Friday, October 26, 2018

From Egoism to Altruism

"Vitality appears in one who is firmly set in moderation." 
Reflections on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali- II.38

My friend and coach Mike used to joke: "Anything worth doing, is worth overdoing," but from the time I was about 12 years old - that joke was my life.
My mantras were based on quotes like:

“Struggling and suffering are the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not demanding more from yourself – expanding and learning as you go – you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip.”
Dean Karnazes

“What I’ve learned from running is that the time to push hard is when you’re hurting like crazy and you want to give up. Success is often just around the corner.”
James Dyson

"Good things come to those who work their ass off."  Unknown- perhaps my parents

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going"  as sung by Billy Ocean in 1986

And I have been successful!   Until one day I wasn't.
After Ironman Texas in 2015 I felt completely empty.  It was as if I had sold my soul to the devil.  I was tired, coming from a broken relationship, had very few real friends and  nothing left to give to my family.  I am ashamed to say that I put that race before EVERYTHING.  Working out 20 hours a week, and working 12 hour days, 6 days a week, there was absolutely no moderation in my life.  It was all "go hard, or go home".....until one day I realized what I really wanted.... was just to fucking go home.  It was time to surrender, to let go of the madness, and in doing so I found yoga.  

In studying the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the fourth limb states that "Vitality appears in one who is firmly set in moderation."  The book explains that "moderation creates a harmonious relationship among the different forms of energy that animate the body: emotional, sensual, sexual, physical, and the more subtle energy of thought."  
I can totally wrap my head around how awesome it would be if we could get rid of the "too much," and try to more evenly distribute our energy.  Unfortunately, in our society we are often rewarded when we work through the pain or exhaustion, or for having or doing more.

It doesn't help that there is a very fine line between pleasure and pain.  Working out is awesome, until we blow out our back.  Eating chocolate is awesome!  Until we have a stomachache.  Wine is awesome.  Well- wine is just awesome.  Kidding- wine is awesome until we can't get out of bed  the next morning because we are a bit hungover.  Sleeping too much or too little, too much sex or too little, too much thinking or too little..... all energy sapping things.

For me, I knew it was time to change when exercise became not only an energy sapping thing, but a soul sapping thing.  I knew my ego was driving the car, and we were leaving all of the important things and people behind.  

Patanjali states that good energy management "often passes progressively from quantity to quality, and from egoism to altruism."   I am wracked with guilt for choosing quantity over quality for so many years......but by slowing down and  making time for study, meditation and others; I think the car is starting to head in the right direction.  

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