Archive for the ‘Service’ Category
Every warrior of the light has been afraid to enter a combat.
Every warrior of the light has betrayed and lied in the past.
Every warrior of the light has lost faith in the future.
Every warrior of the light has trodden a path which was not his own.
Every warrior of the light has suffered because of unimportant things.
Every warrior of the light has doubted that he is a warrior of the light.
Every warrior of the light has failed in his spiritual obligations.
Every warrior of the light has said yes when he meant no.
Every warrior of the light has hurt someone he loved.
That is why he and she are warriors of the light:
They had endured all this without losing the hope to improve.
-Paulo Coelho, in Warrior of the Light: A Manual
The cathartic possibility of the theater needs nothing more than the actor and the stage.
“You can have theater with [the smoke, bells and whistles of modern theatrical productions], but you can’t have the cathartic possibility of theater — that thing that lifts you beyond yourself as an audience member. You really just need the platform and the actor, another piece of humanity, sharing his humanity with the audience.” (From Weekend Edition Saturday, October 8, 2011).
I have signed up for the GoRuck Ascent, an exciting 100-hour adventure where a group of active duty Green Berets, a group of hardcore athletes and yours truly will wear some heavy packs, climb a few 14k peaks in Colorado, run/walk/ruck through some local towns and cities, learn some fun/useful mountaineering, survival, and medical skills, and of course, toss back a few beers around a bonfire.
In preparation for the Ascent, we’re all committed to raising funds for the Green Beret Foundation (GBF), a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping wounded soldiers from the US Army Special Forces. Regardless of political affiliation we can agree that those who serve deserve our utmost respect and material support, especially when the going gets rough for them. And it is appalling to realize that sometimes that support is not fully there when they need it the most.
I kindly ask for your help in my fundraising efforts for the GBF. In fact, I have made this post with you, my blog reader, in mind. I have pledged to raise $1270 for the foundation, which will be a very easy to reach goal if each of you give, say, $2 . Of course, you can give more if you wish, but any amount, no matter, how small, counts. I’d love to have the support of as many as you as possible and I really am counting on you for this.
You will know in your heart the amount that feels right to give. And thank you for that amount, regardless of what it is. My gratitude is with you.
Earlier this week I completed the Goruck Challenge, a crazy ass event that is hard to describe. I wrote about my positive experience completing it on my last post. Today’s post is about preparing for the Goruck Challenge, both physically, mentally, as well as logistically.
Others have blogged about these matters and I just want to produce here a very succinct document that has just about everything you need to know to prepare for the Challenge, without giving anything away.
The essence of the training is to run with weights. Do a few runs with one of these in your backpack:
Then graduate to two of those.
Run in varied terrain. Asphalt, sand, hills. Sprint, every now and then. If there are hiking trails nearby, run (or at least fast-hike) them a few times as well. A nice way to train is to blow off a Saturday as follows: get out of the house with your backpack, and some snacks, and run away from home on the first half of the day, then run back on the second half. It’s a nice way to get to know the city you live in.
It will probably help if you do other stuff as well. Consider doing some of Eva T’s bodyweight workouts, with or without your pack on.
Attend the Challenge with the attitude that you have no idea what is going to happen in it. The truth is: we never have any idea of what is going to happen, but we believe we do. It is the illusion of control, also known in other cultures as the source of suffering. Part of what makes the Challenge a CHALLENGE is that at any given moment we wish to control a situation that is out of our control, and learning (as they say in Yoga) to relax into the pose, or (as they say in Buddhism) to be comfortable with uncertainty, can make the difference between success and failure in the Challenge. Jason puts it simply on the Goruck Challenge website: it’s all mental.
1. Wear clothes that are light, will keep you warm, and will dry quickly. Do what you can to stay warm, which requires for you to know what that will be exactly. Don’t underestimate this. Failure to do this will seriously debilitate you and it may make it not possible for you to complete the challenge. Google the lowest temperature that the city where your challenge will be can experience during the month of your challenge, and prepare for that temperature, under the assumption that you will be wet and that it may be windy. I ended up running with compression pants and shirt (long sleeve), a pair of shorts, coolmax trail socks, and a windbreaker. I also had with me a light fleece that I brought just in case but that ended not using. This exact mix worked well for me. Bring gloves, no matter the season, to protect your hands.
