Archive for November, 2010

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I’m Hungry

November 28, 2010

If you don’t know who Graeme Taylor is, you should find out now, so you can brag you-knew-him-when, when this little Buddha becomes a great force for good.  Check this out if you have a few minutes, and pay careful attention to what he says around 3:06:

Ellen: You didn’t write it down it’s not a speech you just from – you just talked off the top of your head?

Graeme: No I came up there and I got up to the podium and I remember, huh I’m hungry– [audience laughter]

I think most folks would find that an endearing little line that a charming 14 year old throws in for a quick laugh on the Ellen show, but I think it’s a rather remarkable moment of enlightenment.

I have a Buddha figure in my life, who once said to me (paraphrasing), “whenever I start to get emotional or angry or upset during the day, I check to see if I’m hungry, thirsty, or have to pee. Usually I haven’t taken care of one of those needs, and once I do I feel ok.”

It’s easy to laugh at those basic needs in our complex world, but paying close, intimate attention to the simple requests of the body is compassionate, intelligent and, I think, profound.  When I think of the number of times I have recognized I had to pee, but completely ignored it, recognized I was hungry but punished myself for eating sins of days prior, recognized I was thirsty but figured I could go “just a little further,” and then I hear this startling, bold child taking a moment to check in with his body before he gives the speech of a 14 year long lifetime, I know I have a lot to learn from him.  The part of him that was able to listen to his needs, is the same part of him that was able to reach down and produce the brave, peace-inspired speech that he gave.

I’ve begun running recently. Or, rather, what I have dubbed “Jalking.”  The rest of the world calls it interval training. I like Jalking.  I walk till the idea of jogging sounds like fun.  I jog till jogging doesn’t feel fun anymore.  I walk till jogging sounds like maybe it’d be fun again; lather, rinse, repeat.  What I’ve found especially exciting about the process is not just the sheer fact that I’m jogging, after years of believing I couldn’t, but the constant process of “checking in” my little game requires.  I check in with my feet, I check in with my lungs, I check in with my knees, I check in with my overall system and fatigue level, and continually change my behavior based on my in-the-moment evaluation.  Instead of working with time intervals or prescribed distances, I work on consistently checking for evidence of “fun” or “not fun.”

This little whippersnapper’s ability to “check in,” is hugely inspirational to me.  I have this vague notion that the pains of my past, any struggles I had with body image, weight, exercise, food, will be the things that make me most successful, and most impactful on the world.  I’m not sure in what way exactly – performance, teaching, writing, some combination of all those things? I don’t know.  The only thing I do know is that the only way all of this will manifest, is if I can continue, over the course of my life, to constantly check in with myself.

I can’t wait to see what this kid does, and at almost-30, I hope some day to grow up to be like this 14 year old.

 

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Reflections on a Marathon

November 15, 2010

As many New Yorkers did a couple Sundays ago, I got up early and planted myself with bagel, coffee and gloves at a corner of Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn and started yelling feverishly in support of strangers, jumping up and down, hooting, hollering…

And crying.

I mean, like, practically immediately there were tears.

Partially, the emotion was from watching  the Achilles International runners make their way past me.  Whether it was a blind runner with their guide, a hand-crank wheel chair racer, or any other runner with a disability, those athletes completely blew my mind – not only in their own efforts, but in those of the able-bodied runners who would spend the marathon as their guide and assistant for the full 26.2.

But what made me most emotional was the support of the crowd in general.  Having the privilege of living in Brooklyn, I got to cheer with a crowd of folks who were predominantly NYC residents.  Not that I have anything against Manhattan tourists (ok… maybe when I’m trying to walk quickly to work I have something against tourists…), but they’ll get excited and enthusiastic about most anything in New York City.  But a street packed with Brooklynites, there for no reason other than to lend their vocal support to thousands of people running by that they don’t know, is something truly special.

One of the things I find most appealing about the iconography in Buddhist philosophy, is that statues and images of the Buddha are never supposed to be considered as presentations of gods or deities.  Rather, the Buddha’s image is intended to be a direct reflection of human’s highest potential.  Not that the Buddha is someone better than you, more special than you, who accomplished more than you, but rather the Buddha is just like you, and he was able to achieve enlightenment just like you can.

Perhaps it’s hyperbole, but I think marathons also exemplify the highest potential of humanity – not only in the Elite Runners banging out 2 hour races at the peak of “fitness”, but in the struggle of the first timer, the expectation-blasting efforts of the Achilles athletes, and the unconditional support of strangers cheering on strangers.  I can only speak from a spectator’s point of view (so far…), but I think there are moments during marathons where that concept that we are all one, that we are all interdependent and evolving as one whole, jumps off the Eastern Religions 101 text book page, and becomes palpable and tangible.

In this spirit, I thought I’d include here a little video of a friend of mine, Captain Quinn, from marathon day this year.  The unceasing, unbridled cheer-gasm he brought throughout the day is the best example I can present, of this epitome of the human spirit:

[Note: I can’t figure out why youtube uploaded this sideways… if anyone knows how to fix it let me know]