I woke up this morning, still feeling foggy in my head, but I made the CHOICE to go to work.

the problem is choice

OK, I apologize for referencing The Matrix when trying to make a point.  Please don’t hold that against me 🙂

I went to work, with half-vague notions of rallying and going to the gym after work.  As the day went on, my head got foggier, so I took some Dayquil.  Then felt better, then it wore off, and I already had about 6 swigs from it, so I let my day play out (I had to stay late to catch up), then went home.

Do I feel bad about missing another day of the physical side of the 30 day challenge?  On some level yes, it sucks that the cards were stacked against me.  I could wheeze my way through a practice, I could hack my way through a public class and probably infect other people, but I chose to rest more.  But I also feel like writing, so here we are.

Choice is a powerful revelation when trying to get in shape.  It doesn’t just magically end with “choosing” to “start” getting into shape.  As most of you know by now, you have to wrestle with that choice over and over again, every single day.  They say 80% of the work is done when you just SHOW UP to the gym.  Every day you wrestle with your own innate ability to wriggle out of hard, stressful work.

But it goes even further than that.  Some days, you legitimately realize going to the gym is a bad idea.  You sprained your shoulder, you have the flu, whatever.  Some days you realize you have been eating healthy for so long that you feel like you are crawling the walls begging for a cheeseburger and a milkshake.  You think that if you slack off, you are screwing the whole thing up, you are falling off the wagon.  May as well just start eating nothing but junk food again!

It is a weird place we find ourselves in when we start to think of fitness like this tightrope, and if we fall off the path we have to reset the clock back to zero.

This is silly for SO many reasons.  All the work you have done doesn’t go away after spending 3 days lying in bed sick, it doesn’t go away if your boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with you and you eat a litre of Oreo ice cream.  It doesn’t HELP, but whether you were perfect all day, or screwed up today or got screwed by the world today, tomorrow you STILL have to wake up and start it ALL OVER AGAIN.  Fitness is a lifestyle, a rest of your life style.

So I am not beating myself up that I aggravated my shoulder and caught the flu during a “30 day challenge”.  You have to play the hand you have been dealt.  I got dealt a crappy hand this round, but I am going to play it out.  That is where real freedom lies in your life.  You make the choice, even when the odds are stacked against you, even when you fail, you continue to make that choice.

I think this is one of the reasons villains are so popular in stories and media.  Here you have these born losers, living by some code, and failing over and over again.  But they CHOOSE to keep chasing their dreams, even if the dreams are horrible.  Let’s be honest, a great hero is really boring.  A hero who fails and then wins is exciting, and a villain who fails over and over again and still puts on their hat and goes to work the next day is exciting too!

Not all villains are to be rooted for.  A villain who wins all the time is boring, and is probably a really repulsive story.  A villain with no code, aka a legitimate psychopath, is hard to feel sympathy for.  But all the popular villains of our myths have codes, even if the codes are alien to us.  Wile E Coyote must use gadgets to catch something inhumanly faster than him.  Jason is only interested in stopping promiscuous sex in and around Crystal Lake.  Freddy comes at us through our dreams, and needs us to fear him.

We sense the power in choosing to play the hand you are dealt, even if it is a losing hand.  We know Freddy is going to get put down at the end, but we like to see his plan play itself out all the same.

That is what Friedrich Nietzsche (a fav amongst all disgruntled young uni students) had in mind when he wrote about the Eternal Recurrence.  To be so “life-affirming”, that you would choose to live this life and take the exact same heavy lumps OVER AND OVER again.  Nietzsche of course never hooked up with the love of his life, never achieved the success he had hoped for, caught syphillis from a hooker, went crazy, and died.  So he had PLENTY of regrets.  But to choose to live that crappy life over and over again is where the real power lies., the power to master yourself even though you can’t control your circumstances.

Captain N

This mastery of yourself is one of the most important things you can do as you grow up.  I remember, years ago, I was doing volunteer work in West Africa.  I had a roommate from that country, he took me to see his uncle in the big city.  His uncle was a priest, a type of priest that blended together Christianity and some regional mysticism.  He was standing in the streets, barefoot, cars flying by, wearing robes.  I was introduced to him, and I was gracious, and apologized for being a little sick (I had just flown in to this country a few days earlier, and was feeling under the weather).  He looked at me, and (in French) asked me, “what was God’s name when He spoke to Moses?”  I looked at him with my jaw hanging open, and said, “… whut?”  My roommate apologized on my behalf, said I was a foreigner (obviously), and that I was not a native French speaker either.  So the priest began to speak to his nephew instead.

“His name was I AM.  These words are powerful, for they are the name of God.  So when you say I am sick, you are sick.  When you say I am healthy, you are healthy.  These words can shape your reality.”

He then took us for a walk through the slums of the city.  Cars stopped for him, people moved out of the way.  It was such an odd experience, I held onto it to this day.  The priest was right of course, your intentions shape your reality.  I can’t choose my own circumstances, but I can still define myself on my own terms.  I chose to go to work, I chose not to go to yoga tonight, I am still taking care of myself.

But even as I sit here, the lessons of yoga are still very much on my mind.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna stood out over the field of battle, overlooking the scene unfolding before him, and cried out in despair to Krishna:

Krishna:  Whence this lifeless dejection, Arjuna, in this hour, the hour of trial?  Strong men know not despiar, Arjuna, for this wins neither heaven nor earth.

Fall not into degrading weakness, for this becomes not a man who is a man.  Throw off this ignoble discouragement, and arise like a fire that burns all before it.

Arjuna:  In the dark night of my soul I feel desolation,  In my self-pity I see not the way of righteousness.  I am thy disciple, come to thee in supplication:  be a light unto me on the path of my duty.

For neither the kingdom of the earth, nor the kingdom of the gods in heaven, could give me peace from the fire of sorrow which thus burns my life.

Krishna:  In death thy glory in heaven, in victory thy glory on earth.  Arise therefore, Arjuna, with thy soul ready to fight.

Prepare for war with peace in thy soul.  Be in peace in pleasure and pain, in gain and in loss, in victory or in the loss of a battle.  In this peace there is no sin.

(from Chapter 2 of the BG, translation by Juan Mascaro)

Krishna speaking to Arjuna

I think there is an important lesson here for me, as I reconcile with the realization that I won’t have a spotless attendance record at the hot yoga studio.  The lesson is to be at peace with myself.  And I choose.

thanks for indulging my ramblings after 3 days of being a sick hermit!

see you tomorrow!

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