What is life without purpose?
Last Monday, the WOD (work out of the day) involved running a mile, doing 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 air squats, and finishing up with another mile run. Crazy.
The day before the work out, when I found out what it entailed, I contemplated bailing out of it. The last time I did 98 push-ups, I could barely lift my fork to my mouth for 5 days (Though I have to admit, my triceps looked great!).
Then I watched the video about Leutenant Michael “Mikey” Patrick Murphy.
You see, this particular WOD is called “Murph,” named after Lt. Murphy who died while serving in Afghanistan (Lt Michael “Mikey” Patrick “Murph” Murphy (CMOH)). Like most people, I was deeply moved and choked-up by the video. I was also determined to do the work out, because now, the WOD had meaning and me, I felt a sense of purpose—one that transcended the possibility of my own suffering.
It’s amazing what a sense of purpose can do to your mind and body. In this case, I was able to shift my thoughts away from my own suffering to something else—to feelings of awe, gratitude, appreciation and love. I was no longer scared but eager with purpose.
The next day, I did manage to get through the work out, having decided that it would be in the best interest of my back to do half of it. Even doing half of this WOD was hard and I found myself struggling as I neared the 80th push up. But this time, all I had to do was remember Lt. Murphy, and I found the strength and energy to keep moving.
Though the WOD still kicked my butt, I felt good and I was proud of myself. So proud, that I came back to do another WOD 2days later, part of which involved lifting a heavy weight. Feeling somewhat overly confident, I didn’t listen to Tim, the instructor (again), who advised me to do sit-ups instead of lifting the weight to save my back, but I did it anyway and my back went out.
As the pain seared through me, I couldn’t hold back my tears. I was so upset with myself and with my back. Why can’t I be like everyone else? Why can’t I be stronger, better, more in shape? Why?
I lay on the floor in pain for a good 10 minutes, allowing myself to have a self-pity fest. I thought about quitting CrossFit; about feeling like a failure; about how stupid I just was; and about how unfair this was….That I finally found an exercise program that I liked and a community of people I adored and that maybe it just wasn’t for me, or rather for my back. This latter thought made me cry the most. But it was this very reaction that told me that quitting was not the answer.
I thought about Lt. Murphy. He was shot in the back twice and still stood up to make the SOS call to save his men. He did it anyway. He didn’t quit. What’s a little back pain anyway in comparison?
My pain started to ease. Determination began to set in.
I drove straight to my massage therapist, Kevin, knowing that I would be able to get treatment for my back while being able to meditate and contemplate because you see, Kevin is Chinese and doesn’t speak a word of English. We work in silence.
As Kevin began working his magic on my muscles, I began practicing my own medicine. I created my SHIELD, allowing golden rays of light full of unconditional love, grace and wisdom to shine down upon me and surround me in a shield of comfort and love. I began to slow down, and just honor and validate the way I was feeling. I inhaled and exhaled as deeply and completely as I could, bringing my mind and body into a state of stillness and relaxation. I allowed myself to listen to my story of suffering—how this injury was making me feel that I wasn’t enough or didn’t have enough. Then, I brought my thoughts to Lt. Murphy and connected with his story of valor, purpose and resilience. I connected with the energy of his courage. And then, I decided shift to my own story of resilience and find some purpose. After all, it is purpose that sets courage apart from fear. This was my thought process:
“Quitting would be easy and then what? Everything I have every done—walking, dancing, swimming, yoga, running—every form of exercise has led to hurting my back. So if I want to keep fit, I need to choose something and stick with it until my back gets stronger. And in truth, I love the exercises we do at Crossfit and I love the people. Quitting is simply not an option. Perhaps my purpose is to learn how to become stronger, develop my community and friendships and then teach others how to do the same. I simply need to pay attention and to modify until I am stronger.”
The pain never became worse and the next day I was able to move around with minimal discomfort—a first for me. It seems my back is already stronger from doing CrossFit, as is my will to continue.
For me, this injury continues to provide me with many life lessons. What suffering or pain can you overcome by connecting to a larger purpose? What situations have you discovered courage to help you keep moving?
As I often say to my clients and patients, find your purpose and follow your passion, the rest will be gifted and given.