OR WALK OR CYCLE OR PADDLE OR SWIM OR SKI ,,,,,,? 

 

 

KISS (Keep it simple Scott)

Its been a while since I’ve posted . I remember how therapeutic blogging can be so I’m going to endeavour to return to it. The anniversary of my deceased parents wedding seems to have inspired some thoughts in me today. They were people who lived simply and gave of themselves generously and I’m inspired by them so much. I have learned many useful slogans through my search for personal growth,,, they’re all great and meaningful. One day at  a time. Live and Let Live, Easy Does it (but do it), etc. But I struggle with using them at the right times, even more so as I age and my memory starts failing. But KISS is probably the most valuable one to me because as one who feels things deeply,  I can really over complicate things and take them too seriously. I can’t fix everything but I can fix me and thats how it has to be.

I do not learn things easily,  but when I do learn something , I know it for life and tend to do it well if I enjoy it. I  have to work hard at these things so  I treasure and value them immensely. I may sometimes seem obsessive about them. Swimming is something I have recently committed to , since its something I have always avoided, so  I need to really focus on it to learn it well, and if I ever want to do a Triathlon (and I really do), I must learn to swim properly and know how to relax and breath without panicking.  Its teaching me discipline too because I’d much rather be doing Yoga or running. 

But it appears that learning to swim is teaching me other things aside from the physicality of the sport. Its teaching me to trust myself , to be vulnerable to a force of nature, to let go and allow the force of water to let me flow with it, rather than force myself on it. My coach tells me  that when he goes to a new pool he swims to the bottom of it and sits there to get a feel for the environment and enjoy the feeling that the water has around his being. I think its really cool. I’m learning that when I use Ujjayi breathing (Yoga)  I can relax and breath through my nose comfortably . Another great gift that  Yoga has given me, among many others!

All of these things seem to help keep my spirit “soft”, keeping me from developing that hard outer shell that can form  when I take life too seriously. I hope you too have something in your life that helps you Keep it Simple. Image   

Darkness

I love this flower image. It shows that out of something |”seemingly” dark and dead comes something beautiful and very much alive. Listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen these days , from his earliest stuff right up to today. Its kind of like being able to go and visit an old relative and listen to their life stories and learnings anytime I want. I typically listen when I’m driving. Of course his lyrics are up to interpretation , which makes it all the more interesting because I think about what he means, but at the same time it generates feelings and thoughts . His lyrics are so richly textured that they really encourage me to think and feel emotions. He’s really been a great therapist for me. At times I think maybe I should not listen to a certain song in that it might send me into a depression , but that awareness itself is enough to keep me out of the darkness for too long, I go in for a taste, understand that its OK and come back out.

I guess I like him because he seems to me to be a realist. He talks about humanity and lack of it in “The Future”. In recent interviews He talks openly about his struggles with depression all throughout his life . Tha reinforces my belief that mental illness can be also seen as an opportunity to view and experience life in a rich way that only one who has experienced depression can understand. The greatest artists of our time have all experienced mental illness , Van Gogh, Mozart, Da Vinci, a list too long to mention. My intuitive belief is that it goes far beyond a chemical-hormonal imbalance, its about being so emotional and sometimes feeling so much emotion , that you just cant express it enough , or that you can’t relate it to another so you do it through your craft or gift, but when thats not enough you go very far inward to a place that only we who know that hole can describe.

I find myself going there at this time of year, but now I come back out. For that I’m grateful because when I stay there just long enough, I grow , and when I come back out I grow again and I see the light very differently each time.
I want to make sure I don’t read this blog before I post it because I shouldn’t need to correct my thought. It is what it is and its mine.
Heres the lyrics from one of Leonards new songs being released Jan 31 from an album called Old Ideas. I think hes talking about depression here in a way that I totally relate to.
title=”Darkness”>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkWMqs67Lhw&feature=related
“The Darkness”

I caught the darkness,
It was drinking from your cup.
I caught the darkness,
Drinking from your cup.
I said is this contagious?
You said just drink it up.