2. As far as shoes goes: pick a pair that is light, dries quickly, and can handle varied terrain, but don’t run on VFF’s. Those are awesome shoes (they are my preferred shoe for running), but the weight factor in the Challenge really calls for another kind of shoe. I tried them during training, quickly realized that I was going to need something different, and settled for a very light pair of Inov-8’s designed for off-road running that worked really well.
3. Wrap your bricks in duct tape, as you have been instructed, but don’t make too bulky a package, or it may not fit in the backpack you’re given. This is what happened to me, as I wrapped my four bricks on a towel that was too thick. Let’s just say that the consequences of that mistake made for some serious good livin’ out there!
Be prepared to have the snacks/gels/electrolytes you’d want for a strenuous 10 hour hike. Then add a bit more. You’re going to use them all up. My rule was to have a piece of something I could chew on more or less every hour, and this rule worked well for me.
Bring a hydration bladder with 3 liters of water in it, plus a bit more. I hesitate to say exactly how much more, as you won’t have much space left on your pack after you fit your bricks and your bladder into your pack (incidentally, a 3 liter hydration bladder doesn’t fit real well on the Goruck Echo). You will be replenishing your water reservoirs at some point, but nobody will know exactly when. So plan accordingly.
Drink lots of water before the Challenge begins.
I am very happy to report that this weekend I completed the Goruck Challenge in San Diego. Per their website:
Inspired by the most elite training offered to Special Forces soldiers and led by Green Berets, the GORUCK Challenge is a team event and never a race. Challenge cadre build each class into a team through collective conditions of mental and physical exhaustion. Classes are small, camaraderie is high, smiles are plentiful, and teamwork is paramount.
You and your fellow Challenge takers all wear GORUCK backpacks throughout the Challenge. Yes, your bags will be weighted down with bricks, but if the Challenge were easy you wouldn’t sign up.
There is much I’d like to say about the Challenge, and I will nevertheless refrain. Some things in life are best appreciated when encountered with fresh eyes. Consequently, this review will be intentionally vague at times, so as not to ruin a few of the surprises that the Challenge is known for in case you, reader, ever choose to undertake it. At the same time, everybody should have some idea about what they would be getting themselves into:
(This video is a rendition of when the Challenge was completed in NYC. I did mine in San Diego)
The Challenge delivers what it promises, and more. Now, whether that’s more of a good thing or more of a bad thing is up for each person to decide.
For me it was a very valuable and positive experience. It definitely tested the limits of my physical strength and endurance, and what I found out truly surprised me: that I am much, much tougher than I thought I was. I’ve known myself to be rather mentally resilient and resourceful, thanks to years of Buddhist Meditation and Self Inquiry, but I did not know that I was physically so, at least to the extent that it showed this weekend. This knowledge is quite priceless, and for this alone I am grateful to Jason for his vision that something as insane as the Challenge could be offered to civilians and non-civilians alike so that we can jointly see what we’re capable of, when we put our minds, hearts, bones, joints and muscles to it.
I am therefore very proud of the performance of my team (and my own performance) this weekend. To the point that it swells my heart to think about it. Really proud.
When we were in the middle of the Challenge, I wondered what kept us going. At the time I could not answer that question, but in retrospect, I realized that we had taken to heart that the Challenge is eminently about teamwork, that we had understood that when we each worked extra hard, this helped our teammates. Speaking for myself, I remember, vividly, towards the end of the Challenge (when we were all, without exception, exhausted, hungry and thirsty), having a thought like the following:
If I perform another Fireman’s Carry, or carry one of the Coupons for a little longer, that means one of my teammates does not have to do it. And so I’m going to commit to it, for this one more block, and then re-evaluate.
This way of thinking was hugely important in helping me break the laws of conservation of energy and manufacture stamina out of thin air. I am certain that, had I instead focused on my own survival during the Challenge, I would have burned out really early on. It is a bit paradoxical, but this is known to be the secret to successful teamwork everywhere:
Almost all the men who survived [Seal Training] possessed one common quality. Even in great pain, faced with the test of their lives, they had the ability to step outside of their own pain, put aside their own fear and ask: How can I help the guy next to me? They had more than the “fist” of courage and physical strength. They also had a heart large enough to think about others, to dedicate themselves to a higher purpose.
