Suffering, inconvenience, and exertion are part of life. Just like one must experience heartbreak to get love, and betrayal to grasp trust; we must truly learn how to hold suffering to appreciate its absence: the sweet state of being at ease.
There is also a life principle at work. Accomplishing the best stuff involves pushing past challenges and imagined limitations. To become a better person one must take the Hero's Journey, walk into the dark cave, and face some tough things. If we don't learn how to frame hardship properly on the front side of life, it will find us truly unprepared on the backside.
The easiest realm in which to learn the virtue of suffering is in the physical. For that reason I organize Tuesday Trail Runs. Once a week we interval run up a small mountain in about 7 stages. The idea is to complete each segment with almost nothing in the tank and RPMs hovering at the edge of the red zone. Often I'll cry out in relief at the breaks as the powerful sensation of exertion giving way to rest floods my body. The more tension I hold on the segment, the more powerful the wave of glorious release.
On the trail the mechanisms of the self defeating mind get real clear. The first ascent triggers a cacophony of arguments to quit or walk. I treat this first chunk as chance to watch the modern mind's resistance to exertion. It's a phenomenal exposé of excuses.
On the second segment I cycle through empowering narratives to replace the weak ones. Positive self talk - "I'm Jonathan Legg. I've done this and that. I swallow hills like breath mints."Addressing the haters - All the grade school bullies, all the naysayers, and the disbelievers think I'll give up. I'll stop running. Well just watch. Tapping into the ancestor DNA - For hundreds of thousands of years... millions... our Homo Erectus and Homo Sapien ancestors successfully ran down prey and escaped predators. Their genes are inside us. They are fairly out of place in this modern world (which has something to do with all the anxiety we feel), but running with others on a trail is their jam. For all other segments I settle on the technique that works best: Mindfulness and presence. I watch the trial and surroundings intenselyI smell the trailI feel the air on my skin I feel my body parts moving And, most importantly, I zone in on that sensation of hardship.. that feeling that's making my face grimace, my legs burn, my lungs heave.What does this sensation exactly feel like in my body? Up to what level can I just hold the energy and keep chugging?Must I grimace or can I smile? Does it have to be serious or can in be playful? Hardship is a fascinating state that most of us work so hard to avoid. I encourage you to start a practice where you can hold and examine it. You'll find that what you were afraid of isn't so bad. It isn't bad at all. There is a side of you to explore there.
If you find yourself in LA, join me on my trail runs