Zen and the Fat Slow Triathlete

A total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind.
Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts.
Earlier this year I wrote a piece entitled “Taming My Monkey Mind”. In it I described how my mind never seems to settle down and the struggle I have to try to “turn off” when I need to be concentrating on something. From that post I wrote:

There is a difference between fear and anxiety. Fear, according to Freud, is a primitive alarm in response to a present danger. The key word there is “present”. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a state of nervous vigilance that is targeted as something in the future. Fear and Anxiety are both linked, in that it provokes the same basic response physically or mentally, but it’s target is where the difference shows up. Fear, though, is something easily handled, even beyond the flight or fight response. Fear about something is usually something you can see, or you know is there. Anxiety can be present without even knowing what the hell is causing the feeling. Anxiety affects you in every way; physically, emotionally, cognitively. 

Anxiety is also something hard to describe to someone who has no issue with it. You will hear people say “I am really anxious over this job interview” but it’s really not the case. They may be nervous about it, or excited about it, but if they were truly feeling anxiety over it, it could cause them to stay in bed and miss the interview altogether. Not by choice, but by the physical inability to get out of bed.

Luckily I have not had an episode like that in over 12 years. It’s not a feeling I ever want to experience again.

I am finding myself zoning again, so my good friend and weight lifting partner, Dave McMurrin, loaned me a book called “Everyday Zen” by Charlotte Joko Beck. I has been very “enlightening” (no pun intended). I have spent a good part of my life the past ten years constantly going over and analyzing the things I have done, the steps I have taken, both good and bad. I am not sure this has been a fruitful exercise. Where I thought it would help me deal with issues in my past, what I have found recently is that it has conjured up those demons and allowed them to reactivate in my head. This cannot continue. I need to find peace.

And so I read … voraciously. Anything I can get my hands on … trying to find that one kernel of truth that strikes home and sets everything right in my head.

I am starting to think it is not out there … and maybe my search for it is the problem itself.

We spend all of our lives going after something, someone, some goal. Letting go of all of that is the way to enlightenment and calm … the taming of the mind. The problem is that finding that place is hard. The way we live our lives is so unnatural, that a practice like Zen is very difficult. As Joko writes in the book:

You cannot “let go” of anything. If you start trying to force your mind to do something you are right back into the dualism that you’re trying to get out of. The best way to let go is to notice the thoughts as they come and to acknowledge them, and without judgement return to the clear experience.

All well and good, but as most of us know, this is not the easiest thing in the world to do. The issue is learning to focus on the task at hand … to “be in the now” with your full mind no matter what task you are working on or at. Whatever task you are performing should have full attention and effort, and to be aware of any thoughts that disrupt that work. This is where I have a problem, or where my Zen gets interrupted. When I am running I should be focused on the run; how my body feels, if there are aches I need to pay attention to, what is around me. I should NOT be thinking about the report that is due the next day, or where the money for Christmas will come from, or the phone call I forgot to make before leaving the office. These are thoughts that remove you from where you are at that moment. This creates anxiety or fear, and derails any benefit you may be getting from the exercise. Likewise, when at work, the report you are working on should have your undivided attention, and your mind should not be floating to the afternoon workout, the logisitics of getting to the location on time, etc. When those thoughts creep into your head, acknowledge that you had them, and mmove forward with the task.

Zen is accepting what you are right now, and nothing more. There is no “I should be faster”, or “I should be thinner”. You are nothing more than what you are right now, and any other thought is counter productive. Once you accept this, you are in a state of Zen. From my posts here and on Facebook and Twitter, you know I have a hard time with this. I constantly compare myself to others, I constantly feel I should be thinner, or faster. I get dejected whn people beat me that I know I work harder than. I must learn to let this go. Recognize when I am doing this and letting it flutter away. I tell others all the time to “race your race”, that your only opponant is you …

Time I started heeding my own words.

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