-Eric Greitens, in The Seal Sensibility
It is a lesson that, if understood well, can change the world many times over. It is reverberating in me like the ripples created by the dropping of a pebble on a still lake.
And so now it’s been 36 hours since the completion of the challenge, and every muscle in my body hurts: the soles of my feet, my calfs, my quads, my shoulders, my glutes. (Yes, those, too). And my body is decorated with bruises and cuts in a number of public and private places. And it all feels good, good, good, as all that is evidence of the vibrancy of life inside of this body that carries me around and serves me so well. It feels very good to see it put to full use.
And so the question arises as to how to best care and tender to that body in preparation for the Challenge. This is an important and lengthy topic about which I will blog in a subsequent post.
All the best to you!
Near the place where Zen Master Hakuin lived there happened to be a food store. The owner of the food store had a beautiful unmarried daughter. One day she was found with child. Her parents flew into a rage. They wanted to know the father, but she would not give them the name. After repeated scolding and harassment, she gave up and told them it was the Zen Master. When the child was born they ran to the Zen Master, scolding him with foul tongue, and they left the infant with him. They said to him: “Take care of this child as you’re the father.” The Zen Master said, “Is that so”. That was his only comment.
He accepted the child. He started nourishing and taking care of the child. By this time his reputation had come to an end, and he was an object of mockery. Days ran into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. But there is something called conscience in our human life, and the young girl was tortured by her conscience. She finally disclosed to her parents the name of the child’s real father, a man who worked in a fish market. The parents again flew into a rage. At the same time, sorrow and humiliation tortured the household. They came running to the spiritual Master, begged his pardon, narrated the whole story and then took the child back as they said to him: “You don’t need to take care of this child anymore as you’re not his father.”
His only comment was: “Is that so.”
(Taken, with light editing, from Reps, Paul; Nyogen Senzaki. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings)
Whether you’re tall or short, attractive or not, wealthy or poor, young or old, spiritually mature or otherwise, the following is nevertheless true, at all times:
- At any given moment either you’re present for your life or you’re trying to avoid being present for your life. There really is no other choice.
- Avoiding being present sometimes feels good at first but it often leads to regret, and that’s how we find out that there was no real peace in it. The more we see the effects of avoiding being present, the closer we get to being sick of making those choices all the time.
- On the other hand, being present may not feel good at times, but it helps us recognize a kind of peace that is available to us regardless of the circumstances surrounding our current living. That kind of peace is actually indistinguishable from being present itself, and that is what is meant by the expression “the path is the goal.” This cannot be fully understood, really. Only experienced.
- In some spiritual traditions being present is what is called ‘heaven,’ the promises that come from avoiding being present are called ‘temptation’ and the effects of the avoidance are called ‘hell.’ Ultimately, it does not matter what words are used. What matters is: Are you using the ingredients of your life to fully come alive? The world will thank you and reward you for that choice, in more ways than one.
(In gratitude to my friend Kara Pecson / from whom I learn much / simply by watching her dance.)
I wondered for years why if TW was so effective nobody was as “advanced” as KT was even though there’s now been people doing TW for decades. One day I understood that we were all chasing the end of the rainbow. That day I “graduated.” It was a quiet ceremony. Nobody was informed. I did not receive a special certificate. If I had to put what I learned that day into words it would read like this:
It doesn’t end.
It’s just not a problem that it doesn’t end.
That’s the freedom.
The most amazing thing I learned that day was just how much I was like everyone else:
I’m just as fucked up as the man next door,
I just don’t beat myself up about it as much as he does.
That’s the enlightenment I know.
I notice he beats himself up much less than I do.
Those days he is the enlightened one
and I’m proud to call him
Deep forgiveness for our apparent imperfections.
Deep compassion for our apparent flaws.
A knowing that it’s okay to be just like this.
Even as I try to be a better man with time.
Perfection and Imperfection in perfect harmony.
That is the enlightenment that I know.
Anything that I can compare myself to
Why would that be a fair standard of comparison?
Better to spend my time appreciating
How much of a good friend
I can be to myself.