I got no future,
I know my days are few.
The presence not that pleasant,
Just a lot of things to do.
I thought the past would last me
But the darkness got that too.

I should’ve seen it coming
It was right behind your eyes.
You were young and it was summer
I just had to take a dive.

Winin’ you was easy, but darkness was the price.

I don’t smoke no cigarette, I don’t drink no alcohol
I ain’t had much loving yet
But that’s always been your call.
Hey I don’t miss it baby
I got no taste for anything at all

I used to love the rainbow
And I used to love the view.
Another early morning, I’d pretend that it was you.
But I caught the darkness baby
And I got it worse than you.

I caught the darkness,
It was drinking from your cup.
I caught the darkness,
Drinking from your cup.
I said is this contagious?
You said just drink it up.

Ying and Yang.

 As I walked with my dogs yesterday morning in a spectacular winter environment, I thought about how  so much has been happening lately thats led me to rethink mortality . An aging relative  is no longer thriving, a good friend is grieving over the sudden death of a very close friend, a relative is faced with having to euthanize her sweet beloved pet tomorrow, a close friend has had a biopsy and is waiting for results , my wifes client is in ICU fighting for her life.  Wow, in a matter of a week all of this comes into play. It compels me to drop to my knees in the snow on a Saturday morning and Thank my Higher Power for what I have at this moment. 

I don’t typically pray to My God and ask him to do what I want, like ” please make this person better and don’t let them die”. That would be asking for my will to be done. And I’ve learned the hard way that my will is not what life is about. I believe Gods will is for me to thrive . God gives me the tools to do what I  need to do. God created nature, and in nature is balance, ying and yang, hot and cold, positive and negative, suffering and joy.  There cannot be one without the other. 

Recently thinking about a close relative who is aging and seems to be lacking the will to thrive recently, I have pondered whether the human spirit just decides its time to go. Seeing others your age pass away before you and seeing your quality of life diminish may cause the human spirit to seek refuge through death,( or what we perceive as death). I wonder whether the aged sense their passing and simply allow their spirits to lead toward the other side. Intuitively it feels to me that it might be my experience when the time comes. So perhaps we shouldn’t feel so bad for the elderly who don’t seem as “bright” or “chipper” and appear disengaged. Maybe they are on their journey to the other side and maybe its not so bad. But whatever it is,  I have faith that it is natural and that has to be good. 

Yes people suffer , but in suffering there is release, moments of clarity that cannot be experienced in any other state. And so goes life. When someone dies, humans typically feel sad because that person is no longer in their lives, so isn’t the person grieving typically thinking about themselves rather than rejoicing that the deceased is now released from earth and into another realm? My wife Barbara reminded me again last night that should she pass away before me, she wants a party, not a sombre funeral, and should that happen, a party she will have. And I want the same. For my life to be celebrated. However life is to be celebrated today in this exact single  moment that I am here writing this blog. 

Something I have thought a lot about lately as well is that I am very apathetic and that needs to change. I rarely  REALLY put myself in another persons shoes and see things from their perspective.  We use the term lightly “walk in another persons shoes”, but for me to do so , really requires some effort . I highly admire those who can do this , they tend to be the good listeners , the compassionate ones.So I have decided that I will really focus on empathy . One thing I”ve decided to do is to make my races count. Every marathon event that I do will be for a cause. If I run 42km in a marathon , that run should be to help someone who can’t run. I’ve decided to pick a charity and raise money for every marathon, half marathon or 10k that I do. And in doing so I will think about and try to feel what its like to be in the shoes of someone who can’t run. Today I can’t run because I’m injured, but I know that I will be able to run when I”m better. How many around us don’t have that option because they’re disabled, or sick ?  

I don’t know that I”ve made any sense here but I know that it sure helps me to express my thoughts and get it out there. Perhaps a dark topic in January, but for me its dealing in reality and it helps me a great deal at a time of year that can typically be depressing for some. Its OK to feel depressed, sad or lonely as long as you know that you’ll feel the opposite again soon and that will make your happiness and joy all the more richer !! That is what is different for me today, I accept the Ying and the Yang. Image