Musings on Bicycling and Buddhism

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Scariest Thing You'll Ever Face: Yourself

File Under: Breaking the Limits

I'm giving up on giving up. I've decided. I've had it with fear, doubt, and disillusionment. These things were cool when I was watched Reality Bites, long before I went to college and started living on my own, long before life got hard. (Life was never exactly easy, but this is before it got difficult as a direct effect of my own actions, or actions in this lifetime (if you're into that sort of thing).) Back then identifying with the disillusionment was enough, there really didn't need to be anything on the other end of those emotions. I was the disillusionment.

I've got a counter-force brace on my right arm, supporting my busted elbow (micro-tears in the tendon) from my Tough Mudder. I've got bone bruises on my patellas (aka knee caps), abrasions, strained tendons in my knees, ankles and feet that keep swelling up at the most inopportune moments. I've got bruises everywhere. (And a nasty burn on my arm from baking a cake.) And a smile on my face.

Why would this make me smile? I'm not a masochist. I'm also already signed up for a Rebel Race in 2 weeks and another Tough Mudder in May. No, I don't think I'm insane either.

Battered by Sandy

I imagine those much more intensely effected by this hurricane than I may feel something like this:

Everything hurts in here, it hurts in my heart. Everything is gone. And I'm so angry at this situation, and it keeps coming out at everyone else. Am I angry at myself? Or the world? This whole situation sucks.

Just don't give up, as soon as we give up the growing stops. The healing stops.

There's a story of a man, Devadatta, in the Lotus Sutra and elsewhere. So the story goes, this man - a relative of Siddhartha, an exemplary practitioner, gave way to jealousy, scheming and greed. Convinced the king to kill his father and usurp the throne. Tried to kill the Buddha and take over the community. But all of this grew out of his giving up his own internal struggle, really.

It hurts so much, but keep going. I keep throwing myself headlong into these challenges because I want to try, I want to challenge myself in a big way not to give up. Look my doubts square in the face, and win.

Outside In

One reason I did the Tough Mudder was because I was sick of looking at my life from the outside in, judging my success in any endeavor by someone else, or what I thought someone else thought of me. Even by this age and amount of living I know better, yet the propensity arises from time to time, and lately more than I'd like.

I here endeavor to be completely honest with myself, even if I don't like what I see. Even if I'm stuck doing things that I don't want to do. It's the only way forward. The Mudder was mine, and mine alone. I certainly wasn't alone at all in the doing of it, before or after - but the confrontation of the self was mine.

That Devadatta fellow I mentioned before - he was all about external appearances, all about being in charge of everything for his own glory. There was none of the introspection, the struggle to find that sometime-ephemeral sense of having a unique mission in life that requires so much work. I don't want to be that person.

Doubt, self-deprecation, self-begrudging come from the same place as arrogance. They come from a place where our outsides determine the innermost truth of our heart. It is place that has no respect for the inherent worth of each individual, because from this perspective the individual only has worth in regards to the outside.

There is no inner growth here.

Dangerous Buzz Words

"The faith that can change destiny cannot be carried out easily. Must not doubt. The fundamental cause lies in my own determination and faith.

"I have a mission. Without a mission, a Bodhisattva of the Earth has no reason to exist. Human beings must never forget their mission. Since this is the case, my only choice is to courageously carry out powerful, unyielding, indomitable faith."  Oct 10, 195? Daisaku Ikeda, A Youthful Diary

Faith is a dangerous word, full of all sorts of connotations. But here I use it to mean faith in ourselves; in our own unique capacity; faith in oneself to know that, e.g. I can grow more, be more - being just who I am. (In case you were wondering: Bodhisattvas of the Earth are those who answered the Buddha's call to stick around after his death to continue to lead others to enlightenment on into the future, especially when the eras become rife with strife.)

In training for an event you have a goal - e.g., I will run 12 miles of mud and obstacles and finish successfully. I will ride my bicycle 100 miles in one day. In life - scary big-picture moment here - we have a mission. No one tells you what it is; it's yours alone - yet so intricately connected to everything. Sort of a determining your own destiny thing. But it's also a lot more exhausting than riding hundreds of miles or running tens of miles to discover it. And also, just as exhilarating - probably more so.

Through challenge we grow. We get a chance to seek the profound inside our lives during this existence  We get a chance to write our own definitions, not be told who and what we are from the outside. We get to each discover what our mission is, and for each it is different.

But it means we have to make a choice to do this, a choice for self-determination.

Mudder as Life

I cannot look to another to know my purpose. The mud covered people running next to me, helping to catapult and pull me up and over obstacles, just as I aid them - they cannot tell me either, although we run and struggle together. I would not assign an arbitrary value to any one of them based on their muddiness  because I am just as muddy. But underneath that mud, the person inside is shining. That person is fighting with everything they've got, surmounting obstacles with the help of others and helping others. That person is fighting their own internal battles just as much, even if I cannot see from here.

Each one of us is running this thing for some reason, some internal drive. Some mission we've made for ourselves. This run isn't a competition, it's a challenge. You've got to have some deep personal reason to run it, or you won't finish.

Part of my goal was to do to every obstacle, not to skip any. In a Mudder you can skip an obstacle if you need to - although most don't, but in life the only way out is through.

I'm running through my proverbial mud.


Dream bigger than what you think is possible, only then will your life begin to approach what you're truly capable of, is a paraphrase from the person I identify as my mentor in life. Well, right now my sense of mission is murky, and I've got dreams that should very well be impossible. But just because I don't have the answer now, and maybe am not yet capable of what I imagine, doesn't mean I can't ever, or won't ever.

The future is farther than the horizon, what is possible is more than what we can see right now. When we give up on giving up, give up on defining ourselves by our current external limitations, the possibilities open wide, and the only limit is our own vision.

You might have noticed by now, inside our innermost beings, there are no limitations.

Herein is an existence that does not require the outside to exude joy. Never giving up means it doesn't matter how muddy my outsides get, I am not defeated, I am not destroyed - no matter how bad the getting goes.

And that's where this smile comes from.

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Tour de What You Will by Jessie Calkins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License